The author of more than 30 books, Stephen J. Pyne is known for his expert works on landscape fire and histories of place. His writing is thoughtful, informative, occasionally humorous, and above all well-crafted and engaging. MacArthur, Fulbright, and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships are just some of the many honors Pyne has received for his writing and scholarship. Pyne has been a professor at Arizona State University since 1985 where, among other things, he has taught nonfiction writing to graduate students. His new book, Style and Story, is for anyone who wishes to craft nonfiction texts that do more than simply relay facts and arguments. With abundant examples, the book shares pragmatic guidance on how to create powerful, engaging texts by employing suitable literary tools and strategies. Pyne recently answered six questions about his work:
Why did you decide to write this book?
In 2009 I published Voice and Vision to accompany a graduate writing class I developed—it looked at writing issues that most caught my fancy. Over the years I realized that I needed to address a lot of other topics as well. Style and Story is the result. Each book can stand alone, but they are intended to complement one another.
What are three hallmarks of great nonfiction that you look for in your reading and writing?
For me the best nonfiction is one that invites me into an imagined world—not a fictional world of invented facts and characters, but one that nonetheless absorbs me into a state of ‘willing suspension of disbelief.’ The style adds something beyond the particular sources or data. Most fundamentally, it sparks in me a sense that I’d like to write something similar. Often, somewhere, I’ll try to do just that.
What is the biggest mistake new nonfiction writers make?
I think the best nonfiction begins with voice. Get your voice right and a lot of other good things follow. The students that struggle the most are trying to write in a voice that isn’t theirs, and the course becomes a literary detox project. They can’t concentrate on art and craft until they know who is speaking and why. Then they can focus on the how.
Who are the nonfiction writers you looked to when you started your nonfiction writing career? Who do you admire now?
When I worked on the North Rim, the Coconino County bookmobile would roll in once a month and that was my only source of reading materials apart from subscription magazines. There were a lot of regional books, which introduced me to Wallace Stegner, which is where I realized nonfiction could be literature. In fact I thought he was best when he played against type—when he, who thought of himself as a novelist, wrote nonfiction, especially history and biography.
I’m pretty much an omnivore when it comes to reading. Mostly, I read to learn rather than for pleasure —reading as part of my research. When I read to improve my writing, I tend to read John McPhee (for openings and transitions), Joan Didion (for profiles), Simon Schama (for big narrative), and Tom Wolfe (for humor). All of them are even older than I am, so my sense of style continues to be a shade behind contemporary taste.
The book expands on your previous guide, Voice and Vision. What are the new topics you cover?
Openings and closings, which matter particularly if you are writing narrative; settings, technical material, short and long narration, and varieties of nonfiction humor. Academics in particular have humor beaten out of them, yet it can be very effective when done right (it’s hard to do). I also include some thoughts on writing as a discipline, on how to read as a writer, and on the challenges to nonfiction posed by fiction. I don’t care to have the borders between the two blurred. If you want to tweak stuff as you would in fiction, then write fiction. Nonfiction has rules.
But it does not have an aesthetic as fiction does. It could, it just doesn’t. When nonfiction crosses the border into fiction, I don’t regard it as an excess of literary imagination but as a failure of imagination. A good writer will find a way to play by the rules.
Also, on the recommendation of readers, I include a roster of writing exercises.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing a short book – an idea book and synthesis – called The Great Ages of Discovery that will provide an interpretive framework for thinking about the last 600 years of geographic exploration by Western civilization. It’s a concept I’ve used in several other books but have never isolated and treated fully in its own right.
Then back to fire. For some time I’ve wanted to do a fire history of Mexico. And I’ve had my sights on a book that would survey concisely the fire histories of South America, Africa, and Asia, maybe modeled on To the Last Smoke.
I try to have some long-term projects, though I find new prompts appear and are fun to pursue. I never thought, for example, I would write books about writing. Now I’ve written two. I’d also like to consider another biography, and maybe try some sustained humorous or at least satirical writing, but all this is probably more than I can realistically manage.
Stephen J. Pyne is a Regents’ Professor in the Human Dimensions Faculty of the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. He is the author of many successful books, mostly on wildland fire and its history, but also dealing with the history of places and exploration.
Laura Da’s new poetry collection, Instruments of the True Measure, moves its reader deeper into the narrative of Shawnee homeland. This collection proves how truly entwined the words poets craft and their personal experiences are. Laura Da’ spoke with us about her inspiration for these poems, as well as how an unexpected turn in her life led to a new form of poetic energy.
“Writing the poems and essays for Instruments of the True Measure started as a natural continuation of the poetic obsessions that have always motivated my work: history, identity, alienation, family, and place,” she says. “As such, this book has direct connections to my first book, Tributaries. Seeking to learn more about my Shawnee ancestors by way of their movements across the land, I became very taken with multiple American histories of surveying, geography, and cartography. I was struck with the ways forms of measurement became such a crucial and destructive tool of colonialism. This became a foundational element of the book.”
“About mid-way through my work on this book, I swerved. Out of the blue, I fell very ill in 2015 and ended up on dialysis until I received a transplant in 2018. I can track the change in my voice and style clearly from a more muted, objectivist tone to a more searing and lyrical connection between the traumas of the present and the past. There is a juxtaposition between my established process of obsessive research leading to image and narrative driven poems with a raw new poetic engagement with personal pain, fear, and sense of exile. I dig in with these poems and I see this book now as an artifact of my own desire to survive and mark my own place here.”
Below, find the poem titled “The Point of Beginnings” from Laura Da’s collection. This poem opens Instruments of the True Measure with themes of birth and the power of the natural world placed within the definition of geodaesia, rendering them inseparable concepts in the context of the poem. Carrying the weight of American history, this poem launches a collection that is deeply concerned with Shawnee lives and the forced removal and frontier violence which they endured.
THE POINT OF BEGINNINGS
Geodaesia: The art of surveying and measuring— footpath stamped and deer path trampled.
Wily agents of creation
foliated under great pressure;
white-banded rock embedded
in absolute time’s alluvial fan.
The first creeping
act of range
is the infant’s change of heart
from open to closed
upon the initial intake of breath. Thence with the meanders of the river.
Laura Da’ is a poet and a public school teacher. A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Da’ studied creative writing at the University of Washington and The Institute of American Indian Arts. She is Eastern Shawnee. Her first book, Tributaries, won a 2016 American Book Award. In 2015, Da’ was a Made at Hugo House Fellow and a Jack Straw Fellow. She lives near Seattle with her husband and son.
Upstream: Trust Lands and Power on the Feather River by Beth Rose Middleton Manning documents the significance of the Allotment Era to a long and ongoing history of cultural and community disruption. It details Indigenous resistance to both hydropower and disruptive conservation efforts. With a focus on northeastern California, this new book highlights points of intervention to increase justice for Indigenous peoples in contemporary natural resource policy making. Today Middleton Manning answers five questions.
What inspired you to embark on this project?
Generally—a lifetime of love of the land coupled with a deep commitment to justice. More specifically—my work with the Maidu Culture and Development Group (MCDG) beginning in 2001, and later the Maidu Summit Consortium and Conservancy beginning in 2004. Mentors and friends in the Maidu community took the time to take me around their country, welcome me to their ceremonies, gatherings, meetings, and events, and talk with me about struggles to access and protect their homelands.
Back in about 2002, MCDG board member Lorena Gorbet showed me a map she had made documenting the status of the lands under hydroelectric projects in the Maidu homeland. Many of these lands were former Indian allotment lands. I began assisting with the project to find out how, specifically, these lands transferred out of Maidu hands. I traveled to local, regional, state, private, and federal archives containing Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Land Management (then, General Land Office) records, and found documentation of over 600 allotments in Plumas and Lassen counties. Some of the files contained more details, including extensive correspondence about the land, and photos of the lands. I was deeply moved by the stories of Maidu and other Indigenous (Pit River, Paiute, Washoe) resistance and ingenuity in the face of oppressive paternalism by the Indian Agents and greed by the corporate developers. Outside of this research and conversations with community members, I had not learned about this struggle before, or about the role of allotment lands in the seizure and development of rural California. It seemed almost as if history was repeating itself in the early 2000s with the utility company settlement and recommended divestiture of some of these headwaters lands in Maidu country. Lands around or near the reservoirs and other hydroelectric operations were recommended for conservation but Maidu allotment history and contemporary Maidu presence and care for the land were not mentioned in the settlement or process. As members of the Maidu community advocated for the return of these areas of the Maidu homeland, I was able to provide supportive information on specific histories of Maidu lands seized for timber or hydro development and now targeted for conservation, to support their return to Maidu ownership.
This book has been called a must-read for wilderness advocates. Why do you hope they’ll read it? The history of post-contact land use and management is deeply intertwined with institutionalized racism, sexism, and other forms of exclusion. One must look deeply at the history of land use planning, and how it reverberates into the present day, so as not to perpetuate institutionalized injustices. Locking lands up in industry can be similar to locking lands up for conservation or wilderness preservation if Indigenous peoples are excluded. Indigenous peoples must be leaders and partners in land planning and land stewardship. The work to protect land must correspond to the work to bring justice to the ways Indigenous people are being and have been treated, in terms of exclusion from planning and jurisdiction within their own homelands. This leads to better projects as well as to building “a future of justice“ as my friend Farrell Cunningham (yatam) wrote in the Maidu Summit Land Management Plan for Tasmam Koyom/ Humbug Valley.
You point out that during your course work for your PhD in Environmental Science Policy and Management you weren’t required to take any Native Studies courses. Why is this problematic? Every inch of the world is an Indigenous homeland. That means that every place has sacred sites, food growing or gathering sites, burials, medicinal gathering sites, and other important places. It also means that there is a tradition of knowledge of specific places and the species found there. By not highlighting Indigenous homelands and Indigenous stewardship in the study of environmental science, policy, and management, we are disregarding millennia of Indigenous scientific knowledge and practice, and perpetuating a colonial process that disregards Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous struggle, Indigenous survivance, and Indigenous leadership in land and water planning and stewardship.
Where do you hope the conversation among conservationists and tribal communities goes next? I would like to see more equitable collaborations between Indigenous people and conservation entities, with deferral to Native expertise, joint leadership or deferral to Native leadership, fair compensation to Indigenous partners, revenue sharing in grants and agreements, and collaborative planning.
What are you working on now?
I am working with a colleague on an article on tribal participation in the carbon market, with a focus on the experience of one Native nation in California that has really opened the door for increased Indigenous participation and leadership in cap-and-trade projects. While the carbon market may be seen negatively as a form of commodification of ecosystem services, tribes are creatively using cap-and-trade systems to achieve tribal goals, within a framework of protecting and reacquiring homelands. This is particularly important in California with the statewide mandatory cap-and-trade system, which includes the participation of two Native nations in California, and other nations in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Maine, and Arizona. I am also interested in other tribal-led applications of environmental policy, legal, and financial tools, such as tribes’ creative use of new market tax credits (NMTCs) to buy back traditional lands. While they are more often used for low-income housing projects, NMTCs have been used by at least one tribe in California to facilitate a land purchase. I also continue to be interested in Native-led conservation initiatives, especially Native land trusts, and use of conservation easements and land trust structures by tribes in California and beyond.
I also recently received a small Diversity Innovation grant to develop an area of teaching on the Indigenous Caribbean. The Department of Native American Studies at UC Davis has a unique hemispheric perspective, but there is currently no teaching on the Caribbean. My paternal family is from the Caribbean, and I have done some work on conservation of cultural heritage sites with Garifuna organizations in St. Vincent. I will be working with an incoming graduate student with interests in Indigenous and African relationships in the Caribbean to develop a course on the Indigenous Caribbean, with a focus on contemporary politics and land stewardship.
I also have a project with a senior graduate student in NAS working on the implementation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) between the University of California (both the central Office of the President and individual campuses) and Native nations in California.
Finally, I am engaged in two regional collaborations with climate scientists throughout CA and the greater southwest. I hope to collaboratively develop research and implementation projects that foreground tribal collaboration and tribal leadership in climate change analysis, adaptation, and mitigation.
September 10, 2018 — The 2018 International Latino Book Awards Ceremony took place on Saturday, September 8th in Los Angeles, California. Over the last 20 years the International Latino Book Awards has grown to become the largest Latino literary and cultural awards in the USA. Winners have been from across the USA and at least 17 countries in Latin America, Spain, and a dozen countries elsewhere. Latino Literacy Now has developed a series of important partnerships with organizations like the California State University, Dominguez Hills; Las Comadres de las Americas; REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos; Libros Publishing; and Scholastic. Over the years, over 2,400 authors and publishers have been honored for their work by the International Latino Book Awards. We are thrilled to announce the winning books and authors from our Press below!
Frederick Luis Aldama’sLatinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics is the first place winner of the Best Latino-Focused Nonfiction Book award. As the foremost expert on Latinx comics, Aldama uses Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics as a way to guide us through the full archive of all the Latinx superheroes in comics since the 1940’s. Thoroughly entertaining but seriously undertaken, Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics allows us to truly see how superhero comic book storyworlds are willfully created in ways that make new our perception, thoughts, and feelings. Alongside writing award-winning books, Frederick Luis Aldama is an Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor at the Ohio State University, and he is the founder and director of the Latino and Latina American Space for Enrichment Research, a mentoring and research hub for Latinos in grade nine through college.
Belinda Linn Rincón’sBodies at War: Genealogies of Militarism in Chicano Literature and Culture is the second place winner of the Best Women’s Issues Book award. This book examines the rise of neoliberal militarism from the early 1970’s to the present, charting its impact on democratic practices, economic policies, notions of citizenship, race relations, and gender norms by focusing on how these changes affect the Chicana/o community and, more specifically, on how neoliberal militarism shapes and is shaped by Chicana bodies. Through Chicana art, activism, and writing, Rincón offers a visionary foundation for an antiwar feminist politic. Belinda Linn Rincón is an assistant professor of Latin American and Latina/o studies and English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. She is also the co-founder and co-organizer of the Biennial U.S. Latina/o Literary Theory and Criticism Conference.
U.S. Central Americans: Reconstructing Memories, Struggles, and Communities of Resistance, edited by Karina Oliva Alvarado, Alicia Ivonne Estrada, and Ester E. Hernández, is the first place winner of the Best Nonfiction Multi-Author award. This book explores the shared yet distinctive experiences, histories, and cultures of 1.5 and second-generation Central Americans in the United States. This is the first book to articulate the rich and dynamic cultures, stories, and historical communities of Central American communities in the United States. Contributors to this anthology— often writing from their own experiences as members of this community— articulate U.S. Central Americans’ unique identities as they also explore the contradictions found within this multivocal group. Karina Olivia Alvarado is a lecturer in the Chicana and Chicano Studies Department at the University of California, Los Angeles. Alicia Ivonne Estrada is an associate professor of Chicana/o Studies at California State University, Northridge. Ester E. Hernández is a professor of Chicana/o and Latina/o studies at California State University, Los Angeles. She has also served on the executive boards of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social.
Taking home second place in the Best Nonfiction Multi-Authoraward category is Word Images: New Perspectives on Canícula and Other Works by Norma Elia Cantú, edited by Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs. This book is a collection of critical essays that unveil Norma Elia Cantú’s contribution as a folklorist, writer, scholar, and teacher for the first time. Word Images unites two valuable ways to view and use Cantú’s work, with the first part comprising essays that individually examine Cantú’s oeuvre through critical analysis and the second part dedicated to ideas and techniques to improve the use of this literature by teachers and professors. Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs is a professor of modern languages and women and gender studies at Seattle University, where she is also the director for the Center for the Study of Justice in Society.
An enormous congratulations to all of our winners!
We’re pleased to announce Margaret Bruchac has been awarded the inaugural Council for Museum Anthropology Book Prize for her work Savage Kin: Indigenous Informants and American Anthropologists. The Council for Museum Anthropology (CMA), a section of the American Anthropological Association, recognizes innovative and influential contributions to the field of museum anthropology. The Council for Museum Anthropology BookAward was created to recognize and promote excellence in museum anthropology. The award is awarded biennially to a scholar within the field of museum anthropology for a solo, co- or multi-authored book published up to two years prior to the award date.
As part of this year’s AAA Annual Meeting, the 2018 CMA Book Prize will be awarded to Margaret Bruchac, with honorable mention awarded to Laura Peers and Alison Brown for their book Visiting with the Ancestors (2016).
According to the award’s committee members, “Savage Kin is an insightful examination of the previously hidden histories of Native interlocutors who helped to facilitate and make anthropological knowledge about Native North American communities possible. Using ‘restorative methodologies’ to examine a vast array of archival and museum collections, Bruchac raises important issues about the history of bicultural relationships that inform anthropology, the possibilities and value of archives and museum collections for research, and the sociology of knowledge production. This book will we feel not only push the discipline to rethink our received disciplinary histories but will also encourage other scholars to take more seriously the complicated legacies within archival and museum collections.”
Margaret Bruchac is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, where her areas of specialization include NAGPRA and repatriation, indigenous archaeologies, museum anthropology, and Native American studies. She is the author of numerous book chapters and academic articles, as well as prose, plays, and poetry for a variety of regional historical and folklife centers. Bruchac has received awards from the American Philosophical Society and Ford Foundation, and was given the Aesop Award from the American Folklore Society in 2006.
On winning the inaugural CNA Book Prize, Bruchac said, “It seems so poetic to have my critical analyses of museums in the past recognized by museum scholars in the present! Serendipitously, this award also coincides with the resolution of several key repatriation cases I was working on. So, the good work continues, as I turn to focus on reconnecting other lost objects and stories.”
Part of our Native Peoples of the Americas series, Savage Kinrestructures readers’ views of relationships between Indigenous informants, such as Gladys Tantaquidgeon, Jesse Cornplanter, and George Hunt, and anthropologists, such as Frank Speck, Arthur C. Parker, William N. Fenton, and Franz Boas. Like other texts focused on this era, it features anthropological luminaries credited with saving material that might otherwise have been lost. Unlike other texts, it highlights the intellectual contributions of unsung Indigenous informants without whom this research could never have taken place.
Encantado is a poetry collection which weaves a myriad community of individuals together through detailed windows into their lives. Inspired by the real and imagined stories around her, Mora brings us to the heart of what it means to be a chorus of voices together.
About her writing process, Mora says, “When I give an idea or scene or emotion quiet and time, a draft of a poem can emerge from a place inside. I’m both listening and pondering. All my grandparents were born in Mexico as was my dad. That fact is part of my inheritance, my wealth, but I write as a human ultimately to share with my fellow humans.”
Below is one of the poems and personalities in Pat Mora’s forthcoming collection. Both playful and profound, “Gilberto” examines themes of aging while capturing the nostalgia of a youthful past. A sense of reverence for the changes that passing time imparts on individuals envelops the poem, creating a space where resistance and acceptance beautifully coincide.
Grace now, my scruffy canine compañeros.
We old dogs must show the way.
We savor mornings and day-old bread
in ways young pups don’t understand.
When I was a boy, I’d climb
at dawn to an arroyo
that tasted of mint,
water so clear and cold
it hurt my teeth, so sweet
I’d laugh out loud.
I was a mountain lion,
eyes red, body sleek, lean, agile,
poised to pounce,
gnaw impatiently on life.
Now my ankles and knees
teach me to taste my days,
slowly. I make pronouncements
only you heed, but
I still burn, shake my fists,
consoled by my own voice.
Pat Mora is an award-winning author of poetry, nonfiction, and children’s books. Her previous books of poetry include Agua Santa: Holy Water, Adobe Odes, and Aunt Carmen’s Book of Practical Saints. Among her awards are Honorary Doctorates from North Carolina State University and SUNY Buffalo, Honorary Membership in the American Library Association, and she was a recipient and judge of a Poetry Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Mora is the founder of Children’s Day, Book Day, El día de los niños, El día de los libros. A former teacher, university administrator, museum director, and consultant, Mora is a popular speaker who promotes creativity, inclusivity, and bookjoy. She’s the mother of three adult children, and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Following the devastating fire that tore through Rio de Janeiro’s 200-year-old National Museum this weekend, we remember how a group of biology scholars joined the drive to renew the Brazilian nation, claiming as their weapon the voice of their fledgling field. Without discarding scientific rigor, they embraced biology as a creed and activism as a conviction—and achieved success in their bid to influence public policy in environmental protection and the rational use of natural resources. The following is excerpted from Regina Horta Duarte’s Activist Biology: The National Museum, Politics, and Nation Building in Brazil.
The National Museum In the 1920s and 1930s, the scientists who worked at this institute in Rio de Janeiro hoped to transform it into a hub that would radiate knowledge to the farthest reaches of Brazil. During those years, the museum staff devoted itself tirelessly to re-creating the National Museum and staking claim to a new role for it. They couldn’t begin to imagine television or satellite dishes, but they trusted in print, movies and radio, exhibits, and educational methodology as efficacious methods for disseminating the new knowledge and new practices that they were convinced would transform Brazil.
The National Museum already had a long history behind it by then. King Dom João VI of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves had founded it in 1818. His court had fled Lisbon shortly before the city was invaded by Napoleon’s troops in 1808, and once settled safe and sound in Brazil, Dom João VI did his best to prepare Rio de Janeiro for its new status as the political and administrative center of the kingdom, a process that transported the seat of the European empire to the heart of the old Portuguese colony. The Royal Museum—as it was then known—emulated Old World museums by gathering collections representative of the entire globe. But the spotlight was on the Portuguese Empire, spread across the European, African, Asian, and South American continents. From its founding on, the museum played a decisive role in the development of natural history in Brazil.
The establishment of the museum figured into a broader nineteenth century trend around the world to set up natural history museums as “cathedrals to science.” By 1910, there were some two thousand museums of its kind. In Latin America, natural history museums enabled exchanges between naturalists while connecting different points of the globe. In cities like Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Santiago do Chile, Montevideo, Bogotá, and Caracas, new institutions continued to open their doors throughout the nineteenth century, most always concomitant with processes of achieving independence and nation building. They were home to enlightened elites who combined their experience as locals with intellectual training in Europe, but they were also frequented by foreign naturalists eager to research the flora and fauna of South America. National governments wanted to undertake inventories of “their” nature and would often hire teams of foreigners to lend impetus to natural history.
The daily routine at nineteenth-century museums in Latin America reflected the challenges specific to the continent’s historical context. Foreign scientific expeditions often took everything they gathered back to Europe, leaving nothing to the institutes that had welcomed and aided them, much to the discontent of local science communities. The piecemeal nature of local collections left Latin American naturalists at a tremendous disadvantage vis-à-vis their foreign peers, whose institutes boasted enviable collections. Latin American museums also had to cope with periodic political turmoil, which occasioned wild fluctuations in government funding and other support. As Nancy Stepan has said, a great deal of progress came thanks to the individual efforts of naturalists in the absence of any collective, institutionalized, stable climate. Teaching institutions emphasized a liberal arts education in a framework where there was no real way to train researchers in scientific work. There was a paucity of equipment and bibliographic material, scientists enjoyed little prestige, and agricultural and industrial modernization was not yet hardy enough to provide new sources of support for science.
