General Nonfiction Finalists

The 2008 finalists for the Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction are:

Steven Bender for One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cesar Chavez, and the Dream of Dignity. Steven describes his book this way: “One Night in America chronicles the friendship of two leaders with a bold political and economic vision of extending the American dream to farm workers. It examines the significance today of their coalition on issues ranging from immigration, labor, and education to poverty and religion.” Steven says he was inspired to write it because “Against the backdrop of increasing demonization of immigrants and Latinos in the United States, I hoped to get us back on the pathway to extending dignity to all workers and the impoverished. As I argue, there is still time to prove Kennedy and Chavez right.”
Neil W. Browne for The World in Which We Occur: John Dewey, Pragmatist Ecology, and American Ecological Writing in the Twentieth Century . Neil says his book “mobilizes John Dewey’s philosophy to think about the ways in which we can imagine a culture more grounded in ecological and democratic values. The book examines the intersections of ecology, democracy, philosophy, and literary representations of the physical world.” When asked to describe his inspiration for the book, Neil says he was motivated by: “1. A deep admiration of Dewey’s life and work. 2. A deep love of the natural world. 3. A deep respect for American democratic values. I wanted to try to use 1. to suggest a way of thinking and living that could restore 2 and 3 to robusticity.”
Pamela Smith Hill for Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life. Pamela says her book “explores how Wilder shaped her memories of childhood and transformed them into the enduring fiction of the popular Little House books.” Pamela says “although I was commissioned to write this book by the South Dakota State Historical Society Press, I’ve written about Wilder since the late 1970s, and always wanted to know more about her life as a writer, and the influences that inspired her to write. The popular myth about Wilder– that she suddenly began writing in her 60s and was an instant success– never satisfied me.”
Kimberly Jensen for Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War.  Kimberly says her book “analyzes questions of citizenship, violence, and wartime service in the First World War by examining strategies of U.S. women physicians, nurses, and women-at-arms as they approached wartime work.” Kimberly gos on to say:”I wanted to explore the intersections of women’s ideas and goals relating to the First World War at a time when the campaign for woman suffrage was coming to fruition across the nation and when women were making inroads into professions and in the wage workforce. Women approached wartime service with ideas of citizenship at the forefront, including economic citizenship and equality. They also sought to change the military as an institution as women entered its ranks in greater numbers. They faced hostility and gendered barriers during the conflict and a powerful backlash after the war. These are issues with which we continue to grapple, and the strategies of women in the First World War provide an important context for contemporary questions and activism.”
Darius Rejali for Torture and Democracy. Darius says his book addresses the question, “Is torture compatible with modern democracies and, if so, how?” He also says, ” I focus on new techniques designed to leave little evidence of brutality, techniques have an affinity for democracies, rather than dictatorships. Torture and Democracy makes the suprising case that long before the CIA, democracies were the primary innovators in torture technology and they still continue to be. I also assess the arguments about the effectiveness of torture.” Darius says, “No one studies torture willingly for 30 years. Though trained as a philosopher of social science, my two gifts appear to be that I can tell a good story and I can go to dark places others cannot and come back relatively undamaged. So I write about torture, sometimes as comparative political scientist, sometimes as a political anthropologist and sometimes as a philosopher, mindful that each discipline has its own excellences and profound questions.”

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