Category: Yale Press Podcast

Yale Press Podcast: Author Jennifer Michael Hecht on Suicide

Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against ItThere is a certain myth to the idea that most suicides occur around the holidays; in fact, it’s usually in spring and summer that see the highest rates of this irretrievable act. In our latest episode of the Yale Press Podcast, Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against Itspeaks poignantly to the value of  recovering the most powerful historical and contemporary arguments against the act.  The book, based on research as well as personal experience — has been well received by critics: it’s what David Brooks has called “eloquent and affecting” in his New York Times column, what Maria Popova claimed as “more than a must-read — it’s a cultural necessity” on Brain Pickings, and what Andrew Sullivan has treated readers to with a series of videos with an Ask Anything series with Hecht on The Dish.


Listen to Jennifer Michael Hecht on the Yale Press Podcast on iTunesU!

As we close our #YUPapr conversations this month about “Ancient Texts, Modern Beliefs”, Hecht‘s argument importantly shapes how we have perceived our own humanity as an object of faith and community, and for our modern society and its set of beliefs, the message is clear: don’t go, stay.

The Political Decisions that Keep Guantanamo Bay Open

Listen to the podcast interview for The Terror Courts on iTunesU!

terrorCourtsOn the Yale Press Podcast, in conversation with Yale University Press Director John Donatich, author Jess Bravin revealed: “It was one of the commission’s big advocates, Senator Lindsey Graham, who told me, in effect, that you needed to put the 9/11 defendants on trial by military commission in order to justify the existence of military commissions . . . Justice in this case has been delayed in order to add to the creditability of military commissions by giving them marquee-level defendants to prosecute.”

Jess Bravin’s The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay has won numerous accolades for debunking presumptions like these about Guantanamo Bay and the military commissions. Terror Courts was a 2013 top political book pick by many, including the Washington Post and Publishers Weekly. Rolling Stone called it “captivating,” the New York Times labeled it a “welcome addition to the history of national security legal policy dilemmas in the Bush era.”

With The Terror Courts releasing in paperback this month, we are pleased to share an excerpt from the conversation between YUP Director John Donatich and Bravin. Guantanamo Bay once garnered enough public attention that then presidential candidate Barack Obama made closing the detention camp a campaign promise. John Donatich asks Bravin about the potential for sustained public outcry as the detainees cases drag on in the permanent military commissions:

John Donatich: What do you think now, with the hunger strikes getting more attention, at what point do you think Guantanamo will be an issue that Congress has no choice but to address, and will there be any kind of sustained public outcry against what’s happening?

Jess Bravin: Well there is no public outcry against what’s happening there that I can tell, there are certainly people that have been concerned about it, but it’s not an issue that motivates mass attention in the United States.

I think that if the congress remains as it is now—divided partisan control in the two chambers, and no constituency for addressing Guantanamo, it’s hard to image much happening from Capitol Hill. I think the initiative lies almost completely with President Obama. In his first term he was willing to expend zero political capital towards his campaign promise of closing Guantanamo and significantly altering the way that military trials worked—well, he did alter the way military trails work on paper, I have to say that. He did sponsor legislation that did afford defendants greater protections than they had previously, but in terms of closing the place and just closing the book on this post 9/11 experiment in parallel justice, he hasn’t really done anything to accomplish that after discovering there was some political price to pay for trying back in 2009.

Listen to their complete conversation on the Yale Press Podcast, now available through Yale University on iTunesU.

Jess Bravin

Jess Bravin

And the 2013 NBCC Biography Award Goes to… YUP Author Leo Damrosch!

In January, the National Book Critics Circle announced their annual award finalists for the 2013 publishing year. Among those honored for book reviewing, lifetime achievement, and books published in a myriad of categories is Yale University Press author Leo Damrosch, whose book Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World is a finalist in the biography category. Already selected as a New York Times Notable Book of 2013, the book was highlighted appreciatively by Marcela Valdes with a podcast for the NBCC’s “Critical Mass” blog, discussing each of the 30 book award finalists in turn. And last night several nominees read from their works.

Listen to Damrosch’s Yale Press Podcast interview with YUP Director John Donatich on iTunesU!

Tonight’s NBCC award ceremony is free and open to the public. Congratulations to Leo Damrosch for this prestigious nomination, and congrats to all of this year’s finalists from Yale University Press!

