My kids and I worked out in our backyard before the implementation of Manila’s “Enhanced Community Quarantine.” Since the lockdown, our Sunday morning tradition of kettle bells, calisthenics, and striking has morphed into an every-other-day agenda item on our Groundhog Day schedule.My 13-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son fussed and fought their way through push-ups, lunges, burpees, rolls-to-jumps, bear crawls, crab walks, prisoner squats, planks, tabletops, flutter kicks, and good old-fashioned sit-ups — boot camp-like routines designed to encourage behavioral compliance through physical exhaustion. And, like young marines, Tessa and Lev proved hard to manage but easy to inspire. Every other day for the last 12 weeks, we’ve hardly missed a day out on “the grinder.”
Halfway through one session, Tessa ripped open the Velcro strap on one of her boxing gloves with her teeth and asked, “Do you want me to join the military?”
My kids and I tend to have our deepest conversations during the lull between sets. Panting with their fingers intertwined behind their heads, Tessa and Lev have brought up everything from evolutionary biology to gender inequality. – Questions sure to win them a breather by sparking the sort of nurturing and formative conversations for which I became a parent in the first place.
Back when Tessa was Lev’s age, she dropped this doozy between rounds on the heavy bag in our garden in Kenya: “Did you want black kids?”
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.
Dave Dyer is an independent investor and freelance writer. He is also the author of Steel’s, “a fascinating and thoroughly engaging story of Buffalo-based Steel’s department store told by a master storyteller” as described by Field Horne. Dyer’s Spring 2013 title was published by the Syracuse University Press in March.
Could you provide the audience with a brief description of Steel’s?
“My grandmother’s brother, Clayton Pickard, vanished in 1923 and I set out to find what happened to him. Through a long string of lucky breaks and coincidences, I learned about him even though he had changed his name. I also learned that he worked for the L. R. Steel Company, and I was again lucky enough to acquire about 20 lbs. of original documents from that company. The box contained newsletters from the early 1920s with thousands of photographs and other documents. It was like finding an unopened time capsule.
The documents gave an inside view of a chain store business run by a very creative and visionary entrepreneur named Leonard Rambler Steel. The business consisted of 75 retail stores, but the real money maker was his scheme to sell stock in the business. He promoted stock sales by making a silent film about his business…probably one of the first infomercials. The film helped him sell stock to 60,000 people, and they all lost their money when the company went bankrupt in 1923. Steel had other big ideas, like developing Niagara Falls into a permanent World’s Fair that would be dedicated to the glory of electricity and international commerce, but he never got around to implementing that one.
There were fraud indictments for some of the executives in 1923, but Leonard Rambler Steel died suddenly, at only 44, while he was on a train to seek a loan from Henry Ford to resurrect his company. Clayton Pickard was not charged, but I expect his disappearance was related to the scandal. Eventually, all the indictments were dropped and the story was no longer as newsworthy since the charismatic founder was dead. There is no other account of this story in print and it might have been lost forever if I had not been lucky enough to find that box of documents.”
What went through your mind when you began to discover the stock market scandal?
“I started reading the documents to find out about my grandmother’s brother, but I soon found Leonard Rambler Steel to be more interesting. At first, I assumed that there must be a book or some historical article on this amazing story, but I could find none. I visited Buffalo a couple of times and found newspaper articles from the 1920s, but nothing recent.
The documents revealed an unusual company; women in management and some employees in their eighties. When I started reading about the movie, I was hooked. The movie was released in 1922 and it was 3 hours long. It was shown for free all over North America to generate leads for his stock selling scheme. He made 50 copies of the 10-reel film, and each one had a different ending; each ended with views of his store in the locality where it was shown. He anticipated the value of localization in advertising and this amazing insight was what convinced me that the story needed to be researched and documented.”
When did you decide to research your great uncle, Clayton Pickard?
“My grandmother had always wondered about her vanished brother and I thought it would be easy to resolve the mystery since so many old records are now digitized and searchable. I did not anticipate that he would change his name!
Also, my grandmother always told me that I was a lot like Clayton. When you grow up hearing something like that, you remember it. Finally, when I was digitizing some old family photos, my wife commented that I really do look a bit like him.”
“Yes, I would love to know what happened to all 50 copies of the film. When the company went bankrupt, they were scattered all over the country in small town movie houses. Some were probably not returned because there was no company to return them to. Is there a much deteriorated copy still in some attic?
The last showing was in the Erie County prosecutor’s office looking for evidence of fraud, but they have not been able to locate it now. I offered to spend a couple of days just opening boxes in their long-term storage area, but they were prudent enough not to take me up on that.”
As an independent investor, how did writing Steel’s influence you in relation to your work?
“I have been fascinated with the stock market for over 30 years and I specialize in analyzing small growth companies with unique technology for some niche market. I love to find a creative company with an idea that actually works. I was the ideal person to appreciate the documents that I found.”
What do you hope the audience takes from your story?
“Sometimes failure is more interesting than success, especially when the person who failed had the talent needed to succeed. And, to quote Leonard Rambler Steel,
“The line between success and failure is so finely drawn that often all that is required is one step forward to land on the winning side.” L. R. Steel, December 24, 1920′”
What can we expect next from you?
“First, I would love to see Steel’s made into a movie or TV show. The characters are so vivid and a film based in Buffalo when it was a boom town in the 1920s just might work. If anyone knows an agent who could make this happen, I’m available. Also, if the publication of the book happens to turn up a copy of the lost silent film (hey, I’ve been lucky on everything else) that would be a nice ending.
Although Steel’s is my first book, I have several hundred other shorter publications, mostly magazine articles, newspaper editorials, and lots of stock market newsletters and commentary. I am about half way through a second book called, I Knew a Guy Who Worked Once. It is a guide for people who want to reach escape velocity from corporate life by using aggressive investing techniques. It is based on some investment courses that I taught and I hope it will be one of the few humorous investment books.
I have two other projects in the planning stage. One is a history book about the influence of weather on history. There has been lots of recent discussion about mankind’s potential effect on the weather, but less about the effect of weather on human events. I am interested in things like the sudden hurricane that saved Washington, DC, from being burned by the British in August, 1814 or the tornado that helped General “Mad” Anthony Wayne win the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. Also, my wife and I are planning a book about how to turn underutilized urban land into public parks. We have done this once and created a 22-acre urban nature preserve. We are now in the process of repeating this with a smaller parcel that will be used as a dog park. We hope to document the lessons we have learned.”
For more information on Dave Dyer’s Steel’s, visit the Syracuse University Press website. It is available for sale now!
Book: Allegiance and Betrayal: Stories
Peter Makuck is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at East Carolina University. He is the author of Long Lens: New and Selected Poems and two collections of short stories, Breaking and Entering and Costly Habits. His poems, stories, and essays have appeared in the Georgia Review, Hudson Review, Poetry, Sewanee Review, the Nation, and Gettysburg Review.
Tell us about Allegiance and Betrayal.
“Like writing itself, putting together a collection of stories is yet another process of discovery. You become aware of unifying themes in your work, as well as certain obsessions. I discovered that fiction not included in my two previous collections, plus more recent stories, have in common family matters and friendships, as well as themes of allegiance and betrayal. Some of these stories also have coastal settings in common.”
What made you choose to write your book in a post-World War II setting? Has this time period always interested you?
“I came of age in post-World War II America. I was about five when the war ended. I can remember my grandfather spreading the news, yelling, neighbors cheering, singing, drinking, and dancing in the street in front of our house when victory was declared.”
Do you think your theme of family is strengthened by the World War II setting?
“Well, it’s almost a cliché but nonetheless true that post-war America in the 1950s is a setting dominated by two-parent families, stay-at-home mothers, and safe neighborhoods where kids played ball in the streets, rode bikes, and climbed trees together. For me, it was also a time of parochial education reinforced by the family’s traditional Roman Catholicism.”
Do you have a personal connection to any of the stories in Allegiance and Betrayal?
“Most my stories are triggered by what I’ve experienced, witnessed, or know. Pedro Almodovar, the Spanish film director, says that everything not autobiography is plagiarism. But I doubt he means literal autobiography. An incident in your life might just be a starting point. You develop, add characters, expand, and lie (Picasso said that art is the lie that make you see the truth). If you have promising raw material in front of you, why bother to invent? The odds are that you will have a more compelling connection with what you have actually seen or experienced, an enthusiasm that might well be contagious to a reader. A friend once told me he knew where one of my stories came from and proceeded to describe the event. I told him he was right, but wasn’t my version a lot more interesting than what actually happened? On the other hand, my mother was hurt by my first published story where I hadn’t invented enough to disguise real events and people. In graduate school, hungry to get into print, I expanded on an incident in the extended family. I had already published a poem about my grandfather’s death that my parents and the rest of the family were quite happy about. But I had no intention of showing them the story. An old high school friend, however, noticed my name on the cover of a journal just shelved in the Yale bookstore, bought two copies, and dropped one at my father’s gas station. Big mistake. A learning experience, as they say. The story made a splash and got me letters of interest from a few agents, but I never reprinted it and I promised myself never to let something like that happen again.”
