Labyrinth Books announces live events for Feb. 29 through April 15

Following is the schedule for Labyrinth Books author events from Feb. 29 through April 15. Unless otherwise noted, events are held at the bookstore at 122 Nassau Street in Princeton.

February 29, 6 p.m.

Simon Gikandi, Bob Sandberg and Stacy Wolf

Global Theatre Anthologies: Ancient, Indigenous, and Modern Plays from Africa and the Diaspora

The power of theatrical performance is universal, but the style and concerns of theatre are specific to individual cultures. This volume in the Global Theatre Perspectives series presents a reconstructed ancient performance text, four one-act indigenous African plays, and five modern dramas from various regions of Africa and the Caribbean Diaspora. Introduction and discussion moderation by Stacy Wolf.

Because these plays span centuries and are the work of artists from diverse cultures, readers can see elements that occur across time and space. Physicalized ritual, direct interaction with spectators, improvisation, music, drumming, and metaphorical animal characters help create the theatrical forms in multiple plays. Recurring themes include the establishment or challenging of political authority, the oppression or corruption of government, societal expectations based on gender, the complex and transformational nature of identity, and the power of dreams.

Among the creators of the pieces are two Nobel Laureates, those who have been exiled or jailed for the political nature of their work, and the author of his country’s first constitution. The global perspectives approach, letting works from ancient, indigenous, and modern times resonate with each other, encourages thinking across boundaries, and connective human understanding.

Simon Gikandi is a professor and chair of the English Department at Princeton University, where he is also affiliated with the departments of Comparative Literature, African American Studies, and the program in African Studies. His many books include Writing in Limbo: Modernism and Caribbean Literature and Maps of Englishness: Writing Identity in the Culture of Colonialism. He is the co-author of The Columbia Guide to East African Literature in English since 1945.

R. N. Sandberg is a lecturer at the Lewis Center for the Arts and Department of English at Princeton University. Though he retired in 2021, Sandberg has continued to be affiliated with the Program in Theater, advising and directing student theses.

Stacy Wolf is a professor of Theater, director of fellowships, and director of the Program in Music Theater at Princeton University. She is the author of Changed for Good: A Feminist History of Broadway Musical; A Problem Like Maria: Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical; and most recently Beyond Broadway: The Pleasure and Promise of the American Musical. 

This event is co-sponsored by Princeton University’s Humanities Council, the Lewis Center for the Arts, the African American Studies Department, and the Program in African Studies.

March 5, 6 p.m.

Katherine Yeske Taylor and Tom Beaujour

She’s a Badass: Women in Rock Shaping Feminism

Feminism has always been a complex and controversial topic, as female rock musicians know especially well. When they’ve stayed true to their own vision, these artists have alternately been adored as role models or denounced as bad influences. Either way, they’re asked to cope with certain pressures that their male counterparts haven’t faced. With each successive feminist movement since the 1960s, women in rock have been prominent proponents of progress as they’ve increasingly taken control of their music, message, and image. This, in its way, is just as revolutionary as any protest demonstration.

In She’s a Badass, music journalist Katherine Yeske Taylor interviews twenty significant women in rock, devoting an entire chapter to each one, taking an in-depth look at the incredible talent, determination—and, often, humor—they needed to succeed in their careers (and life). Interviewees range from legendary artists to notable up-and-comers, including Ann Wilson (Heart), Gina Schock (The Go-Go’s), Suzanne Vega, Amy Ray (Indigo Girls), Orianthi, Amanda Palmer, and more. Their experiences reveal the varied and unique challenges these women have faced, how they overcame them, and what they think still needs to be done to continue making progress on the equality front. Their stories prove that promoting feminism—either through activism or by living example—is undeniably badass.

Katherine Yeske Taylor began her career as a rock critic in Atlanta in the 1990s, interviewing Georgia musical royalty such as the Indigo Girls, R.E.M., and the Black Crowes while still a teenager. Since then, she has conducted several hundred interviews and contributes regularly to Billboard, Spin, and American Songwriter, among others. She is a longtime New York City resident and is extremely active in the downtown rock scene.

Tom Beaujour is a journalist as well as a co-founder and former editor-in-chief of Revolver, America’s premier hard rock and heavy metal monthly. Beaujour has produced and mixed albums by Nada Surf, Guided by Voices, the Juliana Hatfield Three, and many others. He is the author of Nothin’ But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the ‘80s Hard Rock Explosion and Guita Aficionado: The Collections – The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World. 

Co-presented by Labyrinth and the Princeton Public Library and co-sponsored by Princeton University’s Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies.

