Author: Laura Sell

Publicity and Advertising Manager, Duke University Press

Remembering Former Director Larry Malley

We were sad to learn of the death of former Duke University Press director Larry Malley on September 13, 2018.

malleyMalley worked at Duke University Press from 1988 to 1993, first serving as Editorial and Associate Director and then taking over the directorship from Dick Rowson. Following his tenure here he served as the director of the University of Arkansas Press. His obituary details his long career in publishing.

Editorial Director Ken Wissoker says, “Larry Malley took a chance in hiring me to Duke and brought in Emily Young as Marketing Director, thus even in a short tenure setting the stage for what would come after.  He was a warm, outgoing colleague and a discerning editor. Like many of his era he started as a salesperson and scout for textbooks, going office to office at colleges for McGraw Hill.  The ease that job requires in striking up conversation and then honing in on a good book idea served him well his whole career.”

Lee Willoughby-Harris, our Books Marketing Metadata and Digital Systems Manager, remembers working with Malley: “Larry was a tireless advocate for university presses and their role in both academic life and the public sphere. He was also our mooring in a time of great transition at Duke University Press. The staff he brought to Durham during the late 1980s and early 1990s became the foundation for the success and influence that Duke enjoys today.” She adds, “On a personal level, I found Larry’s knowledge of and appreciation for college basketball along Tobacco Road to be unmatched among university press directors.”

We send our condolences to Larry Malley’s family, including his wife Maggie and his children and grandchildren.

 

New Poetry from Rafael Campo

978-1-4780-0021-1After publishing five of Rafael Campo’s previous books, we are delighted to be releasing his first collection this month: Comfort Measures Only: New and Selected Poems, 1994–2016. Gathered from his long career as a poet-physician, these eighty-eight poems—thirty of which have never been previously published in a collection—pull back the curtain in the ER, laying bare our pain and joining us all in spellbinding moments of pathos. Here we share one of his new poems from the collection.

 

Invaders

She says that back in Mexico the map
of the United States that hung above
the teacher’s desk was like a floating island
impossible to reach, impossible

for any girl like her to even dream
might welcome her. She gazes now instead
above my desk, her flattened breasts a map
no more accessible, no more forgiving,

the spreading cancer numinous, one could
say even beautiful, deceptive as
that distant promise. Here just one short year,
she tells me of the landlord calling them

“invaders,” six of them who shared a room,
the only toilet down the hall. She says
she cried alone beneath the Virgin Mary,
the church the only place she knew to go,

the flickering of candles casting shadows
in shapes above her everywhere like maps
to other worlds; she says she prayed for this
to be a better world. The clinic throbs

in pain outside my door, so many dreams
deferred, so many hearts invaded by
resentment or remorse, so many seas traversed
and borders crossed. So many journeys done.

To order a copy of Comfort Measures Only for 30% off, please use coupon code E18CAMPO at checkout.

 

How a Culture of Inclusion Can Improve Peer Review: Guest Post by Sandra Korn and Alejandra Mejía

It’s Peer Review Week, an annual event that brings together individuals, institutions, and organizations committed to sharing the central message that good peer review, whatever shape or form it might take, is critical to scholarly communications. We are pleased to share a guest post by Assistant Editor Sandra Korn and Editorial Associate Alejandra Mejía to kick off the week.

Last year for peer review week, our Editorial Director Ken Wissoker wrote about why he loves peer review. This year, we have a different sort of take: we want to look at how mentoring and developing students from diverse backgrounds can strengthen the work of book acquisitions.

bedit field trip

Staff and interns from our Books Acquisitions department on a field trip to the Museum of Durham History, including post authors Sandra Korn (back left) and Alejandra Mejía (front, second from right).

The two of us work together to coordinate the student internship program in the Books Acquisitions department at Duke University Press. Our department relies on our students to carry out some of the administrative work that is essential to our workflow, but we also draw them into conversations about projects in their field of interest, and provide professional development experience for them in acquisitions and across the press.

How do diversity and inclusion, the academic peer review process, and student internships overlap? We believe that listening to voices that have been traditionally underrepresented in the publishing industry can make our editorial work, and our author’s books, more thoughtful and responsive. This is especially vital because our industry remains majority white — a recent study found that 91% of employees in scholarly publishing identify as white. Valuing insights from our student interns can aid the process of upholding socially conscientious scholarship as well as promote a more inclusive culture within academic publishing.

