Books

Disorienting Disability

Disorienting Disability,” the latest issue of the South Atlantic Quarterly, edited by Michele Friedner and Karen Weingarten, is available now.

This special issue examines the stakes of orienting toward or away from disability as a category and as a method. Building on Sara Ahmed’s conceptualization of “orientation” as the situating of queer and raced bodies, the contributors ask how the category of disability might also change how we think of bodies orienting in space and time. Are all paths, desire lines, objects, and interpellations equally accessible? How do we conceptualize access in different spaces? What kind of theoretical and empirical turns might emerge in disorienting disability?

Drawing on feminist studies, critical race studies, and queer studies, the contributors probe the meanings of the term disability and consider disability in relation to other categories of difference such as race, gender, and class. Essays challenge the historicity of disability; push disability studies to consider questions of loss, pain, and trauma; question the notion of disability as another form of diversity; and expand arguments about the ethics of care to consider communities not conventionally defined as disabled.

The issue’s Against the Day section, “Contentious Crossings: Struggles and Alliances for Freedom of Movement across the Mediterranean Sea,” brings together researchers and activists to reflect on struggles against the European border regime. All articles in this section are freely available for six months.

Browse the issue’s contents here, or read the introduction, freely available.

You might also find these recent books in disability studies of interest:

In this revised and expanded edition of Medicine Stories, Aurora Levins Morales weaves together the insights and lessons learned over a lifetime of activism to offer a new theory of social justice, bringing clarity and hope to tangled, emotionally charged social issues in beautiful and accessible language.

In Black Madness :: Mad Blackness Therí Alyce Pickens examines the speculative and science fiction of Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, and Tananarive Due to rethink the relationship between race and disability, thereby unsettling the common theorization that they are mutually constitutive.

Jane Gallop explores how disability and aging are commonly understood to undermine one’s sense of self in Sexuality, Disability, and Aging. She challenges narratives that register the decline of bodily potential and ability as nothing but an experience of loss.

Bridging black feminist theory with disability studies, in Bodyminds Reimagined, Sami Schalk traces how black women’s speculative fiction complicates the understanding of bodyminds in the context of race, gender, and (dis)ability, showing how the genre’s exploration of bodyminds that exist outside of the present open up new social and ethical possibilities.

World Day against Trafficking in Persons

trafficking-logoToday is World Day against Trafficking in Persons, a day to bring awareness to and encourage action against human trafficking. In honor of this international day, we’re featuring some of our recent journal articles (all available free for six months) and books that explore this global issue.

In the Trail of the Ship: Narrating the Archives of Illegal Slavery,” featured in the March 2019 issue of Social Text, delves into the strange, contradictory archives of the illegal transatlantic slave trade that flourished between Angola and Brazil in the mid-nineteenth century. The article’s author, Yuko Miki, follows the documentary trail of notorious slave ship Mary E. Smith, focusing on the list of the ship’s Africans who were “liberated” from captivity, most of whom were already deceased.

m_ddpos_25_4.coverAuthor Elena Shih explores why and how Thailand functions as a pivotal destination for US human-trafficking rescue projects in “Freedom Markets: Consumption and Commerce across Human-Trafficking Rescue in Thailand,” featured in the November 2017 issue of positions: asia critique. Basing her research on the global anti-trafficking movement in Thailand, China, and the United States between 2008 and 2014, Shih juxtaposes two distinct tourist encounters: a human-trafficking reality tour hosted by a US nonprofit organization, and a separate study-abroad gathering of US university students hosted at the office of a Thai sex worker rights organization.

m_ddglq_22_3_coverIn the run-up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the Brazilian government engaged in a militarized campaign to clean up favelas, blighted areas, and red-light districts so that it could “develop” them. In his article “Evangelical Ecstasy Meets Feminist Fury: Sex Trafficking, Moral Panics, and Homonationalism during Global Sporting Events,” featured in the June 2016 issue of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Gregory Mitchell argues that by destroying safe and legal venues for sex work, host cities of such events create the very exploitation they purport to prevent.

You may also be interested in these books about human trafficking:

Street Corner Secrets

Street Corner Secrets is an ethnography of women in the city of Mumbai who look for  work at nakas, street corners where day laborers congregate and wait to be hired for construction jobs. Often chosen last, after male workers, or not at all, some women turn to sex work in order to make money, at the nakas, on the street, or in brothels. Svati P. Shah argues that sex work should be seen in relation to other structural inequities affecting these women’s lives, such as threats from the police and lack of access to clean water.

Having spent nearly a decade following the lives of formerly trafficked men and women, Denise Brennan recounts in close detail their flight from their abusers and their courageous efforts to rebuild their lives. Life Interrupted is a riveting account of life in and after trafficking and a forceful call for meaningful immigration and labor reform.