March 14, 2014 Update Damrosch is the recipient of this year’s NBCC Award in Biography! See our updated photo gallery below!

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YUP Director John Donatich Interviews Leo Damrosch on Jonathan Swift

DamroschJonathan Swift, although widely remembered as both an author and a public figure, remains quite enigmatic today. Leo Damrosch, author of the New York Times Notable Book of 2013, Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World, and Ernest Bernbaum Research Professor of Literature at Harvard University, recently discussed the man’s mysterious personal life with Yale University Press Director John Donatich on the Yale Press Podcast.

Although multiple biographies have been written about the author, Damrosch’s book reinterprets known evidence to paint a fuller portrait of the man — his works, his belief, and his personal relationships.  Damrosch explains his motivations for taking on the project, explaining,

“It seemed there was an enormous hole to fill; just trying to figure out what kind of person he was and how he related to others.”


 Listen to the full interview on iTunesU!

Yale Press Podcast Episode 29: Amos Oz & Fania Oz-Salzberger

Listen to the podcast interview for Jews and Words on iTunes!

Yale Press PodcastJews and WordsSomewhere between the What is Jewish Culture? event at the 92Y launching the Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization and the NPR Weekend Edition interview with Scott Simon, we managed to catch Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger to record our latest episode of the Yale Press Podcast. Father and daughter speak with Yale University Press Director John Donatich about the essential role of books and words throughout Jewish history; and language as it has been passed down through families and translation.

The Yale Press Podcast is now available through Yale University on iTunesU. You can read an excerpt from Jews and Words below.


Amos Oz & Fania Oz-Salzberger—

This book is an essay. It is a nonfiction, speculative, raw, and occasionally playful attempt to say something a bit new on a topic of immense pedigree. We offer you our personal take on one core aspect of Jewish history: The relationship of Jews with words.

The authors are a father and a daughter. One is a writer and literary scholar, the other a historian. We have discussed and disputed topics relevant to this book ever since one of us was about three years old. Nevertheless, our coauthorship warrants some justification.

The best way to account for our teamwork is to spell up front what this essay says. It says that Jewish history and peoplehood form a unique continuum, which is neither ethnic nor political. To be sure, our history includes ethnic and political lineages, but they are not its prime arteries. Instead, the national and cultural geneaology of the Jews has always depended on the intergenerational transmittal of verbal content. It is about faith, of course, but even more effectively it is about texts. Significantly, the texts have long been available in writing. Tellingly, controversy was built into them from the very start. At its best, Jewish reverence has an irreverent edge. At its best, Jewish self-importance is tinged by self-examination, sometimes scathing, sometimes hilarious. While scholarship matters enormously, family matters even more. These two mainstays tend to overlap. Fathers, mothers, teachers. Sons, daughters, students. Text, question, dispute. We don’t know about God, but Jewish continuity was always paved with words.

For this very reason, our history excels as a story. Indeed, several histories and numerous stories are intertwined in the annals of the Jews. Many scholars and writers have braved this maze. Here we are offering a joint walk through some of its pathways, entwining the gazes of a novelist and a historian, and adding our own interlocution to its myriad conversing voices.


Excerpted from Jews and Words, Yale University Press 2012. Copyright © 2012 by Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger. All rights reserved.

Amos Oz is the internationally renowned author of more than twenty works of fiction and numerous essays on politics, literature, and peace. He is also professor of literature at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva. Fania Oz-Salzberger is a writer and history professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Haifa. She recently held the Leon Liberman Chair in Modern Israel Studies at Monash University, and a Visiting Laurance S. Rockefeller Professorship for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton University.

How We Think about Wall Street

Read an excerpt from Wall Street

Last month Strike DebtWall Street, an offshoot group of Occupy Wall Street, began buying strangers’ debt in order to make it disappear. Another manifestation called Occupy Sandy swooped in during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to assist gathering and delivering supplies, filming a documentary in the process. Over a year after protesters collected in New York City’s Zuccotti Park, the movement that would be called Occupy Wall Street is still breathing.