Duke Press hires three to five undergraduate and graduate students during the summer and school year, and we are able to pay all of our student interns. Many other university presses, especially those at public universities with constrained budgets, still have unpaid internships — but important conversations questioning that common practice are finally happening across the publishing industry. Paid internships make interning here a viable option for students from low-income backgrounds: after all, many low-income students work in order to finance their studies, maintain themselves, and send money home. We are grateful to provide students from low-income backgrounds the opportunity to learn about an industry which they may have not ever thought about as a feasible career path.

And, we have made the conscious decision to review student intern applications using a holistic rubric. The many different experiences and skills that diverse applicants bring to the table will undoubtedly influence their work and the direction of the Press as a whole. We take care to hire acquisitions interns who come from the many colleges and universities across our region, including historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). (If you’re a student nearby, you can apply right now to work in our department this year!)

As coordinators of the internship program, we recognize our role in training future scholars and publishing professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds, from academic to socioeconomic. Part of this work is recognizing the daily support that we can provide our students via training, relationship-building, and upholding their voices.

It is exactly by valuing the opinions of student interns and colleagues that we can begin to expand the scope of scholarly publishing and create a culture of inclusion in the publishing industry. For instance, we’ve already seen how fruitful it can be for junior-level staff to express opinions, thoughts, and knowledge about processes and projects. One of our editors is acquiring a book that analyzes racism in the American public school system. Our summer intern, who recently graduated from a local arts high school, was able to speak to the editor about her own experience as a person of color in a predominantly white school. And we have heard student interns contribute important insights into who might be an appropriate peer reviewer or cover artist. Moreover, these students are our future acquisition editors, authors, and peer reviewers: truly including them in editorial conversations now will strengthen the scholarly publishing industry in the long term.

It is vital to the intellectual work of publishing to have queer students, students of color, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and student activists engaging with the literature that is oftentimes theorizing the experiences of their communities. We are excited to think about what the future of academic publishing could look like with a wide array of voices and skills coming together.

Farewell to Jazz Great Randy Weston

We were sad to learn of the passing of pianist, composer, and Duke University Press author Randy Weston, who died in his Brooklyn home on Saturday, September 1, at the age of 92.

978-0-8223-4798-9_prThe author of African Rhythms: The Autobiography of Randy Weston, Weston was born in Brooklyn on April 6, 1926, and became one of the most innovative and unique musicians of his generation. He studied, befriended, and performed with many of jazz’s luminaries including Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, and Melba Liston.

Weston’s illustrious career spanned seven decades and is documented on fifty albums, the first of which came out in 1952. His final album, The African Nubian Suite, was released in 2016. An indefatigable performer, Weston was always performing and touring. He played his final live show in July.

Throughout his career Weston emphasized jazz’s African roots and drew on a variety of musical traditions of the African diaspora, from Moroccan and Ghanaian to those of the Caribbean. Willard Jenkins, who coauthored African Rhythms, told NPR that “while a lot of musicians are constantly seeking something new, Randy found sustenance in ancient tradition.”

“Randy Weston was a warm and brilliant spirit,” said Weston’s editor at Duke University Press, Ken Wissoker.  “His commitments to the music and to Africa and the diaspora never wavered. His story was unique, as was he, and it was a real honor to work with him and Willard Jenkins on his memoir.”

Weston was a two-time Grammy nominee, a Guggenheim fellow, National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, and a member of Downbeat magazine’s Hall of Fame. He is survived by his wife Fatoumata Mbengue, his three daughters, and many grandchildren. All of us who worked with Weston here at Duke University Press are proud to have a played a small part in cementing his legacy.

Read an Excerpt from Dionne Brand’s The Blue Clerk

978-1-4780-0006-8In her new book The Blue Clerk renowned poet Dionne Brand explores memory, language, culture, and the nature of writing through a series of haunting prose poems that contain dialogues between the figure of the poet and the Blue Clerk, who is tasked with managing the poet’s discarded attempts at writing.

Brand is the author of many award-winning collections of poetry as well as several acclaimed novels.. In 2006, Brand was awarded the prestigious Harbourfront Festival Prize, and from 2009 to 2012, she was Toronto’s Poet Laureate. In 2017, she was appointed to the Order of Canada. Brand is also a Professor of English in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph.

Read an excerpt from The Blue Clerk below and then order a copy from our website for 30% off using coupon code E18BRAND.

