Alexandra Robbins, the Walt Whitman High School graduate who wrote about her Bethesda alma mater in The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids (2006), is out with her eighth book, The Teachers: A Year Inside America’s Most Vulnerable, Important Profession (Dutton, March 2023). She focuses on the stories of three teachers in different parts of the country over the course of a year, weaving in hundreds of others she interviewed (all unnamed), about the reality of dealing with inadequate resources, demanding parents, long hours and, sometimes, toxic co-workers. “We really need to understand the education system from the teachers’ perspective, because schools are the heart of our community,” says the Washington, D.C., author and Montgomery County substitute teacher. “We can’t fix the system until we listen to the teachers.”
For readers curious about the significance of nearby Civil War battlefields or which historical conflicts might foreshadow what’s going to happen in Ukraine, Bethesda author Michael O’Hanlon says his new book, Military History for the Modern Strategist: America’s Major Wars Since 1861 (Rowman & Littlefield, January 2023), is a big-picture analysis of what can be learned from past wars. “Reading history can help you understand…patterns of behavior we see from human beings,” says O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. From his research, the author identifies three lessons: Aggressors are almost always wrong about the ease of victory; the outcome of wars is rarely preordained; and America has had a generally successful grand foreign policy strategy despite a mediocre military record since 1945.
Born on her family’s farm in Howard County, Maryland, in 1883, Edith Clarke became the first woman to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an electrical engineer. She invented a widely used engineering calculator and developed a method to control how much electricity can be safely pushed into a power line. Most people don’t know of her story, says Bethesda author Jan Lower, who wrote about Clarke in an illustrated children’s book titled The Brilliant Calculator: How Mathematician Edith Clarke Helped Electrify America (Calkins Creek, March 2023). “It’s quite an esoteric field she was in, but her influence was profound,” Lower says. “I think these untold stories are crucial to unveil. Women for so long have done the work and not been recognized.”
Katherine Heiny says she started writing one of her short stories on a McDonald’s receipt while sitting in a Giant parking lot in Bethesda. She jotted down another idea while accompanying her son on a road test in Gaithersburg to get his driver’s license. “When I feel stressed, writing is a way I process that,” says Heiny, whose collection of 11 short stories, Games and Rituals (Knopf, April 2023), includes locally based pieces inspired by real-life situations. During the pandemic, the longtime Bethesda resident (who recently moved to northeast Maryland) says she missed chance encounters at the store or park that sparked her creativity. “I think one of the reasons I was having trouble writing was because there was no outside stimulation,” Heiny says. “It was a struggle for everyone in a thousand ways.”
This story appears in the March/April issue of Bethesda Magazine.
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