March 20, 6 p.m.

Rachel Cohen and Jill Dolan

A Chance Meeting: Encounters between American Writers and Artists

Each chapter of Cohen’s inventive consideration of American culture evokes an actual meeting between two historical figures. We invite you to a conversation between an acclaimed writer working at the height of her craft and scholar, critic, and Princeton Dean of the College Jill Dolan

Henry James begins a lasting friendship with William Dean Howells and also meets Sarah Orne Jewett, who in turn is a mentor to Willa Cather. Mark Twain publishes Grant’s memoirs, W. E. B. Du Bois and his professor William James visit the young Helen Keller, and Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz argue about photography.

Later, Carl Van Vechten and Gertrude Stein, who was also a student of William James’s, attend a performance of The Rite of Spring. Hart Crane goes out on the town with Charlie Chaplin. Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston write a play together. Elizabeth Bishop takes Marianne Moore, who was photographed by both Van Vechten and Richard Avedon, to the circus. Avedon and James Baldwin collaborate on a book, John Cage and Marcel Duchamp play chess, and Norman Mailer and Robert Lowell march on the Pentagon in the anti-Vietnam War demonstration of 1967.

The accumulation of these pairings draws the reader into the mysterious process through which creativity has been sparked and passed on among iconic American writers and artists.

“Innovative . . . faultless . . . [Cohen] gives us a more intimate sense of these people in a few pages than one sometimes gleans from entire biographies.” —The New Yorker

Rachel Cohen is the author of three books of nonfiction, most recently Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels. Her essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Guardian, The London Review of Books, and The New York Times, among other publications, and her work has been included in Best American Essays and Pushcart Prize anthologies. She is a professor of practice in the arts in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Chicago.  

Jill Dolan is the dean of the college at Princeton University, where she also is a professor in English and professor of theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts. Dolan received the 2011 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for her blog, “The Feminist Spectator.”  Her book, The Feminist Spectator in Action:  Feminist Criticism on Stage and Screen,  collects 20 of her blog posts and includes 10 new essays. Dolan’s most recent book is Wendy Wasserstein. Her other books include Theatre & Sexuality, Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theatre, Geographies of Learning: Theory and Practice, Activism and Performance, and Presence and Desire: Essays on Gender, Sexuality, Performance.

This event is co-presented by Labyrinth and the Princeton Public Library and cosponsored by Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, Humanities Council, and Department of Art and Archaeology.

March 21, 6 p.m. at the Princeton Public Librart

Kara Alaimo with Jane Carr

Over the Influence: Why Social Media is Toxic for Women and Girls

Kara Alaimo’s new book is a rallying cry for women to recognize and reject the ways social media is being weaponized against them — and instead wield it to empower themselves and other women. Please join us for a conversation with the author about this urgent topic.

In Over the Influence, communication professor and CNN Opinion contributor Kara Alaimo reveals how social media is affecting every aspect of the lives of women and girls—from our relationships and our parenting to our physical and mental well-being. Over the Influence is a book about what it means to live in the world social media has wrought—whether you’re constantly connected or have deleted your accounts forever. Alaimo shows why you’re likely to get fewer followers if you’re a woman. She explains how fake news is crafted to prey on women’s vulnerabilities. She reveals why so much of the content we find in our feeds is specifically designed to hold us back. And she explains how social media has made the offline world an uglier place for women.

But we can change this. Alaimo offers up brilliant advice for how to get over the influence—how to handle our daughters’ use of social media, use dating apps to find the partners we’re looking for, use social networks to bolster our careers and protect ourselves from sextortionists, catfishers, and trolls. She also explains what we need to demand from lawmakers and tech companies.

Kara Alaimo is an associate professor of communication at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she created the university’s programs in social media. She has written for CNN Opinion about the social impact of social media and issues affecting women and girls since 2016. She’s also a former communicator in the Obama administration and United Nations. Jane Greenway Carr is an opinion editor at CNN.com. She was previously an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Public Fellow and a Contributing Editor at New America, where she helped to produce The Weekly Wonk. She is the co-publisher of The Brooklyn Quarterly, a digital magazine of literature and public ideas. 

This event is co-presented by Labyrinth Books, The Princeton Public Library, and the Phyllis Marchand Leadership Lecture Fund. It is cosponsored by Princeton University’s Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies.

March 28, 6 p.m.

Joyce Carol Oates and Maria di Battista

Letters to a Biographer and Short Stories

Join us as we celebrate a rich compilation of Joyce Carol Oates’s letters across four decades, which displays her warmth and generosity, her droll and sometimes wicked sense of humor, her phenomenal energy, and most of all, her mastery of the lost art of letter writing. Oates will discuss her writing life with feminist critic and scholar Maria di Battista. They will also discuss the two recent of anthologies of crime and horror stories written by women, which Oates edited. We invite you to join us.