VERSO 13
Blue tremors, blue position, blue suppuration. The clerk is
considering blue havoc, blue thousands, blue shoulder,
where these arrive from, blue expenses . . . The clerk hears
humming in her ears; blue handling, she answers; any blue,
she asks the author, any blue nails today? Did you send me,
as I asked, blue ants? The author asks, blue drafts? Perhaps
blue virus, blue traffic would make a sense, says the clerk,
blue hinges, blue climbing, these would go together under
normal circumstances. The author actually doesn’t hear a
thing the blue clerk says under these circumstances when
the blue clerk sits in the blue clerk’s place making the blue
clerk’s language. Systolic blue, any day it will be blue now,
reloading blue, blue disciplines. The blue clerk would like a
blue language or a lemon language or a violet language.
Blue arrivals. Oh yes.

VERSO 13.1

“. . . and in the warped fantastic environment of our lives . . .
For instance none of us had seen the outer world . . . we were
the offspring of lovers convicts the poor and had been brought
to this forest by the Factory Committee . . .”         Kamau Brathwaite

It is here in the Black Angel that everything is said
already, everything that can be said. The author sighs.
How much you owe him! Quick radicles of green. And
more, green life and green balance. Terra verde. Alizarin
green. CuCO3(OH). Verdigris. That much green. The clerk
goes on. Black arrivals, oh yes, black valves of black
engines, black charges, black spins, black numbers,
black options, black equilibriums. Condensed smoke
of a luminous flame.
Now you owe him the warped fantastic environment of
our lives. And yes, the world I live in is not the world at all,
it is, if I ever look at it as a place, somewhere where the
years I manage to live will not be enough for me to live. I
will have spent the years I live in this warped, fantastic
environment of our lives.

VERSO 13.1.1

Brathwaite. Black equilibrium Black spun.

James Baldwin’s Little Man, Little Man

Baldwin_REV_jacket_frontToday is the official publication date for the republication of James Baldwin’s only children’s book Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood.  Little Man, Little Man celebrates and explores the challenges and joys of black childhood. Now available for the first time in forty years, this new edition of Little Man, Little Man—which retains the charming original illustrations by French artist Yoran Cazac—includes a foreword by Baldwin’s nephew Tejan “TJ” Karefa-Smart and an afterword by his niece Aisha Karefa-Smart, with an introduction by Baldwin scholars Nicholas Boggs and Jennifer DeVere Brody. In it we not only see life in 1970s Harlem from a black child’s perspective, but we also gain a fuller appreciation of the genius of one of America’s greatest writers.

Editor Nicholas Boggs told the New York Times about his discovery of an old copy of Little Man, Little Man in Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library in the 1990s, when he was an undergraduate. “It wasn’t like anything else he’s written, and the more I read it, it wasn’t like anything else I’d read,” he told the Times, and it led him to begin a campaign to get the book republished. The Times notes that the reissue “could scarcely be more timely” and interviews author Jacqueline Woodson about the book. “Now that we have a children’s book, we can start people off even younger,” she told them. “It’s a book that young people can read or have read to them, but it’s also a new Baldwin for adults.”

Baldwin_66-67_crossingstreet_small

Little Man, Little Man has also been praised by Levar Burton, who says, “The prospect of reading an out-of-print children’s book by none other than James Baldwin himself is as tantalizing an invitation as I have ever been offered. And . . . it does not disappoint!”  The book has been positively reviewed in People MagazinePublishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and Shelf Awareness. Teachers and librarians are praising it as well. On her blog Ms Yingling Reads, school librarian Karen Yingling says the book will be a great teaching tool “because it is a rare primary source snapshot of a particular place and time.” We are offering a free Teacher Resource Guide that aligns with Common Core standards.

Baldwin_Fig_48_pg52_53_kitchentable

Although it is available everywhere now, the book will be officially launched in New York City from September 11-14 with several great events open to the public. The events will kick off with a symposium at New York University on September 11 featuring the book’s editors and Baldwin’s niece and nephew in conversation with several scholars. On September 13, Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture hosts a book release and conversation among the book’s contributors along with novelist Jacqueline Woodson and writer Kia Corthon. Then on September 14, Harlem’s Sugar Hill Children’s Museum hosts TJ’s Bash, a colorful day of art-making activities, storytelling, poetry, and music for children ages 3-8. And wrapping up the weekend’s events will be an event at McNally Jackson bookstore in Williamsburg on September 15.