Duke University Press Joins the NC LIVE HomeGrown Collection

Duke University Press and NC LIVE have partnered to add thirty of the Press’s e-books to the NC LIVE HomeGrown Collection, making them freely available to more than 200 libraries across the state with unlimited, simultaneous use: no holds, checkout limits, or waitlists.

Titles include bestsellers such as Living a Feminist Life, Vinyl Freak, Exile and Pride, and Spill, among others. The list also features several books in the World Readers and Latin America Readers series, such as The South Africa Reader, The Dominican Republic Reader, and The Chile Reader.

Subject areas include African American studies, Latin American studies, cultural studies, gender studies, art history and criticism, American studies, music, and poetry. All titles are currently accessible online through NC LIVE or via local NC library catalogs.

“Having our content be broadly available and easily accessible has always been a main focus of Duke University Press’s mission. We are thrilled to partner with NC LIVE to share our books with the people of North Carolina and can’t wait to hear how folks use them in their book clubs and classrooms,” said Kim Steinle, Library Relations and Sales Manager at Duke University Press.

“NC LIVE’s HomeGrown e-book collection grows every year thanks to the generous donations of North Carolina’s libraries,” said Rob Ross, Executive Director of NC LIVE. “This year we are particularly excited to add e-books from a distinguished publisher partner in Duke University Press.”

NC LIVE is a statewide cooperative of 205 libraries that provides access to online articles, e-books, streaming videos, and digital newspapers. This content is freely available to all NC residents through their local library. The HomeGrown Collection contains more than 3,600 e-books from a variety of local publishers.

Duke University Press is a nonprofit scholarly publisher best known for publishing in the humanities, social sciences, and mathematics. The Press publishes approximately 140 books annually and over 50 journals, as well as offering several electronic collections and open-access publishing initiatives.

2019 Modern Language Association Highlights and Awards

This year’s meeting of the Modern Language Association was absolutely packed with awards, receptions, and events—and, like always, we had a wonderful time meeting authors, editors, and attendees and selling our books and journals.

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Congratulations to Melanie Yergeau, whose book Authoring Autism won the MLA Prize for a First Book, and Fred Moten, whose book Black and Blur won the William Sanders Scarborough Prize!

Several of our journals and books also received awards from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ) and from the GL/Q Caucus for the Modern Languages:

CELJ Awards

Archives of Asian Art, the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and American Literature each received a CELJ award this year—congratulations to these journals!

coverimageThis year’s Best Journal Design Award was given to Archives of Asian Art. Upon joining Duke University Press in 2017, the journal was redesigned by Sue Hall, our now-retired journals designer of 23 years. The 2018 Association of University Presses Book, Jacket, and Journal Show also recognized the journal’s redesign: “The new design stands out because of the luxurious and well-placed illustrations and because it combines an elegant, versatile page design with fine-grained typographic sophistication,” wrote eminent typographer Robert Bringhurst.

The CELJ also recognized two of our journal issues with the Best Special Issue Award: “Queer about Comics,” an issue of American Literature (volume 90, issue 2) edited by Darieck Scott and Ramzi Fawaz; and “The Bible and English Readers,” an issue of the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (volume 47, issue 3) edited by Thomas Fulton.

GL/Q Caucus Celebration and Awards

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Marcia Ochoa and Jennifer DeVere Brody with the 25th-anniversary issue of GLQ

This year, the GL/Q Caucus celebrated the 25th anniversary of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies with a panel on the journal and a reception. The caucus also awarded prizes to several outstanding books and journal articles:

The Crompton-Noll Award was given to Mary Zaborskis for the article “Sexual Orphanings,” published in GLQ (volume 22, issue 4), and Margaret Galvan for the article “‘The Lesbian Norman Rockwell’: Alison Bechdel and Queer Grassroots Networks,” published in American Literature (volume 90, issue 2).

The Alan Bray Book Award was granted to Jasbir Puar, author of The Right to Maim, and Ariane Cruz, author of The Color of Kink (NYU Press). Kadji Amin, author of Disturbing Attachments, received honorable mention, as did Tourmaline, Eric A. Stanley, and Johanna Burton, editors of Trap Door (New Museum and MIT Press).

Eric A. Stanley and Andrew Spieldenner received the Michael Lynch Award for Service, which, in Eve Sedgwick’s words, serves “to publicize and celebrate—and as widely as possible—the range, the forms, the energy, and the history of queer activism by academics.”

Other Highlights

We enjoyed celebrating several new journals with a wine reception Friday afternoon: Critical TimesEnglish Language Notes, Journal of Korean StudiesMeridiansPrism, and Qui Parle.

