The Age of Innocence

True Notebooks: A Writer's Year at Juvenile Hall

Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas

As We Forgive Our Debtors

New Acquisitions


This special issue of New and Notable features books selected by Seattle University School of Law Associate Dean Annette Clark, Assistant Dean Carol Cochran, Clinic Director Paul Holland and Professor Rafael Pardo for the library’s READ poster display. We have included faculty quotes explaining why these books have special significance.

The Age of Innocence
By Edith Wharton

New York: Aegypan Press, PS3545.H16A73 2006



From Associate Dean
Annette Clark

“As is apparent from the irony-laden title, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is a searing critique of New York society in the 1870s. As is always true of her books, it provides a remarkable entrée into the interior of people’s lives and their relationships, and an exposition on the influence that society has on those lives and relationships. The first time I read The Age of Innocence, I conceptualized it as primarily a feminist critique. Edith Wharton shines a light on the remarkably constrained lives that women such as May Welland were permitted to lead, and the high penalties exacted when someone such as Ellen Elenska, who had been effectively banished by her peers, tried to reenter society. The second time I read it, I saw the narrative as a cautionary tale on the importance of making choices that are consistent with one’s values and beliefs; choices that will lead to a life that is genuine and authentic and that has integrity. Because of the leavening from my own experiences, the third time that I read The Age of Innocence, I felt a great deal more compassion for the protagonist Newland Archer, who at the end of the book looks back on his life with a mixture of regret and even bemusement. I’m no longer certain that Edith Wharton intended us to conclude that Newland and Ellen Olenska would have been happy had he but cast off the dictates of society and ‘come to her.’ Perhaps I’ve learned that life isn’t about making that one choice that will inexorably lead to personal fulfillment, but rather that it is a series of choices and compromises, each of which comes with its own set of joys and pain, and that the best that we can do is keep tacking toward a good life and a life of good. I have no doubt that were I to read The Age of Innocence again, I would discover new insights amidst the pages. That is, after all, the hallmark of great literature.”

A Brief Overview

“On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York.” With this line, Edith Wharton begins her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel where the lives of Newland Archer, May Welland and Ellen Olenska intersect testing the power of social convention to control human emotion. Edith Wharton illustrates that sacrificing happiness to protect others is not an act of charity or goodness but an act of foolishness for what one loses through sacrifices cannot be regained. With the many ironic situations of uncertainty and captivating passion, The Age of Innocence powerfully portrays “a disturbingly accurate picture of men and women caught in a society that denies humanity while desperately defending civilization.”

About the Author

Edith Wharton was born on January 24, 1862. In addition to the Age of Innocence and other novels such as the ever popular Ethan Frome (1911), she also created collections of short stories, poems, articles, translations, and reviews. Wharton wrote her best when she was portraying the manners of New England America at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. Heavily influenced by her friend Henry James, she depicted the contradictions of upper-class society.

In August 1937, Wharton suffered a stroke and died in France. She is buried in the American Cemetery at Versailles.


Additional Information Online


True Notebooks:
Writer’s Year at Juvenile Hall
By Mark Salzman

New York: Vintage Books, 2004 PS572.L6S25 2004



From Clinic Director
Paul Holland

“White guy goes to the inner-city to do good. It’s been done, I know, so I wouldn’t blame you if you have passed right by True Notebooks in the bookstores, dismissively guessing who might play the author in the eventual lame movie.

So, why did I choose this book? For starters, the author, a thirty-something white novelist struggling with writer’s block, did not start to teach writing in Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles believing he could change the lives of the teens imprisoned there. Salzman candidly admits that he wound up in the Hall because he was struggling to develop a juvenile delinquent character in his stalled novel and he could not muster the strength to say no when a friend invited him to enter the lives of actual incarcerated youth. Salzman is equally honest, direct and perceptive in his nuanced observations of the kids in his class, the families they are now separated from, and the detention staff who spend every day with them. Part journalist, part anthologist, Salzman tells the story of his encounter with these youths in his words and in theirs.

In my first job after law school, I worked for a public defender office inside juvenile detention facilities. A colleague and I started that job together, breathing the righteous fire of new lawyers out to set the world right. Occasionally, we got results we could measure, but what kept us going back every day was the same thing that drives this book: and the need to bring the youths’ powerful stories to light. A lawyer’s professional life is written in stories – the stories s/he tells on behalf of the clients s/he represents. Salzman provides a model for writers and lawyers in how to find and tell the powerful stories easily lost amid stereotypes or clichés.

And the part where this white writer brings a jailhouse full of LA’s toughest to tears with his cello, that’s too much even for Hollywood.”

