Smart voices, good stories and thought-provoking conversation from The City University of New York.
Vaccinating America: ‘There’s some chaos going on. And we can’t have that’
A new year conversation with Dr. Bruce Y. Lee of the CUNY School of Public Health and Health Policy on the state of vaccines, the threat of the mutated virus and what the Biden administration needs to do to turn the tide of the pandemic.
Dr. Lee is an MD, public health researcher and writer who has been widely quoted and written incisively on COVID for Forbes.com since the pandemic began nearly a year ago. He is also the founder and executive director of the Public Health Informatics, Computational, and Operations Research group (PHICOR), a national research collaboration that has been helping guide the science of infectiousness and vaccination.
We Are the Wars We Wage
Phil Klay–an alumnus of Hunter College’s MFA writing program and an Iraq War veteran–won the 2014 National Book Award for fiction for his collection of short stories, Redeployment. In his acclaimed debut novel, Missionaries, he explores the globalization of war through the stories of four people caught up in the nearly 60-year conflict in Colombia. Among the book’s fans is Barack Obama, who put it on his list of favorite books of 2020.
From the Los Angeles Times review of Missionaries: “Using his formidable gifts for scene-setting, meaningful irony and deep human empathy, Klay weaves together a set of stories over the course of nearly three decades . . . Amid raging fires and illness and constitutional crises, Klay’s book roars something vital: Never forget about war or the blood and bone and the evil and the reckless idealism of who we all really are. Well worth the wait, “Missionaries” is (among its many virtues) a prime example of what can ideally follow a first great war book. . . “Missionaries” is horrifying and refreshing, challenging us to reflect not just on the destruction of our own national institutions but also on the ugly and ongoing consequences of American power abroad.”
> More about Phil Klay and Missionaries
Photo Finish: Stan Wolfson’s Life in Pictures
Stan Wolfson saw it all through his lens: John F. Kennedy running for president at Herald Square. Snap. David Berkowitz getting booked for serial murder in Brooklyn. Snap. Martin Luther King Jr. riding a bicycle on Fire Island. Snap. Stan spent 18 years as a New York newspaper photographer before a helicopter crash ended his days in the field and began his four decades as a photo editor, the last 16 years overseeing photography for CUNY’s print and digital publications. Stan retired recently, and CUNYcast host Rick Firstman, a long-time colleague of his at both Newsday and CUNY, talks with him about his long and memorable career.
CUNY Is the Plot Twist in Walter Mosley’s Life
Walter Mosley was a 35-year-old computer programmer when he enrolled in the graduate writing program at City College in 1987. Just three years later–while still a student–he published “Devil in a Blue Dress,” the debut novel that established him as a new force in American fiction.
Three decades and 60 books later, Mosley has received the National Book Foundation’s 2020 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. The lifetime achievement award—whose previous recipients include Toni Morrison, Edmund White, E.L. Doctorow and Norman Mailer—honors a literary career born and nurtured at CUNY. It’s a career that includes founding a program at CCNY to open doors for minorities in publishing, an industry long known for its lack of diversity. We talked with Mosley about his life, his work and his decades-long bond with CUNY. Watch his award acceptance below.
CUNY Congratulates Walter Mosley on NBF Honor
His Latest: The Awkward Black Man
About the City College Publishing Certificate Program
Rick Firstman: Walter Mosley was in his mid 30s when he enrolled in the graduate writing program at The City College of New York in 1987. Just three years later, even before earning his degree, Mosley published his debut novel, “Devil in a Blue Dress,” the bestseller that would later be made into a movie starring Denzel Washington. More than 60 books later, Mosley is among the country’s literary masters. And this month, the National Book Foundation is awarding him its Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Mosley is the first African American man to win the lifetime achievement honor from the organization that presents the National Book Awards. Mosley’s life as a writer was born at CUNY, nurtured by faculty mentors and led him to establish a publishing certificate program at CCNY to open doors for minorities in an industry long known for its lack of diversity. I talked with Mosley about his life, his work, race, politics, and City College. Here’s our conversation.
Walter Mosley, thank you so much for coming on the CUNYcast and congratulations on this great honor from the National Book Foundation.
Walter Mosley: Why, thank you very much. I’m really happy about it.
RF: You’re in LA now during the pandemic? You have a place in Brooklyn also but you’re out there for a while?
WM: Yeah, I live in New York, I actually own a piece of Brooklyn so that’s mine. But, you know, I come out to LA a lot, you know, I’m from here. And also, you know, we do work with television shows and stuff, it’s easier to be here than not to.
RF: Right. And LA is where you grew up, of course, and where most of your novels are set. So I must say, I was unaware of your CUNY connection until I saw a reference to the City College publishing program in the announcement of the award. But the connection is even more pivotal, going to the very inception of your career as a writer. But I’m going to leave that as a little foreshadow and start even earlier in your story.
When Jill Biden Rallied Kingsborough Grads
Americans are getting to know Jill Biden as she campaigns with her husband this fall but she’s long been admired as an education advocate who’s taught for decades at community colleges in Delaware and Virginia. In the spring of 2009, a few months after her husband became vice president, Dr. Biden addressed the graduates of CUNY’s Kingsborough Community College and called two-year schools “one of America’s best-kept secrets,” adding, “The education gained on campuses like this one will provide the knowledge that will power the 21st century.” Here’s her talk from our audio archives.
Listen Now >>
The Doyenne of African American Cuisine
Jessica Harris never set out to become the country’s foremost authority on African American cuisine. Her doctoral dissertation was about French Theatre in Senegal, and she went on to a 50-year career as an English professor at Queens College. But along the way, she wrote a dozen acclaimed books about the food of Africa and what happened to it when it got to this continent. She’s a beloved figure in the food world and earlier this year, Jessica Harris was honored with the James Beard Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She joins the CUNYcast to talk about her life, her career and why she says African American cooking is the backbone of American cuisine itself. (Note: This interview was recorded on May 21, 2020, prior to the racial justice protests following the murder of George Floyd.)
> More about Jessica Harris