It was also wonderful to see several of our authors who stopped by the booth:

Thank you to all who came by to see us! For those of you who weren’t able to make it out to MLA, or who didn’t have enough room in your suitcase to pack all the books you wanted, don’t worry—you can still take advantage of the conference discount by using coupon code MLA19 at dukeupress.edu through the end of February.

Reading Resolutions from Our Staff

Happy New Year! In 2019, why not make your resolutions literary? Our staff share their reading resolutions for the coming year. What are yours? Let us know in the comments!

Maria Volpe, Assistant to the Director:  “My book resolutions are to read three books published by Duke University Press, and to find a book that my two boys will look forward to reading with me every night!”

Nancy Sampson, Production Coordinator: “This year I realized that screen-based entertainment had taken over my leisure time and I hadn’t been reading as many books as I used to. I set a goal to read eight books in 2018 and surpassed it. My tactic was to read every other night instead of automatically going to social media, news, or playing games. I intend to set a higher goal for 2019 and look forward to getting back to one of my favorite pastimes.”

norse godsKatja Moos, Digital Collections Sales Manager: “I would like to read more books on ancient history and world mythology. Norse mythology, Greek gods and goddesses, rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the Silk Road, the Age of Exploration, and the Mayans are all fascinating to me. How did ancient cultures shape our world today?”

Kasia Repeta, Digital Marketing Coordinator: “Korean ancient legends, Korean pottery, Korean migration, Korean pop… This year I am going to take a journey to the Korean Peninsula through its literature. My dearest friend from South Korea recommended to me her favorite contemporary South Korean novelists, Ji-Young Gong and Young-ha Kim, with works translated into English.”

lose wellAmy Walter, Production Coordinator: “I have a two-part reading resolution this year. The first is to read more old fashioned print books (don’t tell anyone, but I may be spending too much time reading romance novels on Kindle Unlimited). One of the first on my list is Lose Well by comedian Chris Gethard, currently sitting untouched on my bedside table.”

Joel Luber, Assistant Managing Editor: “After somehow dramatically exceeding my 2016 goal of 120 books by reading an even 200, I’ve since set my goals to 150 books (missed by reading only 129 in 2017, currently on pace to read 152 in 2018), and I think I’ll go for that again next year.”

Laura Sell, Publicity and Advertising Manager: In 2018 I just barely missed my goal of reading 40 books (though shouldn’t two 800 page Outlander books count as four books?!) so I think I’ll try again to read 40 books. I also resolve to post full reviews and social media photos for any books I get for free (a nice perk of being a publicist).

Top Blog Posts of 2018

Before we ring in the new year, we’re taking a look back at some of our most viewed blog posts of 2018. Thank you for reading, and we look forward to sharing more news, ideas, and scholarship with you in 2019!

8. New Article Looks at the Rise and Fall of Medicare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board

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“‘Technocratic Dreams, Political Realities: The Rise and Demise of Medicare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board,’ an article by Jonathan Oberlander and Steven B. Spivack in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law (volume 43, issue 3), offers a groundbreaking, in-depth look at the troubled history of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), enacted as part of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and repealed in February 2018 when President Donald Trump signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.”

7. The Labor Beat

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“The most recent issue of Labor, ‘The Labor Beat,’ edited by Max Fraser and Christopher Phelps, is now available.

This issue considers the transformation of labor journalists’ working conditions across time, from the days of the small printer-publisher to the mid-century newspaper conglomerate and today’s cable-news, Internet-propelled 24-hour environment.  Even journalists brimming with the best of intentions do not write news under conditions of their own choosing, given the power of publishers, editors, and advertisers. That makes it all the more impressive that so many have covered the labor beat with alacrity, including those profiled in this issue: John Swinton and Joseph Buchanan in the nineteenth century; Heywood Broun, Benjamin Stolberg, Trezzvant Anderson, and Barbara Ehrenreich in the twentieth; and Steven Greenhouse, Jane Slaughter, and Sarah Jaffe today.”

6. End of an Era at The Regulator Bookshop

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“Local heroes Tom Campbell and John Valentine, who have carried the torch for independent bookselling in Durham for the past 40 years, are retiring today, March 1, and turning The Regulator Bookshop over to new owners.

Founded in 1976, The Regulator has been a vital part of Durham’s cultural life, hosting events for too many Duke University Press authors for us to count. Just in the past couple of years, John and Tom have provided a platform for Charles Cobb, Alexis Gumbs, Ambassador James Joseph, Howard Covington, Brad Weiss, Orrin Pilkey, and many others. Tom and John let us turn their downstairs into a pop-up university press bookshop for University Press Week. They have served as sounding-boards for our ideas and given us insight into the community of booksellers.”

