Morrison’s novel ‘Home’ excels in simple, beautiful prose

When I encounter a truly stunning sentence or thought-provoking phrase in a novel, I gently dog-ear whatever page I’m reading so I can later return to the passage and savor its syntax. When I closed the cover after finishing Toni Morrison’s new novel “Home,” I realized I had folded down almost every other page as I devoured the work in a single, one-hour sitting in Sanborn. As one might expect from a novel penned by the Nobel Prize-winning author of “Beloved,” “Song of Solomon” and “A Mercy,” Morrison’s “Home” is a stirring story encased in vivid prose and tender narration.

“Home,” released last Tuesday, is only 146 pages long, but it tells the profound tale of Korean War veteran Frank Money. Frank journeys from the Pacific Northwest to his bleak hometown of Lotus, Ga. to rescue his sister from her abusive employer. Morrison’s celebrated penchant for gorgeous and groundbreaking narrative style emerges strikingly in “Home.” Told from multiple points of view, the story unwinds swiftly and shifts between different moments in the lives of each character.

What immediately strikes the reader is Morrison’s provocative, yet sensitive, treatment of deeply troubling events that haunt American history. Underlying the main plot line of Frank’s journey home are intimations about unequal treatment for black war veterans, prejudice against those afflicted by mental illness and eugenics experiments performed on women of color in the 1950s. Morrison infuses these issues into her already heartbreaking depictions of wartime and personal trauma. During the war, Frank watched two of his childhood friends perish on the battlefield. Frank’s sister Cee, a victim of eugenics experiments, is mutilated and rendered infertile by a doctor for whom she works.

At times nuanced and hopeful, “Home” does not simply illustrate the dismal experiences of Frank and Cee. Readers come to loathe the systemic violence of the characters’ circumstances while also cherishing their relationship, celebrating the reckoning they bring to the doctor and appreciating the healing they are granted at the end of the novel.

Morrison also details instances of human kindness amidst the illustrations of her characters’ turmoil. Although Frank faces humiliation and degradation on his travels he escapes from a mental institution and is robbed of his shoes he later encounters a family that houses him, feeds him and puts him in touch with a reverend who further helps him on his way.

Particularly moving are the passages in which a group of strong, southern women with “seen-it-all eyes” nurse Cee back to health. These women handle “sickness as an affront, an illegal, invading braggart who needed whipping” and instill in Cee the courage to confront the “real and vicious world.”

The moments that make reading “Home” such a magical experience are those in which Morrison displays her unparalleled capacity for composing simply beautiful prose. In one scene, Frank fears facing his deceased friends’ parents: “Easy breath and unscathed self would be an insult to them.” He laments how he could not “make up for the frosted urine on Mike’s pants and avenge the lips calling mama.”

In another scene, Cee draws a bath and “linger[s] in cool water while a softly suffering afternoon light encouraged her thoughts to tumble. Regrets, excuses, righteousness, false memory and future plans mixed together and stood like soldiers in line.”

Such “dog-ear” moments showcase Morrison’s virtuosic talent and remind readers why Morrison is one of the most important literary minds of our time.

‘Vienna to Hollywood’ concert reflects Jewish diaspora

Tonight’s performance of “Vienna to Hollywood,” a project undertaken by soprano Melanie Henley Heyn and pianist Deirdre Brenner ’01, will showcase the personal and musical journey of a group of Jewish composers who fled Austria to Los Angeles just before the outbreak of World War II. The performance, which will take place in Faulkner Recital Hall in the Hopkins Center, is a part of the Vaughan Recital Series.

Unlike most other Vaughan recitals of chamber and world music, “Vienna to Hollywood” is an original performance in mixed media.

In the format of a “lecture-recital,” the two visiting artists have woven together stories from the lives of the composers. These stories have been mixed with their own vocal repertoire, which includes pieces sung in German, English and Hebrew that were written in the United States both during and after the war. “We tell a story of the composer, which involves bits of history, the poems they write [and] quotes from things that they said,” Heyn said. “Then we sing their songs.”

