Illinois State is proud to be able to acknowledge the work of graduates who are successful authors. If you’ve written a book that has been released by a publishing house within the past decade, submit it for review by Professor Emerita of English JoAnna Stephens Mink ’73, M.S. ’75, D.A. ’85. All books authored by alums will be added to a collection of work by other graduates on display in the Alumni Center. Autographed copies are especially appreciated. Please send your book to Illinois State editor Susan Blystone at Illinois State Alumni Center, 1101 N. Main Street, Normal, IL 61790. Inquiries can be sent to

John, Sally.

Heart Echoes.

Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2012. 384pp.

Summary: Heart Echoes is the third book in the Side Roads series. In it Sally John “explores the complexities of blended families and shows how fully understanding God’s limitless love for us allows us to move past our mistakes to live life abundantly” (press release). Although part of a series, Heart Echoes can be read as a stand-alone.

The story begins in the aftermath of a massive Los Angeles earthquake, when the perfect existence Teal Morgan-Adams has built begins to crumble. Having become pregnant near the end of college, Teal raised her daughter Maiya as a single parent. (She’s newly married when the novel opens).

Like many teens, Maiya is determined to learn the identity of her biological father, despite the loving devotion of her stepfather River Adams. But Teal has kept his identity a secret from everyone; even Maiya’s father never knew about the pregnancy. After receiving some tragic news from her sister, Teal decides to take Maiya home to Cedar Pointe, Oregon, a place she’s avoided most of her adult life.

An obvious complication is whether her already-strained marriage will survive the distance and the secrets she’ll be forced to face there. Her husband asks, “What exactly do you want, Teal?” The omniscient narrator explains, “She had no words that could encompass the desires she had. They were deep longings that had struck like lightning bolts inside her, burning and splitting. If she didn’t do something soon, the thunder would explode and there would be no way out.” When Teal replies, “I want to go home,” River “gazed at her as if struck himself” (104-05).

Most of Heart Echoes focuses on the mother-daughter relationship. There’s a mystery at the crux of Teal’s life and she struggles to maintain control, not only over her rebellious teenager but also over the secret that she has kept since Maiya’s birth. When she returns to the town of her childhood, another family dynamic which this novel explores is Teal’s relationship with her emotionally abusive stepfather.

About the Author: Sally John ’73 has authored more than 15 novels, including those in the Safe Harbor series, The Other Way Home series, The Beach House series, and In a Heartbeat series. A three-time finalist for the Christy Award, John teaches writing workshops in Oceanside, California, where she and her husband currently live.

Kohn, Rita, and W. Lynwood Montell, eds.

Always a People: Oral Histories of Contemporary Woodland Indians.

1997. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008. 320pp.

Brown, James W., and Rita T. Kohn, eds.

Long Journey Home: Oral Histories of Contemporary Delaware Indians.

Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008. 448pp.

Summary: The central purpose of Always a People is to uncover and publicize the vibrancy of the Woodland People—their distinctive, related, and cohesive Native American culture with an ancient and important heritage, as well as their equally significant tenacity to endure. The 11 nations represented in this volume are: Miami, Potawatomi, Delaware, Shawnee, Peoria, Oneida, Ottawa, Winnebago, Sac and Fox, Chippewa, and Kickapoo.

The editors explain in their Preface, “We wanted these oral histories to be accessible to general readers who might be unfamiliar with Woodland history, culture, tradition, and geography.” Therefore, the Introduction, by Professor R. David Edmunds, M.S. ’66, L.L.D. ’02,  provides essential background which aids readers to more fully understand and appreciate the first-person accounts that comprise Always a People.

Through personal narratives, Long Journey Home presents the stories of the Lenape, also known as the Delaware Tribe. Oral histories, spanning the post–Civil War era to the present, are gathered into four sections and tell of personal and tribal events unfolding over time and place. Framed by a brief Introduction of historical information about the Lenape, the book is divided chronologically: Indian Pioneer Collection, 1968 Interviews, 1995 Interviews, and the longest section–Contemporary Interviews.

In either anthology, color artwork or photography augment the narratives, encouraging readers to experience a closer connection with each individual. A comprehensive Index helps in locating not only personal references but also remarks about specific places. Long Journey Home concludes with a Roundtable Discussion on the Lenape Program, which took place in October 2000 at Conner Prairie Living Museum in Fishers, Indiana.

Always a People and Long Journey Home are important contributions to understanding the history and culture of these Native American tribes.

About the Editor: Rita T. Kohn, M.S. ’68, is senior writer for NUVO Newsweekly, where her reviews of the arts and “Beer Buzz” column appear. Her most recent book, True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana (2010), was previously reviewed in Reggie Reads. Among her many other accomplishments, Kohn has produced documentaries with WFYI (Public Television, Indianapolis) and is a playwright, with more than 20 scripts produced nationwide. She received the Outstanding Alumni Award from the ISU College of Education. She lives in Indianapolis.

Niemann, Deborah.

Homegrown and Handmade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living.

British Columbia: New Society Publishers, 2011. 288pp.