5. Palestine Beyond National Frames: Emerging Politics, Cultures, and Claims

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“The most recent issue of South Atlantic Quarterly, ‘Palestine beyond National Frames: Emerging Politics, Cultures, and Claims,’ edited by Sophie Richter-Devroe and Ruba Salih, is now available.

The ‘national’ has functioned as the affective and symbolic frame for the political project of liberation for Palestinians and has also been the underlying grid of most of the scholarly work on Palestine. This issue goes beyond those national frames to disclose a different dimension of the Palestinian politics of liberation. It sheds light on an indigenous population engaged in ongoing and everyday collective resistance to protect their ‘home’ and defend their ‘land’—as these are constantly reconfigured and imagined across place and time—rather than a memorialized homeland or national territory.”

4. Top Ten Most Read Articles from JMEWS

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“We’re excited to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, as well as Women’s History Month, by spotlighting the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (JMEWSthroughout March. JMEWS is the official journal of the Association for Middle East Women’s Studies. This interdisciplinary journal advances the fields of Middle East gender, sexuality, and women’s studies through the contributions of academics, artists, and activists from around the globe working in the interpretive social sciences and humanities.”

3. Narrative Theory and the History of the Novel

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“The most recent special issue of Poetics Today, ‘Narrative Theory and the History of the Novel,’ edited by Paul Dawson, is now available.

What is a novel, how did the genre emerge, and how has it changed throughout history? This special issue addresses these perennial questions by bringing the formalist approach of narrative theory into dialogue with the historical approach of novel studies. It identifies and interrogates the convergences between current scholarship in both fields in order to shed new light on English, French, Danish and American fiction from the seventeenth century to the present.”

2. Q&A with Martin Duberman, Author of The Rest of It

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Photo by Alan Barnett

“Martin Duberman is Distinguished Professor of History, Emeritus, at City University of New York, where he founded and directed the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies. He is the author of numerous award-winning histories, biographies, memoirs, essays, plays, and novels, which include Cures: A Gay Man’s OdysseyPaul RobesonStonewallMidlife Queer: Autobiography of a Decade, 1971–1981Black Mountain: An Exploration in CommunityThe Worlds of Lincoln KirsteinJews/Queers/Germans; and more than a dozen others. His latest book, The Rest of It: Hustlers, Cocaine, Depression, and Then Some, 1976–1988, is the untold and revealing story of how he managed to survive and be productive during a difficult twelve-year period in which he was beset by drug addiction, health problems, and personal loss.”

1. The Trouble with White Women

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“Today’s guest blog post is written by Kyla Schuller, author of the new book The Biopolitics of Feeling: Race, Sex, and Science in the Nineteenth Century.

Broad swaths of the left and liberal-leaning U.S. public newly dedicated themselves to political activity in the wake of Trump’s ascension to the White House and the GOP’s control of the Senate and the House. Amidst the awakening of a liberal grassroots, a new enemy crystallized: the white woman voter. She emerged as the victim of a kind of false consciousness forged not in the factory, but in the college classroom and suburban mall. In dominant media narratives, her ubiquity came as a shock. The stats are repeated as incantation: 53% of white women voted for Trump a mere four weeks after video emerged of Trump bragging about sexual assault. 63% of white women voted for Roy Moore in December’s Alabama Senate special election, despite mounds of credible evidence of Moore’s molestation of young teen girls. Why, the narrative muses, would white women betray their own interests? And why are black women—98% of whom voted for Moore’s opponent Doug Jones—seemingly immune to electoral self-sabotage?”

Women’s Film Authorship in Neoliberal Times: Revisiting Feminism and German Cinema

The most recent issue of Camera Obscura, “Women’s Film Authorship in Neoliberal Times: Revisiting Feminism and German Cinema,” edited by Hester Baer and Angelica Fenner, is now available.

cob_33_3_99_coverSince German unification, many of the gains achieved during the feminist film movement of the 1970s have been undone, not least as a result of the dismantling of redistributive funding policies in the face of the global free market. Yet the rise of the Berlin School, the development of production collectives fostering women’s filmmaking, and the Pro Quote Film movement promoting gender parity in the film industry through quotas make the time ripe for a reconsideration of the relations between aesthetic form and the material conditions of women’s filmmaking in Germany.

This special issue reframes the legacies of the feminist film movement of the 1970s and 1980s in the context of the resurgence of film feminism in the 2010s. Arguing that German cinema constitutes a key site for theorizing women’s film authorship and feminist film production today, contributors to the issue investigate the relationship between aesthetic form and the material conditions of women’s filmmaking in light of neoliberalism and post-feminism.