Heyn, a graduate of the University of Southern California, conceived the idea for the show while researching early 20th-century lieder music, a style of romantic art songs in German, for her thesis at the Wien Conservatory in Vienna. Since she has lived in Los Angeles, she felt a special affinity to these artists, who left Vienna many decades ago to struggle for survival in the city she calls home, according to Heyn. She began to collaborate with Brenner, who double majored in engineering and music at Dartmouth, when Brenner moved to Vienna six years ago to study lieder, according to Heyn and Brenner.

During the period just before World War II, the careers of many intellectuals, some of them composers, were permanently disrupted by the rising Nazi power. The works produced by many of these composers were condemned by the Nazis as “degenerate art,” according to the “Vienna to Hollywood” program notes. To find a city that would foster and nourish their creative freedom, many of them moved to large American cities such as New York and Los Angeles. They came just like any other immigrant to this country, trying to build a new life and re-establish their position professionally, according to Brenner.

“I think many of the composers had both positive and negative reactions to this new place,” Brenner said. “It must be a difficult experience to go from a city where you were not only very successful professionally but also very well-known to a big country where nobody acknowledged you.”

Some of the emigre composers featured in the performance, such as Arnold Schoenberg and Erich Korngold, are well-known modernist composers of the 20th century. A selection of early songs in the late Romantic style by Schoenberg, who pioneered a musical style that heavily features atonality, will be included in the program. Some of his later works, which experiment with Sprechstimme, an expressionist vocal technique that shares characteristics with both singing and speaking, will also be featured.

The week of Korngold, a prominent film composer, will be featured as well through a few musical excerpts from the scores for three blockbusters starring Errol Flynn “The Adventure of Robin Hood” (1938), “Captain Blood” (1935) and “The Sea Hawk” (1940), according to the program notes.

The other composers highlighted in the program Hanns Eisler, Ernst Krenek, Ernst Toch and Erich Zeisl were all greatly influenced by their Austrian heritage and are less widely known, but they are equally important in providing a wider perspective of the styles at the time. Despite their relative obscurity, their music which serves as a record of the Jewish diaspora before the outbreak of the war reflects how art reacts to political circumstances, Heyn said. Elements of culture, such as the visual arts and music, can transform political events into personal and more accessible narratives, she said.

“We would like to tell the story [of these composers] in sometimes humorous and sometimes serious ways,” Heyn said. “The audience gets a deeper understanding of the artists as individuals and the artists as reacting to the times.”

The pair of musicians is currently on tour with the project. They are traveling from Massachusetts, where they just performed, and will be stopping at two more venues in New York after their performance at the College.

“For me, it’s always wonderful coming to Hanover,” Brenner said. “I used to play at Faulkner a lot. Some of my old professors are coming, and I just look forward to catching up.”

Heyn and Brenner’s performance was sponsored by the Vaughan Recital Series, the music department, the film and media studies department and the Jewish studies program.

The performance will begin at 12:30 p.m. at the Hopkins Center.

Women’s rugby wraps up spring season, hosts Cully’s Run

The Dartmouth women’s rugby team wrapped up its season with a last-minute 19-14 loss to Middlebury College on May 5. The weekend coincided with the fourth annual Cully’s Run, a five-kilometer trail event hosted by the women’s rugby team in honor of late Big Green rugby player Katy Cullinan ’08 to raise awareness about eating disorders and suicide prevention.

The Big Green was on the offensive against Middlebury for the majority of the game, dominating scrums and line-outs. All 10 of the team’s freshmen received playing time, and Dartmouth’s offense was helped by strong kicks from captain Karoline Walter ’13 and scrum-half Michaela Conway ’15.

In the fall, the team’s loss in the Northeast Regional tournament prevented the Big Green from advancing to nationals and thus affected the team’s spring play schedule, according to Walter.

