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Reggie Reads: May 2015

The Alumni Center bookshelf.

The Alumni Center bookshelf.

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

Insistence of the Material: Literature in the Age of Biopolitics

“Insistence of the Material: Literature in the Age of Biopolitics” book cover.

Insistence of the Material: Literature in the Age of Biopolitics

By Christopher Breu. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014. 264pp.

Summary: In his preface, Christopher Breu reveals that the idea for Insistence of the Material began when he was in the hospital for one of the 15 surgeries he has undergone to rectify a condition called hypospadias.* He expounds: “The disjunction between the ideal male body posited by my surgeons and the recalcitrant flesh of the body they attempted to correct provided the context in which I began to think about the disjunction between language and other forms of material.”

To apply his physical condition to literary criticism, “It is this disjunction that lies at the heart of the countertradition of late twentieth-century writing that this project engages.” Breu attempts in Insistence of the Material to move toward analysis of the “forms of materiality and material contradictions that characterize life” in the U.S. and global North to theorize how representations of materiality** are found in literary texts.

Between his introduction and conclusion, Breu divides his discussion into five chapters, each with extended discussion of a particular literary text: (1) The Novel Enfleshed: Naked Lunch and the Literature of Materiality; (2) Vital Objects: Materiality and Biopolitics in Thomas Pynchon’s V; (3) The Late-Modern Unconscious: The Object World of J. G. Ballard’s Crash; (4) Disinterring the Real: Embodiment, AIDS, and Biomedicalization in Dodie Bellamy’s The Letters of Mina Harker; and (5) Almanac of the Living: Thanatopolitics and an Alternative Biopolitics in Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead. Extensive Notes and detailed Index complete Breu’s monograph.

About the author: Christopher Breu is an associate professor of English at ISU. His research interests include 20th and 21st century American Literature, popular culture, cultural and critical theory, gender and sexuality. He authored Hard-Boiled Masculinities, also published by the University of Minnesota Press.

* Hypospadias is a disorder of sex development, often categorized as a form of intersex. It is the second most common birth abnormality in boys, affecting approximately one of every 300 ( See definition of materiality.

Chicago in the Great Depression

“Chicago in the Great Depression” book cover.

Chicago in the Great Depression

By James R. Schonauer and Kathleen G. Schonauer. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2014. 128pp.

Summary: Chicago in the Great Depression, the newest addition to Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series, will be of particular interest to readers from Chicago, as well as historians of the 1930s and subsequent years. Having grown up hearing stories from family members of life in Chicago during the Great Depression, James and Kathleen Schonauer were inspired to put together this intriguing montage of photographs and text. This book is their homage. The work also appeals to readers, such as this reviewer, whose family did not live in Chicago during the 1930s but who have an affection for the city Carl Sandburg named the City of Big Shoulders.

Chicago in the Great Depression adheres to the format of other books in the Images of America series: mostly black and white photographs of street scenes, celebrities and everyday people, iconic landmarks—all supported by descriptive text. The sepia-toned cover photograph is especially intriguing. The caption explains the people pictured are dressed in their Sunday best, as most typically did when going Downtown, and have just descended from the “L” at one of the Loop stations. They appear to anticipate a fun and interesting visit.

Readers can expect an engrossing trip through the pages of these historical images, some from the private collections of local residents from various Chicago neighborhoods, others taken by photographers of the Farm Security Administration. A separate chapter on the 1933-1934 World’s Fair contains images of the Illinois Host Building and Buckingham Fountain by night. We discover why Chicago was known as the City of Lights and the Rainbow City.

We see mobsters, jazz musicians and beauty queens. The energy depicted in photos of Gene Krupa, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman and their bands, for example, reinforces the thrum of the City of Big Shoulders. John Dillinger and Al Capone are integrally connected to its history. Many places and faces will be familiar to today’s audience, others not. But they add to our understanding and appreciation for the people who comprise Chicago’s history, such as the “Gypsies” living on Maxwell Street or children playing in a South Side fire hydrant during a hot summer or stockyard workers in Back of the Yards.

There is much of interest and much to commend Chicago in the Great Depression.