From the Publisher

In 1997 Mark Salzman paid a reluctant visit to a writing class at L.A.’s Central Juvenile Hall, a lockup for violent teenage offenders, many of them charged with murder. What he found so moved and astonished him that he began to teach there regularly. In voices of indelible emotional presence, the boys write about what led them to crime and about the lives that stretch ahead of them behind bars. We see them coming to terms with their crime-ridden pasts and searching for a reason to believe in their future selves. Insightful, comic, honest and tragic, True Notebooks is an object lesson in the redemptive power of writing.

About the Author

Mark Salzman is the author of Iron & Silk, an account of his two years in China; Lost in Place, a memoir; and the novels The Laughing Sutra, The Soloist, and Lying Awake. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, the filmmaker Jessica Yu, and their daughter, Ava.


Additional Information Online


Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas
By Maya Angelou

New York: Bantam Books, c1977, c1976

PS3551.N464Z475 1977


From Assistant Dean
Carol Cochran

“From the moment I first read a Maya Angelou book I knew I had to read more. There are several books in which she writes about her life but this one, Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting’ Merry like Christmas captured my imagination more than any other. Maya Angelou has had such an incredible life and this book discussing her life as an artist, wife and mother, again shows how she has become such a national treasure and an important role model for women of all color and backgrounds.

Like Ms. Angelou, I too thought when I was older I would travel the world performing as an artist. I think the most eye opening part of the book came when she talks about her time traveling the world as a member of the touring group of Porgy and Bess in the late 1950s. At one point she teaches herself Serbo-Croatian and wanders the city meeting and speaking to the locals. For many it was the first time they had seen an African American, let alone one who was speaking their own language! Maya Angelou never let convention define her, and I hope I never will either.

This book also has special meaning to me as my copy is from a friend who is no longer with us. Thanks Deena for sharing.”

From the Publisher

[In this book] Maya Angelou, dazzling entertainer, casts the spotlight on her show business career -- a pageant of international scope. Maya, the woman, shares her sad, failed marriage to a white man, her early motherhood and achingly sensitive relationship with her young son, and her bone-deep, painful suspicion of the white world that welcomes her talent so dramatically...

About the Author

Maya Angelou was born in 1928. A native Arkansan, her autobiographical books chronicle her varied, often harsh experience of being raped at seven, of bearing a child at sixteen, and of her work-as an actress, as a school administrator in Africa, and as a poet. She celebrates in the black experience the capacity not merely to survive but to grow and to triumph over adversity as well. The same theme is echoed in her poetry.


Additional Information Online


As We Forgive our Debtors
Edited by Teresa A. Sullivan, Elizabeth Warren, and Jay Lawrence Westbook

Washington, D.C.: Beard Books, c1999

HG3766.S79 1999


From Professor
Rafael Pardo

“It is a simple truth that we are a nation of consumers that lives on borrowed money. Not surprisingly, some individuals find themselves with too many debts and an inability to repay them. When this occurs, federal bankruptcy law offers refuge and respite from financial distress in the form of forgiveness of debt. During the past three decades, Professors Teresa Sullivan, Elizabeth Warren, and Jay Westbrook have sought to explain what causes individuals to file for bankruptcy through an empirical study known as the Consumer Bankruptcy Project. The first comprehensive report of their findings was published in 1989 in As We Forgive Our Debtors. This path-breaking work has not only prompted a paradigmatic shift in the way that we conceive of consumer bankruptcy and its causes, it has also greatly influenced other scholars to study the bankruptcy system from an empirical perspective, myself included. Such studies are instrumental in understanding who we are as a society: As stated by Bruce Mann, Professor of Law at Harvard University, ‘Whether a society forgives its debtors and how it bestows or withholds forgiveness are more than matters of economic or legal consequence. They go to the heart of what a society values.’"

From the Publisher

This book undertakes a study of bankruptcy with the goal of increasing our understanding of debtors and creditors who end up in bankruptcy court. It does not attempt to study the internal workings of bankruptcy, but instead looks outward to the larger population of bankrupt debtors. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, the authors have drawn social and economic portraits of typical debtors against the backdrop of the law and with hard empirical data.

This book was given the Silver Gavel Award of the American Bar Association in 1990.

About the Authors

Teresa A. Sullivan became Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Michigan on June 1, 2006. She is also Professor of Sociology in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

Prior to coming to the University of Michigan, Dr. Sullivan was Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the University of Texas System, a position she held from 2002 until May 2006.

A professor of law at Harvard University, Elizabeth Warren is an expert on bankruptcy and an outspoken critic of consumer lenders. She is the author of several books including, most recently, The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke.

Jay Lawrence Westbrook is the Benno C. Schmidt Chair of Business Law at the University of Texas.


Additional Information Online


Law Library Seal

Newsletter written by law library staff.
Compiled by Bob Menanteaux and Nancy Minton;
Technical Direction: Greg Soejima

Copyright © 2007 Seattle University Law Library
Seattle, Wash. All rights reserved