“I don’t think there are particular teams for the spring that we get super excited for, but the season was fun,” Walter said. “The Middlebury game over First-Year Family Weekend was awesome because we had a lot of parents out there.”

The dearth of upperclassmen including Sabrina Amaro ’13, who is on an off-term, and Ashley Afranie-Sakyi ’13, who sustained a season-ending injury forced freshmen into larger roles this spring.

“I think part of the reason they were so successful is that a lot of them were already very strong athletes who had good backgrounds in field sports or ball sports,” Walter said of the team’s freshmen.

By the end of the season, a large portion of the team’s backline consisted of freshman starters, according to Emma Vance ’13.

The team is now conducting optional spring practices and planning its summer training program, according to Walter.

Recruitment for next year’s incoming class will not begin until Fall term when freshmen arrive on campus, according to Walter.

“Traditionally, like many Ivy League teams, we’re smaller,” Vance said. “We generally have a lot of smaller, faster players who are athletes.”

Many players join the team with no prior rugby experience, and the spring and summer are used to devote extra focus to skill training, according to Vance.

Cully’s Run was held on May 6 at the Corey Ford Rugby Clubhouse and the surrounding areas of Storrs Pond. The event, organized by Allie Brouckman ’15 and Leandra Barrett ’15, is held in honor of Cullinan, who struggled with eating disorders and took her own life in August 2008.

This year, 300 participants raised a record $6,000, which will be split evenly between donations to HeadRest, a local suicide hotline, and the National Eating Disorders Association, according to Barrett.

“In Hanover, there are a lot of young people, so it’s something that we wanted to focus on,” Barrett said.

Prizes were awarded to the group that raised the most funds as well as to the organization that had the highest participation.

Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, of which Cullinan was a member, raised the largest overall contribution, while Sigma Delta sorority had the highest number of participants, according to Brouckman.

Bagel Basement, Stinson’s barbecue, the Dartmouth Co-Op and individual rugby players also sponsored the event, according to Brouckman.

“One of the things we tried to do is have the event coincide with First-Year Family Weekend, so a lot of people’s parents came out and walked with them,” Barrett said.

The event also marked the annual announcement of the Cully Memorial Award, given to the women’s rugby player who “has brought to the playing field and to her teammates the qualities we loved in Katy Cullinan ’08: indomitable spirt, passionate support and irreverent humor,” according to a Cully’s Run press release. Theresa Cassano ’12 received the award this year.

Men’s soccer looks to defend Ivy League championship

Kevin Dzierzawski '13, a first team All-Ivy selection in 2011, will take over as team captain this fall alongside Teo Larsson-Sax '13.

Seeking to repeat its Ivy League championship season from 2011, the Dartmouth men’s soccer team will add six members of the Class of 2016 to the team this fall. The Big Green will add goalie Stefan Cleveland ’16, forward/midfielder Alberto Gorini ’16, defender/midfielder Emory Orr ’16, defensive midfielder Sam Rosen ’16, forward Elijah Soko ’16 and midfielder Sten Stray-Gundersen ’16 a group that encompasses four states and three countries to its returning players, who have been training all spring to continue the program’s success.

Coach Jeff Cook said he believes the incoming class has a promising future.

“We worked very hard to put together this group of guys,” Cook said. “I think we have a nice blend of experience coming in. The recruits have achieved a lot on the individual level, but they also have big shoes to fill.”

Cleveland, from Dayton, Ohio, is a talented goalkeeper who will work with returning goalies Noah Cohen ’14 and Sean Donovan ’13 to strengthen his game. Cleveland attended Miami Valley High School, where he was a three-time first team All-Area and All-District selection.

Gorini, who hails from Incisa Valdarno, Italy, will add a spark to the Big Green offense and balance the team’s attack. Gorini played soccer at Istituto Dante Alighieri before moving to the Unitd States, where he played for Kimball Union Academy in Vermont, the alma mater of 2011 Ivy League Player of the Year Lucky Mkosana ’12.