About the author: Kathleen Gliva Schonauer ’71 is an adjunct faculty member at Moraine Valley Community College, where she teaches art history and humanities. She has a master’s degree in education and a master’s in transpersonal studies. She was named Visual Artist of the Year 2004 at the International Biographical Center in Cambridge England. Her husband James teaches history in Alsip.

Reality Natalie

“Reality Natalie” book cover.

Reality Natalie

By Katie Sparks. Firedrake Books, LLC, 2014. 150pp.

Summary: Reality Natalie is Katie Sparks’ debut novel. The protagonist is the spunky 11-year-old Natalie Greyson, who has big dreams, specifically to win a spot as guest host on her favorite reality TV show “Kidz Konnection.” She faces two immediate obstacles: Her parents insist she attend the photo shoot for her younger twin siblings, plus her best friend Kailyn also plans to interview for the same spot. What is a girl to do? Undeterred, Natalie is determined to win despite whatever the cost to her friendship with Kailyn.

Similar to some of her agemates, Natalie has a blog to keep everyone up-to-date on her thoughts, emotional tumults and activities. Snippets from her blog interspersed throughout the text keep the narration lively and, this reviewer opines, would appeal to readers of Reality Natalie. Plus they help us to understand Natalie’s emotional growth.

Throughout the course of the story, Natalie learns some significant lessons about balancing family and friend relationships with individual ambitions, as well as understanding that winning may not be as important as friends and family.

The book is appropriately geared toward fourth- through sixth-grade girls, though the themes could appeal to boys as well. The book is attractively paper bound with good-quality paper. The larger type font will make it easier for middle school children to read.

About the author: Katie Sparks ’07 is an editor for the parent consumer line at a nonprofit medical association. She enjoys working closely with authors and industry professionals. Being immersed in the publishing industry in both her professional and personal life is a dream come true, according to her author’s note. She lives in Chicago.

Speak As Well As You Think

“Speak As Well As You Think” book cover.

An Executive’s Guide to Excellence in Public Speaking

By John M. Vautier and John J. Vautier. Novi, Michigan: Nostina, 2013. 180pp.

Summary: The Vautiers pêre and fils divide Speak As Well As You Think into 10 easy-to-read chapters. As the subtitle indicates, the intended audience is executives who wish to acquire some public-speaking strategies for clear communication. It also would be useful for anyone in business who needs some quick advice on various aspects of speaking to groups.

The title of each chapter clearly indicates the focus, making it easy for busy executives to navigate the book. The initial five chapters discuss pre-speech or pre-presentation considerations: (1) What Happens When You Speak As Well As You Think?; (2) The Elements of Executive Presence; (3) Why Comfort Is Optional; (4) What a Difference a Day (or Two) of Coaching Makes; (5) When You’re the Message, Make the Message Count.

For example, Chapter 2 reminds the reader about the significance of Executive Presence—how one looks and sounds to peers in order to inspire confidence in one’s information. A way to achieve positive Executive Presence is to analyze leaders who are effective public speakers. In Chapter 4, the Vautiers remind us to gesture occasionally in the direction of the audience, to return our hands to a neutral position when not gesturing, and never to put our forearms on the table. Throughout this and the other chapters, illustrations and hints in very large and bolded fonts reinforce the Vautiers’ text.

Then we discover how to put the pre-planning onto the stage, or various types of stages: (6) Stand and Deliver; (7) Delivery Options—Informal to Formal; (8) From Sharing a Viewpoint to Dealing with the Unexpected; (9) Communicating to the C-Suite; and (10) What You Do Speaks More Loudly Than What you Say. Chapter 6 provides the three basic parts of a presentation: tell them what you’re going to tell them, present your arguments, tell them what you’ve told them.

Reviewer’s note: The policy of Reggie Reads is to indicate when books are self-published. Nostina website provides only the following: “Nostina publishes books and videos of interest and value. Our books are available for purchase in print and eBook version.” A Google search yielded nil results.

About the author: John J. Vautier ’10, joined Vautier Communications as an account executive and coach two years after graduating from ISU. He and his father, John M. Vautier, coach in the executive communication industry.