By Rebecca Isenhart
Have you taken your summer brain vacation yet?
Not to worry — there are still plenty of summer days left.
There’s something for every literary taste among these books by authors from Niskayuna (and one from Schenectady), so whether you’re all about facts, a total sports buff, or a sucker for mystery, pull up a beach chair and send your brain on a journey that started close to home.
Elizabeth Rosner — “The Speed of Light.”
Rosner’s 2007 national bestseller alternates between the stories of two siblings and their Latina housekeeper, all struggling to come to terms with the effects of genocide on their families and their pasts. Rosner graduated from Niskayuna High School in 1977. Her memoir in poetry, “Gravity,” and a historical novel about Schenectady, “Electric City,” are forthcoming.
Gilbert King — “Devil in the Grove.”
This true story of a 1951 trial in Jim Crow Florida during which Thurgood Marshall defended four young black men accused of raping a young white woman. The trial set off explosive racial tensions. Published in 2012, this dramatic account won King the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. King graduated from Niskayuna High School with the Class of 1980.
Rupert Pratt — “Touching the Ancient One.”
Pratt is a retired Schenectady teacher whose historical disaster epic deserves a mention for the high acclaim it drew. After surviving a plane crash in Alaska in 1954, Pratt writes not only about the horror of seeing the plane’s cabin split open, but also the effects on the survivors, their families, and those who lost loved ones in the crash.
Leslie Neustadt — “Bearing Fruit: A Poetic Journey.”
Longtime Niskayuna resident Neustadt, a retired attorney, writes about life with incurable cancer and coming to terms with childhood sexual abuse. Though the subjects are dark, the poetry, published April 2014, manages to be uplifting and invites Neustadt’s readers to join her on a journey of forgiveness, acceptance, and celebration. “Bearing Fruit” is available on Amazon.com.
Kate Fagan — “The Reappearing Act.”
Fagan graduated from Niskayuna High School in 1999 and was The Daily Gazette Athlete of the Year from Niskayuna High School that same year. Her memoir, just published May 2014, is the humorous and moving story of her self-identification as a lesbian and her struggle to overcome stereotypes about women in sports. Fagan hopes she can become a role model for other young women searching for acceptance.
Anne Blankman— “Prisoner of Night and Fog.”
The seed for this World War II mystery novel and romantic thriller was first planted when the author learned the story of Anne Frank. Blankman, a member of the Niskayuna High School Class of 1997, developed a lifelong fascination with World War II and its many players. The story follows a fictional character, Gretchen, inspired by Adolf Hitler’s real niece, who lived in constant contact with the inner circle of Nazi politics. The novel was published in May 2014, and Blankman is already working on a sequel.
Herman Krabbenhoft — “Leadoff Batters.”
In 1987, retired GE Research chemist Krabbenhoft read a book that claimed that Ricky Henderson was the greatest leadoff batter in baseball history. He wanted to know whether that could be proven true. Sixteen years later, he had satisfied his curiosity, and he published his data-heavy, 424-page book in 2006. And yes, he determined, Henderson really was the best.
James Howe — “Bunnicula” and many others.
The famous children’s story of a pet bunny with curious fangs and a black, cape-like pattern is tame enough for kids, though it will scare the pants off any carrot. The 1976 book touched off a series of seven, the most recent of which hit shelves in 2006. Howe graduated from Niskayuna High School in 1964 and was inducted into the NHS Alumni Hall of Fame in 1986.
Did we miss a Niskayuna author or an important local book? Email your tips to Rebecca Isenhart or call 395-3191.