Beyond the Book Articles

Beyond the Book Articles

For every book we review, we also write a "beyond the book" article that focuses on a cultural, historical or contextual topic related to the book. You can browse by category below, or use the search box at the top of the page (check "Article").

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The First Coed Colleges in the U.S.

...a beyond the book article for Yale Needs Women
In Yale Needs Women, author Anne Gardiner Perkins explores the circumstances surrounding Yale University's decision to go coed in 1969, and the experiences of its first female students. Yale's change in policy was hardly revolutionary, as some colleges and universities in the U.S. had been coed since the 19th century.

Oberlin College ...

The Musée Rodin

...a beyond the book article for All the Devils Are Here
Several important scenes in Louise Penny's mystery, All the Devils Are Here, take place in the gardens of the Musée Rodin. Located in Paris, just south of the River Seine and about a mile east of the Eiffel Tower, the museum and its grounds boast thousands of Auguste Rodin's sculptures, casts and drawings, as well as thousands of...

Elinor Smith

...a beyond the book article for Great Circle
Great Circle features an account of a fictional early aviatrix named Marian Graves, and author Maggie Shipstead inserts snippets of aviation history throughout the narrative. One woman frequently mentioned is Elinor Smith, aka 'The Flying Flapper of Freeport.'

Elinor Regina Patricia Ward was born in New York City in 1911 to parents who...

Artifacts at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

...a beyond the book article for All That She Carried
The three-tiered National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. embraces the rich history of slaves and their descendants. The museum opened in 2016, displaying thousands of artifacts illustrating the experience of the unfree, and the emancipated, including Ashley's Sack (which will be on display ...

Joan Miller, Unlikely Spy

...a beyond the book article for An Unlikely Spy
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and in the case of An Unlikely Spy, fiction mirrors reality with a protagonist whose escapades parallel those of a real MI5 spy, Joan Miller.

Don't worry, An Unlikely Spy strays from the real-life story just enough in the end for me to assure you there are no spoilers here.

Joan Miller was ...

The Legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft

...a beyond the book article for Love and Fury
Although the word 'feminist' did not enter popular political discourse until over a century after her death, the published works of Mary Wollstonecraft show her to be one of the world's pioneering feminist writers. As Love and Fury explores in some detail, the events of Wollstonecraft's life were crucial in cementing her ideologies and ...

Women in Uganda

...a beyond the book article for A Girl is A Body of Water
In A Girl Is a Body of Water, set in the 1970s-'80s, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi presents a compelling protagonist named Kirabo who is coming of age in Uganda and learning what it means to be a woman from her grandmother, aunts and other women in her village. Like most cultures, Ugandan society is largely patriarchal in structure. Women ...

Gerard Manley Hopkins

...a beyond the book article for Transcendent Kingdom
In Yaa Gyasi's Transcendent Kingdom, Gifty, a PhD student of neuroscience, recalls a college course she took to fulfill a humanities requirement that focused on the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. While Gifty didn't care for Hopkins' poetry, she felt a 'strange sense of kinship' with the man himself when she reflected on the struggles he...

The Arctic Tern

...a beyond the book article for Migrations
In Charlotte McConaghy's Migrations, Franny follows the migration of the Arctic tern (sterna paradisaea). McConaghy's novel is set in a fictional future in which the bird is on the brink of extinction. Currently, Arctic terns are not in danger to such a degree, as there are still more than one million of them around the world, but ...

Discriminatory "Coffin Problems" in the USSR

...a beyond the book article for The Nesting Dolls
In The Nesting Dolls, Natasha dreams of entering the mathematics program at Odessa University. However, after correctly solving all of the initial equations on her entrance exam, she is presented with an additional equation, one that seems impossible to answer. When she cannot answer it, Natasha is failed and refused admission. ...

Misogynistic Themes in Murder Ballads

...a beyond the book article for The Killing Hills
In The Killing Hills, which takes place in Kentucky, misogyny manifests in attitudes toward key female characters, notably the town sheriff. Additionally, the act of femicide is a central theme and a reminder of cultural aspects of female subjugation, including the murder ballad, a song format that is notably popular as a sub-genre of ...

Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle

...a beyond the book article for Footnotes
In Footnotes, Caseen Gaines explores the production of Shuffle Along, the first all-Black musical to become a runaway success on Broadway. The show's appeal and popularity are credited in part to the talents of songwriting team Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, who had a history of collaborating that predated their exceptional work on Shuffle...

