Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League
by: Penguin Press
Product rating: 5.0 with 4 reviews
An undocumented immigrant’s journey from a New York City homeless shelter to the top of his Princeton class
Dan-el Padilla Peralta has lived the American dream. As a boy, he came here legally with his family. Together they left Santo Domingo behind, but life in New York City was harder than they imagined. Their visas lapsed, and Dan-el’s father returned home. But Dan-el’s courageous mother was determined to make a better life for her bright sons.
Without papers, she faced tremendous obstacles. While Dan-el was only in grade school, the family joined the ranks of the city’s homeless. Dan-el, his mother, and brother lived in a downtown shelter where Dan-el’s only refuge was the meager library. There he met Jeff, a young volunteer from a wealthy family. Jeff was immediately struck by Dan-el’s passion for books and learning. With Jeff’s help, Dan-el was accepted on scholarship to Collegiate, the oldest private school in the country.
There, Dan-el thrived. Throughout his youth, Dan-el navigated these two worlds: the rough streets of East Harlem, where he lived with his brother and his mother and tried to make friends, and the ultra-elite halls of a Manhattan private school, where he could immerse himself in a world of books and where he soon rose to the top of his class.
From Collegiate, Dan-el went to Princeton, where he thrived, and where he made the momentous decision to come out as an undocumented student in a Wall Street Journal profile a few months before he gave the salutatorian’s traditional address in Latin at his commencement.
Undocumented is a classic story of the triumph of the human spirit. It also is the perfect cri de coeur for the debate on comprehensive immigration reform.
Praise for Undocumented
“Dan-el Padilla Peralta’s story is as compulsively readable as a novel, an all-American tall tale that just happens to be true. From homeless shelter to Princeton, Oxford, and Stanford, through the grace not only of his own hard work but his mother’s discipline and care, he documents the America we should still aspire to be.” —Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter, President of the New America Foundation
Posted in Memoirs Tagged with: Boy's, Dominican, from, Homeless, League, Odyssey, Penguin Press, Shelter, Undocumented
A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design
by: Penguin Press
Product rating: 4.0 with 3 reviews
Does the universe embody beautiful ideas?
Artists as well as scientists throughout human history have pondered this “beautiful question.” With Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek as your guide, embark on a voyage of related discoveries, from Plato and Pythagoras up to the present. Wilczek’s groundbreaking work in quantum physics was inspired by his intuition to look for a deeper order of beauty in nature. In fact, every major advance in his career came from this intuition: to assume that the universe embodies beautiful forms, forms whose hallmarks are symmetry—harmony, balance, proportion—and economy. There are other meanings of “beauty,” but this is the deep logic of the universe—and it is no accident that it is also at the heart of what we find aesthetically pleasing and inspiring.
Wilczek is hardly alone among great scientists in charting his course using beauty as his compass. As he reveals in A Beautiful Question, this has been the heart of scientific pursuit from Pythagoras, the ancient Greek who was the first to argue that “all things are number,” to Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, Einstein, and into the deep waters of twentiethcentury physics. Though the ancients weren’t right about everything, their ardent belief in the music of the spheres has proved true down to the quantum level. Indeed, Wilczek explores just how intertwined our ideas about beauty and art are with our scientific understanding of the cosmos.
Wilczek brings us right to the edge of knowledge today, where the core insights of even the craziest quantum ideas apply principles we all understand. The equations for atoms and light are almost literally the same equations that govern musical instruments and sound; the subatomic particles that are responsible for most of our mass are determined by simple geometric symmetries. The universe itself, suggests Wilczek, seems to want to embody beautiful and elegant forms. Perhaps this force is the pure elegance of numbers, perhaps the work of a higher being, or somewhere between. Either way, we don’t depart from the infinite and infinitesimal after all; we’re profoundly connected to them, and we connect them. When we find that our sense of beauty is realized in the physical world, we are discovering something about the world, but also something about ourselves.
Gorgeously illustrated, A Beautiful Question is a mind-shifting book that braids the age-old quest for beauty and the age-old quest for truth into a thrilling synthesis. It is a dazzling and important work from one of our best thinkers, whose humor and infectious sense of wonder animate every page. Yes: The world is a work of art, and its deepest truths are ones we already feel, as if they were somehow written in our souls.