Orr was a two-time All-Region and All-Conference selection from Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte, N.C., and he captained his team to the third round of the state tournament.

Rosen, ranked No. 11 in the Northeast region by TopDrawerSoccer.com in 2011, had an extremely successful career at the Hopkins School in New Haven, Conn. and is able to play multiple positions on the field.

Soko, a native of Zimbabwe like Mkosana, has represented his country at the U-17 and U-21 level. Soko spent the last two years playing for the Brooks School in North Andover, Mass. and is known for his athleticism and his abilities as a team-oriented player.

The team’s final recruit, Stray-Gundersen, came to Dartmouth late in the recruiting process, but the 6’0″, 165-pound Texan is a proven winner, having led Prince of Peace High School to three state championships.

Co-captain Teo Larsson-Sax ’13 said one of his jobs will be to welcome the incoming class to the team.

“Obviously our ultimate responsibility is to help the newcomers feel welcome and adjust to college,” Larsson-Sax said. “We have had no problems before with welcoming new teammates we are usually very tight-knit.”

Co-captain Kevin Dzierzawski ’13 said that past recruiting classes have adjusted well to the team at Dartmouth but that there are always some obstacles.

“For recruits, it’s always an adapting process,” Dzierzawski said. “The upperclassmen are here to guide them and help them keep a steady head during preseason. The previous incoming classes have all become great friends with each other.”

Dzierzawski said that there are both advantages and disadvantages for new members of the soccer team.

“Fortunately, we start school late, so the newcomers have almost an entire month before classes start, which is nice,” Dzierzawski said. “But when classes start, it’s a big load having to perform on the field and in the classroom their first term on campus.”

Larsson-Sax, who is from Sweden, was in a similar position to the team’s new international recruits, Gorini and Soko, though both the incoming freshman played at American high schools before coming to Dartmouth.

“For me, the first essay I ever wrote in English was applying for Dartmouth and taking [the SAT],” Larsson-Sax said. “It takes time adjusting to the cultural aspects, but preseason definitely helped. I got to know all the guys before school started and they were able to help me out.”

The Big Green will graduate eight seniors this year, including former captains Mkosana and Nick Pappas ’12. Larsson-Sax said that the team will have to make up for these losses in the coming season.

“We’re definitely losing a lot of talent, and some players who have been very key for us,” Larsson-Sax said. “But I think we have a strong group underneath who had to sit because of the players above them. I think this spring shows how good they are, and I think they’re ready to take over. We have big shoes to fill.”

Dzierzawski also said he is looking for the younger players to play a big role in the upcoming season, especially because there will be fewer upperclassmen on the team.

“The previous year, we lost nine seniors who played big roles for us, so this isn’t something new,” Dzierzawski said. “This is a good opportunity for our younger guys to step up. The incoming freshmen and sophomores make up a large part of the team there aren’t many upperclassmen, so we definitely are looking for their help, and I don’t think that will be a problem.”

This spring, the Big Green has competed in three games, which have included matches against the Haitian national team and the Cape Verde Select Team from Massachusetts. The players have also been working out off the field and trying new positions.

“Right now we have captain’s practices Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the afternoon and lifts on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Larsson-Sax said. “With soccer, the spring is really what you make it. Players work one on one, in groups or with some of the coaching staff. Some players practice five to seven days a week.”

Over the summer, Big Green soccer players will be scattered, either playing soccer or working. Dzierzawski, who will be playing soccer in Chicago this summer, said that Dartmouth players are unique compared to most other schools.

“Going to an Ivy League school, our priorities are usually different than teams in the Big 10 and SEC,” Dzierzawski said. “The rising juniors will be on campus in the summer, and the rising sophomores and seniors are kind of on their own. But we will all try to play as much soccer as possible.”

Even though the season is several months away, Larsson-Sax said that the Big Green already has specific goals for the upcoming fall.

“Last year we won the Ivies, and we’ve been to the NCAAs all three years I’ve been here,” Larsson-Sax said. “But the goal is to improve from last year and hopefully win the Ivies again. We also really want to make it farther in the NCAA Tournament this year.”

