Guest Posts

The Importance of Regional Publishing

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In the spirit of partnership that pervades the university press community, Syracuse University Press and 36 other presses unite for the AAUP’s second annual blog tour during University Press Week. The tour highlights the value of university presses and the contributions they make to scholarship and our society.

Schedule your week’s reading with the complete blog tour schedule here http://bit.ly/HjQX7n.

Today’s theme is the importance of regional publishing, discussed by one of our favorite regional authors, Chuck D’Imperio.

Regional publishing is a wonderful source of information, data, traditional stories, reflections, memories and history.  Although in many cases the parameters can be small, their importance cannot be denied. Not every author can write a serious piece on the nuances of global affairs or the ramifications of economic turmoil.  And not every writer’s heart beats with the longing and sentimentality of a romance novelist.  We can’t all be adventure writers or cookbook authors.  We cannot all come up with clever mystery twists and turns.

But we can all become regional writers.  Why?  Because we all have stories to tell, no matter how provincial or how far-flung.  And these stories, these observations stand the test of time serving an important purpose for the past, present and the future.

Centuries ago familial tales were handed down in oral testimonies from grandparents to grandchildren.  Stories of hardships endured and triumphs enjoyed.  Of bitter harvests and sharecropping, of transoceanic flight and new beginnings.  Of shadowy injustices and illuminating liberations.  Of slavery.  Of migration.  Of life on the dusty prairie as well on the teeming sidewalks of immigrant America.

 These stories, eventually written down in small books and disseminated by small presses, have served as some of the most important tools in any writer’s arsenal.  Read the legendary works of Herman Melville, Willa Cather, John Steinbeck, Pearl Buck or Mark Twain and it is apparent that at the heart of each of these writers’ opuses lies a work of regional scent.  Though disguised as great literary epics and tomes it is still clear to any reader that these authors (and legions more) are simply writing about what they know, where they lived and what they did.  Many of the settings of the famous American novels or short stories reflect the simple concept of a regional book masked in the patina of “great literature.”

 Story placements as varied as family farms, the sea, a rural Main Street, unpronounceable places abroad, on the river, in the big shouldered cities and more all are the regional backdrop of some of the most familiar works of American writing, from Tara to Cannery Row to “Our Town.”

 I am proud to be a regional writer.  I have six books currently in stores exploring the width and breadth of my own backyard, Upstate New York.  I have written of the great legends of the Hudson Valley, the history of the small towns in the high peaks of the Adirondacks, the whimsy of the tiny museums of the Finger Lakes and the verdigris- covered war memorials which dot the Leatherstocking Region.  These books are small, yet timeless.  My readers can identify with the stories and tales I have told whether they come from the busy streets of our capital city, Albany or from the bucolic bosom of the Schoharie Valley.

 Anybody can be a regional writer to some degree.  To paraphrase Grandma Moses, it’s easy.  Just pick up a pencil and start writing.

Unknown Museums of Upstate NY

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Shades of Beauty: Cultural Implications Behind the Miss America Controversy

We welcome this post written by Shikha Upadhyaya, a P.h.D student at the University of Wyoming.

             The world witnessed the crowning of the “new face” of America on the night of September 15, 2013. People all over the world went to various social media outlets to express their views about the new Miss America. Although ethnolinguistic diversity is intuitively considered to be at the core of “American Life,” Americans and non-Americans within United States and all over the world were divided in their views on whether America is ready to be represented by an Indian-American face. This is particularly ironic given the fact that ethnolinguistic diversity is an observable reality of American life. Nina Davuluri (Miss America 2014) aptly stressed this fact during her CNN interview, “…the girl next door is evolving, as the diversity of America evolves. She’s not who she was 10 years ago, and she’s not going to be the same person come 10 years down the road.” Diversity has always been an integral and a “normal” aspect of being an American. Hence, it is safe to state that the new face of Miss America basically legitimized the existence and importance of diversity in the United States.

            While mainstream media in U.S. was cheering Miss America 2014 for her talent, beauty and her courage to represent ethnolinguistic diversity in America, many fans from India applauded her for becoming the first Indian-American to be Miss America. Soon thereafter the conversation shifted to derogatory racist commentaries based on the color of her skin. While such commentaries within the U.S. were racist in nature, Indian media personalities and past beauty queens were engaging in controversial conversations related to whether Davuluri was “white” enough (from an Indian perspective) to win the contest.