“Very recently I did some research about tarot cards and fortune telling—something I needed for a scene in a story still not quite finished. But normally, I write about what I know. In this new collection, there are several stories about deep-sea fishing and scuba diving. I’ve done that a lot. No research necessary. At an AWP conference some years ago, I was talking to two poets about scuba diving. A few weeks later I got a phone call from one of them who wanted to write a poem about the subject and asked me a lot of questions, especially about what you heard while underwater. The residual prankster in me was tempted to lie, say something about the plucking of harp strings and that once I heard Paul McCartney and the Wings singing “Band on the Run,” likely coming from a boat anchored nearby. But I didn’t. All to say, you risk losing an authoritative voice if you flub the details. The old workshop wisdom: Write about what you know.”
You have written significantly more poetry than stories. Do you ever wish you wrote more stories, or do you prefer poetry?
“That’s a good question. I’m really addicted to both even though I’ve written more poetry, perhaps because I edited a poetry journal for thirty years or so. I also write essays and a lot of reviews. The plus is that if you are working in a number of genres, you don’t get blocked. If you get stuck on a poem or a story, say, put it on the back burner, and turn to a review. When working on something else, I find the problem with the poem or story will often solve itself. I also like to write stories because it gives my sense of humor a chance to exercise. I like to laugh, but I don’t have the talent to write funny poems. The short story allows me to have characters interact in humorous ways.”
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
“I came to reading and writing late. I was an action junkie in high school, an average student at best, and faked my way through. I thought nothing could be more boring than quietly hunkering down to read a book. And I didn’t. In college freshman English, one of our first assignments was to read a short story by William Faulkner, “Barn Burning,” then write an essay. I loved Faulkner’s vocabulary and use of language. I said to myself, “Man, what have I been missing!” A week later, our teacher told the class he was going to read two of the best essays, examples of quality writing he expected from everyone. To my great surprise, one of the essays was mine. I’d never been praised for anything in high school, nor did I deserve to be. Now I had a new identity. My teacher urged me to join the staff of the literary magazine, and I did. I suppose you could draw a fairly straight line from that short story in freshman comp to my doctoral dissertation on Faulkner. All along the way I was writing poetry, reviews, and fiction as well.”
Has your writing career affected your style of teaching English at East Carolina University in any way? If so, how?
“I never had the benefit of a creative writing course. Few colleges and universities offered them when I was a student. So my writing career certainly had an influence on the way I taught fiction and poetry writing courses. I would talk about what I had slowly learned the hard way, through trial and error, talk about clichés, revision, narrative structure, round and flat characters, sound, rhythm, imagery, scene, dialogue etc. On the other hand, when teaching a course on Shakespeare, Faulkner, Hemingway, Welty, O’Connor, or a course on Modern or Contemporary poetry, I’d revert to my academic training as a literary critic but still try to make the lectures lively as possible in order to interest students in these great writers.”
Peter Makuck’s Allegiance and Betrayal was published this April. For more information or to purchase a copy (at our 30% SPRING SALE discount), visit the Syracuse University Press website.
Roger Allen is the winner of the 2012 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for his translation of A Muslim Suicide by Bensalem Himmich, published by SU Press. Allen retired from his position as the Sascha Jane Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics in the School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania in 2011. He is the author and translator of numerous books and articles on modern Arabic fiction, novels, and stories. Roger Allen is also a contributing editor of Banipal and a trustee of the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature.
Congratulations on winning the Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation. Can you tell us about your general translation philosophy and how you prepare for the work of translation?
“In the case of the novels of Salim Himmich, I am not only well acquainted with the author and his works, but have previous translated two of his other novels. In fact, the author told me that he was already writing this new novel while I was in the process of finishing the translation of his previous one (published as THE POLYMATH). In the case of each novel, the preparatory phase has involved firstly reading the novel in its entirety, and, in the case of these historical novels, conducting research on the period in question (in this case, the history of Spain in the 13th century and the many dynasties scattered across the northern part of the African continent). What is most important in assessing “translation strategy” is the level of language used by the author and the most appropriate level of English style to use in the translation process–that being something that involves a number of phases before the eventual product is ready. I might suggest, in fact, that nothing has ever been translated that could not be adjusted or revised in some way after its publication.”
What did you find was the most challenging when translating A Muslim Suicide into English?
“In this case, the most difficult part of the process was the transfer of the hero’s mystical visions and thought into English, not to mention his extensive “classes” for his students in which he responds to questions about philosophy and the bases of faith. This became yet more complicated when, in Bougie, a city in North Africa, the hero comes into contact with one of Sufism’s greatest poets, Al-Shushtari, who is to become a devotee of the hero and composes and performs many odes in the hero’s honor. Sufi discourse is maximally allegorical and multi-layered, and the translation of the poetry in particular was extremely difficult.”
Do you think you successfully met those challenges? If so, what is one of your favorite moments in the translation?
“I think my favorite part comes in Book Three, where he meets al-Shushtari, the Sufi poet; chapter 4 is particularly difficult–with its quotations of the poet’s mystical verses, but I think I captured the essence of it.”
Were there phrases or concepts that simply could not be translated, either because of the language, the cultural nuance, or the style? How did you deal with that kind of material?
“In translation there will always be segments of the original text that resist translation. That is where the interpretive skills of the translator are maximally employed, and a good knowledge of both literary traditions–the source and the target–are essential if the translation process is to succeed. This is particularly so in the case of this novel. My solution to such issues in most cases was to resort to the preparation of a lengthy and elaborate glossary, so that, if they so wished, readers could enjoy (?) the experience of being mystified, or else find some kind of response to their curiosity by consulting the back of the book.”
I’ve heard people often speak of Arabic as an exceptionally poetic language. Did you find yourself thinking about the poetry of Himmich’s prose as you translated?
“I think that every language can be “poetic” if the codes of the language used raise such feelings in the mind of the reader; I don’t think that Arabic is particularly so. What I will say is that the morphological structures of Arabic are certainly conducive to rhyming, which is a part of the process of becoming :poetic.” Himmich is a master of style and of the imitation of other writers’ and eras’ styles, and I have certainly made an effort to replicate that feature of his writing genius.”
This is third time translating one of Himmich’s novels. To what extent do you think there is a consistent voice (for English-language readers) between the works? How do you stay faithful to both your own writing style and Himmich’s?
“And…as I’ll note below, there’s a fourth novel of his in translation still seeking a publisher. The novels that I have translated thus far have all been “historical” in the sense that they are about particularly prominent Muslim figures from the pre-modern era (although the latest one breaks with that pattern). Since I know him personally so well and he leaves the translation process entirely in my hands, I don’t feel that there are any residual problems of style.”
“Well, I’m glad you asked !!! I have so many projects at different stages with Syracuse UP–this Himmich that has now come out, the al-Koni aphorisms, the Zifzaf short-story collection, and the translation of Kilito’s essays (as second translator)– that I don’t think I have sent you my translation of his highly controversial novel, which I have translated as MY TORTURESS. It is about the awful process of “extraordinary rendition.” A Moroccan Muslim is arrested on suspicion of being related to a terrorist and spends six years in an unidentified prison-camp (obviously run under the aegis of the Americans). Frankly, I don’t know if people are scared of such an emotive topic, but I have been having a great deal of difficulty placing this translation. If you want to see it (in spite of the number of things I already have with you), I’ll be glad to send it up. In addition to all that, I already have from Himmich his very latest novel–not yet published. It’s going to be called A BUSINESSWOMAN. I have decided not to start translating it until I have placed MY TORTURESS somewhere…”
What are some great English translations of Arabic literature that we might pick up in the meantime?
“If you’re really interested in translations of modern Arabic literature, I’d warmly suggest subscribing to the London-based journal, BANIPAL (they have an excellent website)–the one through which the Ghobash Prize is offered. They are continually publishing extracts from longer works that might be of interest to your series. The problem that I have in identifying particular authors and works is a happy one: there’s so much being written and translated now that I have a very difficult time keeping up with it all, not least because I have officially retired!