Preview the book by listening to Tejan Karefa-Smart read from it and watch James Baldwin himself discuss writing for children in this great video created by Dia Felix and Nicholas Boggs. Then buy the book on our website for a 30% discount using coupon code E18LMLM.

A View from the Ivy Gates: Christine Yano on Privilege and Affirmative Action

yanoChristine Yano is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Hawai’i and co-editor (with Neal K. Adolph Akatsuka) of the new book Straight A’s: Asian American College Students in Their Own Words. This guest post offers her reflections on current and recent lawsuits on affirmative action in higher education.

Privilege is an ugly word.  And any pedestal of privilege holds a fraught position that draws critics and wannabes.  Given these elements, the possibilities for manipulation of privilege and its pedestals run high.  In my mind, this is part of the backdrop of the current lawsuit against Harvard University’s admissions policy by the so-called Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) led by conservative activist Edward Blum.  The lawsuit charges that Harvard’s undergraduate admissions policy discriminates against Asian American applicants, by holding them to a higher bar than others, based on their numerical test scores and rates of admission.  The lawsuit on surface carries commonsense momentum, because it feeds upon a history of rumor and innuendo, in part driven by similar lawsuits levelled at other places of privilege, such as University of California, Berkeley.  It feeds upon stereotypes of Asian Americans as a model minority that is high-achieving and low maintenance, ignoring the diversity of national origins, culture, education levels, and social class.  The model minority stereotype thrust upon Asian Americans by white media during the racially volatile 1960s categorized them as the so-called “good minority” in contrast with other persons of color as the “bad minority.”  The lawsuit feeds upon the creation and manipulation of such divisiveness, pitting minority against minority in the most insidious ways.  The lawsuit generates its own hype.

978-1-4780-0024-2I come to these thoughts on the impending lawsuit through perusing related documents in the news media, but also through my experiences as a Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Harvard in 2014-2015, teaching an experimental and temporary undergraduate course entitled Being Asian American: Representations and Realities (Anth1606).  My students were primarily Asian American undergraduates, who were excited and enthusiastic to find a class that dealt with their own experiences.  The students’ energies coalesced as Straight A’s:  Asian American College Students in Their Own Words.  Straight A’s consists of first-person narratives of Harvard Asian American undergraduates, gathered by the students (dubbed “Asian American Collective”) through personal writings and interviews.  As their instructor and fellow Asian American, I was moved by their tales, which were direct, unblinking, and intimate.  They helped me learn the pitfalls of the public pedestal of Harvard and the constant scrutiny that such a position entails, which includes families (sometimes arcing back to extended families in Asia), friends, high schools, communities, and more.  These students live under tremendous pressure, and a lawsuit such as Blum’s only adds to the confusion and complexity of their college years.

I admit that I, too, did not know exactly what to make of the lawsuit without having done some background reading.  Because the lawsuit feeds into so many pre-existing assumptions, stereotypes, and histories, those who hear news of it may find themselves hard put to examine its context more closely.  After all, prejudice against Asian Americans is a very real thing.  Shutting out minorities (here Asian Americans; in the past, Jews) from institutions of privilege is well documented and an ugly part of history, including that of Harvard.  These kinds of historical encounters with the allegations set forth by the lawsuit give a kind of common-sense, superficial acceptance of its premises. This is a dangerous thing, especially given an age of right-wing conservatism with calls for dismantling affirmative action programs.  The lawsuit implies that the admissions process at a place of privilege such as Harvard follows affirmative action practices—that is, racial and ethnic quotas—that in this case have worked against one minority that has proven too successful for their own good.  Proponents of the lawsuit suggest that the answer is to abandon all affirmative action that might give any particular group an advantage (or here, disadvantage) over any other group.  Thus Blum and his followers (including some recruited Asian Americans, such as Yukong Zhao, president of the Asian American Coalition for Education) have found a circuitous means to argue against affirmative action in general.  It’s a neat and cynical trick.