            The beauty industry in India establishes and promotes the idea that women need to be white in order to be beautiful. A particular shade of the skin becomes the yardstick for assessing the sociocultural worth of a human being. This is particularly prevalent within Indian beauty pageants. While these pageants claim to provide an important toolkit for young women to be successful in their lives, the process of “grooming” these young women leaves a lasting scar in their personal lives as well as on millions of other aspiring young women in India. These grooming rituals particularly valorize white skin as the ideal skin color, therefrom associating it with higher social and economic status.  Successful Bollywood actors and actresses are part of advertisements for skin whitening creams associated with big brand names. In a sociocultural context where movie actors and actresses become “heroes” and “heroines” of an ordinary citizen’s day to day life, endorsements of such products perpetuates this social stigma associated with darker skin. Furthermore, this constantly communicates the fact that you have to be of a particular skin color to be successful in your life. Hence, this gendered assertion pertaining to skin color and success tacitly pressurizes young women to be in continuous dangerous pursuit of the “unnatural” in the construction of the “natural.”

            Critics of beauty pageants label it as a public event that objectifies women and distorts socioeconomic realties. While these oppositional arguments cannot be dismissed, it is also difficult to ignore the massive public appeal of these competitive contests. While beauty pageants may not accurately reflect social realities, they surely have the capacity to represent the fantasy wherefrom adverse sociocultural ideologies pertaining to genders are reinforced and legitimized. Hence, it is critical to reflect upon broad sociocultural and economic implications of beauty pageants in the day-to-day lives of common people, irrespective of where one comes from.

For more on this subject, read Susan Dewey’s Making Miss India Miss World.


Summer Road Trip with Chuck D’Imperio: Northeast Classic Car Museum

Northeast Classic Car Museum

Nothing fits a warm summer night better than a great old car show.  Well the biggest and best old car show in Central New York takes place every day at the wonderful Northeast Classic Car Museum in Norwich (Chenango County).

 

When you first step in to one of their several large showrooms it is sensory overload.  Cars are lined up as far as the eye can see:  red, black, white, turquoise, brown, green.  They look like Life Savers on wheels.  It is positively dazzling!

 

There are more than 150 cars on display every day at this unknown museum in Norwich.  From Model T and Model As, to big-finned classics from the 1950s, to the muscle cars of the 1960s they are all here.  Of special note is the largest collection of Franklin Automobiles under one roof.  These cars were made up until 1934 in Syracuse.  Other local auto manufacturers are represented here as well.


Some of the surest head-turners are the giant, block-long cars of the 1920s and 1930s.  There are several Dusenbergs, Packards and Cords here that are as long as boats and have every imaginable accessory to ferry around the rich and famous of the day.

The thing I like best about the Northeast Classic Car Museum is its multi-generational appeal.  This is the perfect place for Grandpa to bring his grandson (or granddaughter) to and give them a lesson on yesteryear.  Both generations will love it.  Granddad will enjoy reminiscing about his first car and the kids will love all the fancy, colorful features that make almost every auto here look as if it sprang from one of today’s superhero movies.

This is a nice museum, a little off the beaten path, but certainly worth a couple of hours on a a warm sunny Saturday!  It is also a chapter in my new book Unknown Museums of Upstate New York.

 


Summer Road Trip series is back!

You may remember our Summer Road Trip series with author and radio personality Chuck D’Imperio. Over the course of the summer Chuck took our readers on a tour of the most fascinating monuments, statues, and memorials in Upstate New York, all found in his book Monumental New York! He shared stories about the famous and infamous personalities to ever tread the forests, fields, and city streets of the Empire State.

Fortunately, Chuck is back with a new book and whole new set of summer travel ideas. Unknown Museums of Upstate New York: A Guide to 50 Treasures will be out later this summer but you will get a sneak-peek every few weeks when Chuck drops in on the blog to highlight a museum in this year’s Summer Road Trip series….starting today!

One of my favorite stops along the “museum trail” is the Gomez Mill House in Marlboro (www.gomez.org). The community lies on the border of Ulster and Orange County on the west bank of the Hudson River. The Gomez Mill House is steeped in history. It is the oldest surviving Jewish home in the United States.

Its graceful stonewalls, lush gardens, and old wooden water wheel give it a peaceful and nostalgic air. Inside the walls you will find the stories of five different prominent New York families (and others) who have resided there. It is totally fascinating and clearly one of the best kept secrets in the Hudson Valley. 2014 marks the 300th anniversary of the home and events and celebrations are planned.

Why not mark it down on your “trip catalog” for this summer and get a first look at this incredible landmark? The docents are well versed and the stories they tell are really the stuff that legends are made of.