As part of truth in advertising about BANIPAL, I have been on the prize’s jury and am a member of the boards of both the trust that runs it and of the journal itself. You might be interested in the fact that they (mostly in the person of Margaret O’Bank) now run an Arab Cultural Center in London where I gave a “master-class” on translation at the time of the Prize ceremony in February; the Center is the home to an increasingly large library of Arabic literature in translation. [www.arabbritishcentre.org.uk/.”
Given your expertise in Arabic literature, do you have any advice for first-time readers of Arabic?
“I think the best advice I can give incipient readers of works of literature translated from Arabic is to approach the process with an open mind–a mind open to difference(s), and to relish the opportunity of engaging with those differences. As I have written in more than one of my essays on translation (such as my Presidential Address to the Middle East Studies Association –now published as “A Translator’s Tale,’ Presidential Address, MESA Conference [San Diego] 2010, Review of Middle East Studies Vol. 45 no. 1 (Summer 2011): 3-18), you do not read translated works of literature in order to encounter the familiar.
Obviously, any kind of familiarity with the Arabic literary tradition will be helpful as an introduction to the literary tradition in Arabic. My INTRODUCTION TO ARABIC LITERATURE [Cambridge UP, 2000] is intended to offer such access (and it’s in paperback!).”
Kim Jensen is an associate professor of English at the Community College of Baltimore County. She puts her profession to practice as the author of The Woman I Left Behind, and the collection of poems, Bread Alone. Her writing and poetry have been featured in a spread of anthologies and journals, including The Baltimore Review, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Rain Taxi Review, Al Jadid, and Imagine Peace. Jensen’s newest book The Only Thing That Matters, to be published next month, is another powerful collection of poems derived from the ideas and vocabulary of radical poet and novelist Fanny Howe and transformed into astonishing new formulations.
What is on your nightstand now?
“That’s a loaded question, considering that my iPad/Kindle is sitting on my nightstand, full of all kinds of books! In any case, the nightstand is piled high with paper texts too. Right now: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; The Gift by the great Persian Mystic poet, Hafiz; The Glance by Rumi, another of the most wonderful Sufi poets; a powerful novel about the Colombian civil war called The Armies by Evelio Rosero; Blood Dazzler by spoken word poet Patricia Smith. Also various books by: Mahmoud Darwish, Louise Erdrich, Anton Chekhov, Alice Munro, Wolfgang Iser, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Two more: The Gun and the Olive Branch by David Hirst and The Palestinians by Rosemary Sayigh—a must read for anyone interested in the Palestinian struggle.”
What was your favorite book as a child?
“This question digs at a mystery that has plagued me for years. Once upon a time, my family had a collection of fairytales with the most wonderful illustrations that I can still picture to this day. I used to stare at those colorful illustrations for hours. The book has since disappeared and I have often wondered what it was and who published it. I long to revisit that book with adult eyes to understand what was so mesmerizing. This is the meaning of childhood—a place full of nameless shadows that you can never quite retrieve.”
Who are your top five authors?
“I am against creating such a limited pantheon, even for fun. These kinds of short lists leave out too many names of poets, playwrights, novelists, fiction writers, philosophers, and theorists who have had a massive impact at various places and times. It’s not fair or even a healthy way of understanding the way literature and poetry move in and out of our lives, arriving, staying, receding, sometimes returning, sometimes not. Great as they are, why should Balzac or Tolstoy or Flaubert be on the list (for me), but not Richard Wright or Mahmoud Darwish? Why should Darwish be on the list, but not Simone Weil? Why should Shakespeare be on the list, but not Achebe, Rumi, Marx, Sophocles, Nietzsche, or Oscar Wilde? And where would Toni Morrison’s Beloved go? Or The Great Gatsby? Or Hemingway? Alice Munro and Louise Erdrich? Or Marquez? And that’s just to name the famous ones, not to mention the unsung poets of the trenches, bars, and streets. Or authors who have written single-hit masterpieces, but who never get to make it into these kinds of “best-of” compilations. Impossible. Is there a place for Emily Dickinson? August Wilson? Raymond Carver? June Jordan? This could go on and on.
So as not to disappoint, I will say this: if I had to put one author at the very tippy top of my own teetering pyramid, it would be Chekhov. His short stories are perfection. Untouchable. The sublime meeting of insight, technique, and compassion make Chekhov unmatched—for me.”
What book have you faked reading?
“I don’t claim to have read books that I haven’t read; however, I may nod with a kind of mock confidence when their names come up in conversation. I’ve never finished Orientalism by Edward Said, but I refer to its ideas without having read more than a few chapters.”
What book are you an evangelist for?
“Before Jennifer Egan won her big Pulitzer Prize last year for A Visit From the Good Squad and rendered all of my evangelizing obsolete, I used to get on the Egan pulpit. I am personally responsible for any number of converts. Four years ago, a friend of mine bought Look at Me for my daughter. I borrowed it and gobbled it up, astonished at Egan’s huge talent.”
Have you ever bought a book for its cover? Which one?
“I have not. For someone who loves reading as much as I do, I find bookstores overwhelming and even depressing at times, especially the big, corporate stores. There is a wonderful radical bookstore in Baltimore called Red Emma’s in which I have the opposite experience—very enlivening. Yet, I still don’t buy a book for its cover, even there. When I step into a book store, it’s usually to buy something I already have on my mind. If it is an impulse purchase, it will be something that I have read a review of, or a classic text that I should finally read, so I can stop just nodding knowingly and get into the conversation!”
What book changed your life?
“The five experimental novels by Fanny Howe that are now compiled one book now called Radical Love (Night Boat Books, 2005) had a huge impact on my life. These are experimental and poetic novels for adventurous readers who are also spiritual seekers. My new collection of poetry (The Only Thing that Matters) is based on my study of her poetry. Readers can read a recent interview that I conducted with Fanny Howe for Bomb Magazine.”
What is your favorite line from a book?
“A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of Communism.”
What book do you most want to read again for the first time?
“That anonymous book of fairytales with the exquisite drawings that was lost to time and entered the realm of personal myth. I wish I could start all over with that one!”
Kim Jensen’s The Only Thing That Matters makes a great addition to your National Poetry Month reading list. To learn more about this title or pre-order now visit the Syracuse University Press website.
Questions from the popular Shelf Awareness Book Brahmin series.
Book: “Other People’s Diasporas”: Negotiating Race in Contemporary Irish and Irish-American Culture
Sinéad Moynihan is a lecturer in twentieth-century literature at the University of Exeter. In addition to several book chapters and articles, she is the author of Passing into the Present: Contemporary American Fiction of Racial and Gender Passing. After awarded an Early Career Fellowship by the Leverhulme Trust in 2007, Moynihan started writing her newest Syracuse University Press title, to be published this April, “Other People’s Diasporas”: Negotiating Race in Contemporary Irish and Irish-American Culture.
Tell us about “Other People’s Diasporas.”
“Other People’s Diasporas” is concerned with Irish and Irish-American cultural production in the context of unprecedented in-migration to Ireland during the Celtic Tiger. How did Irish writers, filmmakers, dramatists and stand-up comics confront Ireland’s changed demographics in their work? I argue that they did so by mediating these contemporary concerns about Ireland through narratives that (re)imagined Irish diasporic experience in the United States. For example, Joseph O’Connor wrote a novel about emigration to New York during the Great Famine at precisely the moment when immigration into Ireland was at its peak. How are we to interpret this gesture? The book is divided into five chapters, two on contemporary Irish writers (Joseph O’Connor and Roddy Doyle), one on Irish and Irish-American drama (Donal O’Kelly and Ronan Noone), one on stand-up comedy (Des Bishop) and one on Irish and Irish-American cinema (The Nephew and In America).”
Could you briefly describe the economic growth under the “Celtic Tiger?”
“From about the mid-1990s on, Ireland entered a period of unprecedented economic growth. The Irish economy expanded at a rate of about 9.4% between 1995 and 2000 and this growth continued, though not at the same rate, until 2008. The first recorded use of the expression “Celtic Tiger” was by Kevin Gardiner of Morgan Stanley in London, who drew a comparison between Ireland’s growth and the Asian “tiger” economies. This expansion had enormous consequences for Ireland: for the first time, it effectively boasted full employment, many emigrants of the 1980s and early 1990s returned to Ireland to live, property prices soared and, the issue in which I’m interested, suddenly immigration began to exceed emigration by a wide margin. The years of the “boom” or the “economic miracle” lasted until about 2008, when Ireland, like many other countries worldwide, was hit by a severe recession.”
What kind of obstacles did the new immigrants in Ireland face?
