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The Kenya Connection

Laurentian Reviews

Table of Contents

Laurentian Reviews
Winter 2004

National Geographic is the publisher of a short, simply expressed yet heartfelt memoir by Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton '91. Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna is a book of cultural encounters as the author recounts growing up in a traditional nomadic way of life in Kenya (where “facing the lion” is at once a metaphor and a vivid memory), leaving home for the first time when he departed to travel to St. Lawrence, and becoming a teacher at The Langley School in northern Virginia.

The only one in his family to go to school, he is torn between two ways of life, but learns to accommodate both of them. Along the way he celebrates his tribal initiation by circumcision, learns to play soccer and speak English, gets help when drought causes his family to have too few cattle to pay his school bills, and adapts to being a college student halfway around the world, in a climate unlike any he'd known before. He recounts how former Kenya Program director Paul Robinson made him acquainted with St. Lawrence, although at the time he had absolutely no idea what, or where, it was.

Joseph Lekuton remains actively involved in community development projects in rural Kenya. Through his work with several non-profit organizations, he has provided more than 100 nomadic children with education scholarships and constructed a water system delivering clean water to a dozen villages in northern Kenya . He is the youngest recipient of Kenya 's Order of the Grand Warrior, given by the president for exemplary service to the country. He returns to Kenya every summer, a Maasai tribesman who has learned to navigate more than one world.  

Erik Esckilsen '86 has been a shoe salesman, cab driver, rock-n-roll musician, world traverlere, journalist with bylines in Entertainment Weekly and the Boston Gobe , and a college teacher. Now he's added “novelist” to that list.

Esckilsen's debut novel, The Last Mall Rat (Houghton Mifflin, 2003), take a cinematic look at owning up to your mistakes and standing by your friends. Set in a small, economically failing New England town, it is the story of 15-year-old Mitch Grant, whose family has been torn apart by his father's protests against the new shopping mall. In need of cash but too young to get a job, he turns to the Chair, a superslick shoe salesman who needs help with a brash new venture. Things quickly spiral out of control as the tale portrays a divided town mired in a big drama.

According to Booklist, “This clever, believable first novel captures teen boredom and frustration, while never evading the moral issues. Realistic dialogue and a keen sense of what matters to teen will draw them to this quick read.”

Three Laurentians have brought out short collections of poetry recently:

David Lloyd '75 is professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program at Le Moyne College in Syracuse , and a widely published critic, editor and award-winning poet. His second volume of poetry, The Gospel According to Frank (New American Press, 2003) is a sequence of poems that merges elements of the public persona of Frank Sinatra with Biblical and mythological representations of divinity. The reader will find a sometimes startling, always successful blend of forms from the Old and New Testaments (parables appear frequently), excerpts of Sinatra songs, and material from books on Sinatra and his acquaintances. “Daring, enjoyable, ironic,” says fellow poet Fred Chappell on the cover, true enough when you consider the one in which Sinatra reads Emily Dickinson while Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe fight in the next room.

Arthur Reamy Jansen '66 is the creator of the chapbook My Drive, A Natural History (Cincinnati: Finishing Line Press, 2003), which employs the metaphor of the journey to allow him to comment on the passing scene and his passing life. Professor of English and Humanities at Rockland Community College , Jansen is the 2003 winner of the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Creativity and Scholarship, and the 2000 winner of the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching. He is vice president of the National Book Critics Circle and, saying that he writes “a steady stream of reviews on anything that interests me, from Romanian poetry to contemporary philosophy,” a contributing editor to The Bloomsbury Review of Books. Of his time at St. Lawrence, he acknowledges the influence of Professors Carlisle (history), Munson (music) and Holladay (art).

Janine DeBaise '83 is the 19th poet to be represented in the New Women's Voices Series being produced by Finishing Line Press. Of a Feather (2003) also features the cover art of her sister, Manhattan artist and reporter Colleen DeBaise '82. The collection tells a story that moves from the red desert cliffs of Arizona to the woods, marshes and caves of Central New York . Readers from the Syracuse area will recognize much of the imagery in the poems; DeBaise teaches writing and literature at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry there. Selections such as “River Morning” and “Roadside” reveal a remarkable ability to observe and connect.

A new anthropology textbook by St. Lawrence University Professor of Anthropology Richard J. Perry examines the five "key concepts" that form the basis of study in the discipline.

Five Key Concepts in Anthropological Thinking (Prentice Hall, 2003) is being used as a textbook for anthropology courses at colleges and universities across the country. Rather than approaching topics from the relative views of individual theorists, the book instead discusses the concepts of evolution, culture, structure, function and relativism. Publishers describe it as "A thought-provoking reference for anyone interested in learning about anthropology."

