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The Anti-Aging Fitness Prescription

At 49, a busy attorney decides to get in shape before her hallmark 5-0 birthday arrives. She starts lifting weights three times a week at a local gym and soon adds 30-minute stints on a stair-climber and an elliptical trainer. Other days, she runs on a treadmill. She expects to feel better soon, even though she’s not losing much fat and her lower back flares with pain.

What she doesn’t realize in her quest for renewed health is that exercise alone won’t create fitness. Other things are out of balance in her life: lack of sleep, stress at work, long hours at her desk, a poor diet, and very little time spent with family or friends because of professional demands.

Ziya Altug (SHRP ’89), a physical therapist, is familiar with this scenario. He has observed similar patterns in his patients and clients. So he collaborated with nutritionist and health writer Tracy Olgeaty Gensler to produce The Anti-Aging Fitness Prescription (Hatherleigh Press), a straightforward guide to total life fitness.

Their approach is built on a few balanced fitness components: exercise, sound nutrition, adequate sleep, stress control, and fresh air and sunshine. “These are the basics,” says Altug, “and they won’t change.” The book offers specific tools and techniques—including workout plans, recipes, stress management techniques, and a nutrition log—as the perfect prescription. The ideal, he says, is to enjoy upcoming birthdays and the passing years, not fear them. —Bonnie Coffee

I Celebrate Myself

A librarian squints as he deciphers a signature at the bottom of a fan letter. After reading it several times, he realizes the handwritten missive is from a teenager named Abbie Hoffman who later became a famed member of the Chicago Seven protestors and a leader of the counterculture Yippies political party. Excitedly, the librarian grabs an index card and jots notes.

The librarian, Bill Morgan, is an archivist and bibliographer for the famous Beat Generation poet and social activist Allen Ginsberg. The fan mail was addressed to Ginsberg. Later, when Morgan mentions the letter during dinner at Ginsberg’s kitchen table, Ginsberg regales him with stories of his friendship with Hoffman.

Over two decades, Morgan (SLIS ’73, CAS ’71) organized Ginsberg’s voluminous archive. He used 30,000 index cards to categorize the collection of journals, manuscripts, beard clippings, FBI reports, Buddhist texts, and bumper stickers. He believes he’s the “only person to ever have read everything Allen ever wrote.”

After Ginsberg died in 1997, Morgan began writing a biography, I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg (Viking). Although he was Ginsberg’s friend and archivist, Morgan learned still more about the poet: “As I wrote, I was surprised to discover that Ginsberg’s story turned out to be a love story, or at least a search for love.” —Cara J. Hayden

Hurricanes and Carnivals

A pug named Picadou and her owner walk eastward down the Avenida Francisco Sosa, a one-mile gray-brick strip in Mexico City. During their walk, Picadou sees a Domino’s Pizza delivery scooter, garbage bags that never seem to leave one corner, and a squirrel she barks obscenities at. Picadou’s owner carries a stick to protect the dog from callejeros or strays. It can be a literal dog-eat-dog world on these streets, which the pug’s owner, C.M. Mayo, captures vividly in an essay she wrote about Picadou and what she thinks and feels.

It’s just one tale in Hurricanes and Carnivals (University of Arizona Press), a collection of essays by Mexican, Mexican-American, and Latin American writers, edited by Pitt English Professor Lee Gutkind. The compilation exhibits the catch-22 life of Mexico—a country both united and divided in a mélange of culture, myth, politics, and history.

Gutkind, dubbed in Vanity Fair as the “godfather” of the creative nonfiction writing genre, says the difference between American and Mexican writing is that American authors tell you what they see, while Mexican authors tell you what they think. He hopes the Mexican style of “less reportage and more literature” will become a trend in the United States, fodder for enjoyable reading. —Lauren Mylo

The Miner’s Daughter

Someone shouts, “That’s the president’s wife!” The tall woman, plainly attired, approaches a ramshackle, soot-blackened cabin. The West Virginia coal town of Riley Mines has shut down at the height of the Depression, leaving some families, like the hard-working Lowells, financially stranded and physically battered. The U.S. president’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, has arrived to invite them to relocate to a new whitewashed home with a redbrick chimney and a big backyard.

In this young-adult novel that mixes fiction with fact, the fictional Lowells resettle in Arthurdale, which is historically the first New Deal community in America and a monument to Mrs. Roosevelt’s lifelong crusade for affordable housing.

Gretchen Moran Laskas (CAS ’92), whose father was born in Arthurdale, learned of the First Lady’s kindness from longtime resident Ellen Estepp, who recalled: “Eleanor Roosevelt was the homeliest woman I ever met, but she would hug you and kiss you just like you were kin.”

Laskas had long wanted a fictional outlet to express her belief in good government and its positive impact on real people’s lives. She credits her opportunity to attend Pitt—on a state scholarship that covered tuition, room, and board—to effective government. The Miner’s Daughter (Simon & Schuster) is a coming-of-age story about the plucky young heroine Willa Lowell, who, much like Mrs. Roosevelt herself, cares for her community and becomes deeply committed to social justice. —Emily J. Karam

Reign of Light

A child listens intently as her grandmother tells a story. A dwarf king leaves his throne to a handsome prince who saves his country and woos a forbidden love. But this was no fairy tale—this was a slice of Polish history and culture.

The dwarf king was the monarch of Poland in the early 14th century. The handsome prince was Casimir the Great, who, during his 37-year reign, battled fierce Teutonic knights and scheming royalty. He also extended religious tolerance to Jews, one of whom, according to many Jewish historians, won his heart.

As an adult, Arlene H. Kostreva Moulthrop (EDUC ’87) decided to revisit this tale from her childhood. She was inspired to retell Casimir’s saga because of her teenage sons’ fascination with the Star Wars trilogy. To Kostreva, a second-generation American, a true family-heritage story was more wonderful than any fiction. Between caring for her children and aging parents, earning her Pitt bachelor’s degree in elementary education, and teaching, it took her 25 years to research and write Reign of Light (Airleaf Publishing).

With help from the University Library System’s Alliance College Polish Collection and a few fictional characters, the historical romance blends facts and old-fashioned storytelling to pass on a precious heritage. —Paul Ruggiero

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