But in fact, the trick is not quite so neat.  For example, the lawsuit mischaracterizes Harvard’s current admissions process.  In fact, many institutions, including Harvard, utilize holistic review—that is, a widespread, multi-factored review process that aims to assess the context of the whole person, rather than simply relying on test scores.  That context includes family background, life circumstances, and unusual achievement, assessed through letters of recommendation, personal essays, and interviews.  Holistic review allows institutions to deliberately and purposefully look beyond numerical test scores to recognize future value to careers and communities.  This is not about a “positive personality” score to which Asian Americans have been ranked lower—what Blum labels the “Asian Penalty.”  Rather, holistic review provides admissions offices with a range of factors that might predict fit and function, including in some cases recognition of educational barriers that certain Asian American applicants may face, such as low-income families, refugee status, or lack of English as a primary language.  The lawsuit, in fact, relies upon disaggregated data that takes Asian Americans as a monolithic group, ignoring those who might fall outside the model minority category.  Blum’s trick only works if we uncritically accept the methods of his fact-gathering and the ideological basis of his argument.  The key element to understanding the issues involved lies in contextualizing Blum and the motivations behind SFFA.

And a number of groups have done just that.  Foremost among these is the Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance (H4A), an organization of 7000 Asian American and Asian alumni around the globe and founded in 2008.  If anything, their voice should be heard as persons directly concerned with the lawsuit issues.  In an extensive June 29, 2018 message to members, the H4A Board and Executive Committee emphasized two main points:  1) they support the inclusive, whole-person admissions process that Harvard uses; and 2) they oppose any form of racial discrimination in the process.  The message also notes Blum’s history of conservative activism, of which this lawsuit is only one.  Blum, for example, was at the forefront in bringing down civil rights protections in the Voting Rights Act.  He twice went unsuccessfully to the Supreme Court on behalf of a white plaintiff in Fisher vs University of Texas to end the consideration of race in admissions.  Realizing that he needed Asian American plaintiffs to further his generalized case to dismantle affirmative action, he sought and found them in his newly created “Students for Fair Admissions.”  The Harvard lawsuit is the result.

One of the most comprehensive documents that I have read is that issued by the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard of June 26, 2018, entitled “Admissions Lawsuit Update: A Look Behind the Hype.”  The Coalition, a multi-racial, multi-ethnic organization of nearly 1100 Harvard and Radcliffe alumni and students, includes more than 200 Asian Americans and was founded in 2016.  Its steering committee spent hundreds of hours reviewing the lawsuit documents, and comparing the statistical evaluations in a “battle of the experts”—Dr. Peter Arcidiacono (Professor of Economics, Duke University) representing SFFA versus Dr. David Card (Professor of Economics, University of California, Berkeley) representing Harvard.  Because the lawsuit is ongoing, its conclusions are as well.  However, the Coalition importantly identifies the overarching aim of Blum and SFFA as seeking to ban holistic review admissions processes nationwide through a court ruling that any use of race or ethnicity in an evaluative educational setting is unconstitutional.  If successful, the injunction would prevent all educational institutions from conducting their screening with knowledge of the applicant’s race, including surnames, mention of family background in personal essays, or in-person interviews.  SFFA seeks an admissions process that elevates (or returns) the importance of numerical test scores, while disregarding, among other things, life histories, special skills and talents, and individual passions.  This flies in the face of longstanding acknowledgment of the very limitations and biases of standardized testing.

The key here is not only that the Blum-SFFA position on admissions is wrong-headed.  It is, of course.  But there is more to it than that.  Rather, Blum-SFFA seeks to dismantle the very goals of diversity in access to higher education by “fracturing communities of color” (the words of the Coalition).  And he is using Asian Americans as his bulwark.  Those goals of diversity have been long served by affirmative action, widespread programs that recognize that students do not arrive from the same starting line.  Harvard’s admissions process may not be considered strictly “affirmative action,” but in prioritizing the whole person over a test score, and by upholding a goal of a diverse student body not because of a statistical mandate, but because of the richness to be gained and curated and advanced by difference, the ipso facto result takes race as one part of the context of all students.  The experience of race says something about the student, not as an assumption, but as one element in a particularized context of culture, family, educational expectations, stereotypes, and more.

Because the lawsuit plays so easily into sneering comments about privilege, as well as widespread rumors about access to pedestals of privilege, such as Harvard, the general public may too easily fail to look beyond the accusations.  They’ve heard this before; they’ve felt this before.  Asian Americans as almost-whites, subject to the same kinds of reverse discrimination that whites might face.  Model-minority privilege.  Focused on the easy predictability of the accusation, the general public may too easily ignore the goals of the accusers, and rely too easily on their own intentional and unintentional stereotypes of Asian Americans and other domestic communities of color.