Many aspects of the history of these museums give nuance to the traditional view that naturalists working in Latin America were members of cloistered scientific communities. Over the course of the nineteenth century, while Brazil’s National Museum was becoming a place for public exhibits, it was also making room for new fields of knowledge in its various departments—like paleontology, anthropology, comparative anatomy and zoology, botany, mineralogy, geology, and archaeology—reflecting the institution’s attention to research and its tendency to develop specialized fields. From 1876 to 1893, during what was known as “the golden age of the National Museum,” the institution saw substantial changes under the direction of the naturalist Ladislau Netto. Its collections grew through exchange programs with European and Latin American counterparts and thanks to national expeditions financed by the imperial government. The old monarchical tradition of handpicking personnel by appointment was replaced by the requirement that new hires take qualifying exams on scientific topics. Foreigners like Charles Hartt, Fritz Müller, Hermann Von Ihering, Emílio Goeldi, Carl Schwacke, and Orville Derby were recruited and had plenty of opportunity for the rewarding exchange of experience and knowledge with Brazilian scholars. The establishment of a laboratory for experimental physiology and the launching of a science journal in 1876 (Arquivos do Museu Nacional ) energized the museum and cleared the path for its naturalist members to advance in their professionalization. The institute’s collaboration with the Brazilian presence at universal exhibitions was also important. The country wanted to make a place for itself on the world market and to be counted as a civilization in the tropics. It was not just its commercial interests that were at stake; so too were the exchange of scientific and technological know-how and interaction between the National Museum and foreign science institutes. No less important was the organization of Brazil’s National Anthropological Exposition in 1892, where the exhibiting of hundreds of ethnographic objects fed the lively contemporary debate on race, people, and the Brazilian nation.
Like other museums in Latin America—for example, the Argentina Museum of Natural Sciences (now the Bernardino Rivadávia Museum of Natural History), in Buenos Aires, headed by Hermann Burmeister—Brazil’s National Museum experienced such profound changes during these years that it was almost like starting over. As naturalists reclassified nature, as knowledge grew more specialized, and as scientists and observers began relating to collections in new ways, these collections underwent extensive reorganization. In pursuing this new vision, the museum entered into the wider debate about “national being” and introduced a state “optic”—to use Andermann’s term—of the items on display, thereby transforming a tour of the museum into a civics lesson.
In 1889, the army, with the backing of the agro-exporting elites, toppled the monarchy, and Brazil became a republic. As much as civilian republican groups had hopes for a new democratic order, the institutions of the fledgling republic were predominantly individualist and liberal in nature, and most citizens were denied their political rights, since illiterates were prohibited from voting. Although slavery had been abolished under the monarchy, in 1888, the early decades of the republic witnessed no advances in civil and political rights; instead, it was an era of “exclusionary liberalism,” or “oligarchical liberalism,” marked by political accords between powerful elites, underwritten by fraudulent elections. The Constitution of 1891 delegated broad fiscal and administrative autonomy to the states and territories, benefiting the chief commodity-producing states, like coffee-rich São Paulo and the rubber centers of Pará and Amazonas. Under the influence of some republican sectors, the nation’s charter also bore the imprint of positivism, translated into a complete separation of church and state and the absence of any official religion. The republic would recognize marriages, births, and burials as civil processes, and religious teaching would no longer be mandatory in schools.
In the early years of the republic, the museum faced several hurdles. The new government abolished the post of traveling naturalist and demanded the daily physical presence of all researchers. In practical terms, this meant naturalists could not make research trips and instead had to stay in their offices. Some of the top staff left, Fritz Müller among them. A number of wealthier states, like São Paulo and Pará, opened their own natural history museums and managed to attract naturalists like Goeldi and Von Ihering. The federal government itself established applied research institutes, which became the country’s first centers for biological research, such as the Oswaldo Cruz Institute in Rio de Janeiro and the Butantan Institute in São Paulo. Shortly after the Proclamation of the Republic, the National Museum saw its prestige enter a period of steady decline, while other centers began their ascent, offering bigger budgets and additional amenities that could attract the most eminent researchers—a status quo that was not to change until the late 1920s.
The 1920s indeed brought change to Brazil. World War I had ended, as had the optimism of the Belle Époque. The coffee glut and the demise of the Amazon rubber boom in the face of stiff competition from Southeast Asia spelled economic hardship. Anarchist and communist union movements were on the rise, alongside conservative Catholic movements. Modern Art Week, an arts festival held in São Paulo in February 1922, signaled artistic restlessness. Young military officers joined the armed movement known as tenentismo, while the Prestes Column engaged in guerrilla warfare and cangaceiro bandits ran rampant in Northeast Brazil. In 1922, this turmoil was reined in by a government imposed state of siege; the press was censored, and the various movements that opposed the oligarchical Republican project were repressed.
From September 1922 through July 1923, the city of Rio de Janeiro was the site of the International Exhibition in Celebration of the Centennial of Independence. Organized by the federal government, which built sumptuous pavilions for the event, the exhibition was intended to convey an image of progress and national union. The government had designed the show in hopes of garnering legitimacy at a difficult time, but by instigating reflections on Brazil’s past, present, and future at a moment of serious political crisis, the commemoration in fact seeded unease. Visitors grew more aware of conflict and social tension because the exhibition triggered concern about national construction and about Brazil’s place in world civilization. What, after all, was being celebrated? What brand of independence? What kind of nation? What kind of Brazilian people? What type of republic? The exhibition may to some extent have been a paean to the ruling order, but it also awoke society’s latent expectations and desire for change. As Hoffenberg has noted, “Exhibitions were meaningful events for participants struggling with the social, political, and economic dilemmas and opportunities of their era.”
From the very dawn of the twentieth century, countless intellectuals had criticized the reigning oligarchical regime, holding it accountable for the highhandedness of local authorities and the fact that people had been left to fend for themselves. More voices entered the debate about the roadblocks to nation building. Attention became focused on the vastness of the Brazilian land, on its people trapped in misery, illiteracy, and disease, and on the wholly irrational destruction of its natural riches. The prevailing political and economic liberalism was called into question, decried as excessive, and critiqued for motivating selfishness, while centralization of power was posited as an alternative raised above individual interests. Solutions were proposed for a political and institutional system that demanded more than the mere consensus of the elites and that would transform Brazil’s near nomadic population—until then rebuked as inferior—into healthy, educated, and hard-working people, indispensable to the building of a nation. These intellectuals urged society to adopt new attitudes toward nature; Brazilians needed to learn about their country’s flora and fauna, its water resources and landscapes—and learn to value them—while the state had to effectively regulate environmental protection areas and national parks and exercise control over the exploration of natural resources throughout the national territory. Based on an authoritarianism characterized by voluntarism and an obsession with education, they believed that if the Brazilian people, in its most genuine expression, could be brought onto the stage through suitable measures, the result would be the emergence of a popular culture duly civilized through learned knowledge and superior reasoning—to wit, “authentic” nationality.
From 1926 to 1935, the National Museum regained momentum under the leadership of Edgard Roquette-Pinto. The institute modeled itself as a prime space for educational intervention and for the coordination of pedagogical projects for the people of Brazil, as well as a place where knowledge was produced. It introduced and enforced a bold and experimental multimedia project. As urban life and consumption became increasingly sophisticated in the city of Rio de Janeiro, where the museum was headquartered, its staff members embraced the era’s new means of communication, optimistic that new technologies would allow them to span the chasms yawning between them and Brazil’s ordinary men and women, lost in the vastness of their country.
The National Museum was home to a collaborative effort that drew researchers from an array of fields; they engaged in surprisingly varied initiatives that were not confined to the premises of the museum but reached into other institutional and social domains. Staff members like Roquette-Pinto, Alberto Sampaio, and Cândido de Mello Leitão organized public exhibits unprecedented in the history of the institution. They threw themselves into the Biblioteca Pedagógica (Educational Library) editorial project, headed by Fernando Azevedo, and particularly into its Brasiliana Collection, whose ultimate purpose was “to reveal Brazil for Brazilians.” They launched the journal Revista Nacional de Educação, a forum for science communication aimed at the broader public, whose circulation reached 15,000. They set up a radio station specializing in educational programming and ventured into cinema and the production of educational films. They organized notable events like the First Brazilian Congress for the Protection of Nature, in 1934. They led prolific scientific lives, participating in cultural exchange and attending international congresses. They helped make public policy, including the draft bill for the Game and Fish Code, which lay behind the law decreed by President Getúlio Vargas on January 2, 1934. They joined science associations and other civil society organizations. In fulfilling their “pedagogical mission,” the museum staff relied on a range of media, including print, photography, exhibits, movies, and radio programs. Its scientists also maintained close relations with the ruling powers and with other spaces that generated knowledge. Throughout their experiences, these men of science worked and thought collectively, constructing knowledge through frank dialogue. Moreover, they worked to accrue the technical expertise essential to the practical realization of these manifold projects.
The organizational heart of the activities and exhibits at the National Museum was certainly “the Brazilian nation,” and the burgeoning of biology as a fully established discipline figured largely in this work. Although the field had existed in Europe since the mid-nineteenth century, it was only in the early twentieth that biology laid down roots in Brazil. The troublesome presence of sick, ignorant, rebellious people was a quantitative and qualitative problem begging for a solution, and biology, as a “master of life,” was capable of addressing these ills. It lent itself to a variety of nationalistic practices fashioned within an authoritarian, salvationist political culture.
In the eyes of the museum staff, the field of natural history could describe and name things but could not address the full complexity of life, so it was unable to confront the challenges of Brazilians in distress. Biology, on the other hand, was a decisive form of knowledge, which supported scientific medicine and was based on scientific laboratory practices in the fields of physical anthropology, entomology (especially as applied to agriculture), eugenics, the theories of evolution and genetics, and even phytogeography, zoogeography, and ecology.
At a time when biology was taking shape as a field of its own, separate from (but not better than) natural history, the National Museum endeavored to renew its practices and present itself as an institution in step with the changing world of science. Some of its members also belonged to the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, founded in 1916, which valued specialized experts more than wise generalists, and they worked hard to earn esteem as scientists from specific fields. Yet in its practices, the museum displayed a dynamic and contradictory tendency: although many of its members wanted very much to become specialized scientists, their work with different media formats and with science communication took place in an atmosphere of blurred boundaries between the disciplines.
While striving to make a name for themselves in scientific circles, these scientists also sought government backing for their projects. Most importantly, they wanted themselves and their institute to play an active part in public policy making, and in this way their scientific activities constituted veritable political strategies.
Regina Horta Duarte is a professor of history at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil. She is the author of several books, including Noites Circenses: Espetáculos de circo e teatro em Minas Gerais no século XIX and História e Natureza. She is a founding member of the Sociedad Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Historia Ambiental, and she was the founding editor-in-chief of the journal Historia Ambiental Latinoamericana y Caribeña.
In Activist Biology, Duarte explores the careers of three of these scientists as they leveraged biology as a strategy for change. Devoted to educational initiatives, they organized exhibits, promoted educational film and radio, wrote books, published science communication magazines, fostered school museums, and authored textbooks for young people. Their approach was transdisciplinary, and their reliance on multimedia formats was pioneering. Capturing a crucial period in Brazil’s history, this portrait of science as a creative and potentially transformative pathway will intrigue anyone fascinated by environmental history, museums, and the history of science. Duarte skillfully shows how Brazilian science furthered global scientific knowledge in ways that are relevant now more than ever.
During the 1983-86 copper miners’ strike against Phelps-Dodge, Anna Ochoa O’Leary served as one of the presidents of the Morenci Miner’s Women’s Auxiliary, an organization of women historically dedicated to support efforts of striking copper miners. She resigned that position when the strike ended and resumed her studies at the University of Arizona, where she is now an Associate Professor, the Head of Mexican American Studies, and Co-Director of the Binational Migration Institute. Today we share an excerpt from her contributions to the forthcoming volumeMexican Workers and the Making of Arizona:
ON THE MORNING OF AUGUST 19, 1983, sleepy residents of the sister cities of Clifton and Morenci in southeastern Arizona awoke to a strange pulsation: a miles-long convoy of armored tanks, vehicles, and Huey helicopters, fully equipped with armed soldiers and SWAT teams, making its way up the mountain road to its new front line: the gates of the company facilities. The drama unleashed by Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt to quash the Phelps Dodge copper strike at the Morenci mine was impressive even when the century-long struggle by workers to achieve better working conditions in Arizona’s copper industry is considered.
Writing about these events over thirty-four years later is challenging enough without writing about a personally tumultuous time for many, risking reopening many wounds. The strike virtually ripped families apart, mine included, having one brother on strike and another a strikebreaker. The scars left by the emotional wounds still haunt many today. The strike was also economically catastrophic. It is unpleasant to remember, yet I harbor some pride in doing so that I, too, like many striking families, suffered the indignity of being caught without enough money to buy a gallon of milk, and to suspect that it would only be a matter of time before economic necessity would uproot us from the life we knew to face uncertainties elsewhere. I am certain that among many striking families were children who could not understand their parents’ decision to participate in the strike, denying them stability and security.
A Brief Background to the Great Arizona Copper Strike
Arizona’s history is inextricably linked to copper mining, and mining is inextricably linked to the state’s geography and the geology of copper-ore deposits. There is no shortage of scholarship on this history. Early period mining was done on an individual basis, usually by prospectors who searched for surface mineral outcroppings, where they could be assured a high return for a low investment of time and money and little technology. In these early cases, the mine worker was likely to also be the mine owner. As bonanza–type vein deposits became depleted, mining became more capital and labor intensive. Together with the lack of technology to make extraction of copper deposits more efficient, the self-financing of mining operations by individuals became less profitable over time.
The Industrial Revolution stands out as a turning point in terms of the scale of production in the copper mining industry. The growing demand for copper followed the expansion of telegraph communication and, later, the electrical power needs of American industries and households. In turn, these would drive the technological innovations that would make the extraction of copper from low-grade ore possible and profitable. New ways of organizing production for greater efficiency also paved the way for how copper-producing companies would consolidate their power in the modern era. Wealthy European and East Coast investors began to buy out the small claims of individual prospectors. It is in this way that Arizona copper mining companies, such as the Phelps Dodge Corporation, came to control the natural resources needed for production (land, timber, and water) and, ultimately, amass great power and wealth. By the 1920s six companies were producing 56 percent of all the copper being produced in Arizona.
To be sure, the geographic isolation of most mining operations provided both disadvantages and advantages. The sister cities of Clifton and Morenci are geographically isolated in the rugged mountainous area of eastern Arizona, about 115 miles northeast from the nearest metropolitan city, Tucson, Arizona. With the lack of a diversified economic base that large population centers provide, the livelihood of families in these two small towns were largely dependent on the mine, as they continue to be today. Moreover, the skills acquired in mining production are not those that are easily transferred to other economic sectors. With greater consolidation and vertical integration, companies such as Phelps Dodge were able to exert greater control of its workers.
Arizona’s copper companies maintained their control of operations in several ways. They exerted power over labor directly, using intimidation, threats, and physical force and violence against workers to exploit them as much as possible. A famous example from history comes from the 1917 Bisbee Deportation, where Phelps Dodge, with the help of local law enforcement agents, rounded up presumed strikers and strike organizers and “deported” them to a remote location near Columbus, New Mexico. However, copper companies in Arizona also exerted their power indirectly, such as by influencing politicians and lawmakers to pass laws that were favorable to the industry. Such laws allowed companies to exploit natural resources and undermine competitors and unions.
Consequently, Arizona’s history is also pockmarked by acts of resistance by workers against mining companies, which many times resulted in turbulent labor strikes. In addition, while not all the striking miners were Mexican, Mexican laborers made up the largest percentage of the workforce. Several of these disputes are historically notable. In 1903 Mexican miners instigated a strike in Clifton over wage discrepancy. Benton-Cohen notes that this strike was primarily organized by Mexican workers. In 1906 a strike in the Mexican town of Cananea was primarily directed at the American-owned Green Copper Company. The strike deserves mention because although it was on Mexican territory, the workers were both American and Mexican, and it was quelled by the use of armed Arizona Rangers, who entered Mexico in support of an American mining operation.
During World War I, a series of strikes were organized in mining towns across Arizona (Clifton, Morenci, Ray, Globe, Miami, Jerome, and Bisbee), targeting the most wealthy and powerful companies in Arizona, including Phelps Dodge. During this time, workers had been drawn ideologically and politically to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW; also known as the Wobblies). A mine strike in Jerome organized by the IWW in May 1917 ended with strikers and union organizers, accused of being foreigners and subversives, being rounded up by armed agents of the mine owners and shipped by railroad cattle cars to Kingman, after being threatened with death if they returned to Jerome. Similar events took place in Bisbee, Arizona, in 1917.
During this rash of strikes across Arizona, copper companies were riding the wave of patriotism of the time and were able to violently suppress strikes with impunity. American labor leader Frank Little was lynched during this time. Violations of basic workers’ rights were so egregious that President Woodrow Wilson ordered an investigation of Arizona’s copper companies.
Consistent with this history, Chicago attorney Jonathan Rosenblum’s analysis of the 1983 copper strike demonstrates its national implications. In 1983 Phelps Dodge became a case study for defeating “union power buildup.” Ten years before the strike, Wharton School professor Herbert Northrup had developed a playbook, Operating during Strikes, containing strategies, which, if followed, were predicted to undermine strike actions. These included the contracting of tour buses to transport scabs to worksites en masse, reimbursing strikebreakers for any extra costs associated with strike activity, threatening strikers with the loss of their jobs with outside replacements, permanently replacing striking workers with nonunion workers, and cutting off medical benefits to strikers. All of these strategies were implemented in the 1983 strike. Scabs were bussed in from outside of Clifton and Morenci. Medical benefits were cut off. Letters were sent to strikers, threatening them that they would lose their jobs if they did not return to work at once. An open letter to John Bolles, manager of Phelps Dodge operations in Morenci, published in the Copper Era in July 1983, was written by an infuriated striker, Paul M. López, who accused Bolles and the company of “scare tactics” and intimidation to get strikers to cross the picket line. Following the Wharton playbook, the cost to implement the tactics was irrelevant. Rosenblum reports that the company lost $100 million in operations and claimed another $100 million in write-offs in 1984. Stockholders lost $220 million, or $92,000 per striker, demonstrating that Phelps Dodge’s refusal to settle with the thirteen striking unions went beyond efforts to save on the cost of wages. Even so, nothing was left to chance. Phelps Dodge also had the support of the state. Undercover agents with the Arizona State Criminal Intelligence Systems Agency (ACISA) infiltrated every union in the Clifton and Morenci mining district early in the strike, bugging nearly one out of every two meetings and monitoring the rest with informers. The history of Arizona’s copper mining industry is in this way a story of the collective efforts of workers, equipped only with time-tested ideologies and cultural practices designed to fulfill obligations to each other, resisted against all odds.
The End of Collective Bargaining and the 1983 Strike
To preempt the high cost of labor management conflicts, the major copper companies in Arizona and their labor unions historically relied on collective bargaining. Collective bargaining was a long-established practice in which every three years the big five Arizona copper mining companies negotiated with all of Arizona’s unions at the same time. As part of the collective bargaining practice, every three years since 1968 there had been short (six-to eight-week) strikes, which offered a measurement of economic stability. In fact, mining families often planned vacations around these work stoppages.
However, a series of events would contribute to the demise of collective bargaining. The demand for copper significantly declined with the end of the Vietnam War. Mining had also become highly vulnerable to world market prices and competition.5 The World Bank increased its loans to copper-producing Third World nations whose lower production costs were possible with lower wages and lax environmental laws, and copper from these nations flooded the market. In 1980 the price of copper fell from a high of $1.27 per pound to $0.83 per pound. Phelps Dodge began to reduce some of its mining operations to cut operating costs. In April 1982, with the price of copper falling to $0.69 per pound, Phelps Dodge suspended all mining, milling, and smelting operations, and laid off most of its workers. In October 1982, more than half of the workforce was recalled and limited production resumed, while many waited to return to work.
In 1980 President Ronald Reagan sought economic relief for the nation through neoliberal policies. The worldwide recession had brought some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation’s history, and a surplus of workers. Reagan’s policies centered on reducing governmental regulations as a cost-saving strategy for industries to stimulate hiring. In 1981 Reagan’s also took a hardline stance against the air-traffic controllers union, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) resulting in its decertification. This signaled to U.S. industries that the climate was ripe for ridding themselves of costly regulations and worker protections negotiated by unions over the years. A major casualty of these economic and political shifts was the loss of good-paying blue-collar jobs, which had been made largely possible through years of hard-fought negotiations by unions.
However, what remained imperceptible to the casual observer was that Phelps Dodge, with its extremely conservative views, had shown early signs of breaking from this collective bargaining pattern. Phelps Dodge had been openly critical of the largest of the Arizona copper companies, Kennecott, for its more liberal stance in bargaining with the unions. During their negotiations in the spring of 1983, Kennecott took its usual lead in negotiating a contract with its workers. The other companies—Magma, Inspiration, and ASARCO—pressured to enter into similar agreements with their workers out of fear of losing money, fell in line. However, Phelps Dodge, emboldened by one of the “harshest cost-benefit calculus possible,” held out. Not only did it refuse to agree to the basic terms as the other companies, it asked for additional concessions from its unions and an end to all side agreements dating back to the 1950s.
What followed was a strike by now-isolated thirteen union locals at the Morenci mine, and union workers in Ajo. Events climaxed on August 8, 1983, after Phelps Dodge reopened the mine with replacement scab labor, and thousands of strikers in Morenci blocked the gates to the mine.8 Reportedly to avert violence, Governor Babbitt traveled to Clifton and Morenci to force parties to the table to negotiate. A ten-day cooling-off period was agreed upon, during which time Phelps Dodge was to suspend operations. The workers were encouraged, and it was not until the morning of August 19 that they realized that they had been betrayed. The ten-day period had been used to organize the military intervention by way of 350 National Guard troops and 425 Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers, who made their way up the hill in a convoy on that day. They set up camp outside the company gate while a team of 160 SWAT sharpshooters were also positioned in the hills outside the gates. Supporting this intervention was a restraining order signed by Judge John L. Claborne, which made it impossible for strikers to set up a picket line at the company gate.
Six months later, union negotiators again sat across from company officials to offer concessions only to find that Phelps Dodge had increased its demands. By this time, it was clear that it was more than a patterned agreement process that the company wanted to end. The strike’s conclusion in 1986 bore this out: It marked the defeat of thirteen union locals made up of over 2,400 workers. Rosenblum documents that at the peak of the labor dispute, about 4,250 residents, about half of whom were of Mexican descent, inhabited the incorporated town of Clifton. Another 2,300 lived four miles north in Phelps Dodge-owned housing. The end of the labor dispute also brought about the near collapse of the communities that surrounded the most profitable copper-producing company in the nation, with $110 million in profits in 1980, and the end of an era.
Anna Ochoa O’Leary is an Associate Professor, Head of Mexican American Studies, and Co-Director of the Binational Migration Institute at the University of Arizona. She received her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Arizona. Her dissertation research, supported by a National Science Foundation dissertation improvement award, examined how Mexican-origin households invested in the education of its members, and women in particular. Dr. O’Leary’s current research focuses on immigration policy, the U.S.-Mexico border, gender issues, and the culture and urban politics of Mexican American and Mexican-origin populations in the United States.
Forthcoming this fall, Mexican Workers and the Making of Arizona expands our understanding of the critical role played by Mexican and Mexican American laborers in making Arizona a prominent and influential state in the Southwest and beyond.
One of the eight crew members locked in Biosphere 2 during its first closure experiment, Mark Nelson offers a compelling insider’s view of the dramatic story behind the mini-world. His book is a fresh examination of Biosphere 2, the world’s first man-made mini-world, twenty-five years after its first closure experiment. Exploring the project’s implications for today’s global environmental challenges, Pushing Our Limits offers a pathway for reconnecting people to a healthy relationship with nature.
Conducted annually, the Independent Publisher Book Awards honor the year’s best independently published titles from around the world and their Living Now Award Evergreen Medals commemorate world-changing books for “their contributions to positive global change.”
