UW English Alumni are like a box of chocolates where you can be pretty sure what you are going to get: award-winning, best-selling books. In this issue of English Matters, we celebrate some of our most recent alumni authorial achievements, and also a successful young professor winning a coveted Fulbright Scholar award. Congratulations to all, and cheers to any and all alums who choose to grace us with notable good news. Don’t be shy – we’d love to hear from you.
Serial non-fiction best-selling author Brian Christian (MFA ’08) wants to let you know that his latest book of nonfiction, The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values, was be published in the US by W. W. Norton. It has since been selected as a finalist by the Los Angeles Times as the Best Science & Technology Book of the Year. Norton glosses The Alignment Problem as a book acutely necessary to our growing contemporary dependence on artificial intelligence:
“Systems cull résumés until, years later, we discover that they have inherent gender biases. Algorithms decide bail and parole—and appear to assess Black and White defendants differently. We can no longer assume that our mortgage application, or even our medical tests, will be seen by human eyes. And as autonomous vehicles share our streets, we are increasingly putting our lives in their hands.
“The Alignment Problem offers an unflinching reckoning with humanity’s biases and blind spots, our own unstated assumptions and often contradictory goals. A dazzlingly interdisciplinary work, it takes a hard look not only at our technology but at our culture―and finds a story by turns harrowing and hopeful.”
Christian’s first best-selling book, The Most Human Human: What Talking About Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive, became a Wall Street Journal best-seller, a New York Times editors' choice, and a New Yorker favorite book of the year. Click the link to listen to Christian explain this fascinating book about Turing tests and what makes humans appear most human to John Stewart on The Daily Show.
Congratulations on your continuing success and influential career Brian!
C. R. Grimmer's full-length poetry collection, The Lyme Letters, was released as The Walt McDonald First Book Award recipient from Texas Tech University Press. An epistolary novel in verse, The Lyme Letters explores the paradoxical experiences of queer non-reproductivity, chronic illness and disability, and the healing that can be found in the liminal spaces between. Critic C. A. Conrad calls Grimmer’s book "an extraordinary collection of poems dedicated to the hard work of healing, and the impact of being surrounded by a caring community. In the end, help from others is to help ourselves for 'a story about where to put / my brain & feel my body speak into it.' The poet C. R. Grimmer fills our every thought after reading, adjusting us to a larger lens on the world."
Ginger Hultin (BA ’04) is proud to announce her book Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep: 6 Weekly Plans and 80+ Recipes to Simplify Your Healing. A registered dietician and adjunct faculty at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health, Hultin credits the English major as enabling her as a writer: “I ended up in the non-fiction realm (I'm now a registered dietitian), but it is a huge honor to be able to combine my passion for health with my passion for writing, and to be connected to the literary community in this way.” Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep is a comprehensive anti-inflammatory cookbook that includes a six-week anti-inflammatory meal plan and shopping guide. Congratulations Ginger!
This spring we are delighted to hear news from alumna Priscilla Long (MFA ’90). She’s once again been published. Long's sixth book and second book of poems, Holy Magic, won the Sally Albiso Poetry Book Award from MoonPath Press. Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Casto Luna issues praise high and broad, “From the tragic to the sublime, Holy Magic hums in technicolor the song of our existence.” Former Poet Laureate Tod Marshal says, “Reading this book, I feel as if I’m being skillfully guided by someone who knows art and, perhaps more vividly, believes in how art makes our lives more resonant—sometimes more pleasantly aware, sometimes more susceptible to pain, but always more fully felt.” High praise Priscilla!
Nancy Jooyoun Kim's (MFA ’06) debut novel The Last Story of Mina Lee became an instant New York Times bestseller. In a glowing review, Popsugar.com observes that “as a reader, you are able to witness the deep love and yet all-too-relatable frustrations of a mother-daughter relationship: the push and pull of wanting space yet wanting closeness, wanting to protect someone you love from harsh truths yet wanting to be fully seen and understood. It makes it all the more gut-wrenching to know that there can't be a resolution, that they'll never be able to say the things they kept meaning to say.”
For more on Kim and her new book, read the UW College of Arts and Sciences’ author interview here. Kudos on your bestseller Nancy!
Matthew Levay (PhD '09), Associate Professor of English at Idaho State University, has received two recent bits of good news. First, he is the recipient of a Fulbright US Scholar Award for Spring 2022, when he'll be the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Humanities and Social Sciences at the American Studies Center, University of Warsaw. In that capacity, he'll teach a graduate seminar in research methods focused on comics studies as well as an undergraduate course in crime fiction, and will also give a variety of public talks on his current research in modernism, comics studies, and serial forms. Second, Dr. Levay was recently named one of Idaho State University's Outstanding Teachers for 2021, an honor bestowed on five of the University's faculty members each year. No surprise there – Levay was also an outstanding teacher in his tenure in the UW English Department as a graduate student. Congratulations Matt – enjoy your time working overseas!
Tamiko Nimura’s (MA ‘01, PhD ‘04) graphic novel (co-written with Frank Abe, illustrated by Ross Ishikawa) We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration has been published by Seattle’s Chin Music Press and the Wing Luke Asian Museum. From the publisher: “Japanese Americans complied when evicted from their homes in World War II – but many refused to submit to imprisonment in American concentration camps without a fight. For the first time, three of their stories are woven together into one epic narrative.” We Hereby Refuse is a visually appealing graphic novel full of compelling, important history.
In 2020 Tamiko Nimura also published Rosa Franklin: A Life in Health Care, Public Service, and Social Justice, as part of the Washington State Legislature Oral History Program. Listen to Nimura interviewed here about her book on Rosa Franklin, the first African-American woman to serve in the Washington State Senate.
Congratulations on your most recent book Dr. Nimura.