The movement’s aims are necessarily diffuse, but their slogan, “We are the 99%” struck a common chord and lasts one of their most potent symbols. Seeping into the lexicon, it speaks on behalf of the broader population against corporate greed and unequal distribution of wealth and power that erodes real democracy. The adversary was “the banks,” the insurance companies, the institutions holding the power of the “1%,”and given the name and location of the movement in the Financial District of New York, Wall Street was their primary emblem.

In Steve Fraser’s Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace, that American institution comes alive. Before the Occupy movement employed Wall Street for its own rhetorical purposes, it held a shifting place in the national imagination from the first Wall Street panic of 1792 to the dot-com bubble of the 1990s. Fraser traces this history through four Wall Street types: the aristocrat, the confidence man, the hero, and the immoralist. These figures embody how the nation understands its aspirations to money, freedom, and independence.

“The Street” has stood in for all manner of contradictory anxieties and hopes as the country has grown into its own and continues to establish and negotiate its identity. At times it is effete and un-American, at other periods it is the ultimate in high-risk machismo, the cowboy in a suit. These specters from the confidence man to the hero appear and disappear, reflecting the country’s concerns.

Its figure, The Aristocrat appeared early on in Wall Street’s history, a “noxious import from the Old World” representing the white-shoed elite. In him, Wall Street was an American stand-in for the continental aristocracy that drew so much ire. Yet in the Hero, Wall Street is its own patriotic counterpoint. Fraser explains, “In a society that encouraged in every man the dream of one day risking all and breaking free—‘self-reliance’ as the signature American promise and imperative—the spectacle of Wall Street’s champion gamblers walking a tightrope with no net imparted a metaphysical thrill.”

If individual freedom and independence are shared American values, they have been a reason for both maligning and extolling Wall Street. After all, accumulating wealth has always been a method to gain this kind of agency, yet Wall Street’s methods raise suspicion on similar grounds. The question remains for Fraser how Wall Street will function in the minds of everyday citizens in the wake of this century’s economic crises. Can average Americans see Wall Street as a shared institution, a way to succeed, or is it a walled-off entity that is inaccessible for all but a few?

Yale Press Podcast LogoAs the country recovers economically, so will Wall Street and the 1% shift in the country’s imagination. It is a mutable “dream palace,” as Fraser shows us, and understanding its history will be a fascinating way to envision our future.

Click here to listen to a podcast with the author and how Americans have viewed Wall Street through the years.

Trapped by Healthcare Reform?

With the Supreme Court set to review Obamacare in the coming weeks and Rick Santorum deriding that same legislation as “a threat to the very essence of who America is,” it is obvious that health care will be as much of a talking point in this election as it was in 2008.

In his book, Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle Over Health Care Reform, Paul Starr reminds his readers that, in America, health care has long been a source of debate. As a one-time senior health-care adviser in the Clinton White House, Starr is intimately acquainted with the history of the country’s health-care system, and in Remedy and Reaction, he outlines the long interchange between reform and counter reform behind the present situation.

This history is hardly irrelevant. Indeed, if the Supreme Court upholds the legislation, health care will become a defining feature of the legacy of the President just as he begins his campaign for reelection, leading analysts to compare the case with the rulings on the New Deal that shaped FDR’s reelection campaign more than seventy years ago.

Starr emphasizes what he calls the “peculiar” history of the debate, noting that the United States is the only capitalist democracy in the world to leave such a large portion of its population without health insurance. In fact, Starr writes, the United States is the victim of a “policy trap,” because the increasingly complex and expensive workings of the existing health care system itself work against efforts at reform. Worse, partisan politics mean that agreement on a solution is hard to come by—even when, as the Washington Post pointed out in a recent article—both parties seem to have more in common than anyone wants to admit.

Want to hear more? Listen to Starr talk about FDR, Obama, and Mitt Romney’s history with health-care reform on the Yale Press Podcast.

The Daily Show and More Interviews with Trita Parsi on Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran

Trita Parsi, photo credit: Rebecca Zeller

Since the December headlines about U.S.-led sanctions against Iran to President Obama’s statement today that “there is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution to this issue”, American-Iranian relations have been at the center of foreign policy, as we head into another election year and reflect on the past year’s Arab Spring and the role that non-Arab states like Iran and Israel have played on the Middle Eastern political stage.

Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council and author of the new book, A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran, will appear on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart this Thursday, March 8 to discuss how we arrived at the current state of affairs and what steps might be next taken for the U.S. to move forward in bringing about a resolution. We sat down with Parsi to discuss the informed opinion of his book and why timing, as ever, is so important in bringing these diplomatic issues to light.


Yale University Press: Why this book?

Trita Parsi: In Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States, I showed how the absence of serious diplomacy had brought the U.S., Israel, and Iran to the brink of war. With Obama, an attempt at diplomacy was made – but it failed. The new book looks at what actually happened in that diplomacy and why it fell short. The answer will surprise a lot of people.

YUP: What is the most pressing issue the U.S. faces with Iran?

TP: The headlines tend to be about the nuclear issue, but that is the symptom rather than the root of the problem. The real problem is the dysfunctional relationship between the U.S. and Iran – and the fact that it is playing out in a volatile region that won’t achieve stability until Washington and Tehran find a way to get along.

YUP: How did you conduct the research for your book?

TP: The topic is very current, so I relied primarily on classified government documents and interviews with top officials from every state involved in Obama’s outreach to Iran—from Israel to Saudi Arabia, the E.U., Russia, Turkey, Brazil, and , of course, the U.S. and Iran.

YUP: How can Obama succeed with Iran?

TP: It all comes down to political will and maneuverability – both in Tehran and in Washington. It is only when we fully realize the cost of failure that we will muster the will and patience to overcome the obstacles on the road to peace.


Trita Parsi is president of the National Iranian American Council and a former Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In 2010 he received the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, and he is frequently consulted by Western and Asian governments on foreign policy matters. Listen to Parsi’s Yale Press Podcast interview, available now for free download.

Yale Press Podcast Episode 28: Trita Parsi on Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran

When President Obama took office in 2009, one of his most notable proclamations was his commitment to a more open foreign policy. During the 2008 presidential debates, then-Senator Obama openly declared the importance that the United States “talk to the Syrians and the Iranians”, remarking that those who think otherwise “ignore our own history.” The relationship between the U.S. and Iran had been strained under George W. Bush’s presidency and the first election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, worsening the now-institutionalized animosity between the two nations dating back to the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis. No sooner had Obama been sworn into office than he attempted to extend an open hand towards an Iranian clenched fist. With U.S.-Iran relations reaching new strains amidst recent developments on sanctions against Iran, our retrospective glance is bound to follow the trajectory of the United States’ role in the Middle East, where our presence in Iran’s neighboring countries has been of paramount concern for relations between the two countries. Already the analysis has begun.

In his new book, A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran, Trita Parsi, has conducted new research through interviews with White House and top-ranking officials from the U.S., Iran, Israel, the EU, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Brazil to propose a startling idea: what if diplomacy has yet to be fully pursued despite perceptions and the course of events at the start of Obama’s presidency? Parsi uncovers the full details of the diplomatic encounters between Washington and Tehran during Obama’s early presidency, assessing how and why Obama’s diplomacy ended up being a single roll of the dice: It had to work either immediately—or not at all.

Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council and author of the award-winning Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States, returns to the Yale Press Podcast with host Chris Gondek to talk about A Single Roll of the Dice, published this week. Today, you can read a book excerpt on and our podcast interview is available now from our website, from iTunes, even right here on the Yale Press Log; always for free. Listen and go!


Copyright (c) 2012 by Yale University Press. All rights reserved.

Yale Press Podcast Episode 27: Paul Starr on American Health Care Reform

Thanks to all of your support, as promised, we have restarted the Yale Press Podcast series! In Episode 27, host Chris Gondek interviews Paul Starr, professor of sociology at Princeton and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Social Transformation of American Medicine. Starr‘s newest book, Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Health Care Reform is out now from Yale University Press; this interview covers the near century-long history and present health care challenges of the United States, including discussions of Roosevelt, Johnson, Nixon, Clinton, and Obama’s administrations, as well as reform policies enacted by then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. From his perspective as former senior adviser to President Clinton’s health care reform plan, Starr argues that the United States ensnared itself in a trap through policies that satisfied enough of the public and so enriched the health-care industry as to make the system difficult to change.

All of our podcasts are free and available for download; from our website, from iTunes, from the player below, listen and go!


Copyright (c) 2011 by Yale University Press. All rights reserved.