Original builder Luis Moses Gomez was a Sephardic Jewish merchant and trader who established the first synagogue of Sherarith Israel and in 1728 served as its first president. The congregation, still in existence in New York City, is the oldest one in the United States. The families who followed the Gomez family as residents (Acker, Armstrong, Hunter and Gruening) are equally important and touched every aspect of American culture over the centuries from politics to literature to craftsmanship to military.

I spent an entire afternoon here recently and can’t wait to go back. As you quietly walk from room to room to room you can actually sense the heft of history found in this home. You will love the Gomez Mill House….an unknown museum of upstate New York that I write about in my new book.gomez house


Why University Presses Matter

Welcome to day 3 of the University Press Week blog tour!  We are pleased to present longtime author and former series editor Laurence M. Hauptman as our guest blogger.  His most recent SU Press book, Seven Generations of Iroquois Leadership: The Six Nations since 1800 was the 2012 Winner of the Herbert H. Lehman Prize for Distinguished Scholarship.

In his post, he isolates three main reasons why university presses matter.  The AAUP University Press Week blog tour continues tomorrow with the Princeton University Press.  A complete blog tour schedule is available here.

Why University Presses Matter by Laurence M. Hauptman*

As a young assistant professor in the 1970s, I was fortunate to meet Arpena Mesrobian, the director of Syracuse University Press at a conference on New York State history. Much of what I learned about book publishing came from my conversations with this extraordinary editor who encouraged me, then an aspiring young historian.  That meeting was the beginning of a working relationship with her and her fine staff for the next thirty years. This collaboration resulted in Syracuse University Press’ publication of five of my books in Native American history; it also led to my eventual appointment as the Press’ editor of the Iroquois and their Neighbors series from 1989 to 2001. My connection to this university press has been a major part of my academic career and has clearly influenced my decision to submit my subsequent research to other university presses as well. Although one of my books was published by a leading commercial press, namely the Free Press of Simon and Schuster, I have continued to submit my other manuscripts to various university presses, including the University of Oklahoma Press, the University of New Mexico Press, the University of Wisconsin Press, and SUNY Press.

In reflecting why I have repeatedly gone back to university presses to publish my books, I can isolate three major reasons. First, university presses generally work closer and spend more time collaborating with authors, especially new ones to the field, performing more of an educational role by teaching scholars the ropes of the publishing process. For me, the staff of Syracuse University Press were indeed my teachers over the years, instructing me at every stage of the publishing process—how to prepare a manuscript for submission; the need to secure images and permission letters early in the process; the way to structure a proper bibliography and organize an index; the vital role of a copyeditor and how to best proof a manuscript; the importance of working with the production and marketing staff in the selection of book titles, jacket descriptions, and cover designs; and ways to better market and promote the final product once the book is published.

Secondly, university presses are incubators for new ideas and directions in scholarship. University presses are more inclined to take risks than commercial presses. They are not part of large conglomerates whose primary function is to satisfy shareholders by maximizing profits at the cost of scholarship. When I started writing about Native Americans of the Northeast in 1971, few presses, university or commercial, had titles on their list on this subject. Those that had titles focused largely on Colonial America through the Jacksonian Indian removal era. The implication was that American Indians’ no longer existed east of the Mississippi and/or that tribal histories were no longer important except to certain anthropologists studying cultural change and decline. Consequently, 20- 25% of the Native population was being ignored by historians as well as by book publishers. Today university presses have followed the lead taken by Syracuse University Press. They have focused more of their titles on the Native Americans of the Northeast since removal. These include the two oldest presses publishing books on Native Americans, namely the University of Oklahoma Press and the University of Nebraska Press.

Finally, university presses have in-house expertise and draw from their location on campuses of higher learning.  In most cases, university presses have more rigorous internal and external reviews. Their boards of editors are composed of university faculty with expertise in the particular field that is the subject of the manuscript under consideration. Moreover, outside reviewers are generally chosen with more care because often recommendations about evaluators are made by members of the board. There is another factor here. University presses can draw from other campus resources as well. They have major libraries to fact check if needed for the accuracy of points or citations in manuscripts. In my own experience with Syracuse University Press, I have had the privilege of working with an excellent cartographer who is based in the nationally recognized Syracuse University geography department. By doing so, I have insured that my maps were done as I wished and not outsourced to someone less able to meet my particular requirements. Consequently, it is little wonder that my final book-length manuscript has recently been submitted to a university press.