A sixteenth-century Mexican nun, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, has become one of the most rebellious and lasting icons in modern times, on par with Mahatma Gandhi, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and Nelson Mandela. Referenced in ranchera, tejana, and hip-hop lyrics, and celebrated in popular art as a guerrillera with rifle and bullet belts, Sor Juana has become ubiquitous. In anticipation of the release of his forthcoming book, Sor Juana: Or, the Persistence of Pop, we’re excited to share a brief excerpt from Ilan Stavans’ meditations on the legacy of this celebrated feminist icon.
She shows up as a guerrillera, with rifle and bullet belts. Or replaces the screamer in Edvard Munch’s famous expressionist painting of 1910. She dances in heaven with Marc Chagall’s ethereal characters. Stands next to the Beatles and other added luminaries in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Wears a shoulder tattoo. Is the protagonist of a telenovela. Or a 1993 opera. The target of countless homages by literati such as Gabriela Mistral, Amado Nervo, Xavier Villaurrutia, and José Lezama Lima. A play mounted by the Royal Shakespeare Company, staged in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2012. A Halloween custom. And an animated TV series.
Even more frequently, she is paid tribute to in ranchera, tejano, and hip-hop lyrics. Is on a stamp. And, between 1988 and 1992, on the $1,000 peso bill, which was pushed out by inflation, becoming the $200 peso note, also with her semblance. She is a doll. A piñata. Drops by in high heels. Is on T-shirts. On expensive watches. Chillin’ next to an open book. And, frequently, chatting on her iPhone.
The conduits keep multiplying: statues, Lotería cards, key chains, recipe books, coffee mugs, Día de los Muertos costumes . . . Along with Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Evita Perón, she is ubiquitous.
Ironically, Juana de Asbaje—alias Sor Juana de la Cruz—died in anonymity. Her grave was unmarked for almost three hundred years, until the 1970s, when the Convent of Santa Paula of the Order of San Jerónimo, where she spent her last years, underwent renovation and her remains were purportedly identified. It was a symbolic moment, since she was firmly grounded in the pantheon of Mexican icons. A few years later, Octavio Paz would publish a landmark—if controversial—biography, Sor Juana: Or, The Traps of Faith (1982), portraying her as a key intellectual figure in the journey of Latin America toward modernity, which in his view “is still an unhealed wound.”
Even with the honorific “the Tenth Muse,” it would surely surprise her to come across the iconographic machine she has nurtured. In the land of “bad hombres,” she is a rabble-rouser. A vocal one. Virginia Woolf once said: “The truth is, I often like women. I like their unconventionality. I like their completeness. I like their anonymity.” The truth is, after her death nothing related to Sor Juana is anonymous.
In poor health and besieged by the merciless campaign of intimidation her superiors were orchestrating, she drafted her uneasy lines meticulously, as if aware that she was signing her own death sentence. She was forty-three.
Until a few months earlier, her star had shone bright and high. Time and again she had challenged the male-dominated intellectual milieu, emerging triumphant to the applause of one viceregal court after another. While she was occasionally confronted by a prioress, cautioned by her confessor against sacrilegious misconduct, and reprimanded by a representative of the archbishop of Mexico, Francisco Aguiar y Seijas, her position in the Convent of Santa Paula was secure. And her reputation as the premier Baroque poet in New Spain, as Mexico was known in the seventeenth century, reached far beyond—from Quito to Lima, from the Philippines to the Iberian Peninsula.
But now, sequestered in her convent cell, she was alone and lonely. As she drafted her response, dated March 1, 1691, she knew her fate was no longer in her hands. The delicate balance that she had successfully maintained most of her adult life had finally collapsed. Envy and resentment surrounded her. So she made sure her double message was unclouded. She confessed her “insignificance” as a woman, her “vile nature,” her “unworthiness.” She did so mainly because she wished “no quarrel with the Holy Office, for I am ignorant, and I tremble that I may express some proposition that will cause offense or twist the true meaning of some scripture.” However, she seized the occasion to denounce openly the repressive, misogynistic atmosphere that surrounded her and the criticism that had targeted her as a poet.
While she wrote it as a private letter, she had reason to believe it would become a civic affront, and so she let herself go. Sick, anxious, persecuted by visible ghosts, Sor Juana allowed herself un último grito—a final scream, a shriek of desperation—promising afterward to lose herself forever in the passive piety forced by the Catholic Church on scores of anonymous nuns.
Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. An internationally renowned, award-winning essayist and translator and the recipient of many honors, his recent books include Quixote, Borges, the Jew, and I Love My Selfie.
In the To The Last Smoke series Stephen J. Pyne describes the nation’s fire scene region by region. Today we offer an excerpt from California: A Fire Survey. Pyne is a historian in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. He is the author of many successful books, mostly on wildland fire and its history, but also dealing with the history of places and exploration.
Conflagrating California By Stephen J. Pyne
California burns, and frequently conﬂagrates. The coastal sage and shrublands burn. The mountain-encrusting chaparral burns. The montane woodlands burn. The conifer-clad Sierra Nevada burns. The patchy forests of isolated Sierra basins; the oak savannas, on hillsides turning golden in summer; the seasonal wetlands and tules; the rain-shadowed deserts, after watering by El Niño cloudbursts; the thick forests of the rumpled Coast Range; the steppe grasslands of the Modoc lava ﬁelds; sequoia, exotic brome, chamise, sugar pine—all burn according to local rhythms of wetting and drying. The roll call of combustible plants and places goes on and on. An estimated 54 percent of California ecosystems are ﬁre dependent, and most of the rest are ﬁre adapted. Only the most parched of Mojave deserts, stony summits, perennial wetlands, and fog-sodden patches of the coast are spared. Not only do ﬁres burn everywhere, but they can persist for weeks and can, from time to time, erupt into massive busts or savage outbursts. Fires can burn something every year. Fire season, so the saying goes, lasts 13 months. Like earthquakes, California experiences a constant background of tremors occasionally broken by a Big One.
This is not news. Anyone even casually familiar with California knows it burns, whether those ﬁres be conﬂagrating chamise or gas-combusting autos. In fact, most of the United States burns, or can burn, or has burned historically, and virtually every California ﬁre regime resembles those nearby. The northern Coast Ranges and Cascades burn like those in Oregon. The Central Valley is a larger, drier version of the Willamette. The Sierra Nevada looms like a gargantuan Sky Island, the lithic anchor for the Basin Range. The Mojave Desert laps into the Great Basin and Sonoran Deserts. California’s shrublands are Arizona’s on steroids. Each biota, in brief, has an echo elsewhere. Northern California has lightning ﬁre busts; so do the Cascades. Southern California has extensive burns; so does central Nevada. California slams disparate regimes together; so do most west-ern states. Eastern and western Washington, or northern and southern Idaho, have as little in common as the California’s postmodern pastiche.
Rather, what makes California’s ﬁre scene distinctive is how its dramatically distinctive biomes have been yoked to a common system and how its ﬁres burn with a character and on a scale commensurate with the state’s size and political power. California has not only a ferocity of ﬂame but a cultural intensity that few places can match. In the early years Northern California commanded the scene; after World War II, South-ern California; but the state as a whole has a concentrated ﬁrepower without parallel elsewhere. Northern California beat back the challenge from light-burning by devising systematic ﬁre protection: Southern California dampened the movement to restore ﬁre by pushing ﬁre management into an urban ﬁre-service model. In the pyrogeography of America, California is the great disturbance in the Force. In ways unmatched by any other region it has projected its presence—its ﬁres and ﬁre practices—throughout the country.
The reasons involve more than bigness alone. In some years Alaska has immense ﬁres, some the size of northeastern states, yet they do not upend national policies. Texas holds more land, and in recent years has been overrun by ﬁres larger in area than those that sweep California, yet those ﬂames have not bonded with a national agenda. New York has a similarly split geography between concentrated metropolis and rural countryside, with the “forever wild” Adirondacks as a wilderness backdrop, yet it remains invisible on the national ﬁre scene. By contrast, California’s ﬁres are instantly and hugely broadcast, they infect national institutions, they have repeatedly deﬁned the discourse of ﬁre’s history. No other state has so shaped the American way of ﬁre.
Along with Texas and Alaska, it has long behaved as a state-nation. The issue is more than size: Nevada is large, but until recently it grew as an appendage to California; its ﬁre busts pass through the national consciousness with no more eﬀect than wind gusts over a salt playa. The state-nations, by contrast, have unusual political histories, land owner-ship patterns, and creation stories that make them exceptional. Texas was a latent nation for nearly 10 years, although eﬀectively a protectorate of the United States; and when it entered the union, it did not surrender its unpatented lands. A large place with a small population, it never developed adequate institutions, relied on “big men” (large landowners or cattle or oil barons) to run society, and evolved a lively folk culture. Alaska was a territory for 90 years, geographically and politically isolated from the rest of the country, and when it was admitted, it was able to negotiate a division of lands and retain many federal subsidies not available elsewhere. Like Texas a high culture never took root and it had a distinctive origins myth. Unsurprisingly, both voice secessionist tendencies during times of stress. Texas tends to view the United States as France does the European Union, as a means to amplify and project Texas values. Alaska sees the United States as a source of economic subsidy, often behaving more like a country bonded under a commonwealth than like one of the 50 states.
California shares their size, political isolation, and sense of separate selfhood. It began—almost—as a separate country during the Bear Flag republic; by agreeing to accept existing Mexican land grants with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, it carved out the choicest lands and created a pattern of large landowners; with the gold rush it has an origins myth founded on a peculiar dynamic of untrammeled individualism and in its early moments of unfettered exploitation. Unlike Alaska it has a fully functioning economy, although one sharply subsidized. Unlike Texas it has never confused size with signiﬁcance. It has been independent but never secessionist. Unlike Texas, too, it has a bond to high culture; from its onset it has attracted an urban and intellectual society, rich in literature, painting, and later ﬁlm, which it has reshaped and broadcast back across the country. And unlike Texas it has not exploited the national scene to magnify California sensibilities, but has seen itself as coalescing and shaping a national story, and even an international one. California’s is, paradoxically, a cosmopolitan parochialism. All this is reﬂected in the character of its ﬁres.
California is, in Wallace Stegner’s oft-repeated remark, like the rest of America only more so. Today, nearly one in nine Americans lives in California; the California economy is the eighth largest in the world; and depending on perspective California either anchors or weighs down national trends. The California ﬁre scene boasts commensurate dimensions. Southern California holds one of the three dominant wildland ﬁre cultures in the United States; it commands 50 percent of the national ﬁre budget, and an inordinate fraction of the nation’s fuels management funds; it claims most ﬁreline fatalities, 35 percent; it has one of two national ﬁre research labs and one of two ﬁre equipment development facilities. Of the 11 coordination centers that make up the national ﬁre dispatching system, two lie wholly within California. That profound distortion is also historical: California was where the debate between ﬁre ﬁghting and ﬁre lighting as alternative national policies was fought out, where systematic ﬁre planning was ﬁrst devised, where presuppression schemes achieved their most grandiloquent expression, where air attack and the interregional hotshot crew emerged, and where the modern organizational structure for ﬁre—the incident command system—was hammered out before going national, and then global. The California model proved portable in ways the Florida model or the Great Plains model never did.
California is indeed like the rest of the country only more so.
Stephen J. Pyne is a historian in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. He is the author of more than twenty-five books, including The Ice: A Journey to Antarctica, How the Canyon Became Grand: A Short History, and Voyager: Exploration, Space, and the Third Great Age of Discovery. He is also the author of Between Two Fires: A Fire History of Contemporary America, published by the University of Arizona Press.
The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, considered the “Oscars” of the comic book industry, are handed out each year in a gala ceremony at Comic-Con International: San Diego. Named for renowned cartoonist Will Eisner (creator of “The Spirit” and pioneer of the graphic novels), the Awards are given out in more than two-dozen categories covering the best publications and creators of the previous year.
The foremost expert on Latinx comics, Frederick Luis Aldama guides us through the full archive of all the Latinx superheros in comics since the 1940s in the award winning book. As part of our Latinx Pop Culture series, Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics takes us where the superheroes live—the barrios, the hospitals, the school rooms, the farm fields—and he not only shows us a view to the Latinx content, sometimes deeply embedded, but also provokes critical inquiry into the way storytelling formats distill and reconstruct real Latinos/as.
In the media blitz following the award ceremony, Aldama took the time to discuss the award and his scholarship with Comicosity‘s Chris Hernandez, who “has been a comic book fan since his first pair of Superman Underroos”:
Chris Hernandez: First of all, congratulations on your Eisner Award for Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics! What was your reaction when you found out you had won?
Frederick Luis Aldama: Chris, when they read out the nominated scholars and their respective books, my ears went into silence mode, my eyes turned downward, and my brain found a cushion to ready for disappointment. Then they announced it. Disbelief. Elation. Confusion.
I really mean this. I wasn’t prepared at all for it. I knew my competition, including 4-time Eisner nominee and brilliant colleague at OSU, Jared Gardner, so I went to the ceremony to celebrate the triumphs of others, including friend, co-creator, and co-founder of SÕLCON: Brown & Black Comics Expo, John Jennings who picked up an Eisner with his copilot, Damian Duffy for Kindred. To attend the Eisner Awards Ceremony, I walked off the convention floor in my jeans, T-shirt–and with absolutely nothing prepared for an acceptance. Everyone else was dressed to the nines and had eloquent speeches tucked in their back pockets.
I dedicated the award to all the comics creators (in the room and beyond) who get it right, to my students who carry the comics scholarly torch forward, and to my mamá who died young of cancer from all those pesticides they drop in strawberry fields across California.
I had to catch the last plane out that night so unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the after party—when the real fun was to be had. And, I asked if they could send me the Eisner Award trophy. I didn’t want problems with TSA at the airport. Four days later and my head’s still spinning!
This past weekend we attended the Latinx Studies Association’s Biennial Conference in Washington D.C., where approximately 550 registered attendees came together to support and promote Latinx research. Some highlights included a panel featuring UA Press authors Norma Cantú and Urayoán Noel. Our anthology Poetry ofResistance was also highlighted as a key book representing the new era of Chicano activism. It was a pleasure to see long time UA Press supporter Francisco Aragón curate an evening of poetry readings, which included Blas Falconer and Urayoán Noel.
The panels at this year’s conference were incredibly well attended and emphasized Latinx from Central America and the Caribbean, as well as Latinx in the Midwest. Our Editor-in-Chief Kristen Buckles participated in two panels herself, including one on Latinx publishing and another designed to help junior scholars revise their dissertations.
Thank you to all who stopped by the Press’s booth to say hello and support the scholarship we so proudly publish!
In the new volume Ten Thousand Years of Inequality archaeologists Timothy A. Kohler and Michael E. Smith, along with other leading archaeologists, provide analysis of ten millennia of wealth disparities in the ancient world. Today, they answer our questions about the nature and implications of wealth disparity in the distant past.
Why did you embark on this project?
TK: I have a habit—not sure if it’s good or bad—of reading as widely as I can, including lots of things that are outside of archaeology. That’s brought me into contact with books like The Origin of Wealth by Eric Beinhocker (2006) and Ian Morris’ 2010 book Why the West Rules—For Now. Over the years I’ve also had interesting contacts with a number of economists, most of whom I met through the Santa Fe Institute: people like Sam Bowles, John Miller, and Brian Arthur. All this gave me motivation to study wealth inequality (and the wider problem of how wealth gets created). Then at some point I ran across Mike Smith’s 2014 publication with good ideas about how we can measure abstract quantities like wealth in the archaeological record, even without texts. That provided a method. When I want to understand a new measure I try applying it to a dataset set I know well, so I decided to see what would happen if I looked at wealth inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient in the archaeological record of the Dolores Archaeological Project, which I was lucky enough to be involved in from 1979–1985. The result was a short report in Current Anthropology in 2016. By that point Mike and I started collaborating.
MS: I have been interested for a long time in the nature of social inequality in ancient cities and state-level societies. This goes back to my undergraduate senior honors thesis, which asked the question of whether houses of different wealth or status levels at Teotihuacan could be distinguished on the basis of their artifacts. Most of the fieldwork throughout my career has been addressed—at least in part—at issues of wealth variation within and between Aztec settlements. I experimented with using the Gini coefficient in a 1992 publication, and then let it drop for a while. In 2012 I revisited my earlier work and added some new cases and published a paper (2014) on wealth inequality at Aztec sites (the paper Tim mentions). Then in about 2013 Tim and I had a short meeting with Sam Bowles at the Santa Fe Institute. Sam is a leading economist on the issue of social inequality in society today. He was branching out to study inequality in the past, using the Gini coefficient, and he encouraged Tim and me to do more work on the topic. We decided to see who else was working along these lines, and we organized a symposium at the 2016 SAA meetings on ancient inequality. That led to an advanced seminar at the Amerind Foundation, which was the basis of our book.
When we say “ancient wealth,” what do we mean?
MS: “Wealth” refers to valuable resources, both the possession of such resources and access to them. Today inequality is measured in money: both income and total wealth. Most ancient societies did not have money (or if they did, we have little information on the wealth of most individuals), but a variety of material remains do reflect the wealth of individual households. Of the various such remains (e.g., portable artifacts, burial goods), the strongest measure of household wealth is the size of the house.
TK: We’ve both been influenced by an important series of papers (with a large number of co-authors) that came out in Current Anthropology in 2010 on “Intergenerational Wealth Transmission and Inequality in Premodern Societies.” These papers identified three main types of wealth: embodied (for example, number of offspring), relational (for example, number of trade partners or allies), and material (for example, acres of fields, size of herds). One reason we settled on house size as our preferred measure (other than the fact that it can be measured for many sites) is that it seems to integrate aspects of all these dimensions.
How do archaeologists describe and measure who is wealthy and who is not?
TK: Over the years archaeologists have tried a number of different measures. Some of these (for example, the costs embedded in the materials found in the house or in its associated trash) probably work fairly well but most of them are also subject to various “formation processes.” For example, some houses get cleaned out before they are abandoned, whereas others are accidentally burned with all their materials inside. In some sites, it is straightforward to associate extramural trash with a specific house, in others it is nearly impossible. One reason we settled on house size is that it relatively immune to such confounding factors.
MS: In order to be consistent in comparing the wealth measures from different regions and time periods, we mostly limited our consideration to the sizes of houses. Several chapter authors touched on other measures of wealth at their sites, but all contributed house size measurements. Our basic assumption (borne out by a number of ethnographies) is that wealthier people live in larger houses. While this is not an absolute statement, it does work well in many cases where we know the house sizes and have independent measures of wealth. This justifies our reliance on house size.
Since publication, your book has received a lot of notice, including an article for the public in Smithsonian Magazine. Why do you think this concept is so interesting to people right now?
MS: Wealth inequality is hot topic today, both among economists and other social sciences, and by the press and the public. The level of wealth concentration in the U.S. is now much higher than it has ever been in the past. A variety of social problems seem to flow from pronounced wealth inequality in a society. The fact that we were able to present data in inequality in the past – using a measure that other scholars understand and use all the time (the Gini coefficient) – helps make our work more attractive to a wider audience.
TK: I think there’s a widespread feeling, at least in the U.S., that even though unemployment has been declining for a number of years, most people aren’t making the same sort of economic progress that was widespread from the 1950s through the 1970s. It is also widely understood that Gini indices computed on total wealth were also a lot lower (indicating more equitable distribution) than now. It’s easy enough to put these two facts together. That naturally makes people interested in what causes concentration of wealth, and whether there have long-term trends that help us understand its consequences.
What are you working on now?
TK: The data we published in the book are a nice start, but there are many regions (most of Africa and all of South America, for example) that were not represented. I’m working with a group (that includes Mike) to start a project to fill in these data gaps, and also to make more progress on the causes of changes in wealth concentration in different regions, and through time.
MS: In addition to participating in Tim’s project that continues our work on ancient inequality, I am working on Teotihuacan. I recently took over as Director of the ASU Teotihuacan Archaeological Laboratory, and I am completing some of the unfinished analyses, of the influential Teotihuacan Mapping Project. I am also writing a book on early cities that will be called something like “Urban Life in the Distant Past: Archaeology and Comparative Urbanism,” and I am involved with several interdisciplinary research projects on cities.
Timothy A. Kohler is Regents professor of anthropology at Washington State University. His most recent book, edited with Mark D. Varien, is Emergence and Collapse of Early Villages: Models of Central Mesa Verde Archaeology.
Michael E. Smith is a professor of archaeology at Arizona State University. His latest book is the prize-winning At Home with the Aztecs: An Archaeologist Uncovers Their Daily Life.
In Discovering Pluto historian William Sheehan along with his co-writer Dale P. Cruikshank uncover the behind-the-scenes history of the enigmatic and much discussed icy orb at the edge of our solar system. Today, William answers our questions about the outer Solar System.
Why do you think Pluto has so captured the public imagination since it was first identified by Clyde Tombaugh in the 1930s?
From times immemorial, there were five planets—wanderers—tracing movements across the starry background of the night sky. After the Copernican revolution, the Earth of course became a planet, like the others traveling around the Sun, but still Saturn marked the outer boundary of the Solar System, and the stars were at unfathomable distances beyond. This ancient picture changed in 1781, when William Herschel discovered Uranus. Suddenly the scale of the Solar System had doubled, and within a few short years other astronomers began to discover new planets, as they were then called; these were the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. Inspired either by the discovery of Uranus itself or by the first asteroids, Keats wrote the stirring lines,
“Then felt I like some watcher of the skies/When a new planet swims into his ken.”
Uranus began after a few years to wander inexplicably off course, and this led two mathematical investigators—John Couch Adams in England and Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier in France—to use the discrepancies in its movements to calculate the position of an unseen planet beyond—Neptune—whose optical discovery was made on the basis of these calculations in Berlin in September 1846. This was seen at the time as the greatest achievement of Newtonian celestial mechanics—the discovery of a planet, “with the stroke of a pen.” Adams and Le Verrier were duly enshrined in the pantheon of astronomical greats. Few developments in astronomy were awarded greater accolades than this, literal discovery of a new world.
Le Verrier himself thought that there might be another planet inside the orbit of Mercury, and even gave it a name, Vulcan; it does not exist, and never did—the movements for which its existence was invoked were explained by Einstein on the basis of the General Theory of Relativity in 1915. However, Uranus continued, apparently, to be wandering off course, even after Neptune was entered into the equations. Several astronomers, of whom Percival Lowell was the most celebrated, developed an elaborate program to track down another putative planet—Planet X—which might be indicating its presence as Neptune had done for Adams and Le Verrier. Lowell was an extraordinarily colorful and interesting figure, who is best remembered for founding the Southwest’s (and Arizona’s) first major observatory in Flagstaff, and for his exciting and provocative theories about the canals of Mars, which won over the general public (and inspired science fiction writers like Wells and Burroughs) but were harshly criticized by many professional astronomers. Lowell’s motivations in searching (secretively for the most part) for “X” were complex, and included the hope that recapitulating the great feat of Adams and Le Verrier would restore his prestige in the eyes of other astronomers. Unfortunately, Planet X was undiscovered when he died in November 1916.
The story of how later the search was resurrected at his observatory, how a self-taught farm boy from Kansas (Clyde Tombaugh) was hired to carry out the mind-numbing and backbreaking work of searching for it on photographic plates exposed in all weather under the stars, and how Clyde found a planet that at first was hailed as the incarnation of the icy planet of Percival’s dreams in 1930 provided the perfect coda to the story of frustrated ambition redeemed by faith and hard work. The planet was also the first discovered by an American, and came just as the Great Depression—and the rise of Fascism in Europe—were getting underway, so that the world, and Americans in particular, were in need of “good news.” In the end, Pluto proved to be a most peculiar planet, and was shown—rather definitively by Dale Cruikshank and David Morrison who in 1976 discovered the presence of methane ice on the surface—to be smaller than the Earth’s moon, and has now been seen as a kind of dual object—planetary in some ways, including rotundity and having an active (if extraordinarily odd) geology, but also the largest of the Kuiper Belt Objects which roam the outer Solar System.