Francfort: An Affirmative Anachronism

As the U.S. presidential and congressional elections approach, a number of key political races are shaping up across the country. One of the most intriguing competitions pits Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., against Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren. This campaign for Ted Kennedy’s old seat has already turned out to be the most expensive Senate race in the nation. But a recent distraction has refocused the attention from the rivals’ political views to Warren’s ancestry.

The Democratic challenger to Brown has recently come under fire for allegedly claiming minority status at various institutions to advance her career, despite being only 1/32nd Native American. Both Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania listed Warren as a minority faculty member in official publications during her tenure at the respective institutions in the 1980s and 1990s. The Brown campaign and the Native American Rights Fund have publicly questioned Warren’s ability to list herself as a minority employee. Although the extent to which Warren benefited from her great, great, great-grandmother’s Native American descent benefited her when she was being considered for teaching jobs at elite universities, there are a few lessons to learn from this ongoing fiasco.

First and foremost, this incident should serve as an opportunity for us to consider the state of affirmative action policies in the United States. Ethnic and racial identity is more complex than can be reflected by simply checking off a box. According to the latest Census data, the multiracial population among American children has increased by almost 50 percent to 4.2 million people over 10 years. This vast increase makes children identifying as multiracial the fastest growing racial group among youths in the country.

But this changing demographic also raises important questions about the wisdom of continuing policies that emphasize race as the main determining factor in affirmative action programs that attempt to assess a lack of opportunity for certain groups of people. Opponents and supporters of affirmative action alike ought to come together to acknowledge the shifting makeup of our population and the implications of such changes. We must ask ourselves what the standard for allowing prospective students and educators to claim membership in a minority group should be. This is an important question, and it is one that will only grow in importance as the country’s racial demographics continue to become more loosely defined.

This episode also should push each of us to consider the major cultural influences in our lives and what makes these influences an integral part of who we are and how we are treated. Warren claims that she feels closely tied to Native American traditions and lore. As the topic has been thrust into the spotlight, she has explained that she is “very proud of [her] heritage.” For the moment, let’s assume that Warren’s Native American ancestry has had a significant impact on her life. If so, maybe she should be granted special consideration for employment under affirmative action programs.

But even if we agree with Warren’s claims that she associates with Native American culture, and if we believe that she should receive benefits that are meant to remedy the historical mistreatment of Native Americans, where do we draw the cutoff between who is and who is not a member of a racial or ethnic group? If a person is 1/64th or even 1/132nd Native American, can they identify as being a part of the Native American population and claim the benefits that may come with that identification? There’s a hazy line when it comes to determining whether or not individuals should be considered members of an ethnic or racial group that constitutes only a small percentage of their heritage. Consequently, it remains unclear what benefits should be afforded to these individuals.

In light of the recent controversy surrounding Warren, we need to reflect on the role our affirmative action policies are having on employment opportunities and society as a whole. If it was okay at one time to give preference to narrowly defined racial groups, is it still appropriate given our country’s changing demographics? We should not be placing the burden of defending their pedigree as a member of a specific race onto people like Warren. This is the very problem that affirmative action was originally created to end.

Valrie: Skimping on Scholarships

The New York Times recently published an impressive piece about student loan debt. The amount of debt with which current college students are graduating is not only staggering, but it is burdensome to the point of nihilism. My heart goes out to them.

What is more interesting, however, are statistics that The Times compiled, which show how dear old Dartmouth compares to other private colleges and universities. Roughly 50 percent of Dartmouth students graduate bearing debt, with the average amount of debt per graduate amounting to $18,712. In comparison, approximately 15 percent of Princeton University students graduate with debt, and those who do only have to repay, on average, roughly $5,000. Would someone at Dartmouth’s Financial Aid Office mind explaining to us why an education at Princeton leaves students with only a quarter of the debt that an education at Dartmouth does? Would someone in the Financial Aid Office mind explaining why Dartmouth recruitment officers from the Admissions Office go to inner-city and rural high schools promising the moon with a Dartmouth education but forget to mention that they might have to repay nearly $20,000 in loans after they graduate?