Perry is the author of three other books, Western Apache Heritage: People of the Mountain Corridor (1991), Apache Reservation: Indigenous Peoples and the American State (1993) and From Time Immemorial: Indigenous Peoples and State Systems (1997), all from the University of Texas Press . Since joining the faculty in 1971, he has been a co-director of the University's program of study in Kenya , and recently returned from a research trip to Australia for his next project, which will address the concepts and attribution of human differences cross-culturally.

A St. Lawrence graduate who is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is the co-author of a new textbook on public policy. Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives (CQ Press, 2003) is by Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Affairs Scott R. Furlong '85 and his faculty colleague, Professor of Political Science and Public Affairs and Herbert Fisk Johnson Professor of Environmental Studies Michael E. Kraft.

According to the publishers, the book "offers a striking approach to the country's most urgent policy challenges by integrating the study of process, the concepts and methods of policy analysis, and the substance of policy areas."

A government major at St. Lawrence, Furlong's areas of expertise are regulatory policy and interest-group participation in the executive branch. He has published articles in a number of journals including Public Administration Review , The Journal of Public Administration, Research and Theory , A dministrative Studies Quarterly and Policy Studies Journal . He has been teaching the Public Policy course at Green Bay for 10 years. He participated in the Washington , D.C. , semester while a St. Lawrence undergraduate and was a member of the government department honorary; he holds a master's degree and Ph.D. from The American University.

A new book by Michael Bottini '76 compiles some of the award-winning columns he's written for a Long Island newspaper for four years, on the nature trails of the area. Bottini is the author of the column "South Fork Outdoors" in the Southampton Press ; the column recently won the New York Press Association's first-place award for Best Outdoor Column. The compilation book is titled The Southampton Press Trail Guide to the South Fork (Harbor Electronic Publishing, 2003). “It's a description of 40 different nature preserves on the south fork of Long Island ,” says Bottini.

An environmental planner for the Group of South Fork, Bottini earned his St. Lawrence degree in economics and studied in Vienna while a University undergraduate, and was a member of the Outing Club and the ski and swim teams. “My interest in ecology and natural history first developed during my years at St. Lawrence,” Bottini says, specifically crediting his roommate and eventual Outing Club President Jack Pigott '76 and Professors Emeriti Cropper and Green. After St. Lawrence, he became an Outward Bound instructor, earned a master's degree in wildlife ecology from the University of British Columbia and was an adjunct instructor at Southampton College .

Bottini maps and designs trails for the Group of South Fork, and plans another book, on paddling in Long Island waters.

“When there's a monster in your room, you turn a light on.” That's the premise behind The Monster, by Peter Kray '89. This is an allegory about rational thought and how it applies to our health, especially in a rapidly changing world of technology and medicine. Kray is a ski writer, journalist and editor who identifies his wife, Catherine Coghill '91, as “the inspiration for the book.” He asserts that we need to take ownership over our own health by engaging in serious research, and that many health problems can be overcome by consistent exercise and a sensible diet of healthy foods, as opposed to reliance on prescription drugs.

The book was written with children in mind (thus the “monster” metaphor), but Kray reports that readers from kids to senor citizens have responded favorably to it. Its interviews with people in all walks of life, from those who are chronically ill to those who can't remember the last time they had a cold, will appeal to a broad audience. For a nation in the dark about its health, this book turns a light on.

With a title like Seventy Years on a Motorcyle: An Up-to-the-Hilt Reminiscence by a College Literature Professor, you get some idea of what to expect. That's about what this book delivers. Herbert Foster Gunnison '42 is the retired professor/biker, and this lively, engaging memoir moves thorugh complex interrelated ideas with grace and ease. We read of his attempts to break the coast-to-coast motorcycle speed record, and his 7,500-mile journey around the U.S. to celebrate his 75 th birthday. He can be blunt one moment (“beautiful, my ass,” in response to news that some atomic scientists find nuclear explosions beautiful), lyric the next, as when he describes “the song of a perfectly tuned engine, aching with daylong joy as I watch the earth renew its sweet mysterious self around me.”

Canton resident and hockey and football “honorary volunteer” Jake Dillon has written a memoir of growing up with his brother through the years of the Great Depression. Blasted Apes (privately published, available from 1-800-280-7715) mentions the University and numerous Laurentians. The book has been described as more cheerful than moody as it lives out the dour days of the Depression.