Thus it is important to re-focus and re-calibrate our attention.  In this case, the true news story lies in the accusers’ ideology of exclusion and political conservatism.  The accusers’ world view has no room for affirmative action.  Ultimately targeting and dismantling those practices that seek to rectify social conditions of inequality, the accusers would have us believe in the holy grail of test-score objectivity.  This is why Blum advocates eliminating any and all references to race in the admissions evaluation.  The accusers would have us rush to the defense of poor Asian Americans, whose only crime was doing too well.  They would have us ignore the educational richness of a diverse campus, as well as the steps that an institution might take to achieve that balance. They would have us ignore the many ways that an individual might excel and contribute to a variety greater goods.  Using the public spotlight upon privilege and its pedestal, the accusers manipulate a quasi-minority position to do battle in the courts.  In many ways, it is a battle of world views.  But that characterization sounds far too neutral.  Indeed, this is a human rights issue.  The Harvard lawsuit represents a struggle for the very concept of what higher education and its access in the United States might mean.  The stakes run high as Blum threatens the ongoing work of affirmative action aimed at extending privilege and pedestal to a broader swath.  Asian Americans are but a pawn in his game.  This fall the courts will decide whose world view prevails.

Read more about the Asian American experience at Harvard in Straight A’s: Asian American College Students in Their Own Words. Check out the introduction, and save 30% when you purchase a copy from Duke University Press by using coupon code E18STRA at checkout.

Q&A with Amy Laura Hall, author of Laughing at the Devil

Amy-Laura-Hall-0616-preferredAmy Laura Hall is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Duke University Divinity School. She is the author of Kierkegaard and the Treachery of LoveConceiving Parenthood: American Protestantism and the Spirit of Reproduction; and Writing Home, With Love: Politics for Neighbors and Naysayers. In her new book, Laughing at the Devil: Seeing the World with Julian of Norwich, she takes up medieval mystic Julian of Norwich’s call to laugh at the Devil as a means to transform a setting of dread and fear into the means to create hope, solidarity, and resistance.

You compare Julian of Norwich to Nicki Minaj. How did that happen?

It happened in the car. I had been writing this book for fourteen years, trying to say what I most needed to hear in between washing dishes, grading papers, and picking up dog poop. I was sitting in the parking lot of the Duke Federal Credit Union, and my older daughter started playing Nicki Minaj on her phone. She said, “I love the way she laughs!” Both of my daughters were dancing, unafraid. It was a small miracle. (And those are the ones that matter.) Nicki Minaj brought a miracle into the Duke Federal Credit Union parking lot. She had invited my two daughters to sing, laugh, dance, and declare, unabashed. I remember staring into the bushes that block the parking lot from Main Street. I saw Julian of Norwich smile. I saw this clearly.

978-1-4780-0025-9How do medieval texts speak to contemporary readers?

We, the peasants, continue to rebel against a feudal system, in a myriad of ways. Through street theater, murals, graffiti, research essays, public protests, catchy chants and songs, human beings continue to resist the ways that we are treated like tools. This book is my own best, creative intervention against the untruth of radical inequality, racist terror, drone strikes, torture, and the system of denigrating and silencing women that many of us refer to as “the patriarchy.”

What can Julian of Norwich offer those who are secular or who do not follow the Christian faith?

I have not written this book in order to sneak Christianity into the brains of people who are not Christian. There are writers who do this, and I try to avoid this kind of subterfuge. Given this caveat, I will note that there are non-Christian feminists who have found her blessed moxie encouraging. There are non-Christian women who have found the story of her eventual commitment to a semi-secluded setting, as an anchorite, to be intriguing. So, such readers may find this book helpful. There is also an annoyingly resilient fad in mainstream, popular culture in the U.S. to romanticize, even to enchant, the medieval period. I will be delighted if people who love the television series “Game of Thrones,” for example, find in Julian’s visions of consanguinity (meaning, literally, being of one blood, made as blood kin through grace) an alternative way to see themselves and their neighbors. I will be delighted if the book offers non-Christians a chance to reconsider the generalized “Gospel of Austerity,” (a term I use frequently) whereby we gain purchase on life through suffering and/or competition for scarce resources. Julian has invited me to find the miracles of solidarity around me. Perhaps she will do the same for others.

One might think of laughter and religion as unlikely bedfellows. How did you arrive at your focus on laughter? Where does humor fit in contemporary religious scholarship?