In this generous selection of Joyce Carol Oates’s letters to her biographer and friend Greg Johnson, readers will discover a never-before-seen dimension of her phenomenal talent.

In 1975, when Johnson was a graduate student, he first wrote to Oates, already a world-famous author, and drew an appreciative, empathetic response. Soon the two began a fairly intense, largely epistolary friendship that would last until the present day. As time passed, letters became faxes, and faxes became emails, but the energy and vividness of Oates’s writing never abated. Her letters are often sprinkled with the names of famous people, from John Updike and Toni Morrison to Steve Martin and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. There are also descriptions of far-flung travels she undertook with her first husband, the scholar and editor Raymond Smith, and with her second, the distinguished Princeton neuroscientist Charlie Gross. But much of Oates’s prose centered on the pleasures of her home life, including her pet cats and the wildlife outside her study window.

Whereas her academic essays and book reviews are eloquent in a formal way, in these letters she is wholly relaxed, even when she is serious in her concerns. Like Johnson, she was always engaged in work, whether a long novel or a brief essay, and the letters give a fascinating glimpse into Oates’s writing practice.

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the National Book Critics Circle Lifetime Achievement Award, and the National Book Award, among many honors. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde; and The Falls. Her most recent novels are 48 Clues to the Disappearance of My Sister,  Zero-Sum is Babysitter. She is a professor of the humanities emerita at Princeton University and teaches at New York University.

Maria DiBattista specializes in twentieth-century literature and film, the European novel, and narrative theory. Her books include Virginia Woolf: The Fables of Anon; First Love: The Affections of Modern Fiction; and Fast Talking Dames.

This event is co-presented by Labyrinth and the Princeton Public Library and is co-sponsored by Princeton University’s Humanities Council and Lewis Center for the Arts.

March 29, 6 p.m.

Gavin Steingo and Gary Tomlinson

Interspecies Communication: Sound and Music Beyond Humanity

Steingo’s surprising study reveals a plethora of attempts to communicate with non-humans in the modern era.  
In Interspecies Communication, music scholar Gavin Steingo examines significant cases of attempted communication beyond the human—cases in which the dualistic relationship of human to non-human is dramatically challenged. From singing whales to Sun Ra to searching for alien life, Steingo charts the many ways we have attempted to think about, and indeed to reach, beings that are very unlike ourselves.

Steingo focuses on the second half of the twentieth century when scientists developed new ways of listening to oceans and cosmic space—two realms previously inaccessible to the senses and to empirical investigation. As quintessential frontiers of the postwar period, the outer space of the cosmos and the inner space of oceans were conceptualized as parallel realities, laid bare by newly technologized “ears.” Deeply engaging, Interspecies Communication explores our attempts to cross the border between the human and non-human, to connect with non-humans in the depths of the oceans, the far reaches of the universe, or right under our noses.

Gavin Steingo is a professor of music at Princeton University and the author, previously, of Kwaito’s Promise: Music and the Aesthetic of Freedom in South Africa. Gary Tomlinson is a professor of music and humanities at Yale. His latest research, joining humanistic theory, archaeology, and evolutionary science, investigates the role of cultural forces in the formation of modern humanity. It has led to two books: A Million Years of Music: The Emergence of Human Modernity and Culture and the Course of Human Evolution. His earlier books include Monteverdi and the End of the Renaissance; Music in Renaissance Magic: Toward a Historiography of Others; Metaphysical Song: An Essay on Opera; The Singing of the New World: Indigenous Voice in the Era of European Contact; and Music and Historical Critique.

This event is cosponsored by Princeton University’s Humanities Council and Music Department.

April 3, 6 p.m.

Emily Raboteau and Elizabeth Harman

Lessons for Survival: Mothering against the Apocalypse

Award-winning author and critic and Princeton native Emily Raboteau has crafted a powerfully moving meditation on race, climate, and environmental justice—and what it takes to find shelter. We invite you to a presentation and conversation with the author.

Lessons for Survival is a probing series of pilgrimages from the perspective of a mother struggling to raise her children to thrive without coming undone in an era of turbulent intersecting crises.