What was the most surprising thing you uncovered during your research for Discovering Pluto?
The most surprising thing was what the New Horizons probe found when it passed by Pluto in July 2015. Most people, including me, had probably expected a cold and inert world, not perhaps unlike that the celebrated British astronomy writer Patrick Moore had invoked in 1955, “Beyond all doubt, Pluto is the loneliest and most isolated world in the Solar System—cut off from its fellows, plunged in everlasting dusk, silent, barren, and touched with the chill of death.” Far from it; instead, areas of Pluto show evidence of quite recent geological activity, with changing “land” forms that consist of exotic ices—including recently, methane ice dunes in Sputnik Planitia. It is also exciting to see—on an actual body in the Solar System—examples of the behavior of these ices that has already been elucidated in the laboratory.
You have written many books about planetary science, including Planet Mars. What keeps you coming back to writing these histories?
I have been fortunate in having been born just before Sputnik went into orbit around the Earth, and being consciously aware as the first spacecraft set out for the Moon and planets. I acquired my first small telescope in the mid-1960s, at a time when visual observations by amateur astronomers were still often better than the most detailed photographs by professional astronomers at the great observatories, and when it still seemed that amateurs might contribute usefully to their study. When I started out, Mariner 4 had not yet passed by Mars (July 1965, fifty years to the day before New Horizons made its Pluto flyby!), and it was still possible—just—to believe in Percival Lowell’s canals of Mars! Mariner 4—which showed there were craters on Mars—brought what seemed at the time to be a Great Disillusionment; almost like finding out (and I was at that age, just ten or so) that Santa Claus didn’t exist.
Robert Burnham, Jr, who wrote the Celestial Handbook series, and used the Pluto telescope for the proper motion study at Lowell Observatory in the 1960s, was a mentor, and encouraged me to look at Comet Ikeya-Seki in October 1965—it remains the most spectacular comet I have ever seen. This shows how important an interest of a professional can be in encouraging a young person. After a number of years, I was invited (in the summer of 1982) to Lowell as a guest investigator with a somewhat tentative project of trying to understand how observers like Lowell could have seen canals on Mars when obviously there are no canals. Art Hoag was the director then, and Bill Hoyt, who had written the landmark book Lowell and Mars published by University of Arizona Press, was in-residence historian. While there—and coming into contact with the observing books of Lowell and his associates, and seeing how their visions of canals gradually unfolded and became elaborated over time—and also observing directly through the Clark telescope they had used, I had a flash of insight—I was in the NAU library at the time; I remember it as if it were yesterday–that the key aspect no one had recognized was that because of fluctuating seeing the canals were seen only in brief intervals of a fraction of a second or so. All the observers of the canals—including Clyde Tombaugh, who graciously corresponded with me on his experiences—described this. Thus the phenomena of the canals could be related to experimental psychology. I had always been drawn to interdisciplinary work—this has become the fashion now but at the time represented an aspiration that was more honored in the breach than the observance, simply because the various disciplines had become so developed and complex that it was difficult for anyone to master them at the same time. In any case, I came away from Lowell with the thesis of a book—Planets and Perception—which I drafted during the summer of 1983, while living in a small town in southern Minnesota, just across from the Iowa border, with no resources more than those I brought with me and the Carnegie library with a six-foot shelf of books on astronomy, physics, and math. In retrospect, I think I was crazy to tackle such an ambitious project more or less alone and unaided; had I been in a graduate program, I might have worked for ten years on it, but I finished the draft in several months and then—put it away in a desk drawer as I began my medical studies.
Eventually, I got around to submitting it—and did so only to one publisher, the University of Arizona Press. Though they quailed a bit at the cross-disciplinary nature of the thing—and had to send it out to three academic reviewers, two astronomers and one psychologist!—they graciously accepted it. It was published thirty years ago in November, and I didn’t know what to expect. I was in my internship then. In January, I got a good review from Richard Baum in the Journal of the British Astronomical Association, which I remember reading in the on-call room, and thought that I was lucky to get that. By early May, I was at morning rounds on the psych service the VA in Minneapolis; the attending physician, Charlie Dean, who subscribed to Nature, rather casually congratulated me on the review the book had received in Nature by the renowned historian of science, Albert Van Helden. I was over the Moon. Of course, the book had many faults which I see only too clearly now—how could it not?—but proved to be quite seminal in its small way, and I will always be grateful to the University of Arizona Press for taking a chance with an unknown scholar and a very experimental piece of work and believing in it.
But to get back to your question, this book has defined my lifelong career interest—and until recently, when I retired, I have been both a practicing psychiatrist, interested in the brain and the way we “know,” and a historian of astronomy—and have found the history of Solar System studies during this period of time to be perhaps the most important thing we as a species have done. It has been our Parthenon, our Cathedrals. Obviously there are a lot of writers who understand this, and have devoted themselves to the documentation of this wonderful era, including many of the scientists who have been in the forefront of research (like Dale Cruikshank, my co-author of Discovering Pluto). But I think my background in psychiatry has given me a somewhat unique perspective on the human angle of this story, and that story—the exploration of the Solar System—is, after all, passionately and irreducibly a human story, whose grandeur and magnificence far exceeds the explorations (and too often bloody) conquests of previous eras. It collectively represents some of the best aspects of human nature, Something, I would add, that we desperately need to affirm and reaffirm at the present time, when it is too easy to be disillusioned about our species in light of some of its more unsavory aspects. These are things that keep drawing me back to this subject.
With the New Horizons space probe back in action after a 6-month break, what do you think will be the next chapter in Pluto’s history?
We are looking forward to New Horizons’ close approach to another KBO, MU69, which most of us expect to show only an ancient battered landscape. But as with Pluto, we are foolish not to expect to be pleasantly surprised, and perhaps we will discover fresh patches of surface exposed by a recent collision with another KBO, in which case we may have an opportunity to see deeper into the interior where so much of the early history of the Solar System lies hidden.
What are you working on now?
I have been working on a series of books on each of the planets for Reaktion Press in Great Britain—so far I have finished Jupiter and Mercury, and am on to Saturn. I am also working on a book on Mars with Jim Bell for the University of Arizona Press, who is the PI on the camera system for the 2020 Mars rover (and sample return mission). As with the Pluto book written with Dale, I will be covering mostly the historical backgrounds, in this case how we came to know Mars (including our long tendency to see it as the image of the Earth, or even of Arizona!), while Jim will take over the torch and bring to it his unrivaled knowledge of the spacecraft era. I always prefer, by the way, if possible, to work in collaboration, as it not only provides an opportunity for me to greatly extend the range of my own knowledge but also is as much more enjoyable for the shared companionship.
William Sheehan is a historian of astronomy and psychiatrist. His many books include Planets and Perception, Worlds in the Sky, and The Planet Mars, also published by the University of Arizona Press. Asteroid No. 16037 was named in his honor.
Interweaving discussions about the ethnic, racial, and linguistic representations of Latinas/os within network television comedies, Isabel Molina-Guzmán’s Latinas and Latinos on TV: Colorblind Comedy in the Post-racial Network Era probes published interviews with producers and textual examples from hit programs like Modern Family, The Office, and Scrubs to understand how these prime-time sitcoms communicate difference in the United States. Understanding the complex ways that audiences interpret these programs, Molina-Guzmán situates her analysis within the Obama era, a period when ethnicity and race became increasingly grounded in “hipster racism,” and argues that despite increased inclusion, the feel-good imperative of TV comedies still inevitably leaves racism, sexism, and homophobia uncontested:
Given the imperative to avoid controversy and broadcast programming able to attract the largest audience possible, the social and political context in which post-racial era comedy airs is central to understanding the role of colorblind ideology. For example, the first season of The Office was created, produced, and broadcasted at the peak of post–September 11th ethnic and racial tensions toward immigrants. Indeed, two months after “Diversity Day” aired, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Sensenbrenner Bill,” H. R. 4437, a bill targeting the U.S.–Mexico border and Mexican immigration as potential sites of terror. In this context, Carell’s deadpan delivery and Oscar’s angry but muted response potentially reinforce the show’s colorblind humor, a type of comedy that depends on audiences’ agreement, or at least familiarity, with the national anti-immigrant discourse and the white heteronormative values of the show. The network’s censorship decisions in this episode further illustrate the social boundaries of racial humor.
By the logic of the network’s censors, it is permissible to air comedy grounded in racist views about Mexicans, but it is not acceptable to equate racism with sexual aberrance and class on the air. Within the story arc of the series, Carell’s character is never demoted and rarely disciplined for his socially inappropriate and legally questionable actions.
The episode illustrates Doane’s (2014) observation that colorblind ideology in U.S. popular culture depends on the ability to see skin color and understand socially appropriate behavior even as audiences ignore the significance of color, race, or ethnicity to U.S. political and cultural life. As “Diversity Day” illustrates, the joke depends on Oscar’s ethnic identity as a Mexican American. The only two supporting characters originally written into the pilot were Kevin and African American office mate Stanley Hudson (Leslie David Baker). Although Nuñez is Afro-Cuban, the writers specifically developed his character as Mexican American. It may be reasonably concluded that the writers saw the actor’s and character’s ethnic identity as central to the production of the show. In another episode considered central to the development and success of the series, the character of Oscar, whom the writers decided to depict as a gay man after season 1, is accidentally outed by Michael (“The Gay Witch Hunt” 2006).
Colorblind humor is particularly effective for network television because it shifts social responsibility from the text and its production to the audience and its reception of the text. It is not the executives’ or producers’ problem, after all, if the biases of mainstream white audiences shape how they read the text. Yet, as Kristen Warner (2015) notes, colorblind ideology in U.S. popular culture depends on the everyday invisibility of white privilege, even as ethnic and racial inequalities persist. Changes in the writing of Michael’s character from the first season to the third further contribute to the erasure of whiteness and white male privilege. Throughout the first three seasons, the rudeness and more explicitly racial and ethnic prejudices of Michael’s character made him more culpable and less likeable to audiences. As the series progressed, Carell’s depiction of Michael softened, eventually giving way to a more sympathetic, well-meaning character who through no fault of his own is an ingénue when it comes to ethnic, racial, gender, and sexual difference. Michael’s character is, as Warner describes, the result of white prejudice as “rare and aberrational rather than systemic and ingrained” (8). Michael’s character becomes the symbol of implicit individual bias rather than the racist production of white privilege. By the end of the series, it is the character’s ridiculous behavior (and not his status as a white heterosexual man) that is the primary source of laughter. The success of The Office’s comedy depends on the mainstreaming of colorblind ideology on entertainment TV.
Post-racial-era TV comedy is characterized by the absence of the laugh track and the colorblind approach to ethnic and racial difference that provide the setup for the comedy of hipster racism, a colorblind form of comedy that depends on racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual differences. Hipster racism reinforces the colorblind values even as the characters’ differences are increasingly central to the production of laughter. The colorblind values of contemporary comedies together with the use of hipster racism make it possible for audiences to hold contradictory readings of television scripts, interpretations that release audiences of white guilt or social discomfort yet create a contested space of visibility and subversive pleasure for audiences of color (Doane 2014).
Returning to “Diversity Day” as an example, the ethnic, racial, gender, and sexual humor in The Office almost exclusively revolves around Michael’s socially inappropriate behavior and beliefs and the ensemble’s improvised responses or lack of responses to Michael’s prejudicial assumptions about race, gender, and sexuality. The focus on Michael’s individual ethnic, racial, and sexual transgressions is one of the main adaptations the U.S. writers of The Office made to the original British comedy. Throughout the series, the writers position Carell’s character in opposition to his unwilling antagonist, the socially conscious human resource officer Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein, a writer on the show). In the series, Lieberstein’s subdued and apathetic Toby is routinely called in to legally intercede with regard to the racist, sexist, and/or homophobic behavior of Carell’s emotionally exaggerated Michael. In the series narrative, the hostile work climate created by Carell’s character is never depicted as the institutional result of white patriarchal culture and heteronormative privilege, but rather as another joke to illustrate the individual flaws of Michael Scott, the self-centered boss.
The comedic writing that surrounded Carell’s character points to a key characteristic of the post-racial TV era: the normalizing of hipster racism. A central component of the normalization of hipster racism is the development of sympathetic yet socially flawed white lead characters. Using racism as a form of comedy is not a new convention. As Angela Kinsey, who played Angela on the show, recognized of “Diversity Day”: “Whenever I read our scripts, there were so many that we did that were part of the cringe humor. I think Archie Bunker did that on All in the Family, which is a super old call-back because I’m an old lady [laughs]. But one of your lead characters is inappropriate, you get to call them out on their crap. Say, ‘No, that’s wrong, dude!’” (Burns and Schildhause 2015b). Evoking All in the Family as a referent is interesting because communication research on the program documented the way audiences read the show as both a critique of racism and as an affirmation of racist views (Wilson, Gutiérrez, and Chao 2013). The primary difference is that while the laugh track on All in the Family (1971–79) directly cued audiences to when it was socially acceptable to laugh, post-racial era comedies do not provide any explicit cues. In The Office there are no such explicit cues, and Michael’s character is rarely explicitly called out for his assumptions. Indeed, most of the time his transgressions are met with silence and stares of disbelief by the characters.
Instead, the use of racism, sexism, and homophobia as humor in post-racial era comedies depends on a more ambiguous set of codes to signal socially appropriate laughter. For example, the humor around the famously improvised kiss between Carell and Nuñez is dependent on the actors’ physical performance, audiences’ familiarity with the narrative and character history of the show, prior knowledge of the relationship between the characters, and their own experiences and ability to relate to the characters in the scene (see figure 2). In the season 3 episode “Gay Witch Hunt,” Michael is unaware of Oscar’s sexual identity until Toby disciplines him for using the word “faggy.” The next scene cuts to Michael’s confessional interview: “I would have never called him that if I knew. You know. You don’t call retarded people retards. It’s bad taste. You call your friends retards when they are acting retarded. And I consider Oscar a friend.” The creative decision to depict the show’s lead character as equating gay people to people who are developmentally delayed is an example of the normalization of hipster racism.
Carell’s emotionally sincere delivery of the potentially offensive monologue effectively produces sympathy for Michael. Where some audience members might cringe at the comedic use of the socially charged term “faggy,” others might welcome the term as a critique of progressive demands for “political correctness.” Published interviews with the show’s creators, writers, and actors make clear their awareness of the social boundaries around diversity and inclusion. For audiences familiar with gray-and white-collar workplace policies regarding sexual harassment and discrimination, Carell’s performance pokes satiric fun of the institutional privileging of multiculturalism. At the same time, the effectiveness of hipster racism depends on a shared agreement that the white lead character’s flaws are socially innocent and not institutionally and intentionally systemic. Doing so reaffirms television comedy’s commonsense logic of colorblindness as it reduces racism, sexism, and homophobia to individual pathology rather than the effect of systemic and structural inequalities.
Hipster racism in a workplace comedy provides the producers increased agency to portray socially unacceptable and legally actionable behaviors and language, and it is that cultural transgression that produces the humor. The production of hipster racism depends on scripting potentially controversial or politically risky moments of humor, such as having Michael apologize to Oscar for calling him “faggy” in front of his fellow office workers, thereby outing the socially conservative Oscar. The editing and nonverbal performances of the ensemble cast reinforce the transgressions. First, the camera cuts from Carell to observe the religious and socially conservative Angela sanitizing her hands as she glares at Oscar. Then the camera pans to Oscar’s silent response of disgust and disbelief. In published interviews on the improvisational nature of The Office, Nuñez points to the above scene as an effective example of the ensemble’s collaborations around socially inappropriate comedy. For the socially conscious humor embedded in the nonverbal interactions between the actors in this scene to work, it depends on some audiences’ familiarity with homophobic stereotypes of gay men as diseased and homosexuality as physically infectious. In this reception context, Angela’s display of prejudiced ignorance is the butt of the joke. But it is the silence that also produces hipster racism, or in this instance hipster homophobia. The writers’ decision to make the interaction nonverbal enhances the comic ambiguity necessary to produce hipster racism or in this case hipster homophobia. In the episode’s concluding interview, Oscar reveals that he was more amused than offended by Michael’s public apology and that he filed a grievance against Michael for which he was compensated with paid leave. The scripting of the episode and the way that Nuñez’s character ultimately benefits from being the target of homophobia further justifies post-racial values by shifting the social burden of prejudice and discrimination to the individual and highlighting the ways the system benefits and protects minorities.
Colorblind comedy produces a marketable interpretative ambiguity through contradictions in the show’s writing and character development. Indeed, part of NBC’s investment in The Office was the program’s ability to bring in a young, highly educated audience, similar in profile to the Scrubs audience but consistently larger. Such an audience might not care about or be concerned with contemporary social norms and mores, but these audiences are at least aware of socially appropriate behavior and contemporary identity politics. It must also be recognized that audiences of post-racial era comedies are not likely to identify as white supremacists, because white supremacist audiences do not generally watch mainstream television programming (King 2014). Rather, audiences of post-racial era comedies are the type that understand hipster humor is socially inappropriate and see themselves as socially conscious, even though they may also be equally uncomfortable with changes in sexual culture, ethnic and racial demographics, and the ever-shifting terrain of identity politics in the United States. Much the way All in the Family did for its audience, post-racial era comedies allow white audiences to laugh at or even sympathize with racist, sexist, or homophobic language and behavior as these are normalized as the result of individuals’ inability to adjust to the “new” mores of a more socially conscious culture.
The International Latino Book Awards are produced by Latino Literacy Now, a nonprofit organization co-founded in 1997 by Edward James Olmos and Kirk Whisler. A full list of finalists is available here. Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on September 8, 2018, in Los Angeles.
Matuk (This Isa Nice Neighborhood) addresses his daughter in his second collection, a lyrical interrogation of Western notions of gender, race, and manifest destiny, as well as the dubious authority of parenthood in a turbulent political landscape where “the sky behaves itself/ with just enough war over us.”… Matuk conveys how Western ideology informs the father’s concern for how a daughter will “bear power’s projections,” and tender paternal observations provide humorous respite from moments of violence: “like if parenting is a thing are you childing us who gave you a face.” Matuk presents parental awareness as a sensory informational superhighway, “a picking at the earth’s curved surface and all laid on it.” Read the full review.
Last weekend we attended the tenth annual meeting of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA), the largest scholarly organization devoted to Indigenous issues, communities, and research. Indigenous studies is a key area for the University of Arizona Press, and we’ve been attending this meeting since its inception. It’s exciting to see how attendance has grown, and we appreciate the opportunity to meet scholars from around the world and learn more about important issues in Indigenous studies.
This year’s meeting in downtown Los Angeles had a fantastic turnout and a roster of fascinating panels. As always, we were delighted to see UAP authors and other friends of the Press. Thanks to all who stopped by and to the organizers for a great conference!
Addressing legal issues, human rights issues, and tribal sovereignty as they relate to Indigenous criminal and social justice, Northern Arizona University’s Marianne O. Nielsen and Karen Jarratt-Snider argue that the American criminal and social justice system neglects American Indians, who have a unique political and legal status given that their justice issues “are rooted in colonialism.” Their edited volume, Crime and Social Justice in Indian Country analyzes issues such as Indigenous identity, the Indian Child Welfare Act, stalking, American Indian collegiate athletes, sterilization, violence, gambling and crime, and juvenile justice. Recently, Publishers Weekly spotlighted the volume’s “passion and purpose”:
The essays from the eight Native American contributors to this anthology of works about the challenges facing those living in “Indian Country” consider a broad range of topics, including the criminal justice system’s treatment of Native Americans, misperceptions among non-Natives that a connection exists between Native gaming and crime, and the systemic sterilization of Native American women as late as the 1960s and ’70s. Several examine the consequences of the legal stipulation that Native Americans who are not enrolled in tribes or whose tribes are not recognized by the federal government do not have the same rights and protections as those enrolled in federally recognized tribes, which include the denial of sovereignty over tribal matters. Still others examine ways forward for Native American communities faced with difficult cultural issues; for example, successful strategies for countering violence against women and ensuring placement of orphaned Native children with other members of the same tribe. Read the full review.
Innovation is one of our core values at the University of Arizona Press. This means tackling some of the toughest problems in scholarly publishing, be it alone, with our colleagues at the University of Arizona Libraries, or with colleagues around the world.
No problem is tougher than finding business models that maintain the high standards of monograph publishing that are the hallmark of university presses while increasing access to content. The average cost of publishing a high-quality digital-only monograph ranges from $28,747 to $39,892, depending on what is included in the calculation, according to research published in The Costs of Publishing Monographs. How can we cover these costs while reducing or even eliminating costs for readers?
The University of Arizona Press is committed to improving access. We seek external funding for every book we publish to keep prices as reasonable as we can, and up to two thirds of the books we publish each year receive some form of external support. Meanwhile, with the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation we are building a platform for open monograph publishing at the University of Arizona. Under the Open Arizona project, we will make some two dozen currently out-of-print Latinx and Indigenous studies titles available as free ebooks as part of the larger Humanities Open Book Program, jointly sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The project will not only allow us to make previously inaccessible content available for free, it allows us to experiment with and refine new workflows for open-access publishing.
We are also proud to be participating in the fifth pledging round of Knowledge Unlatched (KU). Knowledge Unlatched is a global crowdfunding initiative supported by more than 500 libraries. Its aim is to make Open Access for books and journals sustainable in all disciplines of science and research. It helps libraries to shift their budgets from traditional acquisition patterns to supporting OA on a larger scale. Six press titles have been chosen for KU Select 2018.
“KU only works because publishers like the University of Arizona Press submit excellent content that appeals to researchers and librarians worldwide,” says Dr. Sven Fund, KU’s managing director. “We are glad to see strong usage of the open content funded in prior rounds, and we are glad to see a lot of sympathy and support for our work worldwide.”
Libraries can pledge their support for Knowledge Unlatched and the University of Arizona Press’s titles between now and the end of November 2018 at the KU Select site. Look for more information about Open Arizona this fall. Together, these are just some of the innovations we’re making to continue to connect scholarship and creative expression to readers worldwide.
As part of the weekend’s Wall Street Journal Bookshelf News, renowned science journalist and book reviewer Marcia Bartusiak highlighted two of the season’s important new books on the New Horizons project, the first mission to the Pluto System and the Kuiper Belt, including William Sheehan and Dale Cruikshank’s UA Press title Discovering Pluto:
While “Chasing New Horizons” is largely focused on the origin and development of the mission itself, “Discovering Pluto,” by Dale P. Cruikshank and William Sheehan, offers the backstory of the explorations of our solar system’s most remote regions. I came to think of the books as a flight of wins: “Chasing New Horizon’s” is the starter, nimble and refreshing, with “Discovering Pluto” offering deeper tones, scientific details that can be savored more slowly. Read the full review.
We are thrilled to share the news that Tim Z. Hernandez’s documentary novel All They Will Call You has been selected as the California State University, Chico and Butte College Book in Common for the 2018–2019 academic year.
The Book in Common is “a shared community read, designed to promote discussion and understanding of important issues facing the broader community. It is chosen each year by a group of CSU, Chico and Butte College faculty and staff and members of the local community. As in past years, CSU, Chico, Butte College, the City of Chico, and Butte County will sponsor panel discussions, lectures, and other public events to celebrate and promote the Book in Common.”