The focus of the book is not laughter, exactly. Having said this, I appreciate the insight at the core of this question. Christians are not generally known for our laughter. We are perhaps best known for our proclivity to scowl. I chose the title of the book in order to highlight one of Julian’s less quoted, but truly remarkable visions, where she laughs at the Devil. I read her visions as redirecting her and eventually her readers away from a cycle of shame, fear, cruelty, and self-protection. The sense of shameless abandon that my daughters and I received through Nicki Minaj’s music that day involved our forgetfulness that we are being assessed. The words from a poppy song from my own teen years comes to mind. The medieval-esque video for the 1983 song “Safety Dance” is absurd, in the best sense of that word. Meaning, as the Oxford English Dictionary notes, “Of a thing: against or without reason or propriety; incongruous, unreasonable, illogical.” Julian of Norwich’s writings do have a kind of congruity. But that congruity is set within a context of gratuity. To put this more plainly, she has seen visions of God’s extravagant, abiding love that resituate what much of the Western world considers to be common sense. Is it safe to dance? Is it safe to live in a way that seems unreasonable, even foolish? The simple answer is no. But Julian invites us to laugh at the Devil with her, and I invite readers to risk acting “like we come from out of this world.” (Thank you, dear Men Without Hats.)

Is there anything else you would like potential readers to know about Julian of Norwich?

Julian of Norwich is not technically a Saint in her beloved Mother Church (the Roman Catholic Church). There are reasons for this. For one, her bones disintegrated. Julian was not an otherworldly, magical creature. She was a person. She was a human being. And she wrote a book about God that includes her visions of God’s attention to and sanctification of mundane, very worldly details, like fish-scales and raindrops, like bread and crushed grapes. It is also a fun fact that, although Julian the anchorite is often depicted artistically as alone, coifed, and serene, with a tranquil cat in her lap, Julian the anchorite could have plausibly shared her church apartment in Norwich with some chickens, a cow, or even a mischievous goat.

Read the introduction to Laughing at the Devil free online, and purchase the paperback for 30% off using coupon code E18LAUGH at dukeupress.edu.

Historian Dawn Bohulano Mabalon Has Died

Dawn+photoWe were deeply saddened to learn of the death of historian Dawn Bohulano Mabalon on August 10. 2018. Mabalon was the author of Little Manila Is in the Heart: The Making of the Filipina/o American Community in Stockton, California, published in 2013.

Mabalon saw her work as an act of community building. In an interview with The Margins in 2013, she said: “Filipinos in Stockton are on a journey towards realizing our memories and stories are history. We have been taught that it’s the growers and business owners and elite in Stockton who make history, and we only have our memories and those don’t mean as much. But realizing how we are a part of the American story is so empowering and so important. And that’s what I wanted to do with this book.”

littlemanilaShe toured tirelessly to share her research with Filipino-American communities, often sharing homemade treats with her enthusiastic audiences.  She was a co-founder and board member of the Little Manila Foundation, and in 2013 she was named to the list of the Filipina Women’s Network 100 Most Influential Filipinas in the World.

The Stockton Record reports that the local Filipino community is deeply mourning Mabalon’s loss, casting a shadow over the annual Barrio Fiesta. Dawn Mabalon’s family has set up a memorial fund to help with her funeral costs.

 

Summer Reading Recommendations from our Staff

Heading on vacation soon? Or just retreating inside to read on these hot days? Our staff love to read and we’re happy to offer some of their suggestions for your summer reading list.

WordsonBathroomWallsCustomer Relations Representative Camille Wright recommends Julia Walton’s Words on Bathroom Walls. “This is a young adult novel bringing awareness to mental illnesses and warming hearts with an interracial love story. Adam’s journey sheds light on what it might be like to deal with the diagnosis and symptoms of schizophrenia as a teenager in high school. As he begins his junior year at a new school, St. Agatha’s Catholic School, he attempts to keep his schizophrenia a secret from his classmates and friends. A clinical trial medication helps him determine if people, objects, and voices are real or hallucinations but the secret becomes harder to keep once the medication begins to fail. Adam’s story is told through his coping mechanism – extremely honest, sarcastic, and funny journal entries to psychiatrist.”