Sagebrush Steppe and the Gunnison Sage-Grouse

...a beyond the book article for Site Fidelity
The Gunnison sage-grouse, integral to the story 'Ledgers' in Claire Boyles' Site Fidelity, are dependent on their natural habitat, the sagebrush steppe of the Western United States. A steppe is a grassland region that does not receive enough rain to support trees. The semi-arid climate means that only shrubs and short grasses can grow...

The "Lost Cause" Myth and Its Physical Legacy

...a beyond the book article for How the Word Is Passed
Following defeat and widespread destruction in the Civil War, people in the former Confederate states set about rebuilding their communities and coping with the enormity of their loss. This effort included physical and psychological measures, such as building cemetery monuments and establishing Confederate Memorial Day to honor fallen ...

A History of the Appalachian Region

...a beyond the book article for In the Valley
The Appalachian region of the United States (not to be confused with the entirety of the Appalachian Mountains, which extend into Canada) stretches over 1,000 miles from southern New York to northeastern Mississippi. A mountainous crossroads, the area is defined by disparities and variety in its history, economics and culture. Today, ...

Live Action Role-Playing (LARP)

...a beyond the book article for Super Fake Love Song
Before Sunny Dae embarks on a rock 'n' roll career in Super Fake Love Song, he and his friends are minor celebrities in the world of LARPing, which stands for Live Action Role-Playing. If you're familiar with tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons or online role-playing games like EverQuest, LARPing is sort of like one of ...

Ting Hua: Obedience and Filial Piety in Chinese American Parental Relationships

...a beyond the book article for White Ivy
Of all the demands made of Susie Yang's character Ivy in her debut novel White Ivy, few are more pernicious than the constant demand that she be ting hua, or a 'good' girl. For Ivy, to be ting hua means, more than anything else, obscuring her individuality and right to self-determination so that her family can see the version of her they ...

Belle da Costa Greene

...a beyond the book article for The Personal Librarian
Belle da Costa Greene was an American librarian who ran the private library belonging to banker John Pierpont Morgan (better known as J.P. Morgan) and later to his son. During her time working for the Morgans, Greene acquired many rare books, manuscripts and other items for her employers, ultimately contributing to what is now an ...

Miles of Freedom

...a beyond the book article for When Truth Is All You Have
In his memoir, When Truth Is All You Have, Jim McCloskey writes about several of the people his organization, Centurion, has helped free from prison after they were wrongfully convicted of serious crimes. Richard Miles, founder of the nonprofit Miles of Freedom, is one of those McCloskey helped to exonerate.

On May 16, 1994, Deandre ...

West Windsor and Plainsboro, New Jersey

...a beyond the book article for Suburban Dicks
As Fabian Nicieza comments in an author's note for Suburban Dicks, 'fiction means it is not real.' But that said, the two towns he uses as the setting for the novel—West Windsor and Plainsboro—are definitely real places. Let's take a trip to explore these suburban paradises, shall we?

The area where West Windsor and ...

Grief Memoirs

...a beyond the book article for Crossing the River
Carol Smith's Crossing the River recounts the death of her young son, Christopher, in combination with stories of other people who have experienced loss. In an interview with Hippocampus Magazine, Smith recalls memoirs about grief that have been influential for her. Below are some of the books she mentions, along with other significant ...

The Bielski Partisans

...a beyond the book article for The Forest of Vanishing Stars
In The Forest of Vanishing Stars, persecuted Jews in Eastern Europe take shelter in the Naliboki Forest, located west of Minsk in contemporary Belarus. The area, then known as Byelorussia, was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939 at the same time as Germany invaded Poland as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that established a non-...

Trauma and Abuse in Foster Care

...a beyond the book article for The Buddhist on Death Row
Jarvis Jay Masters was five years old when he was taken from his overwhelmed mother and placed with foster parents Mamie and Dennis Procks. They bestowed upon him the kind of luxuries middle class children take for granted. He had his own room, his own toys and clean clothes. His sheets were even ironed. More importantly, he wasn't ...

Reparations for Black Americans

...a beyond the book article for White Too Long
In White Too Long, Robert P. Jones makes clear that his view of racial justice includes a 'tangible economic accounting' of the ways in which churches have benefited from slavery and white supremacy, as well as restitution to the Black community. In doing so, Jones joins a large chorus of activists, politicians and others calling for ...