“It’s very difficult to generalise about this, since there were so many “categories” of immigrant to Ireland during the Celtic Tiger years and, of course, each individual person has a wide range of experiences. There were many immigrants from EU countries. For example, the Polish – who tended to be white, Catholic and had good English, or were very willing to learn it – perhaps found Ireland more welcoming than other immigrants did, simply because, to Irish natives, they seemed less “different” or “other.” On the other hand, asylum-seekers had a very difficult time because they weren’t permitted to work while their application for asylum was being considered and they were often housed in small towns in the midlands or the west of Ireland (because this was cheaper than housing them in urban areas) . Those communities had often had few or no encounters with ethnic minorities prior to their arrival.”
“It was beneficial in any number of ways. Most practically, and in purely economic terms, many immigrants took jobs that Irish natives, more affluent than previously, were now unwilling to take. They were therefore responsible for the provision of many services, without which the economy would not have run as smoothly or as successfully. This is in line with what has happened in other economically successful countries around the world which began to attract migrants because of the availability of work. The downside to this, of course, is that as soon as there is a downturn in the economy, as has happened in Ireland, Irish natives are more likely to see immigrants as “taking” jobs that would otherwise be available for them. I try to grapple with some of these issues in the epilogue to my book.”
What did writing this book entail?
“The groundwork of this project was laid as early as 2005, when I presented a paper on Jim Sheridan’s In America at a Transatlantic Studies conference in Nottingham, where I was undertaking my Ph.D. on an unrelated subject. I read the film in the context of the referendum on Irish Citizenship of June 2004. When that referendum took place, I had only been living in England for nine months. I was so incensed by the implications of it that I went back to Ireland to vote against it, not that this did any good, since 79% of the population voted in favour of it. By the time I finished my Ph.D. and applied for postdoctoral funding, which I was awarded, I was absolutely sure that I wanted my next project to about the implications of this referendum and how questions of race and immigration were being negotiated in contemporary Irish culture. I had two years in which to complete the project, which I did. It was a straightforward book to write, partly because I was so impassioned by the subject matter and partly because I had very good access to Irish media and popular culture, through frequent visits back to Ireland and through friends and relatives who did a lot of information-gathering on my behalf.”
Can you explain the title “Other People’s Diasporas”? How did you come up with it?
“The term “Other People’s Diasporas” is taken from a quotation by sociologist Steve Garner. In the early days of researching this book, I read his book, Racism in the Irish Experience (2004), where he poses the question: “Yet what happens when other people’s diasporas converge on the homeland of a diasporic people?” What I really liked was that embedded in the term “other people’s diasporas” was the implication of a connection between both historical emigration and contemporary immigration to Ireland. I was interested in precisely this connection. In other words, how have Irish writing, cinema, stand-up comedy and so on responded to the influx of immigrants to Ireland during the Celtic Tiger years? They have done so by mediating their concerns through narratives of emigration to the U.S.”
For more information on Moynihan’s engaging exploration “Other People’s Diasporas,” visit the Syracuse University Press website. It’s available for pre-order now!
Nadje al Ali, co-editor of We Are Iraqis: Aesthetics and Politics in a Time of War, will be speaking at the Reel Iraq Festival this weekend. The two-day event will explore the consequential responses of artists and institutions to the invasion of Iraq through collaborative discussion.
The first talk, Friday, March 22, will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Mosaic Rooms and the following discussions, on Saturday, March 23, will be from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at SOAS. The event is free and open to the public with proper registration!
Book: The Second Coming of Paisley: Militant Fundamentalism and Ulster Politics
Richard Lawrence Jordan received his PhD in modern British history from Louisiana State University. He was awarded the 2009 Adele Dalsimer Prize for Outstanding Dissertation from the American Conference of Irish Studies and the Distinguished Dissertation Award from Louisiana State University. Jordan’s new book, The Second Coming of Paisley, provides a detailed examination of the relationship between the Reverend Ian Paisley and leaders of the militant wing of evangelical fundamentalism in the United States.
Describe the types of research you conducted for The Second Coming of Paisley?
“The research for this book was undertaken for my dissertation while at Louisiana State University, was fairly straight forward and involved the libraries and archives of Northern Ireland (Queen’s University, Belfast Central Library, Linenhall Library, Union Theological College etc.) and those in the United States. These included those of numerous universities, but most notably the Carl McIntire Collection (Special Collection, Princeton Theological Seminary), and the Mack Library and Fundamentalism File at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina.”
What sort of conflict did Paisley experience over the years?
“Paisley has created a substantial amount of controversy during his career, which began shortly after embarking on his ministry in 1946. As a youthful, Calvinist and evangelical crusader in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Paisley was initially accepted by the growing fundamentalist community in Ulster. But after exposure to the militant theology of the Reverend Carl McIntire of Collingswood, New Jersey in 1951 and after contact with McIntire’s cohorts within the International Council of Christian Churches, Paisley followed their brand of separatist and antagonistic militant fundamentalism. During the 1950s and into the 1960s, Paisley attacked the liberalism and modernism that many Irish Presbyterian clerics and seminarians professed, and which was accepted by many other Irish Protestants. He also crusaded against the political and theological designs of the Irish Catholic Church and the attempts by moderates within the Ulster Unionist party to reconcile with Northern Ireland’s catholic community. During this period, Paisley formed an intimate relationship with segregationists, such as the Bob Jones family of South Carolina. After being jailed in the summer of 1966 for protests in front of the Presbyterian General Assembly in Belfast, Paisley was anointed as God’s prophet and martyr in Ireland. Paisley began annual tours of the American south just as the American civil rights movement and federal policy proved effective in changing the Jim Crow laws of the American south. When the Northern Ireland civil rights movement began in the mid-1960s and demanded equal voting and economic rights for Catholics, Paisley adopted tactics that North American militants used to oppose civil rights for African Americans in the American South and became the most vocal and physical opponent to civil rights marches in Northern Ireland.”
What was Ireland’s political situation throughout Paisley’s lifetime?
“Paisley was born in 1926 in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. So he never ‘arrived’ in Ireland as an immigrant, but as a young preacher on the streets of Belfast after the Second World War. The political situation in Ireland at that time was a post-war Europe overshadowed by the United States and the Cold War. Northern Ireland was firmly under control of the Ulster Unionist Party (a party that the protestant landed elite and business community dominated), but southern Ireland was in the process of converting from the Irish Free State (a Dominion of the British Crown) into the Republic of Ireland. In response, the British government made a stronger commitment to the union between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. Although the catholic community in Northern Ireland was generally complacent, there was signs of growing restlessness with Unionist rule from both Catholics and the protestant working class, a new sense of assertiveness from the Irish Catholic Church and the Irish Republican Army, and in the realm of religion, the expanding ecumenical movement.”
“The religious aspect interested me more, but naturally politics has its appeal. The conflict within Protestantism and between fundamentalists and liberal/modernists is fascinating, but so is the interaction between religiosity and the political and economic situation in Ireland from the First World War through the 1960s and up until the outbreak of the Ulster ‘Troubles.’ How all these factors reacted to the infusion of Northern American militant fundamentalism and to the call for civil rights creates a great story.”
Do you have a personal connection to the topics in this book?
“There is an indirect connection between the Northern Ireland troubles and my personal life, which drew my interest long before I entered the world of academics. From the age twenty until returning to school in the late 1990s, I was in the music business, running an independent record label that specialized in Alternative and Americana. This lifestyle required many trips to the British Isles during the 1980s, and with an interest in history, I was naturally attracted to the situation in Northern Ireland.”
Are you considering writing anything else in the future?
“I am constantly doing research and writing. Currently my time has been taken up with a second manuscript on Paisley and North American militant fundamentalists and their opposition to both the American and the Northern Ireland civil rights movements. Moreover, the second book considers the interaction between both sets of militants and both groups of civil rights activists.”
The Second Coming of Paisley: Militant Fundamentalism and Ulster Politics will be published in the next few weeks. To purchase or learn more about Richard Lawrence Jordan’s new title, visit the Syracuse University Press website.
Book: Allegany to Appomattox: The Life and Letters of Private William Whitlock of the 188th New York Volunteers
Valgene Dunham is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the College of Science at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina. Dunham is the author and coauthor of numerous books and journal articles. His new Spring 2013 title Allegany to Appomattox comes out this month and is described by Author Rod Whitlock as “.. a meaningful and memorable contribution to the historical genre of Civil War letters literature.”
Allegany to Appomattox:
“On September 7, 1864, William Whitlock, age thirty-five, left his wife and four children in Allegany, New York, to join the union army in battle. More than 100 years later his unpublished letters to his wife were found in the attic of a family home. These letters serve as the foundation for Allegany to Appomattox, giving readers a vivid glimpse into the environment and political atmosphere that surrounded the Civil War from the perspective of a northern farmer and lumberman. Topics introduced by the letters are expanded to included similar experiences by soldiers in the Confederate armies.