Browse the table of contents and read the introduction, made freely available.

You may also find these titles on international women’s cinema interesting.

Womens_Cinema_World_Cinema_coverWomen′s Cinema, World Cinema: Projecting Contemporary Feminisms, edited by Patricia White, explores the dynamic intersection of feminism and film in the twenty-first century by highlighting the work of a new generation of women directors from around the world:  Samira and Hana Makhmalbaf, Nadine Labaki, Zero Chou, Jasmila Zbanic, and Claudia Llosa, among others. The emergence of a globalized network of film festivals has enabled these young directors to make and circulate films that are changing the aesthetics and politics of art house cinema and challenging feminist genealogies.

Sisters in the Life: A History of Out African American Lesbian Media-Making, edited by Yvonne Welbon and Alexandra Juhasz, tells a full story of African American lesbian media-making spanning three decades. In essays on filmmakers including Angela Robinson, Tina Mabry and Dee Rees; on the making of Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman(1996); and in interviews with Coquie Hughes, Pamela Jennings, and others, the contributors center the voices of black lesbian media makers while underscoring their artistic influence and reach as well as the communities that support them.

In The Battle of the Sexes in French Cinema, 1930–1956, by Noël Burch and Geneviève Sellier, adopt a sociocultural approach to films made in France before, during, and after World War II, paying particular attention to the Occupation years (1940–44). The authors contend that the films produced from the 1930s until 1956—when the state began to subsidize the movie industry, facilitating the emergence of an “auteur cinema”—are important, both as historical texts and as sources of entertainment. Citing more than 300 films and providing many in-depth interpretations, Burch and Sellier argue that films made in France between 1930 and 1956 created a national imaginary that equated masculinity with French identity.

The Best Books We Read in 2018

From literary fiction to graphic novels, we love to read at Duke University Press! In this post, our staff members share their favorite reads from the past year. We hope you enjoy their suggestions, and maybe find a few gift ideas for the holiday season.

Akwaeke_EmeziElizabeth Ault, Acquisitions Editor, recommends two books this year: “The best book I read in 2018 is definitely Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi, the story of an Igbo-Tamil person whose bodymind is host to several ancient spirits/gods. It’s a stunning, poetic exploration of Igbo cosmologies, as well as of migration, gender, and dis/ability. The multiple voices in the book are brilliantly realized and distinctive, until they aren’t. I can’t wait to read it again.”

Alexander_MastersLiz Beasley, Managing Editor, recommends a biographical detective story: “I loved A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip by Alexander Masters. When Masters finds a large collection of diaries in a dumpster, a very slow (five-year) chase ensues as he tries to find their author. At turns fascinating, dull, and suspenseful, and full of charming Britishisms, this memoir/detective story is a delight. Spoiler alert: illustrations and photographs are included, so avoid the temptation to flip through the pages for clues!”

Jordy_RosenbergCourtney Berger, Executive Editor, recommends a debut LGBTQ-themed novel: “I tore through Jordy Rosenberg’s Confessions of the Fox during my summer vacation. A salty and smart retelling of the life of Jack Sheppard as a trans man, Rosenberg shows us an 18th-century London in the throes of imperial expansion and where the violences of racism, gender normativity, and class hierarchy are being countered by resistance. The book is framed by the story of Dr. Voth, whose discovery and annotation of Sheppard’s narrative likewise reveals the brutally extractive world of the corporate university as well as ongoing defiance to it. Great read for folks who love fiction and scholarly footnotes!”

Claudia_RankineJocelyn Dawson, Journals Marketing and Sales Manager, recommends the subject of a recent DUP staff book discussion: “The Press’s Equity and Inclusion group selected Citizen by Claudia Rankine for discussion in November. This beautifully written book intersperses art, poetry, and short essays to create a chilling portrait of racial aggression in the US. The book topped ‘best of the year’ lists for 2014 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry and the L.A. Times Book Prize, among many other awards.”

Alexandra_RowlandJessica Malitoris, an intern in Books Marketing, recommends a fantasy novel: “Alexandra Rowland’s A Conspiracy of Truths is a fantastic tale about the power of stories, for good or ill. Chant, a traveling storyteller, finds himself on trial in a strange country for witchcraft. His desperate attempts to talk his way out of execution have repercussions not just for himself but for the entire country. Rowland’s writing—forceful, full of personality, and yet delicate—is a joy to read. I heartily recommend this book to any lovers of fantasy and perhaps even those who might not normally enjoy the genre.”

