Genus Americanus

… with Jacques and me in a bit part.

The publisher’s blurb for Genus Americanus: Hitting the Road in Search of America’s Identity, by Loren Ghiglione with Alyssa Karas and Dan Tham:

A seventy-year-old Northwestern journalism professor, Loren Ghiglione, and two twenty-something Northwestern journalism students, Alyssa Karas and Dan Tham, climbed into a minivan and embarked on a three-month, twenty-eight state, 14,063-mile road trip in search of America’s identity. After interviewing 150 Americans about contemporary identity issues, they wrote this book, which is part oral history, part shoe-leather reporting, part search for America’s future, part memoir, and part travel journal.

On their journey they retraced Mark Twain’s travels across America―from Hannibal, Missouri, to Chicago, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle. They hoped Twain’s insights into the late nineteenth-century soul of America would help them understand the America of today and the ways that our cultural fabric has shifted.

Their interviews focused on issues of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and immigration status. The timely trip occurred as the United States was poised to replace president Barack Obama, an icon of multiculturalism and inclusion, with Donald Trump, whose white-identity agenda promoted exclusion and division. What they learned along the way paints an engaging portrait of the country during this crucial moment of ideological and political upheaval.

p. 156:

At Haverford College, two miles southeast of Bryn Mawr [site of the previous interview], I met with Philip A. Bean, associate dean and dean of academic affairs, to discuss Haverford’s struggle to diversify.

I graduated in 1963, when the student body of 450 was still all male and a haven of heteronormativity (so far as I knew). Arnold Zwicky, the domestic partner of Jacques H. Transue, who started at Haverford in my class of 1963 [but graduated later] and died in 2003 [from radiation-caused dementia], called the 1960s “very bad for gay people.” Zwicky said most gay men hid their sexual orientation if they understood it at all. He said you could know you were attracted to men “but still not appreciate it as a defining fact about you, especially if you’re a man who likes women as people and friends and can be sexually responsive to women.”

Zwicky said Transue and he both felt “the considerable pressure to follow the life script — both of us looked forward to having children. It was  easy to marry [a woman] and have the appearance of a normal married life.” Zwicky, who, like Transue, married a woman, said regular sexual experiences in marriage could be “perfectly pleasant but not deeply moving.” Only when their continuing attraction to men moved from fantasies to real experiences did they fully identify themselves as gay.

Bean, the associate dean, who is openly gay, said that today, in contrast, individual students may silently struggle with real or perceived hostility from their families and hometown neighbors, but the climate at Haverford

p. 157:

for gay and lesbian students had long been ‘virtually a nonissue.”

Beyond gender/sexuality diversity, Haverford has changed in other ways, “Bean said students of color comprised 35 percent of Haverford’s entering class. Fifty-five percent of the once all-male student body was now female.” The college is also among the highest-ranked liberal arts colleges in its percentage of African American full-time faculty members.

Jacques would be so pleased.



4 Responses to “Genus Americanus”

  1. thnidu Says:


  2. Gadi Says:

    Zwicky gets mentioned in a book, and I have three words: Suck it, Zickwich!

  3. Loren Ghiglione Says:

    Thanks, Arnold. I’m glad you were pleased. Best, Loren

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