In the announcement, California State University, Chico President Gayle Hutchinson said, “We are committed to the Book in Common and to using a shared reading experience not only to educate ourselves on important subjects, but also to bring us together as a community to engage in conversations about issues of our time. Tim Hernandez’s compelling book serves these purposes beautifully, exploring the subjects of immigration, identity, and disenfranchisement through the exploration of 1948 tragedy.” Butte College President Samia Yaqub said the book’s “themes of immigration and labor . . . still resonate deeply in California,” adding, “This is a book that speaks to our time and place.”
We at the Press are tremendously honored by this recognition. Congratulations, Tim!
Born in Sonora, Mexico, Ariel Zatarain Tumbaga is a scholar of Mexican and Chicana/o Indigenous literature and culture. He has a PhD in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of California Los Angeles. His book Yaqui Indigeneity: Epistemology, Diaspora, and the Construction of Yoeme Identity , published in March, is the first book-length study of the representation of the Yaqui nation in literature. Last month Ariel sat down with Ed Battistella and the blog Literary Ashland for a Q & A about his work:
Ed Battistella: Congratulations on your book. Can you tell our readers a bit about it? What fascinates you about Yoeme Identity and the trope of the Yaqui warrior?
Ariel Zatarain Tumbaga: Thank you Ed. Yaqui Indigeneity: Epistemology, Diaspora, and the Construction of Yoeme Identity is a study of the representation of the Yoeme (or Yaqui) indigenous nation in Mexican and Chicana/o (Mexican American) literatures. In it, I study Native depictions with an emphasis on Yaqui history and culture. Until now, there has not been a book length study on this community’s representation in literature, despite their historical and political importance in Mexico, and their presence in the United States. Yaqui Indigeneity is also unique in that it looks to Yoeme history, cosmology, and traditional ceremonies (oral tradition known as etehoi and dance) as a basis for its literary analysis. Finally, it identifies a group of authors that I call Chicana/o-Yaqui writers, who are the sons and daughters of the Yoeme diaspora, often a direct result of… see the complete Q & A.
You’ve probably not seen me, but chances are pretty great that you’ve come across some of my work this spring. My name is Nathaniel Barry, and I’m writing this as one of my final duties for the Marketing internship at the University of Arizona Press. As an English major, I plan to go into the field of Advertising and Public Relations, creating copy for professional ballet and theatre companies across the United States.
I remember, once, not getting hired for a certain marketing internship because my knowledge of literature was, quoted directly, “very Eurocentric.” While I understood what that statement literally meant, I had a hard time figuring out the communicative implications of it. Can I be blamed for my exposure—or lack thereof—to minority authors? After all, I’ve been reading exactly what my teachers have assigned, so what’s the fault?
The fault, indeed, was in my choice, conscious or not, to avoid expanding my horizons. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates that just over 800,000 books are published across the world each year; I’m lucky if I read maybe fifteen of them. I made the decision this semester to change that fault, and start my marketing career with a publishing house that was already in the mindset I wanted to embrace.
The University of Arizona Press works diligently to vocalize underrepresented authors from all backgrounds. They are the premier publisher for scholarly work from the fields of anthropology, archaeology, environmental science, history, Indigenous studies, Latinx studies, Latin American studies, and space studies in the state of Arizona. In just one semester, I’ve worked with around thirty authors, each differing in needs surrounding their upcoming titles. I’ve arranged press opportunities, reviewed course adoptions, solicited book reviews, and have been secretly updating the UA Press Instagram page!
More than anything, I’ve been cultivating experiences with authors. I’ve been listening to their stories, reading their books (or at least snippets), and figuring out what works best for them as writers. I could say that’s just the “customer service” in me, but everyone at the Press carries this attitude. I’ve always viewed marketing in a certain sort of way: marketing isn’t about selling the consumer something, it’s about developing a relationship that makes the consumer want to buy. It’s kind of like when your best friend buys you a coffee.
Or when your grandmother cooks you dinner even though you ate an hour ago.
The Press is like a family—that’s more what I’m trying to get at. During my internship, I’ve felt needed, useful, and like I’ve made a difference in the lives of those recently-published authors, whether it was their first book or their twelfth. What I’ve truly loved most about working with the Press is the experience it’s provided me and the people that I’ve met along the way.
And when I reflect on this past spring with the University of Arizona Press, that’s what stands out the most: listening to the experiences of these underrepresented authors, and sharing in the culture they’ve spent their entire lives cultivating.
One last time,
Thinking about a career in publishing? University of Arizona Press interns are exposed to the many facets of book publishing, including insight into how manuscript projects are submitted, reviewed, and selected for publication; the process of editing, designing, and producing a book; and the various aspects involved with marketing and advertising new titles. Visit our internship program page for more information on opportunities to get involved.
Last week the University of Arizona’s Department of Mexican American Studies (MAS) celebrated their inaugural presentation of the Saber es Poder-IME Academic Excellence Award in Mexican American Studies. The new award recognizes the world’s leading scholars who have dedicated their careers to advancing the interdisciplinary field of Mexican American Studies.
This year’s recipient, Dr. Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez, is the author of four books published by the University of Arizona Press. In his introduction to the award, UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Dean John Paul (JP) Jones III said, “Dr. Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez [is] a legend in the field of Mexican American Studies, which he helped to establish. He has had a remarkable career distinguished by both a passion to break orthodox academic boundaries and to produce scholarship that enhances the lives of the less privileged.”
More than 150 scholars and community members came together for the lively event. Congratulations to Carlos on this much-deserved recognition!
The Society for American Archaeology’s eighty-third annual meeting brought more than 5,000 archaeologists from across the Americas and around the globe to Washington, D.C. In keeping with the location, several panels delved into critical topics around legislation and its effects on archaeologists. Panels on Bears Ears, the Antiquities Act, colonialism, heritage programs, collaborative archaeology, and much more infused the meeting with energy and conversation.
Several authors stopped by our booth to say hello and showcase their work to their colleagues. The meeting was fantastic, and we can’t wait to see everyone in Albuquerque for SAA 2019!
The Fisher Prize Fisher Prize honors books that contribute an innovative and lucid written account of Himalayan studies research. In the words of the prize committee, “River Dialogues uses ethnographic methods of journalistic realism to explore the ongoing debate over the Ganga river’s natural and constructed future. A remarkable book, River Dialogues examines how women in particular protest the building of hydroelectric dams on the sacred river and the private industries and government efforts to build them in Uttarakhand, an officially designated conservation zone.”
ANHS is the oldest academic organization devoted to the study of the Himalaya in the United States. Congratulations to all of the honorees!
Lawrence R. Walker and Frederick H. Landau are plant ecologists who have 65 years between them living in the Mojave Desert. Together, they co-wroteA Natural History of the Mojave Desert. Today, they share what they see as the future for the desert they love, and why they embarked on writing the book.
Protected areas are marked with lines on a map. However, many disruptions, whether natural or anthropogenic in origin, are unaffected by boundaries. The construction of roads or solar power plants might be stopped by a fence, but the spread of droughts, fires, or climate change is not. Invasive plant and animal species could, theoretically, be controlled at boundaries, but in practice the invasion front is usually too diffuse to monitor closely. In addition, species ranges are now shifting with climate change, further complicating designations on a map. Therefore, natural resource protection must be addressed at regional and broader spatial scales. Further, such protection is most successful when it represents an integrated response from multiple groups. Government and nongovernment agencies, scientists, managers, residents, and visitors all have a vital role in the creation of a best-case scenario for the future of the Mojave Desert. Government leads public discussions and then sets policy; nongovernment groups act as watchdogs for the development and implementation of policy; scientists ask questions, conduct research, and supply knowledge to guide policy choices; managers integrate many demands into practical approaches; residents lobby for permanent, balanced compromises between resource use and abuse; and visitors support wise management choices when they pay to visit natural areas. Finally, educators inform about process, decisions, and policy and lead the promulgation of values to the next generation.
The future of the natural resources of the Mojave Desert is hard to predict. Certainly, challenges lie ahead as the region likely becomes hotter and drier but possibly sees more frequent summer rains. Depending on their intensity and duration, these monsoonal rains might lead to increased erosion. Organisms that can move rapidly enough will move, north or to higher elevations, for example. Focused mostly on our own needs, humans will also adapt to the future. We have technological tools that will help us improve water extraction and conservation. We have social tools that will help us reconfigure our societies around a hotter, drier climate. But what we hope will also be utilized are the ecological tools that natural systems provide. Our human creations are often based on natural models: dam construction and consequences from beavers; flight mechanics and efficiencies from birds; cooling techniques from colonial insects and leaf anatomy. It is our hope that we can also take the lessons of our senses, our aesthetic appreciation of the Mojave Desert to help mold a livable, inspiring future for ourselves. Finally, we hope that the future that we help shape keeps as many as possible of the myriad desert organisms and their ecosystems intact.
In A Natural History of the Mojave Desert we attempted to convey our enthusiasm about the natural history of the Mojave Desert. We hope that we succeeded. We used the writing process as an excuse to reexamine our relationship with our environs, visiting old haunts and discovering many new ones. What follows are some final musings, including our hope that you begin or continue your own personal exploration of this remarkable Desert.
We traveled the edges of the desert, trying to sort out where to draw a boundary line. We asked people at those amorphous edges: “Do you live in the Mojave Desert?” We got lots of interesting answers, reinforcing our original belief that such edges are mostly artificial human constructs. But just like so much in ecology and natural history, what cannot be easily delineated or defined still has a distinct reality. That reality is shaped by geology, geography, climate, and organisms, including humans. On big spatial scales, the collisions of crustal plates shaped our mountains in long, linear, north-south rows. Wetter climates in the past filled the basins between the mountain ranges with vast lakes interconnected by rivers. All of those lakes eventually dried up and are now salt flats. Three of the rivers that are fed from wetter uplands outside the Mojave Desert still flow. The largest, the mighty Colorado River, has been damned to create three new lakes or reservoirs that impact aquatic and terrestrial organisms and many human activities in the region. The Mojave River is dammed near its source and rarely reaches its onetime outlet, Soda Lake. The Amargosa River, as intermittent as it is, still supports a national hotspot of biodiversity, Ash Meadows.
These deserts are vast open spaces, mostly unobstructed by buildings or even trees. At night, the stars are pinpricks of silver light, pulling us to muse on what lies beyond. By day, we are presented with the gentle pastels of the surrounding environments: the coral-colored hills, the dark, tear-stained streaks of desert varnish, the red sands of eroded Aztec sandstone, and the striking black of rugged basalt. The Mojave Desert is a spare place. The land will not support the people, animals, and plants that other lands can. But it is a place where one can breathe deeply, and be unhurried and inquisitive. As Joseph Wood Krutch has written, deserts are a place where one kind of scarcity is compatible with, and maybe necessary for, another kind of plenty.
Our book mentions many of our observations and joys while exploring the Mojave Desert and we will continue our adventures into the future. But now we urge you to step away from your computer and explore. Take a water bottle and your own curiosity and, whether it is your first or one hundredth time on this terrain, parts of the Mojave Desert will open up to you as if for the first time. We hope that you go out and experience the peaceful satisfaction that comes from a walk in the desert.
Lawrence R. Walker is a professor of plant ecology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is the (co)author or (co)editor of nine previous books, including The Biology of Disturbed Habitats. Frederick H. Landau is a research associate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Walker and Landau have twenty-five years of scientific collaboration that includes projects in Nevada, New Zealand, and Puerto Rico. They both enjoy hiking and back-road adventures throughout the Mojave Desert.
In her dazzling new collection Bright Raft in the Afterweather, Jennifer Elise Foerster confronts humanity’s dangerous ecological imbalance, immersing readers in a narrative of disorientation and reintegration. She recently answered five questions from her editor Scott De Herrera about her work:
A number of recurring figures from your previous work continue to inhabit the poems throughout this collection. How do their journeys compare to yours as a writer?
I appreciate that you ask about the journeys of these figures, as to me they are quite their own figures. Sometimes their journeys are a silhouette of mine; other times they diverge into places I can’t see. Magdalena appeared under many guises in the first book – the woman in the blue dress by the gas station, a reflection of myself in the mirror, birds . . . I’m not sure where she is now, still hovering in mirages, I think. She is what is almost visible. Hoktvlwv was present in the first book, but I didn’t meet her until I reached the coastline, when I moved to San Francisco from New Mexico in 2005. The second book developed from that edge of the continent, even though I wrote it while living in Colorado over the past three years. The poems and figures usually form themselves after I have encountered them—they are like the afterweather, I suppose, of a journey.
You employ a vocabulary and diction that reveals an intimate knowledge of science and the environment. In what ways did this inform your use of imagery as you rendered the worlds occupied by each character?
I wish I had a clearer knowledge of science and the environment—this is one of my goals, in fact. I’d like to take some classes in geology, astronomy, physics, and ecology. I feel my sense about the environment is only intuitive, and there is so much to learn. The imagery of these poems arrived out of my sense of the environment. If I were a painter, I would paint natural landscapes, atmospheres . . . I’m just not as compelled by the visible world of human-made things, including how we appear as people. I think this translates into why I write what I write. The characters of the poems are suffused by their ecologies and energy systems, including those systems we can’t see.
One of the issues you confront is that of ecological imbalance and the health of the planet. How can poetry contribute to the broader discussion surrounding climate change and humanity’s impact on the Earth?
This is something I think about all the time. I am haunted by the worry that poetry is not, right now, effective enough. This may be a version of my own sense of inadequacy in effecting broader healing. But I do deeply believe that poetry has the potential to transform us if we embrace it in our society as a way of seeing and comprehending. The poem can innovate language to expand the possibility of comprehension, to reorganize the perception of the known and imaginary. Poetry it is, I believe, the only word-based language that can transform us in this way, that can reveal the invisible landscapes, histories, and stories that we’ve forgotten, that we need to remember in order to continue. When I say “transform” I’m talking about healing, which naturally involves ecological balance. Despite my worries, I am still writing poetry, and will continue to, because I believe in its possibility. Poetry is especially needed in this country, which has written over and attempted the erasures of the continent’s long-standing dynamic cultures, peoples, and ecosystems. We must insist on poetry as part of our conversations and educational systems. I don’t know the most effective way to do it, but this is the work I’m committed to.
Can you tell us the story behind the visual “word hurricanes” at the opening of each section?
These four visual pieces (I like that you call them “word hurricanes!”) are from a book I made called “Of.” About two years ago I reviewed all of my unpublished poems (many of which became poems in this book), and realized I had a concerning habit. I counted hundreds of “of” constructions through the poems! To break this habit, I thought I’d exhaust it, so I made up a method of reorganizing all of these constructions, and used Excel, a printer/scanner, and scissors to make a book of these “hurricanes.” I have only an original version of this book – since I made each page manually there isn’t any digital evidence of its process. Preserving a few of these pieces in Bright Raft felt like a way to acknowledge the book’s swirling origins. Also, the pieces feel like weather—the way words transmute in our processing of patterns.
What topics or trends in literature excite you the most as a poet?
I’m excited about cross-genre work coming out, especially the poem-essay.
Jennifer Elise Foerster is an alumna of the Institute of American Indian Arts, received her MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is a PhD candidate in English and Creative Writing at the University of Denver. Foerster is the recipient of a 2017 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Writing Residency Fellowship, and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University. A member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, Foerster is the author of one previous book of poems, Leaving Tulsa.
AWP, or the Association of Writers & Writing Programs if you’re not into the whole brevity thing, is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster literary achievement and advance the art of writing as an essential component of education and stewardship. Each year more than 10,000 writers, students, educators, editors, and publishers gather in attendance at AWP’s annual conference to immerse themselves in the larger writing community, networking with fellow authors and industry insiders.
This year’s meeting found us in Tampa. For four days the local convention center, pleasantly situated along the Hillsborough River at the southwest edge of Tampa’s downtown district, was overrun with writers, its labyrinth of walkways, meeting rooms, and common areas monopolized entirely by the conference. Likewise, attendees filled their agendas to capacity, spending each day engaged in a myriad of presentations, panels, focused discussions, and readings.
Beyond the multitude of scheduled events outlined in the conference program, perhaps the biggest attraction at AWP is the bookfair. Held in an astonishingly vast assembly hall large enough to rival your local supercenter, the bookfair is a marketplace comprised of more than 800 exhibitors from literary presses and journals, universities, creative writing programs, and other related organizations. It is here attendees assemble in droves, drifting from one booth to the next until something, or someone, piques their interest. Everyone knows this is the spot. The place to be. It’s where friends and colleagues alike congregate between panels, where you can run into your favorite author, where discounted books can be bought on the cheap (a small mercy to the many students in attendance), and where you just might find the future publisher of your manuscript. In other words, the bookfair provides the optimal setting for The University of Arizona Press to interact with readers and writers through a shared passion for books.
As an exhibitor at AWP and other similar conferences, our primary aim is, of course, to meet with current and prospective authors, and to showcase a modest suite of relevant new and notable titles. But beyond just the sales and networking opportunities, easily the best thing about attending these meetings is getting to witness from the ground floor all the positive energy and enthusiasm surrounding the books we publish. I think for many of us working in this industry, it’s easy to become so entrenched in the day-to-day workload, always looking forward, moving from one project to the next, that we often forget to take a step back and reflect on everything that brought us here. So being able to see a reader’s excitement as they eagerly browse through the booth, or catch a momentary glimpse of unbridled pride on an author’s face when they show their book off to a friend, or hear firsthand about the extraordinary impact one of our titles has had on someone, is a beautiful reminder to pause every once in a while and appreciate the work we’ve done and its value to the community.
Speaking of communities, though the Press typically flies solo at these meetings, this year we deviated from that tradition by partnering with the Latinx Writers Caucus in a shared booth. This collaboration was the result of several conversations I’d had with writer and poet Ruben Quesada at last year’s meeting. As we discussed our work, trading insights and comparing notes on the various efforts our organizations make to connect with the community, it became abundantly clear how similar our missions really are. The Caucus and Press both strive to shine a spotlight on Latinx writers and provide a platform for their words to be heard. We work with many of the same authors, scholars, educators, and publishing professionals, and we both share a profound respect and admiration for the unprecedented richness and depth of talent within the Latinx community. Put simply, we’re part of the same family. So when presented with the option of working in unity at AWP this year, it seemed only natural that we take advantage of the opportunity.
To say the endeavor was a success would be an understatement. Not a minute went by, it seemed, our booth wasn’t bursting with writers, poets, and ardent readers. Some of the Press’s many wonderful authors and friends dropped by to catch up or say hello, including Rigoberto González, Allison Hedge Coke, Emmy Pérez, Jennifer Foerster, Urayoán Noel, Sergio Troncoso, and Francisco Aragón, to name a few. Every day was met with a full schedule of book signings organized by members from the Latinx Writers Caucus, featuring a host of remarkable writers such as Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, Claudia Castro Luna, Rita Maria Martinez, Ariel Francisco, Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, and Javier Zamora. The excitement concentrated around the booth was contagious; I couldn’t help but watch as it permeated throughout the bookfair, drawing more and more people in all the time.
Another particularly noteworthy detail captured my attention over the course of the meeting, an unmistakable sense of closeness within this community, evidenced in how its members connect with one another, share experiences and exchange ideas, and elevate each other’s work through a collective voice. I think that’s one of the defining features that makes this community special. So many of the authors emerging from what is a relatively small corner of the market continue to have a profound influence on the broader readership, and the need for their works is undeniable. The Press is tremendously proud to be part of this community, and we remain forever grateful for all their encouragement and support. Thank you especially, Alexandra Lytton Regalado, Suzi F. Garcia, and Ruben Quesada, for sharing the love, and for working with us to make AWP 2018 such a great success. I look forward to seeing how far we’ve come the next time our paths cross again.
Scott DeHerrera Associate Editor, University of Arizona Press
One of the eight crew members locked in Biosphere 2 during its first closure experiment, UA Press author Mark Nelson had an active visit to Tucson this past weekend. He participated in two panels at the Tucson Festival of Books as well as multiple signings across the University of Arizona campus, and was a crowd favorite following his appearance on the cover of last week’s Tucson Weekly.
One of the many highlights of his trip was presenting his new book Pushing Our Limits as part of the University of Arizona Libraries’ annual luncheon at the Arizona Inn the Monday following the festival. Nelson offered luncheon attendees a rare and compelling insider’s view of the dramatic story behind the mini-world and cleared up a few common misconceptions about the 1991–1993 closure experiment. Today we look back at some of the highlights of that talk:
Photos courtesy Aengus Anderson
March 14, 2018
An estimated 130,000 book lovers attended this weekend’s 10th annual Tucson Festival of Books. It was a very busy weekend for the Press, with more than twenty of our authors participating in panels, readings, and booth signings. Today we look back at some of the highlights of the two-day event:
The tents are up and we’re eagerly putting the final touches together for what is sure to be a Tucson Festival of Books for the record books. In the last decade, the Tucson Festival of Books has become one of the city’s most anticipated events. With over 400 authors and an estimated 130,000 attendees, the Festival symbolizes the importance of togetherness and community, facilitated through books and the shared love of reading.
The University of Arizona Press is proud to have been a part of the Festival since its inception in 2009 and we look forward to continuing to bring diverse voices in literature to the Old Pueblo. We are thrilled to have more than twenty authors participating in this year’s Festival.
Mass deportation is currently at the forefront of political discourse in the United States. Edited by Jeremy Slack, Daniel E. Martínez, and Scott Whiteford with photographs by Murphy Woodhouse,The Shadow of the Wall underscores the unintended social consequences of increased border enforcement, immigrant criminalization, and deportation along the U.S.-Mexico border. Today we feature an excerpt from the book’s introduction, in which the editors explain their work to reveal the real impact that mass removal to Mexico has on people’s lives:
Requests for $30 billion in additional border and immigration enforcement spending under the Hoeven-Corker amendment to Senate Bill 744 of 2013, Donald Trump’s absurd call for a “wall” along the nearly two-thousand-mile southwestern border, and an additional fifteen thousand immigration agents are mainstays of today’s political debates. However, because the United States already spends more than $18 billion per year on border and immigration enforcement (Associated Press 2013), it is important to examine more closely what this spending entails. Calls for more enforcement are rarely, if ever, followed by a critical understanding of what is actually being spent and what it is doing to the border. Because of this, a more progressive response—one that asserts the border is already secure—is almost as problematic in that it gives carte blanche to continue the activities currently occurring in the name of border enforcement as if they are successful. The very policies and practices taking place along the border have produced unheard-of levels of violence, higher death rates, and a mass incarceration machine that has been criminalizing migrants and locking up asylum seekers in for-profit prisons that lobby for increased enforcement and harsher penalties.
The implementation of the Consequence Delivery System (CDS) in 2011, a program designed to guide agents into delivering punishment based on the level of offenses committed by migrants, is an appropriate lens through which to view contemporary border and immigration enforcement. The CDS generates escalating punishments for those with more apprehensions in the hopes that they will not return. While it is important to note that the dangers of the physical geography of the border are certainly still an important part of the strategic plan, the CDS is a significant shift in policy. The strategy has changed. The “Gatekeeper Era,” characterized by the “prevention through deterrence” strategy in the 1990s and early 2000s, was predicated on a general deterrence strategy. Instead of relying solely on physical barriers, the extreme temperatures, long walks, and other natural hazards of the desert and river to deter migrants, the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) now wields the full force of the carceral state against migrants.
It is hard to assert that the main goal of the CDS is the prevention of would-be migrants in Mexico who may be contemplating a journey. Rather, the focus on an individual punishment, designated by special rubrics given to agents, makes it obvious that the goal is preventing repeat migration. Thus, the CDS is in many ways an actuarial approach to immigration enforcement; it cites the prevention of future “crimes” (i.e., unauthorized migration) as rationale for increasingly severe punishments for a select subpopulation—those with strong social ties and place attachment to the United States who are the most likely to be repeat border crossers. This has significant implications for people who have put down roots in the United States. As interior enforcement has ramped up significantly since the establishment of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2002, a greater number of people have been removed despite having spent years living in the United States and now have few options other than to return to their families in the United States. While some scholars have noted negative migration flows in Mexican sending regions for the first time and have begun to discuss the end of mass labor migration to the United States (Durand 2013), we argue that many deportees do not return to their cities of origin. Rather, many stay near the border and attempt to return to their lives and families in the United States. In many ways, interior immigration enforcement and deportation have themselves become the new drivers of unauthorized Mexican migration to the United States.