Summary: Anyone in the developed world should realize that our planet is threatened. Although they may disagree on the degree and cause for this dilemma, “individuals in all walks of life are inventing lifestyles that are more eco-friendly, more exciting and more fulfilling” (Foreword). Homegrown and Handmade is a great resource to help us make the transition. In her first book, Niemann not only offers practical advice but also explains why we need to pay greater attention to the health of our planet, our families, and ourselves.

About a decade ago, large corporations “jumped on the bandwagon” in the general public’s search for more healthful foods. However, these corporations changed the ingredients when they bought trusted natural-food companies. For example, says Niemann, “a popular soy milk was no longer made with organic soybeans,” and large cosmetic companies began using carcinogens in products of the natural body care companies they acquired (2).

Currently a dairy farmer legally can milk a cow immediately after giving her a drug, without waiting for the drug to pass through her system, and then sell the milk. Our government is not protecting us. The FDA does not require milk from cows who received the growth hormone rBGH to be labeled; consequently, consumers cannot make informed choices. Niemann’s Introduction clearly summarizes the causes and effects for many concerns about the health of the world’s people, indeed, of the planet itself.

Homegrown and Handmade is divided into five parts. The Sustainable Garden explains how to plan the garden, the best way to grow plants and cook the produce. Similarly, Part Two demonstrates how to establish and use The Backyard Orchard. Want to raise poultry or dairy cattle? Parts Three and Four reveal how. Those wishing to manage a home fiber flock will find practical advice in Part Five.

The book is a convenient size, with wide margins for one’s own notes, and black & white illustrations. Adding to its usefulness are a Bibliography and Index. Terra Brockman, another ISU alumna whose The Seasons on Henry’s Farm has been featured in Reggie Reads, says, Homegrown and Handmade is perfect “for anyone seeking a practical map to a sustainable, delicious future” (ii).

The tone is informative and casual, the advice supplemented by Niemann’s own experiences when she and her family established their sustainable homestead in 2002, as well as her delicious recipes. Niemann comments, “Our livestock experience consisted of caring for two cats and a poodle, but from reading books, finding mentors, trying, and making mistakes, we’ve learned to do everything we do today” (author’s website).

About the Author: Deborah Niemann, M.A. ’08, testified before the U.S. Congress and the Illinois House and Senate on legislation protecting children from sexual predators on the Internet. She appeared on Oprah and Good Morning America, among several well-known programs. A homesteader, writer and self-sufficiency expert, she speaks and leads workshops on various topics. Her second book Ecofrugal will be published in 2012.

Shaw, J. Thomas.

The Rx Factor.

Minneapolis: Langdon Street Press, 2012. 314pp.

Summary: The prefatory material of Shaw’s The Rx Factor includes excerpts from two news articles. The New York Times reported in December 2006 that Pfizer pulled the plug on torcetrapib, resulting in a $1 billion investment loss for the world’s largest drug maker. A Nigerian panel, summarized the Washington Post, concluded that a 1996 drug trial was illegal and unethical, “a clear case of exploitation of the ignorant” (xi).

In an abrupt change of pace, the first page of this thrilling novel describes Ryan Matthews’ recurring nightmare of the moment his wife and two children perished when their aircraft burst into flames five years previously. Once a medical researcher, now a drunk, Ryan later moseys into his favorite bar and, almost immediately, “a gorgeous woman with long black hair, full pouty lips, and curves in all the right places” enters (4). Naturally, they strike up a conversation. However, when Ryan is rowing Jordan back to her uncle’s yacht, it explodes, showering them with debris. Thus the first chapter ends and a labyrinthine and exciting chase begins.

Shaw effectively combines intrigues and machinations involving pharmaceutical enterprises, unethical medical researchers, FBI investigators, at least one shady congressman, and a man who grapples with the nightmares of his past. From Nassau’s beaches to a Washington, D.C., conference room to Chicago’s Miracle Mile to the Mexican desert, Ryan and Jordan pursue and are pursued. The question always is, who is chasing whom? And why?

Who are the bad guys in this novel? The Rx Factor incorporates political shenanigans and a cast of rapacious, powerful people with the story of a damaged man trying to regain his sense of self as Ryan seeks the truth in the many twists and turns of Shaw’s cleverly convoluted plot.

More than wanting to be a novelist, Shaw had a very personal reason for writing The Rx Factor as he explains on his website: After being diagnosed with HCM/HOCM, “an incurable disease that can only be maintained, I came to realize that the entire [pharmaceutical] system is set up to produce drugs to maintain but not cure. That research efforts from big pharma are 100% directed towards building better maintenance drugs (some of which are highly addictive) and not curing anything—this is a fact. I also surmise that Big Pharma has a secret agenda to bury any real cures before they can hit the market”(

About the Author: John Thomas Shaw ’88, originally from Quincy, now resides in Southern California with his wife and two children. Previously he lived in Chicago, in North Carolina, and in Colorado, and he has traveled extensively in the Bahamas and Mexico. Following a successful career with a national mortgage company, he co-founded one of the fastest-growing independent mortgage banks in the U.S.