Whitlock’s observations and experiences tell of the exhausting marches, limited rations, and grueling combat. In plainspoken language, the letters also reveal a desperate homesickness, consistently expressing concern for the family’s health and financial situation, and requesting news from home. Detailed descriptions of the war’s progress and specific battles provide a context for Whitlock’s letters, orienting readers to both the broad narrative of the Civil War and the intimate chronicle of one soldier’s impressions.”
What led to publishing:
“After my mother died, Viola Whitlock Dunham, members of the family were going through letters and pictures that my mother had saved. My sister, Vaughn Dunham Estep, asked me if I had seen our great, great grandfather’s letters to his wife during the Civil War. After seeing and reading the 40 letters, I talked with my cousin, Mark Whitney, Allegany, New York, who had found the letters. I then corresponded with and visited Bill Potter of the American History Guild, raised in Allegany as well, who had transcribed the original letters. This group of relatives and friends encouraged me to write a book based on the letters and to tell of the legacies that William Whitlock left for his descendants.
Although interested in military history, especially World War II after an earlier visit to most of the major battle fields in France and Belgium, my ancestor’s letters stimulated not only an interest in the Civil War but also in my family’s history. Therefore, Allegany to Appomattox is quite family oriented and presents William Whitlock as a family man, just like other farmers/lumbermen from both the Union and the Confederacy, who disappeared in the smoke and fire of the War of Rebellion.”
Types of research:
“As expected by an author who had never published outside the sciences, research for Allegany to Appomattox quickly gave me an appreciation for the wide range of sources available to the historian. In addition, the value of the internet to present day authors put me in awe of the historians of the past who had to visit libraries over a wide area of the country, often at their own expense. During the organization of topics to be included, genealogical research was added to the growing diversity of sources.”
Which letters to use:
“The book was originally intended to present a picture of William Whitlock and his family as to their relationships, faith, and concerns during and related to the Civil War. I wanted to tell the story based on the language used in the letters and a “travelogue” approach to what William saw in his travel to the front and in the battles in which he fought. A picture is presented of conditions the family had to face without husband and father. The book also presents a picture of the Confederate families in similar situations. Letters were chosen to express these interests and to present them in chronological order. Letters that were used extensively were included in the book and if not, were not included in the appendices.”
“Although people of the Union and Confederacy had different causes, individuals who made their living by working with their hands in agriculture and lumbering had similar desires; including love for family, love for God and a concern for their family’s health, financial well-being and education. Large numbers of individuals of both sides did not agree with the approach to secession and war. Although the literature is now 150 years old, simple quotes from soldiers such as “My chaplain isn’t worth a darn” can be investigated by searching for the chaplain’s name and his personal history to find out his motivations, resulting in a possible explanation for a poor job performance.”
Different from other books:
“This book was the first I have written outside of publications involving plant biochemistry and DNA replication.”
Lessons to be gained:
“Every family must have a “collector.” A person who is interested enough in family history to collect and maintain family letters and pictures.
Decisions made by individuals in time of crisis are difficult and result from numerous insights and experiences. To understand these decisions requires research that must include an analysis of love for family, for country and the influence of their faith.”
For more information on Dunham’s Allegany to Appomattox: The Life and Letters of Private William Whitlock of the 188th New York Volunteers, or to pre-order, visit the Syracuse University Press website.
Craig Loomis is associate professor of English and Chair of the English Department at the American University of Kuwait. He is also author of A Softer Violence: Tales of Orient and his short fiction has been featured in the Iowa Review, Colorado Review, Quarterly West, Louisville Review, and Prague Revue. Dr. Loomis’ most recent book, The Salmiya Collection: Stories of the Life and Times of Modern Kuwait, comes out this March and is a unique unveiling of Kuwaiti society through a collection of stories.
Tell us about your upcoming book, The Salmiya Collection: Stories of the Life and Times of Modern Kuwait?
“For the last eight years I have been living and working in Kuwait, at the American University of Kuwait, and during this time I have been fortunate enough to have published many of the short stories that you will find in The Salmiya Collection in a national magazine here in Kuwait entitled Bazaar. Bazaar is a monthly publication that offers readers a myriad of articles about Kuwait, its culture, society and people. I see The Salmiya Collection as a bundle of mini-stories–call them snapshots–of, as the title implies, the ebb and flow of life in the State of Kuwait. Of course many characters and situations are involved in my Salmiya life-tide, and to that end, I have attempted to give readers bits and pieces of humanity at work in the gulf region.”
What aspect of the Kuwait culture inspired you the most during the writing process of your book?
“You have to remember that Kuwait is a relatively young nation, gaining its independence from Britain in 1961; and like so many of the countries in this region, Kuwait, too,–in its own Kuwaiti way—is struggling to define itself, and to decide how that definition measures up to other cultures on the planet. Again, not unlike other Middle Eastern countries, Kuwait, too, finds itself doing a cultural juggling act, as it seeks to find a healthy social and cultural balance between that which is Kuwaiti and that which is not, and then determining what is acceptable and what is not. This is a process I witness daily, and sometimes it is blatant and coarse, while at other times it is subtle and compassionate. Kuwaitis are a proud people, which can be both a boon and a bane. In my stories, I have attempted to capture this aspect of Kuwait, a work in progress.”
What was the process like in deciding on the order of each story? Is there a connection between them?
“No particular order. Or, I take that back, in the beginning I toyed with arranging the stories in a special order or sequence, but then, I gave up. I am sure readers might unravel some sort of hidden, secret structure, and if they do I hope that let me know what it is.”
“Although people can celebrate their individual countries, cultures, and heritages, the human condition does not change. Of course it goes without saying that, in many ways, an Arab can be culturally different from, say, a North American, but at the emotional and psychological core, we are, I think, made of the same stuff. We sometimes forget this because these days our world has a tendency to stress the differences, and more times than not, those differences are perceived as less than positive. The Salmiya Collection embraces this different-but-same notion.”
Who are your top five favorite authors? Did any of them inspire you to become a writer?
“It is almost impossible to answer this question. Over the years, a good many writers have influenced me. For example, to some degree, I have been mesmerized by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, and his obsession with terse, concise sentences, as well as what has become known as his “ice-berg theory” on writing; and of course I need to include Mark Twain, and his mastery of characterization. Finally, I certainly have to tip my hat to writers such as James Joyce and John Banville who were/are fearless when it comes to taking chances with language, style and structure.”
Any recommendations to readers for books to read that you have enjoyed?
“I recommend any book written by John Banville.”
Interested in learning about Kuwait, its culture, and society? Pre-order Dr. Loomis’ The Salmiya Collection, in print or ebook edition, now at the Syracuse University Press website.
The translator of The Emperor Tea Garden, Robert Finn, is not only known for his books and translations, but for his previous title as the US ambassador to Afghanistan. From March 2002 to August 2003, he served as the first ambassador in over twenty years. He currently is a nonresident fellow at the Liechtenstein Institute, a principal investigator for the Century Foundation Task Force on Pakistan, and a visiting scholar at Columbia University. Finn is the author of The Early Turkish Novel and translator of Nazli Eray’s Orpheus and Orhan Pamuk’s Silent House (shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize). His newest Turkish translation by Nazli Eray will be published by Syracuse University Press this spring.
Could you tell us about The Emperor Tea Garden?
“The Emperor Tea Garden is a delightful fantasy novel about love. It takes place in several different locations in this world and the dream world, in the minds of lovers and in the shadows of the soul. Characters transcend time, space, gender and place as the narrator lives in and through several different realities. From the women men see in their minds in a tavern on the Black Sea to the lovers lips hovering in the night in the Emperor Tea Garden itself, the author takes the reader on an exploratory trip through the world of the mind and he heart. Funny, surprising and very down to earth, Nazli Eray’s novel catches the reader at every turn. Autobiographical in parts, surreal in others, The Emperor Tea Garden is a magical tour de force that carries us with it into ways of thinking and being beyond the imagination. The reader will be touched and fascinated.”
What made you want to translate this book?
“The novel has always been one of my favorites of Nazli’s works, and one of her own favorites. We both thought it would be an approachable novel for the English-speaking reader and a wonderful introduction into a world that is quite different than conventional portrayals of Turkey, or reality, for that matter.”
Could you describe the process of translating this book?
“The process of translating is different with every book and every character. In the case of Nazli Eray, I find that her prose, because it is so fresh and enjoyable, lends itself easily to translation into English. I simply work page to page, not doing too much at a time, to make sure I keep the freshness of her prose in the English text. Then I do revisions and re-readings to fine tune the translation. I usually have one or two questions about details for Nazli, who knows English quite well.”
