University of Minnesota Alumni Association


Twins, Texting, and Tapes

It's Minnesota Alumni's quarterly books roundup

In the 1960s, staff at the New York adoption agency Louise Wise Services intentionally separated twins and triplets to different homes so researchers could study the effects, doing so without their families’ knowledge or consent. This disturbing tale was told in the award-winning 2018 documentary Three Identical Strangers.

The movie details the experiences of Bob Shafran, Dave Kellman, and Eddy Galland, Jewish triplets separated as infants and raised in homes scattered around New York City.

But that 96-minute documentary, focused as it was on the triplets, could only begin to suggest the full story.

To learn more, pick up a copy of Deliberately Divided: Inside the Controversial Study of Twins and Triplets Adopted Apart (Rowan & Littlefield) by Nancy L. Segal, a psychology professor at California State University, Fullerton. Segal is a former postdoctoral fellow in the U of M Department of Psychology and former assistant director of the U of M’s Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research, which has studied twins since 1979.

Readers will quickly learn that the famous tale of the identical triplets’ reunification, by no means a purely happy one, is just one of many sad sagas of siblings deliberately separated by the Wise agency. Indeed, many participants and their families now equate the unethical, even wicked, machinations of the Wise agency—and the profound psychic pain it caused—with the infamous Mengele twin experiments of the Nazi era.

And the rest ...

While plenty has been written about life in U.S. prisons, far less has been written about life in U.S. jails. Yet many people accused of crimes—typically those who cannot afford or are not offered bail— languish in jails for weeks, months, even years. The appalling lack of literature on this subject has finally been addressed in Indefinite: Doing Time in Jail (Oxford University Press) by University of Minnesota Assistant Professor of Sociology Michael L. Walker

After spending a few months in a county jail himself, Walker has written an eye-opening ethnographic study of a California county jail system, a world far more brutal and degrading than conventional wisdom would suggest. Just how bad? Well, as one jail inmate put it, “If you have to do time, prison is where you want to be.”

In 1971, when the subject of his book was just 30 years old, Anthony Scaduto published Bob Dylan: An Intimate Biography. Now Scaduto’s widow, Stephanie Trudeau, has published The Dylan Tapes: Friends, Players, & Lovers Talkin’ Early Bob Dylan (University of Minnesota), drawn from 36 hours of taped interviews Scaduto conducted for that biography. Written in a Q&A format, the book provides a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Scaduto’s landmark book, as well as close-up encounters with a couple dozen key figures in Dylan’s life, including Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, and a few folks from Dylan’s Dinkytown coffee-shop days, when he lived above Gray’s Drugs on 14th Avenue and 4th Street Southeast. 

By 1960, the not-yet-famous folkie had dropped out of the University of Minnesota and was telling people he was an “Okie” orphan (Dylan idolized Oklahoma native Woody Guthrie). As for his briefly attended alma mater, the U of M doesn’t come across as any more beloved than Dylan’s oft-denied Iron Range hometown of Hibbing, where he was raised. As the songwriter’s Minneapolis friend Gretel Hoffman told Scaduto, “He wasn’t getting anything out of [college]. His classes were uninteresting to him, and it was all very fake.”

Lovers used to meet and court in person; now they do it over text. That’s a lot of heavy lifting for a few lines on your phone. Luckily, psychiatrist Mimi Winsberg (M.D. ’92), who formerly served as a psychiatrist at the Facebook Health Center, is here to help you decipher those cryptic messages. In Speaking in Thumbs: A Psychiatrist Decodes Your Relationship Texts So You Don’t Have To (Doubleday), Winsberg handily interprets such puzzlers as, “U still up?” and “Super busy today.” The author herself entered this scary digital swamp when, following a divorce, she began hitting the online dating sites like everyone else. But unlike everyone else, she found that her training gave her “an uncanny ability to see through (even sometimes … to provisionally diagnose) those I engaged with on these dating apps, often after exchanging just a few messages.” Now, with Winsberg’s help, maybe you can too.

Ever since moving five years ago into its beautiful new building with a commanding position near the St. Paul campus, the Bell Museum has become a literal beacon of natural history in our state. But the venerable Bell has far deeper roots. Established in 1875, it first lived on Old Main, later moving to Pillsbury Hall and the Zoology Building, and finally in 1940 to its own building on Church Street, where it remained for almost 80 years. The story of this natural history museum’s homes, its chief benefactor James Ford Bell, its collections, its dioramas, and much more is well told in the lavishly illustrated volume A Natural Curiosity: The Story of the Bell Museum (University of Minnesota Press), written by Lansing Shepard, Don Luce, Barbara Coffin, and Gwen Schagrin.

Lynette Lamb (M.A. ’84) is a regular book reviewer and the author of Strokeland, A Memoir: My Husband’s Midlife Brainstorm and Its Ambivalent Aftermath (available at

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