Patrick_NathanMichael McCullough, Books Marketing and Sales Senior Manager, recommends three LGBTQ-themed books this year: “Patrick Nathan’s Some Hell is the sad and powerful story of how a Minnesota family comes apart in the wake of a suicide. The focus is on the gay teenaged son and the mother, who are both—separately and in secret—reading through and protecting each other from the deceased father’s obsessive journals/notebooks, trying to understand his life and figure out how to keep going. It is hard to believe that this is a first novel, given the pinpoint control and maturity Nathan displays.

Andrew_Sean_Greer“On a much lighter note, I also read Less, Andrew Sean Greer’s hilarious novel about a minor gay novelist who puts together a deranged book tour to avoid his ex-boyfriend’s wedding. In a similar vein, My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley (one of my favorite writers) also features a middle-aged gay man who decides to flee San Francisco to escape the consequences of a failed relationship. McCauley’s three main characters are so funny, so appealing, so human, and so beleaguered by life that I was praying for a happy ending.”

Laurent_BinetChris Robinson, Copywriter in Books Marketing, recommends a book of literary fiction: “The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet is part detective caper, part alternative history, and a completely hilarious send-up of critical theory. Following the quest for Roman Jakobson’s mythical ‘seventh function of language’—which gives its possessor the ability to dictate the actions of other—readers learn the ‘real’ reason Althusser killed his wife, the motivations of the driver of the laundry truck that killed Barthes, Kristeva’s spycraft, a secret debate society, and a surprise revelation about Barack Obama. Anyone who has read even a bit of French theory should love this book.”

Emil_FerrisDan Ruccia, Designer in Journals Marketing, recommends a debut graphic novel: “My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris is a totally engrossing graphic novel about childhood, fitting in, Chicago in the late 1960s, monsters of various sorts, a mysterious murder, and so much more. The artwork is so vibrant and active, down to the lovingly recreated monster comic book covers that appear throughout. Can’t wait for the second volume!”

Celeste_NgLaura Sell, Publicity and Advertising Manager in Books Marketing, recommends a 2017 novel: “My favorite read of 2018 was Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. It’s the story of the apparently perfect Richardson family who live in apparently perfect Shaker Heights. Their perfect world is shattered when their close friends adopt a Chinese-American baby. The compelling story and carefully written characters bring up some uncomfortable truths for ‘liberal’ white readers without being overly preachy. I couldn’t put it down and finished it in a day and a half!”

Gerard_ReveMatt Tauch, Book Designer, recommends The Evenings by Gerard Reve: “I wasn’t aware of this author or his ‘Dutch postwar masterpiece’ before chancing upon a review in the Guardian some time ago. It was one quote from that review—‘I take cards out of a file. Once I have taken them out, I put them back in again.’—that made me think ‘this sounds perfect.’ And, for me, it nearly was. Dry, dark (morose, occasionally to the point of macabre), and quietly hilarious, The Evenings follows our man Frits through ten droll days and damp Amsterdam nights leading up to New Year’s Eve 1946, his persistent neuroses forever in tow (others’ creeping baldness is of particular concern). But books aren’t all about content, right? Please consider also that this is the first and only English translation, and Pushkin has packaged it beautifully: wrapped in a gorgeously illustrated uncoated jacket and tucked in between the most precious light pink end papers.”

Oyinkan_BraithwaiteErica Woods Tucker, Production Coordinator, recommends My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: “This is such a smart, funny book that takes on themes of feminism while taking you through a wild romp into the lives of two sisters, one of whom obviously has the better end of the relationship. It’s a short book, so you can read it in one sitting. But since it’s short, I can’t give much away; but I will say, ‘This isn’t your average serial killer book.’ So if you like mystery-thrillers that make you think and laugh a bit, this one is for you.”

Thanks to our staff for another year of great reads and recommendations! We look forward to expanding our collective literary minds in 2019.

Q&A with Melissa Gregg, author of Counterproductive

GreggHeadshotMelissa Gregg is the Principal Engineer and Research Director, Client Computing Group at Intel, and author of the new book Counterproductive: Time Management in the Knowledge Economy. In Counterproductive, Gregg explores how productivity emerged as a way of thinking about job performance and shows how a focus on productivity isolates workers from one another, erasing their collective efforts to define work limits. We’re pleased to share an interview with her about the new book.

What sparked your interest in time management and the history of productivity culture? How has your own office-job experience influenced your study?