How did you preserve the meaning and keep the voice of the writer while translating the book?
“It is not difficult to keep Nazli’s meaning and voice faithful to the original, because her Turkish is very clear and open. Sometimes I hesitate over a particular word or phrase that has layers of meaning, but usually I can find the right phrase to convey her intent easily. Since the book is narrated by one person, most of the text is in that voice, but of course there are many other characters, living and dead, who have their own personalities and sociology. I try to give each character his or her appropriate voice. Since English has separate words for many nuances that can be inherent in one word or a few words in Turkish, I utilize that richness of vocabulary to distinguish individual characters.”
“I do plan to continue translating. Right now, I am almost finished another novel by Orhan Pamuk and I have begun a third novel by Eray. In addition, I have a draft translation of another novel which I am editing.”
As a diplomat with a background in Turkish Studies and International Relations, what made you decide on pursuing literary translations?
“I have been translating from Turkish for decades, ever since I was a student. As a diplomat, I found that I could find time to work on translations while being very busy as a diplomat. Turkish literature is rich and interesting, but little known, especially to English readers. I want readers to be able to experience this important literature which had much to teach us about human nature and the mixing of cultures.”
Congratulations on your translation of Silent House, which was just shortlisted for the Man Booker Award! Does this recognition influence any future projects that you might take on?
“Of course I was very pleased to see Silent House be shortlisted for the Man Asian prize. I first translated part of it when it first came out back in the 1980s, before Pamuk was ever translated into English. Now I am nearly through with the draft of Cevdet Bey and Sons, Pamuk’s first novel. I intend to keep translating from Turkish in the future, including perhaps Tanpinar’s seminal work, the History of Nineteenth Century Turkish Literature.”
To learn more about Robert Finn’s translation of The Emperor Tea Garden, visit the Syracuse University Press website.
Syracuse University Press was saddened by the loss of accomplished author and editor George J. Lockwood on Thursday, January 31. Lockwood’s passion for writing began at a young age in rural upstate New York, where he was raised, as a columnist for the neighborhood newsletter and editor of his high school newspaper. He went on to further his education at Syracuse University, where he was managing editor of the Daily Orange, and later earned his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.
Lockwood became a distinguished professor of journalism at Marshall University and Louisiana State University and spent thirty years working for the Milwaukee Journal. Starting his career as a night reporter, he was committed to the journal and eventually moved up the ranks to become managing editor, overseeing the paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series on water pollution.
He is the author of The Cartoons of R. A. Lewis, Milwaukee Journal and recently completed a cartoon strip book, Peanuts, Pogo, and Hobbes: A Newspaper Editor’s Journey Through the World of Comics, scheduled to be published by the Syracuse University Press in spring 2013. For this title, Lockwood used his seasoned experience in the newspaper industry to provide an inside look at the world through cartoon strips. Political cartoonist of the Syracuse New Times, Joe Glisson, describes Lockwood’s newest book as “.. a great collection of stuff you probably never knew about the golden age of comics. Lockwood captures the history and the stories behind the strips with wit, warmth, and wisdom. This book is a musthave for any true comics lover!”
George Lockwood shared his life with many during his career at the Milwaukee Journal and years of serving on the executive board of the Milwaukee County Boy Scout Council. He’s survived by his wife and four children and services were held yesterday at the Mountain View Funeral Home and Cemetery.
Contributions in George’s name may be made to the Heart of Milwaukee District of Boy Scouts of America, 330 S. 84th St., Milwaukee, WI 53214.
Book: Beyond Home Plate: Jackie Robinson on Life after Baseball
Michael G. Long is an accomplished author and editor with several published books on politics, religion, and civil rights. He’s the editor of Marshalling Justice: The Early Civil Rights Letters of Thurgood Marshall and, his most recent title, Beyond Home Plate: Jackie Robinson on Life after Baseball. Long’s Jackie Robinson anthology comes out next month and is part of the Syracuse University Press Sports and Entertainment series.
What led to the focus and research behind Robinson’s involvement in the Republican party?
“I became interested in this when I began to research Robinson’s longtime correspondence with Richard Nixon. These two fascinating personalities first met during the 1952 Republican National Convention. Nixon took the occasion to recount a 1939 football game between the University of Oregon and UCLA and to ask about a particular play starring Robinson as halfback. After this meeting, the two began to correspond and Robinson grew impressed with what he took to be Nixon’s progressive stance on the issue of first-class citizenship for African Americans. Robinson was especially pleased with Nixon for speaking out against racism during a 1957 trip to Africa and for helping to engineer successful passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Act. Robinson even campaigned for Nixon in 1960. It was not odd for Robinson to support the Republican Party. In his mind, it was the party of Abraham Lincoln; the real problem was the racism perpetrated by Southern Democrats.”
Where did your fascination with Robinson; as a player, writer, and voice begin?
“Believe it or not, my fascination with Robinson began while I was researching the peculiar relationship between Billy Graham and Richard Nixon. I was looking at Nixon’s papers at the National Archives in Laguna Niguel when a most helpful archivist, Paul Wormser, asked me whether I had seen the Jackie Robinson file. The file was beyond my immediate research topic, but I could not resist the chance to look at letters between Nixon and Robinson. When I read those captivating letters and encountered Robinson’s fierce battle for equal rights in political society, I was hooked. It was a breathtaking experience for me.”
How and when did you go about collecting Robinson’s columns and letters?
“Robinson’s papers are deposited at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. It’s a great collection, and I encourage our readers to check them out at some point. It’s great fun to hold an authentic Jackie Robinson letter. His letters are also in archives across the country as well as in private hands. Robinson’s columns can be found in the archives of the New York Post and the New York Amsterdam News. Both of these collections can be found on microfilm.”
Were there any particular challenges in acquiring his writings that stand out?
“The primary challenge is selecting writings that give expression to the breadth and depth of Robinson’s character and actions. Given my own interest, it’s easy for me to focus too much on Robinson’s politics and his prophetic actions in the public square. But in conversations with Rachel Robinson I became determined to select writings that showed the tenderhearted side of Robinson—the part that his family and friends encountered on a regular basis.”
On the negative reactions by Robinson’s fans, do you think the fans were upset because he was no longer the image of an African American ball player who took the racist comments with stride, or because they became uncomfortable with the knowledge that Robinson was truly upset with the harsh injustice that he had faced?
“Robinson believed that some baseball fans wished he had forever remained the young man who turned the other cheek in the first three years of his career with the Dodgers. For those fans, Jackie stated, that was an appropriate posture for a black man. So when Robinson straightened his back and started disputing calls and unfair practices in baseball, these fans grew disenchanted and angry. Still others grew even angrier when Robinson dared to speak his mind about politics and race in the public square. But let’s be clear: there was no stopping Jackie Robinson from doing what he wanted to do. And what he wanted to do most of all was to secure equal justice for African Americans and indeed for all.”
“The story of Robinson shattering the color barrier in Major League Baseball is tough to top, and it’s the story that most of us know. Interestingly, though, Robinson believed that he became much more aggressive in the years following his baseball career. His columns, I believe, offer evidence that Robinson ramped up his protest of racial injustice in his post-baseball career. Until the day he died Robinson was fiercely committed to advancing civil rights and helping civil rights leaders establish a society that offered first class citizenship to everyone.”
Given Robinson’s reluctance to have his work changed, how comfortable were you editing his work without Robinson beside you?
“I was most comfortable in thinking how good it would be to pull these columns out of the dusty closet and use them in a way that adds to the public’s understanding of Jackie Robinson. He was far more complex than the Jackie Robinson of 1947—the young man who quietly soldiers his way through racist jeers—and the columns indicate exactly that. They show Robinson playing Santa to underprivileged children, taking Nixon to task in the 1968 presidential race, showering love on his wife Rachel, and so much more. Robinson was not beside me when I edited his work, but I certainly came away with feeling that I knew him much more fully than I ever had.”
For more information on Beyond Home Plate: Jackie Robinson on Life after Baseball, edited by Michael G. Long, visit the Syracuse University Press website. It’s available for pre-order now!
We are proud to celebrate 70 years of scholarly publishing. Since its inception, Syracuse University Press has been committed to serving scholars and scholarship, promoting a diverse culture and intellectual expression, and preserving the history, literature, and culture of our region. Through the publication of significant and groundbreaking books, we have been able to extend the reach and influence of Syracuse University, making evident the university’s commitment to knowledge and ideas. For the past 70 years and the years ahead, our goal has been and will remain steadfast: to produce rigorously edited, beautifully designed, intelligent, interesting books. In honor of our anniversary, Syracuse University Press will host six authors over the course of the spring semester. We invite you to attend these readings, engage with our authors, and be part of our celebration.