With camera in hand, Raboteau goes in search of birds, fluttering in the air or painted on buildings, and city parks where her children may safely play while avoiding pollution, pandemics, and the police. She ventures abroad to learn from indigenous peoples, and in her own family and community, she discovers the most intimate examples of resilience. Raboteau bears witness to the inner life of Black womanhood, motherhood, and the brutalities and possibilities of cities while celebrating the beauty and fragility of nature. This innovative work of reportage and autobiography stitches together multiple stories of protection, offering a profound sense of hope.

Emily Raboteau writes at the intersection of social and environmental justice, race, climate change, and parenthood. Her previous books are Searching for Zion, winner of an American Book Award, and the cult classic novel, The Professor’s Daughter. A contributing editor at Orion Magazine and a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, Raboteau’s essays have recently appeared and been anthologized in the New Yorker, the New York Times, New York Magazine, The Nation, Best American Science Writing, Best American Travel Writing, and elsewhere. She serves regularly as nonfiction faculty at the Bread Loaf Environmental Writing Conference and is a professor at the City College of New York (CUNY) in Harlem.

Elizabeth Harman is a professor of Philosophy and Human Values at Princeton University.  Her papers include Creation Ethics: The Moral Status of Early Fetuses and the Ethics of Abortion, Can We Harm and Benefit in Creating?, and The Irrelevance of Moral Uncertainty.

This event is co-presented by Labyrinth and the Princeton Public Library and is cosponsored by Princeton University’s Departments of African American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies

April 4, 6 p.m.

Rachel Haidu and Irene Small

Each One Another: The Self in Contemporary Art

A consideration of how contemporary art can offer a deeper understanding of selfhood.
With Each One Another, Rachel Haidu argues that contemporary art can teach us how to understand ourselves as selves—how we come to feel oneness, to sense our interiority, and to shift between the roles that connect us to strangers, those close to us, and past and future generations. Haidu looks to intergenerational pairings of artists to consider how three aesthetic vehicles––shape in painting, characters in film and video, and roles in dance––allow us to grasp selfhood. Better understandings of ourselves, she argues, complement our thinking about identity and subjecthood.
She shows how Philip Guston’s figurative works explore shapes’ descriptive capacities and their ability to investigate history, while Amy Sillman’s paintings allow us to rethink expressivity and oneness. Analyzing a 2004 video by James Coleman, Haidu explores how we enter characters through their interior monologues, and she also looks at how a 2011 film by Steve McQueen positions a protagonist’s refusal to speak as an argument for our right to silence. In addition, Haidu examines how Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s distribution of roles across dancers invites us to appreciate formal structures that separate us from one another while Yvonne Rainer’s choreography shows how such formal structures also bring us together. Through these examples, Each One Another reveals how artworks allow us to understand oneness, interiority, and how we become fluid agents in the world, and it invites us to examine—critically and forgivingly—our attachments to selfhood.

Rachel Haidu is an associate professor of art history and visual and cultural studies at the University of Rochester. She is the author of Each One Another: The Self in Contemporary Art and The Absence of Work: Marcel Broodthaers 1964-1976.

Irene Small is a professor of art and archaeology at Princeton University. She is the author of Hélio Oiticica: Folding the Frame and of the forthcoming The Organic Line: Toward a Topology of Modernism.

This event is co-sponsored by Princeton University’s Humanities Council and the Department of Art and Archaeology.

April 9, 6 p.m.

Laurence Ralph and Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Sito: An Amerian Teenager and the City that Failed Him

Come hear the riveting and heart-wrenching story of violence, grief, and the American justice system, exploring the systemic issues that perpetuate gang participation in one of the wealthiest cities in the country, through the story of one teenager. 

In September 2019, Luis Alberto Quiñonez—known as Sito— was shot to death as he sat in his car in the Mission District of San Francisco. He was nineteen. His killer, Julius Williams, was seventeen. It was the second time the teens had encountered one another. The first, five years before, also ended in tragedy, when Julius watched as his brother was stabbed to death by an acquaintance of Sito’s. The two murders merited a few local news stories, and then the rest of the world moved on.

But for the families of the slain teenagers, it was impossible to move on. And for Laurence Ralph, the stepfather of Sito’s half-brother who had dedicated much of his academic career to studying gang-affiliated youth, Sito’s murder forced him to revisit a subject of scholarly inquiry in a profoundly different, deeply personal way.
Written from Ralph’s perspective as both a person enmeshed in Sito’s family and as an Ivy League professor and expert on the entanglement of class and violence, SITO is an intimate story with a message about the lived experience of urban danger, as well as anger, fear, grief, vengeance, and ultimately grace.