Posted in History & Philosophy Tagged with: Beautiful, Deep, Design, Finding, Nature's, Penguin Press, Question
The Man in the Monster: An Intimate Portrait of a Serial Killer
by: Penguin Press
Product rating: 4.0 with 31 reviews
An astonishing portrait of a murderer and his complex relationship with a crusading journalist
Michael Ross was a serial killer who raped and murdered eight young women between 1981 and 1984, and several years ago the state of Connecticut put him to death. His crimes were horrific, and he paid the ultimate price for them.
When journalist Martha Elliott first heard of Ross, she learned what the world knew of him— that he had been a master at hiding in plain sight. Elliott, a staunch critic of the death penalty, was drawn to the case when the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned Ross’s six death sentences. Rather than fight for his life, Ross requested that he be executed because he didn’t want the families of his victims to suffer through a new trial. Elliott was intrigued and sought an interview. The two began a weekly conversation—that developed into an odd form of friendship—that lasted over a decade, until Ross’s last moments on earth.
Over the course of his twenty years in prison, Ross had come to embrace faith for the first time in his life. He had also undergone extensive medical treatment. The Michael Ross whom Elliott knew seemed to be a different man from the monster who was capable of such heinous crimes. This Michael Ross made it his mission to share his story with Elliott in the hopes that it would save lives. He was her partner in unlocking the mystery of his own evil.
In The Man in the Monster, Martha Elliott gives us a groundbreaking look into the life and motivation of a serial killer. Drawing on a decade of conversations and letters between Ross and the author, readers are given an in-depth view of a killer’s innermost thoughts and secrets, revealing the human face of a monster—without ignoring the horrors of his crimes. Elliott takes us deep into a world of court hearings, tomblike prisons, lawyers hell-bent to kill or to save—and families ravaged by love and hate. This is the personal story of a journalist who came to know herself in ways she could never have imagined when she opened the notebook for that first interview.
Praise for The Man in the Monster
“Elliott’s harrowing story pulls off something brilliant and new. Elliott peered into the mind of a serial killer by becoming his friend. A narrative that is riveting, honest, and devastating.”
—Jack Hitt, author of Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character
“Martha Elliott takes us inside the mind of serial killer and rapist Michael Ross. Elliott spent ten years getting to know the man behind the monster, and the pace of her book is as fast and merciless as a thriller.”
—Rebecca Tinsley, author of When the Stars Fall to Earth
Posted in Crime & Criminals Tagged with: Intimate, Killer, Monster, Penguin Press, Portrait, Serial
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
by: Penguin Press
Product rating: 4.3 with 39 reviews
A deeply rendered self-portrait of a lifelong surfer by the acclaimed New Yorker writer
Barbarian Days is William Finnegan’s memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else entirely: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life. Raised in California and Hawaii, Finnegan started surfing as a child. He has chased waves all over the world, wandering for years through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa. A bookish boy, and then an excessively adventurous young man, he went on to become a distinguished writer and war reporter. Barbarian Days takes us deep into unfamiliar worlds, some of them right under our noses—off the coasts of New York and San Francisco. It immerses the reader in the edgy camaraderie of close male friendships annealed in challenging waves.
Finnegan shares stories of life in a whitesonly gang in a tough school in Honolulu even while his closest friend was a Hawaiian surfer. He shows us a world turned upside down for kids and adults alike by the social upheavals of the 1960s. He details the intricacies of famous waves and his own apprenticeships to them. Youthful folly—he drops LSD while riding huge Honolua Bay, on Maui—is served up with rueful humor. He and a buddy, their knapsacks crammed with reef charts, bushwhack through Polynesia. They discover, while camping on an uninhabited island in Fiji, one of the world’s greatest waves. As Finnegan’s travels take him ever farther afield, he becomes an improbable anthropologist: unpicking the picturesque simplicity of a Samoan fishing village, dissecting the sexual politics of Tongan interactions with Americans and Japanese, navigating the Indonesian black market while nearly succumbing to malaria. Throughout, he surfs, carrying readers with him on rides of harrowing, unprecedented lucidity.
Barbarian Days is an old-school adventure story, an intellectual autobiography, a social history, a literary road movie, and an extraordinary exploration of the gradual mastering of an exacting, little understood art. Today, Finnegan’s surfing life is undiminished. Frantically juggling work and family, he chases his enchantment through Long Island ice storms and obscure corners of Madagascar.
Posted in Memoirs Tagged with: Barbarian, Days, Life, Penguin Press, Surfing