At one level I have always been fascinated by the way that some people seem to have an effortless ability to manage even the most intense workloads with grace and composure, while others really struggle to focus. I think this became more apparent when I joined a corporate job because time has a heightened cost in a publicly listed company. There are social pressures of accountability when you aren’t “getting things done” in a matrixed team environment. Those experiences can be intense, and can create a kind of dread when it seems as though you are not keeping up to speed, precisely in the athletic sense that the book describes. This differs from what my friends in contract careers deal with, trying to maintain motivation working from home or in a café on a temporary gig that may be the last paycheck for a while. It becomes very clear that time management problems aren’t the same in all of these situations. We need a better manual for living and working in a world where collective rituals and routines—and the respite they provide—are becoming harder to practice.

How have emergent technologies, like apps, reflected—or contributed to—an uptick in our obsession with productivity?

Software systems extend what is already a pervasive cultural desire in the United States for individuals to evince a strong work ethic. The convenience of having a mobile device always with you means it’s easier to establish this intimate infrastructure for living; to fully monitor and audit your activities since so many of them are digitally mediated. Apps bring a more obvious aesthetic to the productive lifestyle, making it simple, elegant and beautiful to organize your life, in the language of User Experience design (UX). Who can resist a tool that has a more reliable memory than you! But we do lock ourselves in to a bind by using technology to regulate our use of technology, whether for work or pleasure.

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What remedies does Counterproductive offer for a productivity-obsessed culture? How can we reclaim mindfulness as a tool for ourselves rather than as a method for coping with corporate life?

An appreciation of corporate history is a critical part of the remedy, including the curious self-help genres that have been used so often by so many. This book is deeply informed by my cultural studies training, and by the principle that popular culture is an index of capitalism’s contradictions. Self-help genres can be incredibly useful in the absence of more comprehensive social and economic change, especially for minorities faced with the anonymizing social wounds of large institutions. That’s one way of understanding the role of mindfulness today. It is a salve for too much productivity striving, the constant affective labor of knowledge work. But mindfulness is only bearable if it is not a smokescreen for solipsism. It has to adhere to an idea of collective withdrawal to be political. That is the post-work future we all need to build.

The preface to your book includes a deeply moving tribute to your mother. How does the personal inform your scholarship in Counterproductive?

To a much larger extent than I had realized! There was a moment when this wider purpose of reconciling her passing first became clear to me. It was during the auto-ethnographic component of the chapter on time management manuals, specifically while contemplating the insanity of David Allen’s directive to write a “Someday/Maybe list.” It struck me then how productivity gurus succeed by promising protection from the volatility of real life, the unpredictable nature of our own and others’ mortality. One can keep extremely occupied in the effort to manage time well, but this is also a socially sanctioned way to avoid thinking about bigger existential questions.

Do you think of Counterproductive as an activist text? In what ways? What impact do you hope to have on readers?

The book is fueled by a number of irritants: the outrageously mythologized figures in the history of management studies, for example, and the whole “bias towards action” ideology that pervades certain sectors of Silicon Valley. For a long time I have been channeling rage at the inequities of a world governed by the 1%, where so many brilliant minds are drowning in mid-rank organizational email and jockeying PowerPoint files instead of fighting to save the planet. Meanwhile real estate entrepreneurs drink champagne on yachts! I want to offer a catalyst against the myopia of present day workplace heroics, which is unfinished business from my last book, Work’s Intimacy. I also think we need better management theory that calls out the privileges inherent in industrial era labor divisions, including the delegation dynamic that so differently affects workers according to race, class and gender. These biases continue to govern the experience of work today, and I see that more clearly in the corporate sector. I would dearly like for more academics and writers to take this project on. Finally, Counterproductive concludes with a manifesto of ideas that draw from the best legacies of labor activism but for a vastly different economy. I hope that it prompts readers to think differently about their relationship to work, and the motivations behind the sacrifices that it necessarily entails.  

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Q&A with Tamura Lomax, Author of Jezebel Unhinged

unnamedTamura Lomax is an independent scholar, the CEO and founder of The Feminist Wire, and author of Jezebel Unhinged: Loosing the Black Female Body in Religion and Culture. We asked her a few questions about the new book, which Foreword has called “phenomenal,” “provocative,” and “an amazing pick for book clubs.”

What drew you to this topic? How did your own experience in the Black Church, including your background as a “preacher’s kid,” affect your research or approach?

The conundrum I experienced after moving from my childhood church and community in Syracuse, NY, a Black Church in a working-class black community, to Mill Valley, CA, a predominantly white and wealthy environment, at age fourteen, turned my world upside down. Privileged white teenagers have a way of making you hyperaware of your difference. And not only their belief in your purported racial difference but your supposed sexual and gender difference. I will never forget the stares, the comments, the whispers, the laughter, the jokes. I was a dark-skinned black girl from the east coast, and clearly, I was alien to them. Their obsession with me, particularly my blackness, gender, femininity, and sexuality, launched my critical consciousness into overdrive.

