Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Alissa Hamilton

Alissa Hamilton holds a Ph.D. from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a J.D. from the University of Toronto Law School. She has been a Graham Research Fellow in International Human Rights at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. She is currently a 2008-2009 Food and Society Policy Fellow with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).

Her new book is Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice.

Recently, I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
It's summertime, the season for a great romance, thriller, or mystery, whether read between covers or viewed on the big screen. And yet all I seem to be reading these days is non-fiction, the film equivalent of the documentary, which you might think is more fall/winter appropriate. Think again. Docs can be entertaining: remember March of the Penguins, when the two pudgy penguins too impatient to wait their turn get momentarily stuck, Abbot and Costello style, in the hole in the ice on their way fishing?

Similarly, Non-fiction can be gripping. I'm going to take a chance and pick Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life as proof. I confess I have not read this year-in-the-life, but it's on my shelf, next in line. Kingsolver, who appropriately made her name writing delicious fiction (The Bean Trees was her first novel), begins Animal, Vegetable, Miracle with an elaborate drawing of an every-vegetable-plant followed by the evocation:

Picture a single imaginary plant,

bearing throughout one season all the

different vegetables we harvest...

we'll call it a vegetannual

With a start like this, I'm confident it won't disappoint. Especially since squash, which may be my single most favourite vegetable, crowns the drawing.

If you're more in the mood for a thriller, I recommend A Question of Intent: A Great American Battle With a Deadly Industry, by David Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Kessler was largely responsible for exposing and cracking down on the tobacco industry. Although the book was published in 2001, it is timely given a recent article co-authored by Kelly Brownell, Yale psychologist and author of Food Fight: The Inside Story of the Food Industry, America's Obesity Crisis, and What We Can Do About it, and Kenneth Warner, tobacco researcher and Dean of the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, about the similarities in the marketing tactics used by the food and tobacco industries.

Hot docs for what I hear is going to be a hot summer.
Visit Squeezed's home page at the Yale University Press website, to view reviews, an excerpt, and more.

--Marshal Zeringue