Along with our author gatherings, Syracuse University Press will also bring the celebration online with monthly guest blog posts, SUP Superlative Trivia and a Fluff Photo Campaign. Follow our blog, Facebook, and Twitter to join in on the excitement.
We thank all those who’ve supported us over the past 70 years and hope you’ll stand by us for the next 70 years as we continue to spread knowledge through reading. For more information on how you can support Syracuse University Press, please contact Ronald Thiele at 315-443-2537 or visit campaign.syr.edu.
Beloved SU Press Author and Syracuse native Tracy Sugarman died Sunday, January 20 at the age of 91. Sugarman was known for his nationally recognized illustrations which appeared in hundreds of magazines and books, and was featured on PBS, ABC TV, NBC TV, and CBS TV. Along with his career as an illustrator, he also was a talented artist, scriptwriter, civil rights activist, producer, and author. He won numerous awards from the Society of Illustrators in New York and the Art Directors Club in Washington, D.C. and his entire collection of art from World War II was acquired by the U.S. Library of Congress.
With strong ties to the Syracuse region as a graduate of Nottingham High School and Syracuse University, Sugarman published two books with the Syracuse University Press. Drawing Conclusions: An Artist Discovers His America (2007) and We Had Sneakers, They Had Guns: The Kids Who Fought for Civil Rights in Mississippi (2009) are both powerful records of the nation’s past expressed through the artist’s own words and drawings. He is also the author of Stranger at the Gates: A Summer in Mississippi and My War: A Love Story in Letters and Drawings.
Tracy Sugarman will be remembered for his successful career and strong community presence. He was a resident of his neighborhood in Westport, Connecticut for 62 years and touched the hearts of many whom he surrounded. SU Press is saddened by the news and sends our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the distinguished artist.
Memorial service information will be announced in the spring.
Syracuse University Press has teamed with The Graduate School’s Future Professoriate Program (FPP) to provide a series of workshops and talks designed to shape academic authors. The February edition of The Graduate Student Newsletter announced the “How-To” series with a full list of the upcoming events. For more information on the FPP, visit their page on the Syracuse University website.
Full Newsletter available at http://www.syr.edu/gradschool/pdf/gs-newsletters/GS%20Newsletter%20Feb%202013.pdf.
Book: A Place We Call Home: Gender, Race, and Justice in Syracuse
K. Animashaun Ducre is a dedicated advocate for environmental justice with four years of Greenpeace experience working as a toxics campaigner. She received her PhD in environmental justice at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Currently, she is an assistant professor in the Department of African American Studies at Syracuse University. Her new SU Press book, A Place We Call Home: Gender, Race, and Justice in Syracuse was published this month and is a wonderful addition to the Syracuse Studies on Peace and Conflict Resolution series.
Tell us about your new book, A Place We Call Home.
“My book is part memoir/part research on Black women who lived in depressed urban environments and how they cope.”
Have you always had an interest for environmental justice? What led you to the field?
“I have always had an interest in social justice. As a child growing up in Washington DC and Maryland, my family and I were heavily involved in helping the homeless. Later, when I went to college, I worked on race relations during the height of the Rodney King beating and the acquittal of the officers involved. After graduation, my interest broadened to include both environmental rights and civil rights when I began to work for Greenpeace, an international environmental organization. My work with Greenpeace led to my scholarship and advocacy on environmental justice.”
What was the biggest challenge you encountered while writing this book?
“The biggest challenge in writing this book, aside from carving out time from my teaching and other faculty duties, was finding the courage to present my own voice. Most academic research relies upon a degree of objectivity and a presumption of distance between the researcher and the subject. However, the reader knows by the first few sentences of my book that my life and experience are a significant part of the narrative. Adopting a Black feminist perspective in my research and writing gave me the confidence to present my work in this manner. Writers like bell hooks and the late Audre Lorde were influential in my decision to present my work in this manner.”
What types of research did you conduct before writing this case study? How many years of research?
“I am versed in both quantitative and qualitative research. My dissertation, written in 2005 is based solely on spatial statistics. When I came to Syracuse, I relied upon the resources available in the Department of African American studies to hone my qualitative skills. We are the only department at Syracuse University to house our very own library (the Martin Luther King, Jr.) and specialist librarian, as well as operate our own visual and cultural arts center (the Community Folk Art Center). The Community Folk Art Center hosted the photography exhibition that arose from this research in 2007.”
What did you find most eye-opening about your research?
“I was surprised by how well the participants in the project were familiar with maps. In my experience, understanding maps presents a challenge.”
Describe your favorite experience while writing A Place We Call Home?
“I look forward to the presentation of the participants’ photos each during the project. Some of the photos are featured in the book. It was interesting to see each image and to listen to how each woman presented the photo. Often, the image was not enough to understand the concept – you had to hear each woman discuss the elements of the photo that appealed to her.”
What is the most beneficial aspect of your occupation?
“I like teaching. I like challenging my students to think critically about society. I also like research – asking questions and seeking answers. I have worked on different dimensions of environmental justice – from calculating the amount of air pollution with statistics, to browsing through old plantation records at an archive, to analyzing photographs by the women in this Photovoice project.”
What can we expect from you next?
“Speaking of old plantation records, I have accumulating information about a sugar plantation in Southern Louisiana that later was bought by a chemical manufacturer. I want to highlight this connection between plantation-to-plant and this particular site’s effect on the Black community that surrounds it. I think there are some interesting parallels between the oppression of slavery and the oppression of a polluting industry. I’m also working on edited volume that looks at environmental injustice and schooling – my chapter focuses on case studies where hazardous industry are located near elementary schools and we can do to prohibit this.”
For more information on K. Animashaun Ducre’s new book, A Place We Call Home, visit the Syracuse University Press website or attend her book talk on Thursday, February 7th at the Community Folk Art Center in Syracuse, NY. See the Events page for more details on this upcoming event.
Congratulations to Ruth Colvin, author of Off the Beaten Path: Stories of People Around the World published by Syracuse University Press, on winning the CNY Book Award for the non-fiction category. Judged by prominent authors from around the nation, the CNY Book Awards is an annual series of prizes in celebration of the best books published by Central New York authors. The event was hosted by the YMCA’s Downtown Writer’s Center on Thursday, November 29th at the SU Chancellor’s Residence.
Along with this award, Colvin also won the overall “People’s Choice” award, decided by the audience at the awards ceremony.
Ruth is the founder of Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc., which later merged with other organizations to become ProLiteracy. She’s had a triumphant career in which she received nine honorary doctorates, among many other honorable achievements. She also won the highest award for volunteerism in the United States, the President’s Volunteer Action Award, in 1987 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. Ruth Colvin was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1991.
Read more about her winning title, Off the Beaten Path: Stories of People Around the World here.
Cynthia Littleton is deputy editor at Variety and coauthor of Season Finale: The Unexpected Rise and Fall of the WB and UPN. Her new, fall 2012 title TV on Strike: Why Hollywood Went to War over the Internet is in the SU Press Television and Popular Culture series and has received wonderful reviews. Friday, November 16th Littleton discussed her new book on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Watch here.
TV on Strike comes out at the end of the year and is now available for pre-order at the Syracuse University Press website.
Briefly tell us about TV on Strike: Why Hollywood Went to War over the Internet.
“The book looks at the upheaval in the television business during the past decade through the prism of the 100-day strike by the Writers Guild of America in late 2007-early 2008. The strike was a fight about many of the issues that are roiling Hollywood – digital distribution, changing viewer behavior, competition from lower-cost entertainment alternatives and shrinking margins in traditional profit centers. I realized about a month after the strike ended that the story of the conflict, and the colorful characters who drove it, provided the perfect framework to examine what would otherwise be an unwieldy subject, namely the transformation of the television business.”
As a deputy editor at Variety and an author, has the digital transition you discuss in your book affected your life in any way? How?
“Uh – yes. My day job has changed immensely with the mandate to stay on top of news 24/7 on the Web. Now reporters wind up writing every breaking news story at least two or three times. You write the bare-bones version to post immediately on the web. Then you flesh that out a little bit more – maybe two or three more write-throughs depending on the magnitude of the story. And then you turn around and write a version for the print edition the next day. You wind up doing what journalist call a “second day lead” even on the first print edition of the story. You can’t just put in print the same story you posted online the day before if you want to give readers an incentive to read the paper. It’s monstrously complicated, and on the business side, there has been much trial and error in determining the best way to ensure that journalistic content is properly monetized. It’s tough!”
What did you find most shocking about the labor dispute of 2007?