Laurence Ralph is a professor of anthropology at Princeton University, where he is the director for the Center on Transnational Policing. He is the author of the acclaimed Renegade Dreams: Living Through Injury in Gangland Chicago and The Torture Letters: Reckoning With Police Violence. Khalil Gibran Muhammad is the Ford Foundation Professor of History, Race and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. He directs the Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project and is the former director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. the award-winning author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America. He is currently co-directing a National Academy of Sciences study on reducing racial inequalities in the criminal justice system.

This event is cosponsored by Princeton University’s Humanities Council and departments of African American Studies and Anthropology.

April 11, 6 p.m.

Ashley Dawson and Rob Nixon

Environmentalism from Below: How Global People’s Movement Are Leading the Fight for Our Planet

Ashley Dawson has written a global account of the grassroots environmental movements on the frontlines of the climate crisis. He is joined by Princeton University Professor Rob Nixon, a leading figure in the environmental humanities.

Environmentalism from Below takes readers inside the popular struggles for environmental liberation in the Global South. These communities—among the most vulnerable to but also least responsible for the climate crisis—have long been at the forefront of the fight to protect imperiled worlds. Today, as the world’s forests burn and our oceans acidify, grassroots movements are tenaciously defending the environmental commons and forging just and sustainable ways of living on Earth.

Scholar and activist Ashley Dawson constructs a gripping narrative of these movements of climate insurgents, from international solidarity organizations like La Via Campesina and Shack Dwellers International to local struggles in South Africa, Colombia, India, Nigeria, and beyond. Taking up the four critical challenges we face in a warming world—food, urban sustainability, energy transition, and conservation—Dawson shows how the unruly power of environmentalism from below is charting an alternative path forward, from challenging industrial agriculture through fights for food sovereignty and agroecology to resisting extractivism using mass nonviolent protest and sabotage.

An urgent, essential intervention, Environmentalism from Below offers a hopeful alternative to the gridlock of UN-based climate negotiations and the narrow nationalism of some Green New Deal efforts. Building on longstanding traditions of anticolonial struggle, environmentalism from below is a model for a people’s movement for climate justice—one that demands solidarity.

Ashley Dawson is a professor of English at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York and the College of Staten Island. He is the author of several books on key topics in the environmental humanities, including People’s Power: Reclaiming the Energy Commons, Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change, and Extinction: A Radical History. He is the founder of the CUNY Climate Action Lab and a long-time climate action activist. Rob Nixon is a professor in the humanities and the environment at Princeton University. He is affiliated with the Princeton Environmental Institute’s initiative in the environmental humanities. He is the author of four books: London Calling: V.S. Naipaul, Postcolonial Mandarin; Homelands, Harlem and Hollywood: South African Culture and the World Beyond; Dreambirds: The Natural History of a Fantasy; and Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor.  

This event is co-presented by Labyrinth and the Princeton Public Library and is cosponsored by Princeton University’s Humanities Council and High Meadows Institute.

April 15, 7 p.m. at the Princeton Public Library

Jisung Park

Slow Burn: The Hidden Costs of a Warming World

It’s hard not to feel anxious about the problem of climate change, especially if we think of it as an impending planetary catastrophe. In Slow Burn, R. Jisung Park encourages us to view climate change through a different lens: one that focuses less on the possibility of mass climate extinction in a theoretical future, and more on the everyday implications of climate change here and now.

Drawing on a wealth of new data and cutting-edge economics, Park shows how climate change headlines often miss some of the most important costs. When wildfires blaze, what happens to people downwind of the smoke? When natural disasters destroy buildings and bridges, what happens to educational outcomes? Park explains how climate change operates as the silent accumulation of a thousand tiny conflagrations: imperceptibly elevated health risks spread across billions of people, pennies off the dollar of productivity, and fewer opportunities for upward mobility.

By investigating how the physical phenomenon of climate change interacts with social and economic institutions, Park illustrates how climate change already affects everyone and may act as an amplifier of inequality. Wealthier households and corporations may adapt quickly, but, without targeted interventions, less advantaged communities may not.

Viewing climate change as a slow and unequal burn comes with an important silver lining. It puts dollars and cents behind the case for aggressive emissions cuts and helps identify concrete steps that can be taken to better manage its adverse effects. We can begin to overcome our climate anxiety, Park shows us, when we begin to tackle these problems locally. 

R. Jisung Park is an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he holds appointments in the School of Social Policy and Practice and the Wharton School of Business. An environmental and labor economist, he has been investigating and writing about the economics of climate change for more than a decade. He has advised organizations that range from the World Bank to the New York City Departments of Education and Health.

This event is co-presented by Labyrinth and the Princeton Public Library and is co-sponsored by the High Meadows Environmental Institute at Princeton University.