Not all deportations are created equally. Disentangling these differences is essential for engaging with current debates in policy and advocacy. We must dispel notions that border enforcement is simply the product of agents patrolling select areas of the border zone. When we discuss the immense costs of enforcement, it includes the various types of immigration checkpoints, mass trial programs such as Operation Streamline, arrangements with local and state law enforcement, incarceration in immigration detention as well as federal prison, and the myriad private agencies tasked with transporting, detaining, and processing migrants.
The complicated processes of apprehension, processing, detention, deportation, and criminalization as well as extensive ties to family in the United States and a deep resolve to return despite the involved costs, hardship, and pain typify the contemporary migrant experience.
Through postdeportation surveys, interviews, and ethnographic work along the U.S.-Mexico border, we chronicle the lived experiences of people who have gone through this escalated, punishment-focused immigration enforcement apparatus. We examine the specific components of border enforcement and their effects on people who no longer call Mexico their home, concluding that those with extensive ties to the United States are highly determined to return. We have produced novel data about what it is like to cross the border in the post-Gatekeeper, DHS era of enforcement. The CDS approach is predicated on an increasingly punitive approach to immigration enforcement that has also played a part in fomenting violence in Mexico. The border zones where almost half a million Mexicans are deported each year have experienced tremendous violence. Migrants often interact and witness this violence on another level, as they frequently cross the border side by side with drug traffickers and are often the victims of kidnapping, robbery, or extortion during their journeys and upon return to Mexico. We explore how the relationships between organized crime and the state exacerbate the violence migrants experience on both sides of the border during migration, deportation, and the subsequent trauma of separation from one’s family.
The Shadow of the Wall is an attempt to bring everyone in, to understand the big picture of who is being removed from the United States and what this is causing, not only for the individuals themselves but also for their families in the United States and Mexico.
Jeremy Slack is an assistant professor of geography in the Sociology and Anthropology Department at the University of Texas at El Paso. Daniel E. Martínez is an assistant professor in the School of Sociology at the University of Arizona. Scott Whiteford is the director of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Mexico Initiative and a professor emeritus at the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Arizona. Murphy Woodhouse is the Pima County reporter and Road Runner columnist for the Arizona Daily Star.
February 15, 2018
In his new collection The Real Horse: Poems, Farid Matuk offers a thought provoking collection about the meanings of self and citizen. He recently answered five questions from his editor Scott De Herrera about his work:
What inspired you to write this work?
There’s no such thing as a good man, or a good American. In this work I at least crystalized that for myself, and tried to situate that as a ground floor from which to reach, in future works, toward goodness as such, a non-moralistic force I very much believe in.
How does your upbringing as an immigrant influence your approach to poetry?
I’m not only an immigrant but I’m also from long lines of immigrants, some who came from Syria to the highlands of Peru to California, and from others who came from the Aymara people of the Andean altiplano, surviving and changing through the Incan and Spanish conquests and subsequent mestizaje, and who recently migrated down to the urban capital of Lima. Those layers of displacement have left me not with a rich intersection of cultural and linguistic heritages but with a shallowness. That’s okay, because I still have language, body, and spirit. I try to make that intersection my home in art.
What value do you see in poetry as a form of expression over other creative formats?
I’m with the poet Alice Notley, who wrote in her poem “I, the People,”: “And we are the masters/ of hearing & saying/ at the double edge of body &/ breath.” I walk away from her word “masters,” though, mostly because I believe that when we do our work at the “double edge of body &/ breath” we don’t own or control anything but instead make ourselves available and porous to ghosts, landscapes, and to those others bearing their “double edges” among us.
What is the biggest challenge you see today for poets?
We’re a varied lot, and so are our challenges. Maybe the perennial and shared challenge is to stay close on the heels of our betters (across all genre and media) so as to deepen into the particulars of our own questions and of our own art. As for “today,” social media helps by creating access, visibility, and community for folks kept out by old systems, and social media hurts when it distracts us with our own ubiquity and keeps us from asking, Access to what?
What are you working on now?
I have a couple of manuscripts drafted out, but I’m searching for new angles of approach so I can get back into them. One is a book-length verse project and the other is a hybrid prose and verse work of scholarship, or of reading. While I search for ways to enliven those manuscripts, I’m helping out with some translations from Spanish of the outsider Peruvian poetry group, Kloaka, and I’m reading a draft of a text that chronicles Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar’s journey accompanying Syrian refugees across the Mediterranean and into Europe. Hopefully, I can be useful to Khaled as he works out how to use that text in future installations and multi-media works. More broadly, I’m reading works written by folks outside the U.S.A., trying to hack a way out of our big bad provincialism.
Born in Peru to a Syrian mother and Peruvian father, Farid Matuk immigrated to California at the age of six and was undocumented until the age of thirteen. The recipient of an Alumni New Works grant from the Headlands Center for the Arts, Matuk is an assistant professor of English at the University of Arizona.
In 1996, anthropologistCarlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez published Border Visions: Mexican Cultures of the Southwest United States with the University of Arizona Press. The book was hailed as a comprehensive guide to border culture, distilling historical, sociological, and anthropological perspectives. It has been taught in courses across the country. Today, the author reflects on the book’s publication and what’s changed since its publication.
It has been twenty-two years since Border Visions was published and the U.S.-Mexico transborder region has suffered through many changes. Since then, my own work has changed significantly. Fundamentally, I understand now that my previous work generally cut off at that bifurcation we call the border. Border Visions began much more broadly in telling the narrative of the south-to-north movements from the pre-Hispanic eras to the nineteenth century, and then I conveniently strayed only north. Part of it, I think, emerged from an almost desperate desire to tell a narrative alternative to those previously composed about this population north of the line. My model had been the works of Eric. R. Wolf and others like Richard N. Adams, books investigating big ideas over big areas. Few scholars had applied a similar scope to the Southwest North American region, with the notable exception of James Diego Vigil in From Indians to Chicanos. In my own book, I also expanded into the areas of art and literature, as well as social science and history.
It seems that Border Visions has had resonance over the last twenty-two years, and it can still stand for that period and in part for today. However, it stopped at the border for the most part, even though most of the narratives and many of the experiences that I knew to be true were in fact transborder—culturally, linguistically, socially, and certainly economically. These include seeing my father come home one day saddened and shattered by being told to “go back to Mexico” when he asked for a raise in the automobile garage in which he had worked for many years, even though he had attended Roskruge Junior High and worked as a Western Union delivery boy as a kid in Tucson, Arizona. Or the countless stories of the Mexican Revolution that my mother told, including the tales of revolutionary young men dying of wounds in her home’s courtyard as her mother tried to staunch their wounds with pillowcases and bedsheets. This occurred while an explosive bullet to the stomach was killing her father, fighting on the opposite side. The narratives of multiple crossings went on and on: I was practically born on the dividing line between the two Nogaleses when my pregnant mother, my father, and my sister were returning to Tucson after visiting relatives in Magdalena, Sonora. Birth pains began a few miles from the borderline, and we barely made it to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where I was born. It was said that my bassinet was placed by the hospital window, which was next to the cyclone fence dividing Sonora from Arizona, allegedly with my feet facing south and my head facing north.
So culturally, linguistically, economically, politically, and ecologically, I had not written Border Visions with what my early birth, almost between borders, taught me, nor did I reflect on growing up in the reality of the transborder region. I had paid insufficient attention to the enormous growth of the maquiladoras and the persistent and telling migration north during the 1970s, even though it was obviously present. New populations of Mexicans were moving from central and southern Mexican states into my old Tucson neighborhood, and the neighborhood changed from bilingual to monolingual Spanish-speaking. In 1985, I returned to the area and stopped by a local supermarket where I had worked as a teenager. Now its shelves were filled with Mexican brands, piñatas hung from the ceiling, and Spanish flowed through the aisles. I had been the only one of ten or twelve cashiers who spoke Spanish; those numbers were now reversed.
Yet in the schools, the old, oppressive practices of monolingualism remain to this day. Teachers no longer punished children for speaking Spanish with “swats” to their rear ends, but there are more pernicious and supposedly “beneficial” techniques, such as the extensive use of tests and “immersion” to rid children of their invaluable linguistic and cultural resources. Coupled with an Arizona legislature determined to upend the demographic changes created by a transborder economy, the population once again faced many of the same educational circumstances that structured the way in which children learned, even though the pedagogies of “immersion” are known to be faulty, theoretically and methodologically. This is true to this day in many states and especially Arizona.
I tried to make up for this inattentiveness since I had not adequately told the transborder narrative. So relatively recently I did so in three other books: An Impossible Living in a Transborder World (2010), Hegemonies of Language and their Discontents (2017), and The U.S.-Mexico Transborder Region (2017) with Josiah Heyman. The first is an economically oriented work that crosscuts the border bifurcation and lays out a sound theoretical platform from which to understand the movements and adaptations of Mexican populations moving north. The second book focuses on language policies filtered through the Spanish empire, the Mexican Republic, and the United States. It focuses on the impacts and responses to the imposition of language on populations inhabiting the “Southwest North American Region,” which is the ecological setting over which languages were impressed as one of the central means of reducing or eliminating the cultural underpinnings of Indigenous- and later Mexican-origin populations. The third book is a strong theoretically and methodologically informed collaboration of new and exciting young scholars who have experienced, researched, and lived in the region and who have nailed down the sources, processes, and structures of the asymmetry and inequality of the region.
These complete a kind of triangle of works in English that makes up for the limitations of Border Visions, without which they would not have been developed. Yet even these were not sufficient in reality to fix the transborder narrative, because these were all in English. So I began to publish works in Spanish like Visiones de acá y de allá (2015) and a number of others with Mexican colleagues, and in so doing I have tried to cement a level of scholarship that is effectively transborder. Colleagues from the north and south of the bifurcation are equal partners in an otherwise asymmetrical economic and political region.
Thus what began as a venture into a limited arena of scholarship north of the bifurcation emerged over the past twenty-two years as much more complete ecological, economic, political, cultural, linguistic, and social narrative of the Southwest North American Region.
Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez is Regents’ Professor in the School of Transborder Studies and the School of Human Evolution and Social change and the Motorola Presidential Professor of Neighborhood Revitalization at Arizona State University. His numerous honors include the 2004 Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology and the 2003 Bronislaw Malinowski Medal. Vélez-Ibáñez was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1994 and was named as a Corresponding member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences (Miembro Correspondiente de la Academia Mexicana de Ciencias) in 2015.
Oscar J. Martínez’s forthcoming book Ciudad Juárez: Saga of a Legendary Border City provides a rich and nuanced portrait of a complex border city. He will be a featured author at this year’s Tucson Festival of Books, discussing Juárez’s history as a Spanish frontier outpost and the city’s current border issues. Before the festival, we sat down with him to discuss his inspiration:
You spent some of your childhood in Ciudad Juárez. Were you aware of the dichotomy between El Paso and Juárez when you were growing up?
Crossing the border frequently made me highly aware of the differences in the levels of development of the two cities. I was struck by the presence of high‐rise buildings in El Paso and their complete absence in Juárez, the differing traffic patterns in the two cities, and the ubiquitous poor colonias in Juárez versus the sprawling middle-class neighborhoods in El Paso.
What sparked your interest in border studies and history and inspired you to study and write about it?
While in graduate school, I did research on Mexican cross‐border migration patterns. This made me aware of the importance of border cities as gateways to the United States. But I learned that migration was only one aspect of the all-important relationship between the Mexican border cities and the neighboring country. There were larger issues to consider, especially economic, social, and cultural linkages. By then I knew that the best way to understand the nature of cities, regions, or countries is through a historical lens.
How has Juárez changed in the forty years since your previous book on the city, Border Boom Town?
Several dramatic changes took place in Juárez during the last four decades. The local population exploded as a result of a great expansion of the export‐oriented assembly manufacturing industry (maquiladoras), the city became a major drug trafficking center and a headquarters for a prominent drug cartel, and drug related crime skyrocketed, making Juárez one of the world’s most dangerous urban centers. The violence destroyed the city’s famed tourist industry and dependence on the United States deepened considerably.
What effects do you foresee the current administration and proposed border wall may have on the city?
The prospect that the Trump administration may terminate NAFTA or change it significantly has created great concern and uncertainty in Juárez because the city is extremely dependent on the U.S. economy. Trump’s “wall” is not much of a concern because El Paso is already walled off from Juárez.
What do you hope readers will take away from your new book?
My hope is that readers will develop a greater understanding of the unique nature of the U.S.‐Mexico border region, the monumental challenges faced by Mexican border cities, and the role that the U.S. economy has played in shaping the destiny of communities like Juárez.
Oscar J. Martínez is a Regents’ Professor of History at the University of Arizona. He has authored and edited numerous books and many articles, book chapters, and reviews.
In case you missed it: we are very pleased to announce that two University of Arizona Press titles received special recognition in the Southwest Books of the Year 2017, sponsored by the Pima County Public Library (PCPL). Here’s what Bill Broyles, a research associate at the University of Arizona’s Southwest Center, says about his selections:
“How does a mountain restore itself following a raging forest fire? Where the Willow Fire burned thousands of acres in the Mazatzal Mountains of central Arizona in 2004, John Alcock invites us along as he monitors and records the serial return of lupine and damselflies, grasshoppers and garter snakes, oak and elk. With the practiced eye of a college professor, he stops to examine a squad of caterpillars feeding together on one branch and wonders whether they have a toxic defense against hungry birds or if they find safety in numbers. He points out that barrel cacti secrete nectar sugar for ants, so they will guard against cactus-eating insects. We see Centris bees wrestling over females. Each fascinating chapter reveals how life regains its foothold on the scorched slopes. Faced with fire and changing climate, Alcock consoles us to take a hike ‘somewhere, anywhere’ and appreciate the forest as it evolves.”
“When friends from afar come to visit our Southwest, what should we show them? Scenic places, certainly, but what about the culture? Navajo rugs or jewelry? The UFO site in New Mexico? Low-rider cars on the streets of Tucson? Dams and campuses, museums and missions? And how did all of these pieces become our Southwest, anyway? For example, tourism brought jobs to some of the hottest and driest places, but that bringing also required constructing stories, sometimes mythical, about those places. In A Land Apart, cultural historian Flannery Burke explains how the Southwest became the Southwest and why Arizona and New Mexico seem so different. She dissects the reasons that the defense industry boomed here, delves into bedeviling problems like water rights, explores the influences of Native Nation and Mexican cultures, and weaves literature and arts into a satisfying discussion of the fascinating history behind those landmarks and highlights of our culture.”
Southwest Books of the Year is the PCPL’s guide to the best books of the year with a southwestern setting or subject. The panelists are “subject specialists and voracious consumers of Southwest literature.” View the complete list of selections and enjoy the thumbnail reviews here. Congratulations to all of the honorees!
The University of Arizona Press is gearing up for the tenth anniversary of the Tucson Festival of Books (TFOB), to be held Saturday, March 10, and Sunday, March 11, on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson, Arizona!
TFOB is a major literary event, regularly drawing more than 400 authors from across the country and more than 135,000 attendees. Panels, readings, and other author activities present a fantastic opportunity to hear from talented authors on a wide range of subjects. Visit the TFOB website and browse the offerings by participant or genre, then create a personalized schedule. There are plenty of family and entertainment activities, including a free concert on Saturday night by the star-studded Rock Bottom Remainders, the self-proclaimed “hard-listening” band.
The UA Press will have a large booth on the mall with a wide selection of books for sale at great discounts and signings by our authors. Stay tuned for more information!
“The author bases his book on historical archival and oral interviews, making it original and organic. This is the first scholarship that investigates the Chicana/o studies social movements of the 1990s, and [it] is a major contribution for future scholarly development of this critical subject.”—Choice
Choice confers their Outstanding Academic Titles to award “outstanding works for their excellence in presentation and scholarship, the significance of their contribution to the field, their originality and value as an essential treatment of their subject, and significance in building undergraduate collections.”
January 29, 2018
On a clear, cold January morning in 1948, a plane reportedly carrying thirty-two passengers caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon. The engine exploded, the left wing ripped apart from the fuselage, and more than a hundred witnesses watched as the airship spiraled out of control and crashed on the edge of the Diablo Valley.
All aboard were lost to the flames, including the flight crew and twenty-eight Mexican nationals, many of them bracero workers returning home. National media only reported the names of the white pilots, stewardess, and immigration officer. The others were simply listed as “deportees.” Their remains were buried in a mass unmarked grave.
They would remain anonymous for the next seven decades.
Inspired by Woody Guthrie’s protest song “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportee),” author Tim Z. Hernandez set out to right this wrong. Hernandez, the son of migrant farmworkers and a professor at the University of Texas El Paso, embarked on a six-year search to identify the “deportees,” fund a memorial gravestone, locate the victims’ families, and give voice to their stories in his book All They Will Call You.
This weekend marked the seventieth anniversary of the tragedy. Hernandez commemorated the lives lost in the plane wreck at Los Gatos Canyon with a public gathering at the victims’ last resting place at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fresno, California.
The memorial service began with a sage blessing and a moment of silence, followed by music from Hernandez and Lance Canales. The family of deceased passengers were the guests of honor.
On Monday, January 29, the California State Senate convened to formally recognize the seventieth anniversary of the plane wreck at Los Gatos Canyon and Hernandez’s work. The event was an effort led by Senator William Monning and Senator Ben Hueso, with support of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. In the seven decades since the tragedy, never has the incident been officially acknowledged or recognized by any governmental agency, until now.
Tim Z. Hernandez was born and raised in California’s San Joaquin Valley. An award-winning poet, novelist, and performer, he is a recipient of the American Book Award for poetry, the Colorado Book Award for poetry, the Premio Aztlán Literary Prize for fiction, and the International Latino Book Award for historical fiction. His books and research have been featured in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, CNN, Public Radio International, and National Public Radio. He continues to perform and speak across the United States and internationally, but he divides his time between Fresno and El Paso, where he is an assistant professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Texas, El Paso.
January 23, 2018
We are delighted to announce that two University of Arizona Press titles have been honored with Southwest Book Awards, sponsored by the Border Regional Library Association (BRLA):
A Land Apart is not just a cultural history of the modern Southwest—it is a complete rethinking and recentering of the key players and primary events marking the Southwest in the twentieth century. Historian Flannery Burke emphasizes policy over politicians, communities over individuals, and stories over simple narratives.
Navajo Sovereignty discusses Western law’s view of Diné sovereignty, research, activism, creativity, and community, and Navajo sovereignty in traditional education. Above all, Lloyd L. Lee and the contributing scholars and community members call for the rethinking of Navajo sovereignty in a way more rooted in Navajo beliefs, culture, and values.
Since 1971 the Southwest Book Awards have been presented in recognition of outstanding books about the Southwest published in any genre and directed toward any audience. To see the complete list of award recipients, please visit the BRLA website. Congratulations to all of the winners!
January 17, 2018
Discrimination is rampant, and working conditions are poor. Safety, pay, and class-war all threaten the future of one of the highest producing copper mines in the United States. Workers are pitted against owners, as the rich receive their keep and leave the bees to fend for the mighty Copper Queen Mine. This may sound like a recurrent story, and it is! For the town of Bisbee, Arizona, it’s actually a centennial of truths reenacted every July.
Such is the basis of Robert Greene’s new documentary film, Bisbee ’17, premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah:
It’s 2017 in Bisbee, Arizona, an old copper-mining town just miles from the Mexican border. The town’s close-knit community prepares to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Bisbee’s darkest hour: the infamous Bisbee Deportation of 1917, during which 1,200 striking miners were violently taken from their homes, banished to the middle of the desert, and left to die.
Townspeople confront this violent, misunderstood past by staging dramatic recreations of the escalating strike. These dramatized scenes are based on subjective versions of the story and “directed,” in a sense, by residents with conflicting views of the event. Deeply personal segments torn from family history build toward a massive restaging of the deportation itself on the exact day of its 100th anniversary.
Filmmaker Robert Greene confronts the current political predicaments of immigration, unionization, environmental damage, and corporate corruption with direct, haunting messages about solidarity and struggle. With consummate skill and his signature penchant for bending the boundaries of documentary, Greene artfully stirs up the ghosts of our past as a cautionary tale that speaks to our present.
But this isn’t the first time Bisbee’s secret has been told. In 1999, the Press re-released Robert Houston’s Bisbee ’17, for which the new film takes its name. Houston, a novelist and professor emeritus in creative writing at the University of Arizona, vividly re-creates a West of miners and copper magnates, bindlestiffs and scissorbills, army officers, private detectives, and determined revolutionaries in his historical fiction novel.
The protagonists in a bitter strike: the Wobblies (the IWW), the toughest union in the history of the West; and Harry Wheeler, the last of the two-gun sheriffs. In this class-war western, they face each other down in the streets of Bisbee, pitting a general strike against the largest posse ever assembled.
Against this backdrop runs the story of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, strike organizer from the East, caught between the worlds of her ex-husband—the Bisbee strike leader—and her new lover, an Italian anarchist from New York. As the tumultuous weeks of the strike unfold, she struggles to sort out what she really feels about both of them, and about the West itself.
The 16th Biennial Southwest Symposium was held in Denver, Colorado, this past weekend and celebrated the theme “Pushing Boundaries.” The symposium explored the formation and meaning of Bears Ears National Monument, new research in chronology and chronometry, Plains-Pueblo interactions, and new developments in museum archaeology and collections-based research.
UAP Senior Editor Allyson Carter was on the ground at the conference, manning the booth, meeting with authors, and presenting a joint publishing workshop. “It was a good conference,” she was pleased say, “the sessions were great, the papers were high-quality, everything was organized very well.”
A number of our authors were in attendance and made a special point of stopping by our booth to browse new titles and pose with their books:
Mark Nelson, one of the eight crew members locked in Biosphere 2 during its first closure experiment, offers a compelling insider’s view of the dramatic story behind the mini-world. In his forthcoming book Pushing Our Limits: Insights from Biosphere 2, Nelson clears up common misconceptions as he presents the goals and results of the experiment and the project’s implications for today’s global environmental challenges.
On a winter night in January 1993, by opening a doorway we experienced a stunning physiological revival. We left a world with an oxygen level around 14 percent; equivalent to being on a 15,000-foot-tall mountain. In fact, we were at a 3,900-foot elevation in southern Arizona. Oxygen had been slowly disappearing for sixteen months. No one knew where it had gone. We were slowly climbing a mountain but going nowhere. Mission Control had pumped oxygen into a chamber on the other side of the door. Our atmosphere suddenly contained 26 percent, which was 5 percent higher than Earth’s air. In minutes, we felt decades younger. For the first time in many months, I heard the sound of running feet.
So many strange, disturbing, marvelous, powerful, and profound experiences unfolded during our two years as “biospherians.” The eight of us felt extraordinarily lucky to be the initial crew to live inside a miniature biosphere. We had to learn how to be its first natives.
Biosphere 1 (B1) is our Earth’s biosphere. Biosphere 2 was a three-acre world. B1 houses the global ecosystem, which includes all life. B1 is our planet’s life support system. Biosphere 2 was built to study how biospheres work, creating a laboratory for global ecological processes, to help ecology become an experimental science. It could also provide baseline information to design long-term life support systems for space.