TrulyMadlyGuiltyJournals Marketing Manager Jocelyn Dawson says, “If you enjoyed the television series Big Little Lies, check out Truly Madly Guilty, also written by Liane Moriarty. Moriarty is an Australian author with a gift for compelling plots (crucial for summer reading) and realistic characters. I found myself still thinking about the people in the book days after I finished it.”

WhatItMeansEditor Elizabeth Ault’s summer reading is Lesley Nneka Arimah’s What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky. She says, “I’d slept on the collection, which came out last spring and is now out in paperback, because I’m not normally a fan of short stories, but hearing a couple of the pieces from this book on LeVar Burton’s podcast intrigued me. I’m finding a lot of literary fiction novels too heavy right now and Arimah’s stories, blending Nigeria, Minneapolis, family, work, romance, and an occasional dose of magical realism, all framed with a wry sense of humor are hitting the spot. The stories are deep and wise, but also super YouThinkItIllSayItfunny and just the right length (which means they sometimes feel too short).”

Journals Publicist and Exhibits Coordinator Katie Smart also recommends a story collection: You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld. “Much like everything else that Sittenfeld has written—I couldn’t put it down. Each short story in this book is linked to a game that two characters play in ​a  story in the collection. The “You Think It, I’ll Say It” game is all about passing judgement on people from observation only, not from actual interactions. Time and again we see the main characters of each short story building false narratives and limiting beliefs in their mind (and in many cases becoming consumed by them) before discovering that all along things weren’t as they had initially seemed. Sittenfeld is an excellent storyteller, and each set of characters and situations is unique and refreshing. I appreciated her attempts at humanizing her characters while also unapologetically displaying their flaws.​ This collection was so good that I found myself quickly starting the next story, even when I intended to set the book down for the day.”

FlashSenior Project Editor Charles Brower is looking forward to reading: Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous, by Christopher Bonanos, the first full-length biography of the great noir photographer (“If I can hold off a month before digging into it, he says.) “Probably my most eagerly anticipated novel of the year, Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room, in which the main character is serving two consecutive life sentences in a California women’s prison for killing a man that was stalking her. Perfect for the beach!”

Publicity and Advertising Manager Laura Sell HighSeasonsuggests a beach read that actually takes place at the beach: The High Season by Judy Blundell. She says, “This is a gossipy book poking fun at the super-rich who head for the Hamptons every summer and a fun skewering of the art world and its rich board members whom many nonprofit toilers will recognize. Suspenseful and well-written, I breezed through it in two days.”

FireontheMountainEditorial Associate Sandra Korn says, “I’ve been listening to Autumn Brown and adrienne maree brown’s podcast about apocalypse called How to Survive the End of the World (my summer listening recommendation!) and thinking a lot about the role of science fiction in imagining different futures. So I’m reading Terry Bisson’s 1988 utopian novel Fire on the MountainPM Press published a new edition in 2009 with a powerful introduction from Mumia Abu-JamalThe story is set in 1959 in Nova Africa, the independent socialist country that was founded after John Brown and Harriet Tubman led a successful raid on Harper’s Ferry. Nova Africa is about to make its second Mars landing and one of the main characters, a teenager named Harriet Odinga, has incredible space-age ‘living shoes’ from Africa that conform to her feet as she wears Venusiathem.”

Copywriter Chris Robinson also suggests some speculative fiction, but leans toward the dystopian: “Venusia by Mark von Schlegell is one of the most absolutely bonkers books I’ve read. Imagine China Mieville and Jean Baudrillard getting really stoned and co-writing a postmodern dystopian sci-fi pulp novel: set in a 23rd century totalitarian colony on Venus where the residents only eat hallucinogenic flowers, sentient plants are telepathic, and a junk dealer, psychiatrist, and secret agent explore the meanings of reality, perception, and consciousness. At least that’s what I think is going on.”

PalisadesParkProject Editor Sara Leone says she read Palisades Park by Alan Brennert a few years ago and loved it so much she recently re-read it. “The author evokes Dickens in his detailed descriptions of daily life and dreams from the 1920s through the 1970s. The novel has a broad range of characters, including wanderers willing to take on any job to survive the Depression, women dreaming of daring careers like high diving, courageous citizens battling to end segregation in swimming pools, and of course the workers in the park whose lives connect and change with each new summer season. Salt water, New York/New Jersey culture, and the evolving perception of amusements in America are the backdrop. Plus it’s a fun read if, like me, you were a kid hearing the Palisades Park jingle on the radio every summer on the NY stations!”

Stay cool and happy reading!