Recent publications from Rice faculty
Ballantine Books, 2023
Proctor Bennett is a government bureaucrat whose life, on the surface, seems perfect. Beautiful wife, nice house and an important job.
But there are ripples of discontent around Prospera, a peaceful, isolated island serviced by workers who leave its wealthy residents each evening to return to their own hard-scrabble lives. Meanwhile, Prosperans enjoy all the benefits polite society has to offer. But when their time is up, they are renewed as teenagers, blank slates fresh for adoption.
That’s the premise of “The Ferryman,” Rice writer-in-residence Justin Cronin’s follow-up to his blockbuster “Passage” trilogy. Class warfare seems inevitable in this tightly controlled society where dreams are a threat and access to the outside world is forbidden. Bennett himself is the ferryman who facilitates the transfer of elders and others as their implants indicate it’s time for renewal on a third, mysterious island. Things spiral out of control when Bennett is assigned to put his own father on the boat to the “Nursery.” The contrast between the effete elite and the workaday rabble becomes sharper — and more consequential — when circumstances draw Bennett to investigate the other side. Cronin peels away layers of artifice to reveal the stunning truth to readers and characters alike, its relevance to today’s society clear and powerful. Don’t sleep on this one. — Mike Williams
In the Company of Radical Women Writers
University of Minnesota Press, 2023
When COVID-19 shuttered businesses and educational institutions across the globe, work, schooling, child care and other essential duties moved back home — adding to the often invisible labors of daily homemaking. Beyond the virus, however, the world was fighting other vital battles: wage inequities, systemic racism, the curtailment of reproductive freedoms and environmental catastrophes. While in lockdown, L.H. Favrot Professor of Humanities Rosemary Hennessy couldn’t help but notice the startling parallels to life during and after the Great Depression — and the issues women faced then. “This is a book born from a world in crisis,” Hennessy writes, and she uses the very similarities between now and then to emphasize the importance of revisiting radical writers of the past.
In this highly readable volume, Hennessy “keeps company” with seven outspoken women writers from the early to mid-20th century: Marvel Cooke, Louise Thompson Patterson, Claudia Jones, Alice Childress, Josephine Herbst, Meridel Le Sueur and Muriel Rukeyser. She leverages these women’s words, as well as their highly captivating biographies, to explore the power of “social reproduction” or the unpaid labor outside the wage economy.
Even though Hennessy’s chosen writers came to prominence nearly a century ago, their thoughts and experiences will seem all too familiar to women navigating today’s fraught sociopolitical landscape. By highlighting the “persistent forces” with the power to drive inequities in labor, land and love in their published writings, Hennessy succeeds in her goal to use their words and actions to create a “primer for our time.” — Kayt Sukel