The facility included people, farming, and technology. Earth’s biosphere has supported life for four billion years. Only quite recently have billions of people and modern industries been added. Living in Biosphere 2 might give new perspectives on whether—and how—harmony can be forged between humans and the global biosphere. Our two-year experiment began on September 26, 1991. We’d have two seasonal cycles to study how Biosphere 2 functioned. For comparison, a human spaceflight to explore Mars would also take two years. No one knew if we could stay inside for two years; so many things could go wrong. The facility was optimistically designed for a one-hundred-year operation.
The first closure experiment was the “shake-down” mission; a trial run to find flaws, bugs, what we had to correct or change. We were also determined to collect as much data and to do as much research in collaboration with outside scientists as possible.
The odds, even from project insiders, heavily favored an early exit. Too many challenges—known and unknown—could end the experiment early. Some thought we wouldn’t even last three months. The world record in a closed ecological system was six months set by two-person crews at a Siberian research institute. Their basement facility powered by artificial lights was the size of a small apartment, their only companions were food crops. Our own sunshiny world contained a rainforest and a coral reef in a towering structure with seventy-five-foot-tall roofs. Every day we were able to stay alive inside, we would amass reams of research data.
We entered an untested facility in almost totally uncharted territory.
We included small chunks of Earth’s diversity inside the biosphere; bonsai rainforest, tropical grassland (savanna), desert, mangrove marsh, and coral reef ocean co-existed under one roof. Some of the world’s top ecologists and most innovative engineers worked to make this possible; no one knew how these biomes would develop. Ours was cutting-edge science, the greatest experiment in ecological self-organization ever conducted. To maintain biodiversity, we biospherians would intervene when we could. Our fog desert decided to go its own way and transformed during the experiment; maintaining the others took hard work and ingenuity, the coral reef in particular, was a nail-biter to the end.
In our nearly airtight world, we would experience the highs and lows of living intimately with seven other people. Outside politics and power struggles polarized and exacerbated in-fighting, though we entered as the best of friends and colleagues. I wouldn’t permit a bitter “To the traitors” as toastmaster at a Sunday night dinner where we enjoyed a precious bottle of home-brewed banana wine. There were no fistfights, but one crew member complained years later that she had been spit at. Twice. But we continued working unselfishly with one another. Whenever we feasted, partied, or enjoyed a rare delicacy like a cup of coffee from rainforest trees, tensions magically melted away. We’d relax and enjoy a temporary truce from group tensions. We acted mindfully in Biosphere 2, understanding that its teeming life was keeping us alive and healthy. We took care of her needs with tender loving care. She was our third lung and lifeboat. Some of us thought Biosphere 2 was the ninth biospherian.
Eight Americans and Europeans suddenly became subsistence farmers. We lived off the land, eating what we grew, though we farmed in a high-tech, $150 million facility. Our small farm exceeded organic standards. We used nothing that might pollute our air, water, soils, or crops. We recycled our water and soil nutrients. Even our sewage was treated and recycled. We cared for our farm animals with affection, but they were slaughtered as needed. Our diet consisted primarily of fruits, grains, and vegetables.
We experienced hunger throughout the two years and plates were always licked clean. Almost all of us became much better cooks. Peer pressure for delicious food was a great motivator. I and many others ate our roasted peanuts whole, shell and all; we would eat anything to fill the stomach void. We were guinea pigs, the first humans extensively studied on an “undernourished but not malnourished” diet. This paralleled the pioneering research of Biosphere 2’s in-house doctor, who claimed a person could live 120 years on a calorie-restricted diet.
Periodically, project managers reminded us we were volunteers; the airlocks were unlocked, and we could leave anytime we’d had enough or if there were health dangers.
For safety, we had our resident doctor and a team of specialists on call at the nearby University of Arizona College of Medicine, and a fully equipped medical facility and analytic laboratory were inside the biosphere. Automated systems could detect potentially toxic substances in our air and water. We started with a biosphere as clean and unpolluted as possible. Chemical deodorants and cleaning supplies weren’t allowed because our world was so ensitive to pollution. Even a small fire would mean evacuating, so we didn’t light candles, even on a birthday cake. At winter parties, a monitor played a video of a wood-burning fireplace—we felt warmer sitting near it.
Though we didn’t intend it, the toes of dominant analytic, small-scale science were seriously stepped on. The reductionist approach seeks to analyze everything at the micro level, each variable being tested separately. Biosphere 2 used both analytic and holistic science approaches. The project violated unspoken taboos. Include humans and our technologies in the experiment? Heresy! We knew one thing for certain: Biosphere 2 would ignite plenty of controversy.
Systems ecologists and veterans of NASA’s Apollo Project 1960s glory days were allies from the beginning. To achieve the goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s, NASA abandoned component-by- component testing and went to “all-up systems testing.” We followed a similar strategy to create this complex miniworld; it couldn’t be done piece by piece like Lego.
The six years from project conception until completion were exciting. Scientists, engineers, and hundreds of construction workers were very motivated. They were making history, doing the near impossible. Some doubted at every stage whether Biosphere 2 could be built, operated, or used for advancing human knowledge. Who were these mavericks behind the project?
Despite many world-class scientists and institutions consulting, the whole endeavor was way too ambitious, too daring. Even some friends and colleagues of the project thought it was fifty years ahead of its time.
Biosphere 2 was radical and revolutionary—a challenge to “business as usual.” The entire “technosphere” had one overarching goal: serve and protect life. Our engineers had to design technology to make waves, rain, winds; they had to control climate and mimic geological processes. And they had to use machinery and equipment that wouldn’t poison and pollute. Life ruled. Technology knew its place and obeyed and served, a radical notion. What would happen if we did that everywhere?
The engineering goal was about 1 percent per month air exchange (leakage) from the biosphere. That’s thousands of times tighter than the most tightly sealed buildings and homes, far tighter than even the International Space Station. But, if this air-tightness was achieved we might wind up with a horrific “sick building syndrome” from a buildup of trace gases. We needed a way to ensure that those trace gases didn’t build up in a structure with two acres of farm and wilderness areas, hundreds of pumps, motors, and other equipment, and miles of piping. Our solution was to use our farm soil and plants as a biofilter to clean the air. We hoped it would work.
Carbon dioxide was called the tiger of Biosphere 2. We continually monitored its levels in our atmosphere since it could destroy our world, and it would be difficult to keep the levels from rising too high. Every cycle goes hundreds to thousands of times faster than normal in a tightly sealed, small, and life-packed miniature biosphere. Our ocean and atmosphere were tiny compared to Earth’s; we had entered a time machine. Would all the life inside Biosphere 2—with us humans doing everything we could to help—be sufficient to prevent a runaway rise in carbon dioxide, our tiny version of climate change? If CO2 levels got too high, our coral reef might die, all the plants (including our food crops) might slow their growth, and our health might be directly threatened.
By closing the airlock behind us and starting our two-year experiment, we pushed the limits and stepped into the unknown. It would be a roller coaster, with despair and sadness and euphoria and achievement. Every day, we worked to keep Biosphere 2—and ourselves—alive and healthy. For the eight of us, it was a profoundly personal and life-changing journey.
Dr. Mark Nelson was a member of the eight-person “biospherian” crew for the first two-year closure experiment. He is a founding director and the chairman of the Institute of Ecotechnics and has worked for decades in closed ecological system research, ecological engineering, the restoration of damaged ecosystems, desert agriculture and orchardry, and wastewater recycling. He is the author of The Wastewater Gardener: Preserving the Planet One Flush at a Time and co-author of Space Biospheres and Life Under Glass: The Inside Story of Biosphere 2.
In just a few short months, Sara Sue Hoklotubbe’s latest mystery Betrayal at the Buffalo Ranch hits bookstores. The fourth book in the Sadie Walela Mystery Series draws Sadie deeper and deeper into danger. When Angus Clyborn’s Buffalo Ranch opens in Cherokee Country, murder, thievery, and a missing white buffalo calf take Sadie Walela and her wolfdog on a dangerous and wild ride.
In anticipation of the book’s release, we were excited to chat with Sara about what drew her to mystery novels and to get her thoughts on the lack of Native American representation in mystery writing.
What advice would you give any aspiring mystery novel writers?
To read, first, and then write, write, write, with a passion. Write what you’d like to read. Don’t try to copy or emulate other writers; create your own voice and tell your own stories. Chances are, if you like what you write, other people will, too.
What drew you to writing mystery novels?
I spent twenty‐one years working in the banking business and had very little time for reading. But when I discovered Tony Hillerman’s mysteries, that all changed. I loved how he wrote mysteries and wove in Navajo and Hopi culture. Even though Tony was non‐Indian, he wrote with such accuracy and respect for Indians that the Navajo Nation gave him their blessing. That’s when I decided I wanted to write mysteries about my people – the Cherokee.
Why do you think there is so little Native American representation in mystery writing?
I think it is simply a case of numbers. Native Americans, who once totally populated this country, have sadly been reduced to about two percent of the population. And, while there are many Native authors, they write in diverse categories from fiction and non‐fiction, both current and historical, to screenplays and poetry. When you boil it down, there’s only a few of us writing mysteries.
You draw upon your upbringing in Oklahoma for your setting. What are the differences between the Cherokee Nation you grew up in and the one you describe in your novels?
It is very much the same. I like to write in a current day setting rather than historical, because I want to dispel some of the myths of what life is like in the Cherokee Nation today. We do not live in teepees. Never did, never will. Cherokees are ranchers, police officers, lawyers, small‐business owners, bankers, business people, writers, and anything else you can think of. I try to describe a real life setting in my books.
Which of your characters do you identify with the most?
Probably Sadie. We both think we can save the world, are quick to speak our mind, and hand out our own kind of justice. Sadie is a good and honest person, and I’d like to think I am, too, even though I’m quick to point out that Sadie is not me. I would be naïve to think most of the other characters I write about don’t have a sliver of my personality in there somewhere.
Is there more in store for Sadie Walela?
I hope so. I’m waiting for her to come to me in a dream and tell me what’s next. We’ll see.
What book are you currently reading?
I recently read Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann and Anne Hillerman’s Song of the Lion. I’m currently reading Winter’s Child by Margaret Coel. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil de Grasse Tyson is next on my list to read.
Rebecca Robinson is a freelance journalist who has spent decades exploring the landscapes of Bears Ears country. Today she speaks to the singular beauty of the region captured by photographer Stephen E. Strom in his forthcoming book Bears Ears: Views from a Sacred Land.
Should an eighth wonder of the world ever be proclaimed, a strong case could be made for the landscape of southeastern Utah, a region so striking it has become a visual shorthand for the wild majesty of the American West. Visitors to Utah’s portion of the Four Corners region find themselves mesmerized by its endless ridges, buttes, spires, natural bridges, and exquisite canyons—each one, like a sandstone fingerprint, completely unique. The vivid vermillion hues that define the region’s red-rock country are complemented by softer, cream-colored layers and the subtle green of sagebrush, whose ubiquity and resilience testify to stubborn survival in a harsh land. This vast terrain bears scars as well: of explosive emergence and tectonic shifts that shaped Earth into otherworldly formations of stark cinder cones, rainbow bentonite hills, and impossibly steep anticlines. These landmarks, formed millions of years ago, painted and sculpted by water and wind, provide a visible record of deep time.
Evidence of the prehistoric abounds in the region. Fossils of plant and marine life, along with those of early amphibians and mammals, inspire awe in visitors and scholars alike. The stories of eons past, preserved within the layered landscape, illuminate how life on the Colorado Plateau—of which Bears Ears is a part—evolved and adapted to the land’s slow march northward from the equator as it endured radical shifts in climate and inundations by oceans and inland seas. Today’s rich and diverse assemblage of plant and animal life is as fragile as it is tenacious. Each patch of lichen, herd of mule deer, and field of sagebrush plays a vital role in a delicately balanced ecosystem in which Nature’s rhythms must be respected to ensure their survival.
Talk to people who know and love this landscape, and you’ll quickly discover that it’s impossible for them to describe a favorite canyon, trail, or vista without a touch of reverence. Sometimes they will point, tracing the path of a raptor or the meanders of a river. Some will subconsciously place their hands over their heart, an unspoken expression of deep love for a land that lives within them—and, in some cases, changed them forever.
This land of rugged beauty and rich history is Bears Ears, a new national monument declared by President Barack Obama on December 28, 2016. Named for twin buttes visible for sixty miles in all directions, Bears Ears National Monument protects an area spanning 1,350,000 acres—more than 2,000 square miles; larger than the state of Delaware.
The movement to protect Bears Ears is the product of a unique moment in time, the result of an unprecedented effort by Native American tribes and a powerful endorsement of tribal sovereignty by a receptive U.S. President. At the same time, it is yet another chapter in America’s long history of conflicts over how best to protect and steward public lands. Similar debates predate it, and similar struggles will succeed it. Taken together, these debates and attempts to resolve them speak to the ongoing search for common ground in deeply divided communities. But therein lies a sense of hope for the future: Polarized as each group is, they collectively express the same belief that the land is everything and not just a place to live in, explore, or make a living. The land is a source of strength, renewal, and identity to all who call Bears Ears country home. Natives and Anglos in San Juan County, regardless of their spiritual beliefs or world view, have used the same words to explain their connection to Bears Ears: “The land is who we are.”
What both the land and people of Bears Ears country yearn for is healing: between the tribes and the federal government; among the region’s tribes who share histories of bitter conflict; among the tribes and residents of San Juan County—Native and Anglo, Mormon and non-Mormon, staunch supporters and steadfast opponents of the national monument; and of the land, protecting an eighth wonder of the world from efforts to exploit its riches for private financial gain.
In many ways, San Juan County’s challenge to find common ground and common purpose mirror those of the nation as a whole. True healing can only be achieved through collective listening, respect, compassion, and leadership and acknowledging that past wounds—including military action—inflicted by the federal government on both Native Americans and the Mormon people are many and, in some cases, shared. The future will depend on the courage of all to speak truths, to commit to hear and respect all voices, and to seek mutual understanding that will allow citizens to create a just and sustainable future that benefits all.
In Bears Ears: Views from a Sacred LandStephen E. Strom’s photographs capture the singular beauty of Bears Ears country in all seasons, its textural subtleties portrayed alongside the drama of expansive landscapes and skies, deep canyons, mystifying spires, and towering mesas. To Strom’s alert and sensitive eyes, a scrub oak on a hillside or a pattern in windswept sand is as essential to capturing the spirit of the landscape as the region’s most iconic vistas. In seeing red-rock country through his lens, viewers can begin to discover the rich beauty, remarkable diversity, seductive power, and disarming complexity that embody Bears Ears National Monument’s sacred lands.
Years from now, these images may serve as either a celebration of the foresight of visionary leaders, from President Teddy Roosevelt’s original vision of national monuments for America to the recent vision of tribal leaders and President Obama, or, should President Trump and his allies rescind the Bears Ears National Monument declaration, as an elegy for what was lost—for the tribes and for future generations of Americans.
Rebecca Robinsonwas born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and makes her home in Portland, Oregon. Her journalism work has been widely published and broadcast in numerous print, online, and radio outlets, and she has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Alliance for Women in Media, and the Associated Press.
Through twenty individual stories, her forthcoming book Voices from Bears Ears: Seeking Common Ground on Sacred Land (Fall 2018) captures the passions of the debate that led to the creation of Bears Ears National Monument, a land of unsurpassed natural beauty and deep historical significance. She continues to capture the passions of those on opposing sides of the Bears Ears battle with weekly online updates.
Stephen E. Strom was born in New York City. After receiving his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University, he spent forty-five years as a distinguished research astronomer. He began photographing in 1978, and his work has been exhibited widely throughout the U.S. and is in the permanent collections of the Center for Creative Photography and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, among others.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by our booth at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.! We always love meeting our authors face-to-face, and a few folks were kind enough to allow us to take their photos in the booth:
We look forward to seeing you all next year in San Jose!
Archaeologist Matthew A. Peeples has spent more than a decade working at sites across the Southwest. In his forthcoming book Connected Communities, Peeples looks to comparative social sciences and contemporary social movements to understand how social identities formed and changed in the ancient past. Today, he shares with us the inspiration behind his new book.
“Who were the people who lived here?”
I often hear this question when I give site tours for the public or conduct fieldwork in places where locals might pay a visit. It is a question that probably sounds simple and straightforward to the person asking it.
To an archaeologist like me who has spent a lot of time thinking about how social groups form and change, this question opens the door to all kinds of complexity. If I suspect that my visitor is looking for a quick answer—or if we have a looming project deadline—I may give her the short and way-too-simple version. This usually means providing the typical archaeological cultural or regional designation (“they were Ancestral Pueblo people” or “they were Hohokam people” or “they were the ancestors of people living at Zuni today”). If I am feeling a bit more inspired—or looking for an opportunity to have a longer conversation in the shade—I may go into the particular social and demographic histories, describing archaeological evidence for migration streams or material evidence for how the nature and scale of families, communities, or larger social groups changed through time.
In my experience, the long answer to this deceptively simple question resonates quite well with members of the public and archaeologists alike, provided that I can find a clear and compelling way to describe interesting patterns and processes in the data.
In an effort to come up with better ways of explaining the complexities inherent in social group identities, how they change, and how we study that process archaeologically, I have often found it useful to rely on analogy with contemporary events and institutions. Most people living in the world of nation-states and borders have a good sense of what it means to have multiple and nested identities. When I turn the tables and ask my inquisitive visitors “who are you?” I find that they seldom stop at one or two labels and often rattle off quite a few. These might include their nationality, state/territory/city/neighborhood of residence or birth, ethnic heritage, familial ties, religion, occupation, or many other designations. Importantly, some of these designations are based on their own direct relationships, while others link them to groups much larger than they could ever hope to know personally.
In the United States, where I do my research, most people are well acquainted with the metaphor of the “American melting pot”—the romanticized notion of how the diverse populations that make up the nation came to represent a coherent whole—and they probably also have some notion of the diversity of people living in the United States through its ethnic neighborhoods and the waves of immigration that shaped such places.
Such contemporary examples make it much easier to explain how archaeologists document similar migration streams, identify socially diverse communities or enclaves, and track the ways people marked or masked differences in the past. We see archaeological evidence of the same historical processes that drive the formation, maintenance, or dissolution of social groups in the world today. Identity is a complicated tapestry for us, and there is no compelling reason to believe it was less so in the past.
Conversations with the public like these brought me to the research for my book Connected Communities. Since I first started studying archaeology, I have been interested in understanding how people form very large social groups, especially those that are so large that they include people who will probably never meet. Searching for analogues and new perspectives on such large-scale social groups, I turned to a body of literature focused on nationalism, ethnic identity, and the drivers of social change in the contemporary world. This work suggests that the formation of social groups and the process of social change are intrinsically linked, and, importantly, researchers working from this perspective have developed tools and theoretical frameworks for exploring such relationships (i.e., social network analysis). The more I read, the more the underlying processes and mechanisms at work felt familiar to me as an archaeologist studying social change at regional scales in the ancient Southwest.
At the same time, and somewhat to my dismay, I found that researchers working within this paradigm from a contemporary perspective often made assumptions about the supposed absence of certain kinds of identities and interactions in premodern societies that are, to my mind, unfounded. Still, I considered that the methods and models used to untangle the complicated web of identities in the contemporary world might have some utility for exploring social groups in the more distant past through archaeological evidence.
Might such models push us toward new and interesting revelations about identity and social change in the past? Could archaeologists contribute to the broader debate in the social sciences by expanding the scope of such frameworks to kinds of societies that have not yet been considered or by using new kinds of evidence? I hope to take the first steps toward addressing these important questions in my work.
Matthew A. Peeples is an assistant professor of anthropology and the research director of the Center for Archaeology and Society in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University.
This month, Poetry Magazine featured a touching guest post from Roy G. Guzmán, who took the opportunity to celebrate the immense literary contributions and impact of Camino del Sol poet Ray Gonzalez:
Through Gonzalez’s poetry I’ve discovered the various syntaxes that run through my own linguistic DNA. Through him I’ve discovered how to deploy my metaphors and when to reveal my silences (“Beware the silence stronger than the voice,” he writes in “Beware the Silence,” included in Human Crying Daisies (2003)). Like his personality—measured, as if ticking like a clock, and with an appetite for tactful wit—Gonzalez’s poem-tellers can be shy but, when allowed to speak, can verbalize truths with the swiftness of a lizard. In “What Lesson?” for instance, the speaker asks, “What were the questions our mothers asked? Who did they make love to before our fathers arrived with newspapers and torn wills and deeds?” Gonzalez has the associative skill and patience of James Wright, and that gift of surprise you find in Russell Edson’s best work. He knows when to walk into a poem and when to walk away, leaving everything around haunted.
The University of Arizona Libraries named poet, scholar, and Sun Tracks Series Editor Ofelia Zepeda this year’s Library Legend. The Libraries feted Zepeda with a dinner at the Arizona Inn last month, where friends and colleagues gathered to recognize Zepeda’s lifetime contributions to letters, learning, and libraries.
Shan Sutton, Dean of Libraries, said of Zepeda, “When I think of Ofelia Zepeda, I am most impressed with her ability to transcend time. She seems to blend past and present seamlessly, summoning historical Tohono O’odham wisdom to provide context for her astute observations of life today.”
Among her many honors, Zepeda is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, and she is the author of two acclaimed collections of poetry and a guide to Tohono O’odham grammar, proudly published by the University of Arizona Press.
Kathryn Conrad, Director of the University of the Arizona Press, said, “I am awed and gratified by Ofelia’s vision to preserve language and culture through bilingual literature, poetry, stories and songs. For her deft leadership, her sound editorial judgement and her ability to see into the future, we owe Ofelia a deep debt of gratitude. Ofelia, thank you.”
Previous Library Legend honorees include University of Arizona Press authors and supporters Bernard L. “Bunny” Fontana, Jim Griffiths, and John and Helen Schaefer.
For this year’s event, Zepeda read her poem “The Way to Leave your Illness,” which shares the poet’s recognition and gratitude for the important and healing work of libraries and learning.
The Way to Leave Your Illness By Ofelia Zepeda
If you have an illness that won’t go away,
take a journey.
When you get there, leave it.
Place it on a rock; throw it into moving water;
bury it. Throw it into the wind.
Let it go.
Leave it there for others.
She had been sick for many days.
In her frustration she remembered
what her grandmother used to say,
“Take it far away and leave it there.”
She walked to the other end of campus
toward the library.
In her mind she left the discomfort, ache, pain, there.
She walked back, comforted,
knowing she didn’t bring it back with her.
Her illness is now hidden in the stacks.
Perhaps it is temporarily in periodicals.
Or archived in Special Collections.
or perhaps in fiction, no longer real.
In case you missed it, an excerpt from Tom Miller’s Cuba, Hot and Cold donned the cover of the Tucson Weekly this past week. The feature story was accompanied by a Q&A between Tucson Weekly Managing Editor Jim Nintzel and Tom Miller, in which nothing was off the table. The two discussed how the CIA recruited Miller for a spy, his work in the underground press, and being subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury for some of his work:
Cuba, Hot and Coldis an intimate look at Cuba and the people who live there. What do you hope people take away from this book?
When the U.S. and Cuba finally came to their senses and established this sort of detante, everybody said: “I gotta get there. I gotta get there before it changes. What I want them to take from the book is: You don’t have to get there before it changes. It’s gonna keep changing for the next five, 10, 20, 30 years. When people say they want to get there before it changes, they’re really saying they want to get there before McDonald’s gets there. But the changes have already taken place, and they’re going to continue to take place. I think that people who are so eager to get there are making a mistake. They can take their time and read up on it and enjoy it when they go.