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*LAURENCE M. HAUPTMAN is SUNY Distinguished Emeritus of History at SUNY New Paltz where he taught courses on Native American history, New York history, and Civil War history for forty years. On October 25, 2011, Dr. John B. King, the New York State Commissioner of Education, awarded Hauptman the State Archives Lifetime Achievement Award for his research and publications on the Empire State. Hauptman is the author, coauthor, or coeditor of 17 books on the Iroquois and other Native Americans. He has testified as an expert witness before committees of both houses of Congress and in the federal courts and has served as a historical consultant for the Wisconsin Oneidas, the Cayugas, the Mashantucket Pequots, and the Senecas. Over the past two decades, Professor Hauptman has been honored by the New York State Board of Regents, the Pennsylvania Historical Association, the Wisconsin Historical Society, the New York Academy of History, and Mohonk Consultations for his writings about Native Americans.


Walk on the Wild Side

The sparkle of hickory leaves tumbling through thinning trees onto the leaf-littered ground, the scuffling and shuffling as the breeze pushes them into windrows along the roadside, the smell of them drying and beginning to break down- all these sights, sounds, and smells are part of Kettle Road this time of year.

From the scraping of leaf-litter, a ruffled grouse rises awkwardly flapping with great effort to become airborne and disappears into the denser bush. Further along two turkeys skedaddle across the road. It is the time of serious foraging for these large, non-migratory birds that will spend the winter in these woods.

The sumac’s wine-rust-carmine banners raise the question, how many shades of red can nature create. The burdock has browned and partnered with the golden rods. Like elderly couples, they seem to complement and enhance one another. Grasses have lost their greenery and display the withered finery of old age. Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) goes from minty green accoutrement to dark kettle drum sticks that might carry a wallop.

Sanford Pond, the small kettle lake offers a kaleidoscope of transitional colors, and what you get is “a double whammy”- trees on the shore and trees in the water.  Even the common milkweed takes on an exotic look, like that of ikebana, in the mirror of the pond.

Someone once asked, “why are you walking these back roads?” For most of us, the world does not work like we want it to (our cars break down, our jobs overwhelm, our bodies take on decrepitude), but here on these seasonal roads there is a rightness about it all, particularly this time year, the end of warm summer days and long hours of sunshine. There is completeness, a certain calm and peace, I find nowhere else. What more beautiful an ending than to go out, not with a whimper, but with glorious texture and color.

– Mary A. Hood, Author of Walking Seasonal Roads

Photographs compliments of Bonnie Warden


Take a Fall Walk with Mary A. Hood

The purple asters and golden rods bring on the feel of a cheer. My own high school and college colors were purple and gold, and this time of year, their royal shades remind me of that giddy feel of excitement, the beginning of the new school year and rooting for the home team. Add to that the maroon of the grey dogwoods and the scarlet Virginia creeper, the first to hint at fall’s glorious palette, on a crisp, sunshiny, blue-sky day, and what happens is the overwhelming need to be outdoors.

A seasonal road is a good place to be this time of year. White-tail deer are likely to jump out in front of you and bound away with tails waving like white flags, not in surrender, but more like the drop of a lady’s handkerchief fluttering down asking to be retrieved, designed for attention. Squirrels and chipmunks will speed across the road at a clip to stagger the imagination. Every creature seems in a big hurry.

One of my favorite seasonal roads, Ford Road in the Pulteney Highlands becomes a medieval cathedral. Light filters through the trees as if from stain glass windows, the bright gilded yellow from locust, the crimson maples, the rusty-rose white oaks, the golden hickories. Along the roadside where sunlight penetrates the canopy and touches the ground, patches of butter and eggs known as toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) become the sun’s paint splotches. The flowers are similar to snap dragons with egg-yolk yellow and creamy hinged petals.

The corn fields rustle in the breeze like brown wrapping paper and in the green alfalfa fields, gangs of crows hang out. Pairs of cabbage white butterflies punctuate the road with flutter. Perhaps something in us recognizes the urgency of time, perhaps how little we have of it and we must seize the moment, get out and watch the changing of the guards.

Mary A. Hood is professor emerita at the University of West Florida. She has published several collections of poetry, general articles on conservation and the environment, and numerous scientific articles in the field of microbial ecology. In addition, she is the author of The Strangler Fig and Other Tales: Field Notes of a Conservationist and Rivertime: Ecotravel on the World’s Rivers. Her most recent book, Walking Seasonal Roads, was published in May of 2012 by Syracuse University Press.