“The lack of communication and outreach from both labor and management in the run-up to the contract negotiations. I believe the Hollywood studios were remiss in not proactively addressing some compensation issues that they knew would be flashpoints for writers. This was a time when the industry needed executive leadership, but for various reasons, it didn’t happen.”
What was your main source of information for research?
“My own first-hand reporting on the strike – I spent a lot of time walking in picket lines outside studio gates between Nov. 2007-Feb. 2008 – and my own reporting on the changing nature of the television business. I also relied heavily on the good work of my colleagues at Variety and other media outlets. After the fact, I did a lot of lengthy interviews with key players who took time to reflect on the strike experience. Some of them were very candid, even about their own shortcomings, and I’m very grateful to them.”
What was the most challenging obstacle you encountered while writing TV on Strike?
“There were a few people connected to the Writers Guild that I hoped to interview at length to get their perspective on the strike, but they declined to participate even after multiple appeals bordering on begging. One person in particular I nearly tackled at an industry awards show, but I couldn’t convince him.”
What book(s) are you reading now?
“Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories and novels. Really enjoy those intricate mysteries. Over the summer I read Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair” and thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Is there a famous individual you’ve looked up to as a role model throughout your life?
“I have always admired Linda Ellerbee, in her various news anchor incarnations. When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be some combination of Jack Kerouac, Andy Warhol, Truman Capote and Patti Smith. More recently, as a member of the Unitarian faith, I have come to idolize Abigail Adams.”
What can we expect from you next?
“Finishing “TV on Strike” was a long and hard process. I’m looking forward to a long period of having my nights free to reacquaint myself with my husband. But I admit I have been nursing an idea for novel…”
“Every day Cynthia shows us how smart and well informed she is with her reporting. What we didn’t know is just how compelling a storyteller she is! If you are in the entertainment industry or aspire to be this book is a MUST READ page turner. The players come to life and the events of the Writer’s strike provide the prism for Cynthia’s explanation of how the entire entertainment eco-system really works. In the lightning fast constantly changing entertainment universe this book helps us to understand ‘why’ and ‘how’ it is all happening. Bravo Cynthia!” —Warren Littlefield, TV producer, past President NBC Entertainment
Today wraps up the final day of the University Press Week blog tour. SU Press is proud to join fellow university presses in the celebration of this honorable week. To learn more about the importance of university presses visit the AAUP website.
New York University Press: In Celebrating the regional pride of University Presses, Author and NYT editor Connie Rosenblum writes that one wonderful feature of university presses is their desire to publish books about their home turf. She also touches upon the importance of university presses in bringing cutting-edge research to broad audiences.
Columbia University Press: Columbia’s first guest blogger Sheldon Pollock, the Arvind Raghunathan Professor of South Asian Studies at Columbia University, reaches out to the university and faculty to attract greater support and attention to university presses. She talks about how they must insulate themselves from the vagaries of the market and need assistance from the university to do so.
Jennifer Crewe, editorial director and associate director at Columbia University Press, discusses how university presses started with a mission to publish the work of scholarly research and goes on to describe the astonishing degree of innovation and growth they’ve accomplished over the years.
University of North Carolina Press: UNC Press director John Sherer, in his guest post, discusses his recent transition from New York trade publishing back to UNC Press. He describes the abundant pressures university presses are dealing with today and the many changes they’re adopting such as taking on more risks on the editorial front.
University of Alabama Press: University of Alabama Press first time author, Lila Quintero Weaver, tells us “Why University Presses Matter” by discussing how they open their doors to non-academic writers, as they did for his memoir, and play a leading role in the encouragement of scholarship and knowledge.
In an additional guest post, Jennifer Horne, editor of Circling Faith and All Out of Faith, writes that university presses matter because they make books better. She describes the level of experience, quality, and continuity that goes into the publishing process at the University of Alabama Press and the invaluable role university presses play in scholarship and disseminating knowledge.
University of Virginia Press: University of Virginia’s adored author Catherine Allgor, who wrote the award-winning Parlor Politics and The Queen of America, discusses her publishing journey and the level of excellence, integrity, and commitment the University of Virginia Press staff dedicated to the completion of her book. She describes this process with UVP as an ‘exercise in holistic business.’
Oregon State University Press: Intern Jessica Kibler describes her memorable experiences working at a university press as her time at OSU Press draws to a close. One of the most important things she learned during her internship was that university presses give ease to sharing information. She states, “This breadth of knowledge and the ability to share it with the world is one of the most beneficial things about the existence of university presses.”
Princeton University Press: Co-owner of Princeton’s academic and community bookstore, Labyrinth Books, Dorothea von Moltke answers questions on university presses and her business. She describes how the ambition for Labyrinth Books is to carry both a broad range of front list titles and deep backlist titles from university presses and trade publishers.
Indiana University Press: In University Presses: An Essential Cog Within Our Society’s ‘Sophistication Machine,’ former IU Press intern Nico Perrino discusses the importance of university presses through a student’s perspective. He states that without university presses the marketplace of ideas for scholars would be hindered and professors and society would be solely confined to past knowledge.
Fordham University Press: Fordham University Press Director Fredric Nachbaur refers to university presses as ‘the pillars of knowledge.’ He proves his theory by discussing how the tragic hurricane Sandy crisis led the media to university presses for expertise as they are detectives for finding quality authors and sharing critical information.
Texas A&M University Press: Author of The Man Who Thought Like a Ship Loren Steffy, also Houston Chronicle columnist, writes about his personal journey of becoming an author and the lasting impact of TAMU Press both on the field of nautical archaeology and on his family.
Georgetown University Press: Georgetown University Press’ post covers how university presses are uniquely talented in creating scholarly material for less commonly taught languages (they produce books for learning Chinese, Urdu, Uzbek, Pashto, Tajiki, Kazakh, Portuguese, Turkish, Japanese, and Arabic). They conclude their post by listing all of the LCTLs represented by university presses.
University of Chicago Press: University of Chicago Press believes university presses matter because of their continued commitment to foster thinkers and their admiration for flourishing ideas. Editor, writer, and literary critic Scott Esposito confirms this by discussing Wayne C. Booth’s Modernist Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent and observing how fifty years later his influential criticism continues to remain highly relevant and essential.
University of Minnesota Press: Guest blogger Jason Weidemann writes about his recent travels to Cape Town and the time he spent lecturing on scholarly publishing. Jason is the senior acquisitions editor in sociology and media studies at UMP.
University of Illinois Press: UIP author Stephen Wade, in his guest post Write for the World, discusses his positive feelings towards Illinois and its fellow university presses. He goes into detail about their dedicated watchfulness, commitment to humane scholarship, and strong ethics of taking care of deeper impulse.
University of Nebraska Press: Tom Swanson, UNP’s Bison Book manager, explains the important reasons why university presses matter to their region. He writes about how without university presses, specific regions would lose their voice to big houses that aren’t dedicate to promoting the scholarly mission of a University.
MIT Press: MIT Press editorial director, Gita Manaktala, explores the major shifts in scholarship and reading today (scholarship more collaborative, time to publication more imperative, final form knowledge is just one form of knowledge that we value, peer review changing, reading has changed) and discusses ways university presses can adapt to these changes to meet the needs of readers and authors.
University of California Press: As the Library Relations manager, guest blogger Rachel Lee explains why university presses matter through the eyes of the library. She expresses that, within the academy, university presses and libraries are potential partners in providing new and scholarly publishing for minimal financial return.
University of Hawai’i Press: University Hawai’i Press’ author and editorial board member Barbara Watson Andaya points out how university presses remain a unique repository of knowledge, even with the changes in today’s information age. She goes on to discuss how academic books aren’t generally accepted by commercial houses and that university presses preserve niche markets.
Wilfrid Laurier University Press: R. Bruce Elder, a filmmaker, critic, and teacher of the Graduate Program in Communication and Culture at Ryerson University, discusses his views on the clear benefits of university presses over commercial publishers in the technology-dominant era of today. These benefits include the long-term investments they put in developing a writer’s critical thinking abilities and their commitment to intellectual freedom.
University Press of Florida: University Press of Florida interns, Claire Eder, Samantha Pryor, and Alia Almeida, finish off day 2 of the blog tour with a post about their time at UPF. Claire and Samantha talk about the astonishing wealth of topics that can be found in a university press book and the fun, hard-working work environment, while Alia goes a different direction by detailing her crush on UPF book Picturing Black New Orleans: A Creole Photographer’s View of the Early Twentieth Century by Arthé A. Anthony.
Tomorrow SU Press is pleased to present a post by their longtime author and former series editor, Laurence M. Hauptman, isolating three main reasons why university presses matter.