I finally paid off my Dartmouth loans last year after many years of personal financial struggle. I too graduated owing approximately $20,000 to the College. Yet when I graduated, I wanted to experience life in California instead of paying for the accident of being born poor. California offers many things in abundance, principal among them high rent. When I fell behind on my student loans, the song and dance from Dartmouth’s Student Financial Services was that making arrangements to pay whatever you were able was OK. What is implicit in this arrangement is that the smaller payments you make each month result in lengthening the total time it takes to pay off whatever loans you have. So instead of being debt-free in five years, you might be done paying your loans in 10 years. Meanwhile, life goes on. Your more affluent classmates are buying houses and living the dream while you’re barely making ends meet.

I’m not sure where future student indebtedness factors into the financial aid calculus at Dartmouth. I’m not sure the College administration cares. What is increasingly evident to me is that for the Admissions Office, recruitment goals have supplanted common sense. The expediency of quotas has led to irrationalism; the dictates of egalitarianism have required penny-pinching. My point is that the College cannot continue to skimp on scholarships while also enrolling poor students. One of the policies has to go.

I’ve never asked for or received a budgetary explanation as to why poor students’ educations tuition, warts and all can’t be fully funded gratis. But this time, I’m asking for it. I ask President Jim Yong Kim, future World Bank leader, why in the world can’t a school with a $3 billion endowment fully fund the educations of the promising, bright young minds from around the country whose parents live paycheck to paycheck? Why must poor and middle-class students be saddled with crippling undergraduate debt while their more affluent peers graduate debt-free and enjoy full access to their meager post-graduate earnings? When will the College step up and do the right thing?

Like you, I’m tired of waiting.

**Alfred Valrie is a member of the Class of 2001.*

Daily Debriefing

The College experienced a campus-wide power outage Tuesday night, beginning around 7:20 and lasting for approximately one hour. Although emergency systems kept some lights and wireless routers running, access to the Internet via Dartmouth Secure shut down roughly 30 minutes into the power outage. Students were turned away from campus dining facilities, such as Courtyard Cafe at the Hopkins Center, due to the outage. National Grid, the power company supplying the state of New Hampshire and the College, was responsible for the outage, according to Safety and Security. Businesses on Main Street were unaffected. Power was restored around 8:30 p.m.

Greek Letter Organizations and Societies announced its annual awards at Everything But Anchovies on Monday, recognizing the organizations that best upheld the values of Greek life, according to Greek Leadership Council moderator Duncan Hall ’13. Phi Delta Alpha fraternity and Alpha Xi Delta sorority earned the most honors of the night, with six awards each. Phi Tau, the most recognized coed fraternity, took three awards. The O’Connor Award, an award for the houses that are “outstanding in all pillars of Greek Life,” went to Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority and Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. The McEwen Award, an honor given to the houses that contributed the most to community service, was presented to Phi Tau coed fraternity and Delta Delta Delta sorority. AZD, Phi Tau and Sig Ep were the three houses with the highest grade point averages for the academic year.

Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., released his revised fiscal year 2013 budget plan for the state’s colleges and universities on Monday, according to Insider Higher Ed. University budgets will be slashed across the board if a tax increase referendum, which would raise over $8 billion through sales tax and increased income tax rates for the wealthiest income brackets, is rejected by voters in November. Since January, the state’s estimated revenue gap has widened to $15.7 billion from the original projection of $9.2 billion, according to Inside Higher Ed. Certain cuts including $250-million reductions for the University of California and California State University systems and a $300-million reduction for the state’s community colleges will be made regardless of whether the tax revenue measure passes in the fall. Community colleges are especially at risk, as the $300-million reduction represents 6 percent of the state’s contribution to the colleges, according to Inside Higher Ed.