Social Class and the Iranian Revolution

...a beyond the book article for Aria
Nazanine Hozar's debut novel Aria opens in 1953 Iran and concludes nearly three decades later in 1981, two years after the Iranian Revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic. Her narrative weaves together threads from across mid-20th century Iran's complex and diverse social, economic and religious groups. Class ...

Art Restoration and Conservation

...a beyond the book article for The Stone Girl
In Dirk Wittenborn's The Stone Girl, the main character, Evie, is an art restorer who specializes in repairing statues. Art restoration is the professional process of repairing works of art that have been subjected to the effects of damage or age, including paintings, sculptures and architecture. The restoration of art is somewhat ...

The Bolla in Albanian Folklore

...a beyond the book article for Bolla
Pajtim Statovci's novel Bolla takes its name from a creature in Albanian folklore. The narrative is interspersed with a reimagined version of this feared monster's origins, with thematic parallels to his characters' lives that enhance the emotional impact of their story while commenting on the importance of storytelling as a means of ...

English and American Coverture Law

...a beyond the book article for The Woman They Could Not Silence
As is made clear in Kate Moore's The Woman They Could Not Silence, the laws of coverture were to blame for the abuse, institutionalization and subsequent poverty Elizabeth Packard suffered at the hands of her husband and other men in her community. Brought to North America by English colonizers, 'coverture' was a common law that made ...

The 1929 Women's War in Nigeria

...a beyond the book article for Walking on Cowrie Shells
In a story called 'The Statistician's Wife' in Walking on Cowrie Shells, a Nigerian woman tells her white husband, 'In 1929, ten thousand Igbo women started ogu umunwanyi, the Women's War. When men do wrong, we 'sit on you.' It's part of our tradition, how we protest.'

Her description is accurate, but she is simplifying the historical ...

Books Narrated from Beyond the Grave

...a beyond the book article for Tokyo Ueno Station
Yu Miri's Tokyo Ueno Station is told from the viewpoint of Kazu, a ghost who wanders the grounds of the train station in which he lived out his final years. Though the book makes unique use of this framing device to explore its particular themes of poverty and homelessness, it is certainly not the only novel to feature a narrator who ...

The Weird and Wonderful History of Weird Tales Magazine

...a beyond the book article for The Lost Book of Adana Moreau
In Michael Zapata's The Lost Book of Adana Moreau, Adana Moreau's sci-fi novel Lost City is serialized in Weird Tales. This fantasy, horror and science fiction pulp magazine was a real-life publication that was founded in 1923 by J.C. Henneberger and J.M. Lansinger and that remained in print until 1954.

Over its lifetime, Weird ...

Janeites: Austen Fans Past and Present

...a beyond the book article for The Jane Austen Society
According to literary scholar Claudia L. Johnson, 'Janeism' is a 'self-consciously idolatrous enthusiasm for 'Jane' Austen and every primary, secondary, tertiary (and so forth) detail relative to her.' The devotees who share this enthusiasm, also known as 'Janeites,' are in the simplest sense fans of Jane Austen and her writings. Today, ...

The United East India Company

...a beyond the book article for The Devil and the Dark Water
In the prologue of The Devil and the Dark Water, Stuart Turton writes:

In 1634, the United East India Company was the wealthiest trading company in existence, with outposts spread across Asia and the Cape. The most profitable of these was Batavia, which shipped mace, pepper, spices, and silks back to Amsterdam aboard its fleet of ...

Grime Music

...a beyond the book article for African Europeans
As Olivette Otele references in her book African Europeans: An Untold History, many Black British artists find music to be an effective and far-reaching medium in which to address and explore their heritage and life experiences as people of color. Grime music has become one of the hottest and most vibrant genres to emerge in the UK in the...

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

...a beyond the book article for The Vixen
On June 19, 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed by electric chair at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York, having been convicted of spying for the Soviet Union.

The Rosenbergs met in the Young Communist League in 1936 and married in 1939. Julius worked for the U.S. Army Signal Corps as an engineer, and though Ethel (né...

The Importance of "Tech Company" Status

...a beyond the book article for Big Vape
In Big Vape, Jamie Ducharme describes an existential crisis at the heart of Juul; while its founders (and many of its employees) saw the business as a tech start-up, to the Food and Drug Administration (and much of the public) it looked like a manufacturer of tobacco products. This distinction is not a mere matter of brand identity —...

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