You’ve been traveling to Cuba for 30 years now—what first drew you there?
It was partly political and partly journalistic. The journalistic part was that Cuba was and still is the best story in the Americas. And also political: I was part of the anti-war movement, and we would read underground newspapers not just from around the United States, but we would read Gramma, which was the communist party newspaper in Cuba. It was a terrible newspaper. It still is; it is an awful newspaper. But it tells you what is going on there. It tells you who is in charge and what their politics are. And in the anti-war movement, there was always a spot for Cuba at the table. It was at the far end of the table, but there was a spot for Cuba at the table. And because of the taboo, because of the embargo, it became more and more tempting to go.
Read the full feature Q&A and an excerpt of the book on the Tucson Weekly.
We’re nearly three months out from the much-anticipated release of Sara Sue Hoklotubbe’s fourth book in the Sadie Walela Mystery Series, Betrayal at the Buffalo Ranch. This morning, Kirkus released their review, which is set to hit newsstands December 15, 2017:
Arrogance and greed add up to a powerful motive for murder.
Travel agent Sadie Walela, who lives on a small country property with Sonny, her wolfdog, returns from a funeral to find her boyfriend, Deputy Lance Smith, at the scene of a nearby murder. The dead man, who was killed by a handmade arrow, is said to have been acquainted with ranch owner Angus Clyborn, but Clyborn, a newcomer, denies knowing him. An animal rights group is picketing Clyborn’s Buffalo Ranch, which is stocked with tame buffalo, elk, and other animals he intends to charge big bucks for rich trophy hunters to shoot. After Sadie witnesses the birth of a white buffalo calf on Clyborn’s property, she knows trouble is on the way should word get out a sacred animal was born there.
Authors, book lovers, and publishers from Arizona and New Mexico gathered last week to celebrate the 2017 winners of the New Mexico–Arizona Book Awards. We’re thrilled to announce that Richard Shelton won the Best Biography – Arizona Subject award for his book Nobody Rich or Famous.
In this book, Shelton crafts a tale of poverty and its attendant sorrows: alcoholism, neglect, and abuse. But the tenacity of the human spirit shines through. This is an epic tale of Steinbeckian proportions, but it is not fiction. This is memoir in its finest tradition, illuminating today’s cultural chasm between the haves and have-nots. In the author’s words, Nobody Rich or Famous is “the story of a family and how it got that way.”
2017 marks the twelfth consecutive year of the New Mexico–Arizona Book Awards, which are sponsored by the New Mexico Book Co-op. To see the complete list of honorees, please visit the organization’s website. Congratulations to all the winners!
This past week, Frederick Luis Aldama had the pleasure of taking part in the American Book Review’s Reading Series, hosted by the University of Houston-Victoria.
Aldama’s visit included a public reading and discussion of his short fiction collection Long Stories Cut Short, a roundtable discussion with UHV faculty and students, and a week-long residency on the campus.
Terrance Hayes, current poetry editor for New York Times Magazine, selected Vickie Vértiz’s poem “Already My Lips Were Luminous” from her debut poetry collection Palm Frond with Its Throat Cut for the featured poem in this Sunday’s issue.
“I do not know the language of that place” underscores this poem’s striking balance of ambiguity and mystery. Much is said in the white spaces, caesuras, breaks. The unpunctuated five lines of the first stanza unspool suggestively creepily. The hands in car guts have a visceral intensity. The halting final couplet prompts a pause, a silence, a reread.
High Country News caught up with Esther Belin just outside of her office at the Peaceful Spirit Treatment Center on the Southern Ute Reservation to discuss her latest book Of Cartography:
Her new book, Of Cartography, is framed by the four cardinal directions and their symbolism in Navajo history. It digs into the cultural and physical representation of Navajo language, how landscape shapes identity and what it means to be Indian.
Her poems try to capture the rhythm and storytelling intrinsic to the Diné language. “I wanted to investigate whether there was a Navajo meter or diction, and how that voice could come out,” she says. “It’s not just a collection of poems squeezed together. This was about pairing identity politics with Navajo philosophy, which is all very orderly, and then telling my story through the structure.”
Nearly a hundred members of the Tucson community came out for the occasion and were treated to touching tributes from Miller’s long-time friends, James Reel and Eliana Rivero, as well as a taste of Cuban music from pianist Liudvik Luis Cutiño Cruz.
A brilliant raconteur and expert on Cuba, Miller was full of enthralling behind-the-scenes stories, including a humorous tale of the day Havana cops accused him of distributing copies of the United Nations Human Rights Declaration of 1948.
Thanks to the University of Arizona Libraries team, we’re proud to provide a full video of the event below.
Author, poet, and Angeleno, Daniel A. Olivas is known for his provocative prose and cleverly crafted characters. Recently, High Country News featured an excerpt from his short story “In Line at the Great Wall,” from his collection The King of Lighting Fixtures. In this story, Olivas imagines a future where anti-immigrant sentiment is enshrined in a border wall:
Rogelio stood in the long line that snaked from the detention center’s barracks to the lookout point at the other end of the compound. He shifted from foot to foot, the heat making him perspire and feel lightheaded. He was a smart boy — one of the best students in Ms. Becerra’s fifth-grade class — so he figured that even though the cool winter weather still made San Diego’s evenings chilly enough to need a sweater, the lack of circulation combined with the body heat of thousands of children conspired to make the detention center’s air heavy and almost suffocating.
Following the release event for Tom Miller’s Cuba, Hot and Cold, the Arizona Daily Star honored the Tucson travel writer by running an excerpt of his piece “Cubana Be, Cubana Bop:”
Tucsonan Tom Miller first visited Cuba 30 years ago. He has returned often, writing about a Cuba most don’t get to see. His books include “Trading with the Enemy” and “Revenge of the Saguaro.” This is an excerpt from his latest, “Cuba, Hot and Cold:”
José Martí, leader of Cuba’s nineteenth-century independence movement, is said to have had a voice that sounded like an oboe. Perhaps that’s why the country has so many oboe players. I took oboe lessons in Havana when I lived there in the early 1990s and wrote about them at the time. I was hoping to improve my mediocre oboe skills acquired during junior high school, and frankly, I wanted to show readers that contemporary music in Cuba was more than just salsa and reggaeton. I succeeded with the latter, but far less with improving my ability. I even had trouble with the ducks in Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. And so I put my oboe on the top shelf in my Arizona office where it gathered desert dust. I’d glance up at it now and then with a sense of forlorn pride, reassuring myself that I owned a quality instrument that I once played with some gusto.
This week we celebrate University Press Week and the importance of scholarship alongside our peers in the Association of American University Presses.
Since 2012, the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) has celebrated University Press Week each year to help tell the story of how university press publishing supports scholarship, culture, and both local and global communities.
In today’s political climate—where “fake news” and “alternate facts” are believed by so many people—valuing expertise and knowledge can feel like a radical act.
University presses not only believe in facts and knowledge, but traffic in them daily, publishing approximately 14,000 books and more than 1,100 journals each year, read by people around the globe.
One of our greatest partners in this venture have been independent bookstores. For the past three years, we have been proud to collaborate with the University of Arizona Bookstores, Antigone Books, and Changing Hands, who have graciously built UP Week displays to showcase the diversity and far-reaching impact of our publishing program.
To all of our readers, reviewers, authors, contributors, and partners, thank you for celebrating with us and your continued dedication to promoting smart, fun, and valuable books that contribute to our rich reading community.#ReadUP
This morning, we were thrilled to see Daniel Olivas’s latest fiction collection The King of Lighting Fixturesreviewed by Shelf Awareness, who declared it, “a potpourri of formats and styles.” Shelf Awareness for Readers appears Tuesdays and Fridays and helps readers discover the 25 best books of the week, as chosen by booksellers, librarians and other industry experts:
In a helter-skelter cornucopia of voices and formats, the stories of Daniel Olivas’s King of Lighting Fixtures are set on the streets of Los Angeles, focusing on characters as diverse as the city. The collection cements his place in the magical realism tradition of García Márquez and Urrea, and showcases his skills as a master stylist and self-aware observer of life’s little vignettes. Grandson of Mexican immigrants, converted Jew in the Reformed tradition, Olivas (The Book of Want; Things We Do Not Talk About) works as a lawyer in the California Department of Justice and works miracles on the page. “He will have to call it ‘fiction’ otherwise he will be rejected by the publishing industry as a lunatic,” as Olivas writes of a character in “The Three Mornings of José Antonio Rincón” who wakes in different bodies on three consecutive days.
This week, Frederick Luis Aldama and Daniel Olivas, two of our very own Camino del Sol authors, came together to discuss matters of content and form in writing fictional borderlands. The conversation between the two prolific writers was the cover feature on Latin@ Literatures.
Established in the summer of 2016, Latin@ Literatures is an online source for contemporary discussion on Latina/o literature and culture seeking to provide a space for philosophical engagement in topics dealing with Latina/o culture.
FLA: Daniel, you are author and editor of numerous books and now you have a near simultaneous publication of your book of poetry, Crossing the Border (Pact Press) and a book of short fiction, The King of Lighting Fixtures (Camino del Sol). You are also a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Review of Books and work as a lawyer for the California Department of Justice in the Public Rights Division. What’s your secret?
DO: I don’t golf. And I’m a compulsive writer and editor. Perhaps it’s a disease.
FLA: You also edit La Bloga.
DO: Ah, but I share blogging duties with about a dozen wonderful writers.
FLA: While you studied literature at Stanford, you are largely self-taught as a creative writer.
DO: I refused to take creative writing classes while in college because I thought it’d be a frivolous thing to do. Little did I know that I’d embark on a writing career in middle age. But I’m happy I took the route I did. I enjoy being a lawyer, especially in serving the people of California.
Bringing pop culture into the classroom, Frederick Luis Aldama, or as he has become known “Professor LatinX,” recently caught the attention of ABC’s Columbus news affiliate WSYX/WTTE. Camera crews joined Aldama at Ohio State University to see how he incorporates comic books into his curriculum and discuss his new book Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics.
An Ohio State professor is designing a class around comic books.
While doing that, Frederick Luis Aldama is looking at why one demographic seems under-represented when the books are made into movies.
His latest book, “LatinX Superheroes in Mainstream Comics” explores the absence of Latino characters in comic book movies.
A second-generation Angeleno, Daniel Olivas practices law with the California Department of Justice in addition to being a prolific writer, book critic, and avid supporter of the Latinx literary community. Recently he talked with Agatha French, staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, about straddling two professions and his new book The King of Lighting Fixtures.
Daniel A. Olivas’ latest collection of short stories, “The King of Lighting Fixtures,” (University of Arizona Press, $16.95) opens with a character settling into his office at the Public Rights Division of the California Department of Justice. It’s a detail from which readers can expect a certain level of authenticity: Olivas, in addition to being the author of nine books, is an attorney there. (Public access to Malibu’s Carbon Beach? Olivas is, in part, to thank.)
“The King of Lighting Fixtures,” includes flash fiction, speculative fiction, magical realism and more traditional stories; what unites the work is a sense of place. Olivas is an L.A. writer, and he roots his work in L.A.
I spoke to Olivas over the phone about straddling two professions; being a longtime contributor to La Bloga, a website that showcases Latina/Latino literature and culture; and writing the final, dystopian story of his book.
As we’ve all been consumed by the startling wildfires in California, the UA Press’s resident forest fire expert Stephen Pyne has been the man on-call for reporters on the ground. The author of the definitive history of American wildfires and the Press’s To The Last Smoke series, a multivolume series describing the nation’s fire scene region by region, Pyne provides a historical and administrative context for the devastation in California in a recent editorial picked up by Newsweek.
The fires that have blitzed across Napa-Sonoma have a claim on the rest of us because they are tragic, because they will require emergency assistance, and because what happens in California tends not to stay in California.
Most of California is built to burn: it has fires to match its mountains.
Unsurprisingly, fire protection as a formal program came early—a Board of Forestry in 1885; national forests in the 1890s; national parks in the Sierra Nevada under administration by the U.S. Cavalry.
In 1905 the U.S. Forest Service assumed control over the national forests and California passed a Forest Protection Act, leading to an ad hoc condominium that fused into a formal alliance with the 1911 Weeks Act.
In anticipation for her upcoming book launch event at Maria’s Bookshop, Esther Belin sat down with The Durango Herald‘s Arts Editor Katie Chicklinkski-Cahill to discuss her sophomore poetry collection Of Cartography.
For Bayfield writer and artist Esther Belin, her new book of poems, Of Cartography, was a long time coming.
Belin, whose 1999 book From the Belly of My Beauty won the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, will be reading from and talking about her new book on Thursday at Maria’s Bookshop, 960 Main Ave.
Q: Tell me about Of Cartography – how long did it take to write?
A: I wrote it a long time ago. It took about seven years to edit. (Laughs) And part of it was just honestly finding the time: I have four kids and for me, it was primarily my focus, and I was working, so it was really hard to figure that out. It was … probably last summer is when I just took the time and said, “I need to finish this.”
Following the release of the new collection Palm Frond With Its Throat Cut, Vickie Vértiz sat down with Bitch Media’s Director of Community Soraya Membreno and fellow poet Vanessa Angélica Villarreal to discuss “the resistance inherent in telling the stories of queer, Brown, working class women of color.”
Despite what National Hispanic Heritage Month would have you think, Latinx writers exist year-round! And despite what headlines like “Poetry is going extinct, government data show,” predict, this is a moment of poetic renaissance and poets of color are paving the way.
Vickie Vértiz’s Palm Frond With Its Throat Cut, which came out this September from the University of Arizona Press, sidesteps the glare of Hollywood to center the lives of the Brown working class in southeast Los Angeles. Palm Frond With Its Throat Cut is an offering; to a people, to a city—but it is also an irreverent reclaiming of land and home for those who have always been here.
Vanessa Angélica Villarreal’s Beast Meridian, also out this September from Noemi Press, is a haunting, a heartbreak. Beast Meridian turns trauma into astounding mythology, pushing through loss and erasure to find what it means to be a woman, to be lost, to find yourself anyway.
These collections wrecked me, leaving me weeping in public while I thumb through them at the laundromat or while waiting in line at the grocery store. But they have also made me feel fiercely proud of our stories, our histories. These are the books that have reflected and articulated a vision of Latinx identity I had never seen in literature, and that frankly, I never thought I would see. Their impact cannot be overstated.
The awards ceremony takes place November 15 in New York City, and we wish Sánchez and Machado much luck.
It’s Latino Heritage Month, and to celebrate this, below is a list of Latinx writers worth noting for their exceptional storytelling and poetry. These dozen books were recently published by small and independent presses.
Peter Goin received an Honorable Mention from the 2017 International Photography Awards forA New Form of Beauty in the category of Professional: Book, Nature. The International Photography Awards aim to salute the achievements of the world’s finest photographers, to discover new and emerging talent, and to promote the appreciation of photography.
In A New Form of Beauty photographer Peter Goin and writer Peter Friederici tackle science from the viewpoint of art, creating a lyrical exploration in words and photographs, setting Glen Canyon and Lake Powell as the quintessential example of the challenges of perceiving place in a new era of radical change. Through evocative photography and extensive reporting, the two document their visits to the canyon country over a span of many years. By motorboat and kayak, they have ventured into remote corners of the once-huge reservoir to pursue profound questions: What is this place? How do we see it? What will it become?
September 30, 2017
Forthcoming this October, No Species Is an Island describes the surprising results of Theodore H. Fleming’s eleven-year study of pollination biology in Sonora, Mexico, in the most biologically diverse desert in the world. These discoveries serve as a primer on how to conduct ecological research, and offer important conservation lessons for us all. Fleming offers an insightful look at how field ecologists work, and the often big surprises that come from looking carefully at a natural world where no species stands alone.
In anticipation of the book’s release event at Tucson’s Tohono Chul Park, the Arizona Daily Star ran an excerpt of Ted Fleming’s No Species Is an Island:
The most biologically diverse desert in the world, the Sonoran Desert hosts four species of columnar cacti which, along with their pollinators, have been the subject of an 11-year study by Dr. Theodore Fleming. “No Species Is an Island” describes his surprising results, including the ability of organ pipe cactus to produce fruit with another species’ pollen and the highly specialized moth-cactus pollination system of the senita. With illustrations by Kim Kanoa Duffek, Fleming’s book offers an insightful look at how field ecologists work and at the often big surprises that come from looking carefully at a natural world where no species stands alone.
Signature, a place for “making well-read sense of the world,” highlighted Emmy Pérez’s With the River On Our Face in their fall poetry roundup, which is curated by critic Lorraine Berry.
Emmy Perez sings the borderlands between America and Mexico, a contested land where identity and nationality are under constant surveillance. Her poetry forces the reader to feel the persons who live in those lands. In poems that follow the currents of the Rio Grande, she re-immerses readers in the waters where we all developed, fills our senses with the scent of blooming roses, of burning mesquite, and crashes us into the barriers erected to prevent the development of cross-border relationships. Reading Perez ignites the desire to experience the heat and the sere landscape, and generates anger at the destruction of all that flourishes there.
Read the full list of fall poetry titles on Signature.
In anticipation of the Hollywood release of the movie adaptation of James Clarke’s The Last Rampage, the Arizona Daily Star revisited Gary Tison’s 1978 prison break and the book that chronicled the two week’s of terror that ensued.
“Gary Tison, his three sons and his cellmate, Randy Greenawalt, walked out of Arizona State Prison in Florence on July 30, 1978, without a shot being fired.
At first it was an embarrassment to the state, then it became a nightmare.
While on the run, the Tison Gang, as they became known in the papers, murdered six people — a husband and wife and their infant son, a teen-age girl and a young honeymooning couple.”
So begins the New York Times’ 1988 review of “Last Rampage: The Escape of Gary Tison,” published nearly 30 years ago by the Houghton Mifflin Co. The University of Arizona Press has published the paperback edition of James W. Clarke’s “The Last Rampage” since 1999.
Clarke’s book is now the basis for a new movie.
On Friday, “Last Rampage: A True Crime Story,” was released in select theaters nationwide, in addition to On Demand and Digital HD. Its Tucson release has not yet been scheduled.
American Indians and National Forests shows how tribal nations and the U.S. Forest Service have dealt with important changes in forest ownership and forest use. Author Theodore Catton expertly covers two centuries of interplay to offer the first-ever look at the changing relationships between these two important groups of forest stewards.
Olivas’s bold insistence on leaving a few seams visible, a few threads frayed—even on pulling the rug away entirely—makes the book resound as a fascinating exploration of both the art of storytelling and the ways in which fiction echoes the messiness of life.
We’re gearing up to celebrate the release of Tom Miller’s latest work Cuba, Hot and Cold, which takes readers on an intimate journey from Havana to the places you seldom find in guidebooks. We recently sat down with Miller to get his thoughts on Cuba’s future in a post-embargo era and his advice for aspiring travel writers.
How did you get your start as a writer, and, more specifically, a travel writer?
I started writing for a number of reasons. First, I had no marketable skills, an admirable quality for beginning writers. I became active in the anti-war movement – we’re talking late 1960s, during our war against Vietnam – and saw a niche for myself. The anti-war groups had horrendous propaganda. I remember very distinctly looking at a poster for an anti-war rally and saying, “I can do better than that.” “Be my guest,” said one of the activists as he pulled a rickety chair out – all chairs in the anti-war movement were rickety – and dramatically placed it at a table with a typewriter. So began my start as a writer.
As a travel writer, I began by default. I had written a book about life along the 2,000 mile U.S.-Mexico border. When On the Border came out from Harper & Row, reviewers always referred to it as travel writing. I didn’t call myself a travel writer. I was anointed one.
You’ve been traveling to Cuba for more than 30 years, what keeps bringing you back?
In your introduction, you touch on a few run-ins with the CIA and jokingly dedicate the book to the readers, their neighbors, and the CIA for their repeated attempts to turn you informant. What has been your most nerve-wracking encounter with government agencies?
Actually, none. Even when Cuban state security had me in custody, I thought to myself, well, at least I can get a good story out of this.
With more and more Americans traveling to Cuba, how might the island change?
Worst case scenario: “Six Flags Over Cuba”
Best case scenario: “Cubana Be, Cubana Bop”
What advice do you have for aspiring travel writers?
Forget the travel part and specialize in a place or medical field or language or sports or athletes or crafts or chemistry or education or soil conservation or song lyrics. Just remember: always have a subtext.
What’s on your nightstand right now? (What are you currently reading?)
I’m rereading The Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder, a book he began during his tenure in Douglas, Arizona in the early 1960s. When the novel came out in 1967 it was a grand commercial and critical success – all but forgotten now.
Tom Miller will celebrate the release of his new book Cuba, Hot and Cold on November 9, 2017, as part of the Association of American University Press’s National “University Press Week.” Find out more about the event here.
In the 1990s, students at UCLA, UCSB, and Stanford University went on hunger strikes to demand the establishment and expansion of Chicana/o studies departments. They also had even broader aspirations—to obtain dignity and justice for all people. These students spoke eloquently, making their bodies and concerns visible.
Starving for Justice examines three hunger strikes that took place in the 1990s on university campuses. Twenty years ago, Chicana/o, Latina/o students at UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and Stanford stopped eating. Anti-immigrant measures like Proposition 187, mass incarceration, rising racial and economic inequality, globalization, budget cuts, and higher tuition costs morally outraged many. Having exhausted all other mechanisms for redressing their grievances, they embraced César Chávez’s perhaps mostly widely-known and controversial tactic for creating social change—the fast or “hunger strike.”
We’re pleased to announce two University of Arizona Press books were honored at this weekend’s International Latino Book Awards, which over the last 19 years has grown to become the largest Latino literary and cultural awards program in the United States.
Migrant Deaths in the Arizona Desert: La vida no vale nada took home First Place in the category of Best Nonfiction Multi-Author. The book addresses the tragic results of government policies on immigration and asks why migrants are dying on our border? The authors constitute a multidisciplinary group reflecting on the issues of death, migration, and policy.
Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, edited by the late Francisco X. Alarcón and Odilia Galván Rodriguez, secured First Place in the category of Best Poetry Book Multi-Author. The edited anthology offers a poetic call for tolerance, reflection, reconciliation, and healing. Bringing together more than eighty writers, the collection powerfully articulates the need for change and the primacy of basic human rights.
Historian Flannery Burke’s A Land Apart takes readers to the Southwest’s top tourist attractions to find out how they got there, to listen to the debates of Native people as they sought to establish independence for themselves in the modern United States, and to ponder the significance of the U.S.-Mexico border. Burke emphasizes policy over politicians, communities over individuals, and stories over simple narratives.
Burke discussed how Arizona and New Mexico came to embody what we now think of as “The Great Southwest” with travel icon Rick Steves, appearing on his radio show with fellow authors Terry Tempest Williams and Christopher Solomon.
“Come closer, chula / There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.” These beckoning lines, ending a poem set on a city bus, capture the intimacy and disturbing undercurrent that typify Vértiz’s fine second collection (after Swallows). Vértiz portrays her Los Angeles neighborhood with verve and what might be described as fond anger. We see poverty (“the death stench in our water in our jobs”) and fractured families. In one poem, “Dad’s paychecks couldn’t feed two houses,” which explains why the pet rabbits end up as soup, and elsewhere a postcard from pops says, “I wish you were here, mija / Come on, don’t get all feelings on me / I may be drunk / But at least I’m home.” The uncle delivering an unexpected kiss, teenagers in tight black jeans, the “pleyboy” boyfriend who proved “a hard climb / A home to mispronounce” (“Fuck that, said my brother, There’s other fools to love”), a mother and brother signifying “ten thousand truck miles (“Why won’t / their coughs go away?”)—these make up a chamber opera that Vértiz vivifies with jangle and sparkle.
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