Yet, nothing could have prepared me for the day my new friends referred to me as a monkey who “crave[d] and provide[d] sex to anyone and anything.” While I had not yet read Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks (1967), this was indeed my first “Look, a Negro!” moment—the point of sudden objecthood, nonbeing, fixation, bursting apart, and being put back together—by another self. To be sure, I had known what it meant to be placed under the gaze of another. I knew the feeling of being misread, sexualized, and even lusted after as an adolescent. Unfortunately, I learned these lessons, first, through older and grown men—within my previous black community, the Black Church, and the music and culture that I loved: Hip Hop. As I write in the Prolegomenon, the hypersexualization of young black girls is fierce early on.

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My earliest memory is at age eleven when a church elder told my parents he could not focus during altar call because he was enraptured by my pubescent derriere (x-xi). Rather than calling out his rapey pedophilic wantonness, I was made to feel shame, as if my body had done something wrong without my consent. I struggled with the cultural psyche around black femininity and all of the sexual messaging, not to mention my own conflicting responses. On one hand, I loved raunchy Hip Hop music that admittedly sexually objectified black women and girls, while on the other, I detested the pedophilic stares of older men and boys in my church and community, and more, the racist and sexist gazing of my new high school friends in California. And as much as these gazes were the same, to me, they felt slightly different. That dreadful day in California changed the course of my life and how I saw the world and interpreted my place in it.

I did everything to change my high school friends’ reading of me—to the point of de-sexualization. I wanted to be a “proper” black girl—a lady in training, as I was taught to be at home and in the Black Church, not a libidinous monkey. This kind of sexualized marking, I had not known. I remember going home and journaling about the incident right after it happened. My eyes welled up with tears as I made my entry. This was not an innocent case of teasing and hurt feelings. As a young girl I was taught that sex before marriage was bad and that sexualization is the fault of so-called “fast” and promiscuous girls or women. Meaning that black girls or women are sexualized because they have acted in an allegedly sexually “loose” manner. I learned the latter was sin. And not only that, this was a transgression seemingly particular to black women and girls.

Full disclosure: I was in no way perfect. But I was a “good girl.” Or at least I tried to be. If I caught myself being “loose”—“fast tailed,” sexual, sexualized, or appreciating base music and lyrics more than a “good girl” should, I could at least fix that. I could take responsibility for where I went or what I did wrong and repent, therefore releasing myself from temptress status and gaining “good girl” prestige again. But not this day. I cried quiet painful tears because the sexualized savagery assigned to me—and black girls everywhere—by my high school friends could not be as quickly remedied. I was not merely hypersexualized but animalized—in harmony. Further, I was inherently problemed. I could neither disrobe of nor cover my blackness nor reencode my black femaleness. And I could neither pray it away nor bathe it in Black Church respectability as I had been taught. Rather, I was indelibly marked. Or, so I thought.

The rhetorical marking of these collective gazes—from the church to my new white friends to my favorite music and so on—made me feel psychically, emotionally, and communally estranged. And I was not alone. I learned later that each of these projections spring forth from essentialist discourses on black womanhood. And while they sometimes feel different, they have more in common than not. They are all overdetermining. And they all sting, just differently perhaps. I will never get over being called a monkey and thusly being situated outside of the human race. But neither will I ever come to terms with the hypersexualization that happens to young girls and women in black communities and the posturing of black female bodies and sexual decision-making in sin—as something needing constant fixing and redemption.

I am convinced it is because of such relentless stereotyping and signifying that black Americans in general are so religious, especially black women. Sin and shame have long taken up residence in our bodies and consequentially our minds. Jezebel Unhinged not only works within these tensions, it attempts to do the work of “undoing,” of naming anxieties, antagonisms, and social-cultural-structural-epistemic evils, and the significant psychic, emotional, and communal breaks they cause. It does this work through an iconoclastic critique of racism, sexism, heterosexism, the Black Church, and black popular culture. And I do so intentionally not as a theologian tasked with proving certain truths about God, but rather as a black feminist scholar of religion, or more precisely, a black feminist-religio-cultural theorist, interested in exploring how discourse, power, knowledge, meanings, language, and grammars get invested with truth claims about God, people, and cultures.

Still, I approached this study as one well aware of my personal and professional location—as one reared in the Black Church and as one who has experienced the collective function of antiblack and sexist re/presentational mythmaking, which affects not only persons but relations, social arrangements, ways of seeing, politics, institutions, and treatment, first hand—within and well beyond the Black Church. That said, I endeavored to do this critical work without “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” The latter is a mistake too many critics make, thus making their analyses irrelevant. (more…)