My Fight For A New Taiwan: Annette Lu’s Journey from Prison to Power

Lu Hsiu-lien’s journey is the story of Taiwan. Through her successive drives for gender equality, human rights, political reform, Taiwan’s independence, and, currently, environmental protection, Lu Hsiu-lien (who also goes by Annette Lu) has played a key role in Taiwan’s evolution from dictatorship to democracy. Unlike such famous Asian women politicians as Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, India’s Indira Gandhi, and Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto, Lu grew up in a family without political connections. Her impoverished parents twice attempted to give her away for adoption, and as an adult she survived cancer and imprisonment, later achieving success as an elected politician—the first self-made woman to serve with such prominence in Asia.  Below we feature an excerpt from My Fight For a New Taiwan: One Woman’s Journey from Prison to Power, which Lu coauthored with Ashley Esarey.

The wail of a thousand air horns, the crackling shower of fireworks, the undulation of a sea of banners greeted us as we left our party headquarters and approached the stage. A crowd stretched for half a mile in every direction, claiming streets and sidewalks, jamming intersections on Minsheng East Road. Bottle rockets shrieked from the windows of nearby apartment buildings. To an outsider observing the revelers on the night of March 18, 2000, the crowds in the streets could have been celebrating the Taiwan national team’s victory in some sort of world championship, but the pride of the Taiwanese was participatory, not vicarious: They had voted to remove the Nationalist Party (Guomindang) from the nation’s highest office after its fifty-five years in power and had stood up to China despite its threats to invade Taiwan if they dared vote this way. They had cast aside the successors of a regime that had ruled Taiwan by force and fiat, by threat and murder, by corruption and co-optation, by autocracy and exploitation. On March 18, the Taiwanese had, through their vote, peacefully “changed the heavens” in their homeland, as the saying went, and given birth to the feeling that Taiwan was experiencing its finest hour, that the wrongs of the past could be righted.

Speaking in Kaohsiung on the night of the Kaohsiung Incident, December 10, 1979

Speaking in Kaohsiung on the night of the Kaohsiung Incident, December 10, 1979

What a coincidence it was! On the very same day twenty years before, March 18, 1980, I stood in a military courtroom as one of the eight main defendants charged with sedition for leading a demonstration on Human Rights Day. An intense man unknown outside legal circles, Chen Shui-bian, had been among our legal defense attorneys.Even our lawyers’ valiant efforts had not prevented the court from sentencing us to lengthy prison terms on the basis of confessions elicited through torture. Who would have dared predict that two decades later, one of the defense lawyers and one of the codefendants would be elected president and vice president of the country at the crowning moment of Taiwan’s struggle for democracy?

The hope that the Nationalists would one day be turned out of power had sustained me while I served five and a half years in prison for criticizing their authoritarian regime. I had been waiting for the celebration of March 2000 since my childhood, when I had denounced my schoolteacher for changing the grades of the daughter of a Nationalist official because the teacher wanted to ingratiate himself with the government. Since my recovery from cancer in the 1970s, I had sworn to dedicate my life to equal political participation for all members of Taiwanese society and for all ethnic groups. I had prayed for the replacement of the Nationalist government with a democratically elected opposition since my realization, in prison, that the shock of my incarceration had cost my mother her life.

Lu as Vice President of Taiwan

Lu as Vice President of Taiwan

Although I had dreamed of such a moment, somehow I’d never imagined how victory might feel when it blossomed like a flower more fragrant than the evening primrose. Certainly not during the long months of campaigning in 1999 and 2000, when I’d appeared with Chen Shui-bian at six political rallies each night, speaking until my voice grew hoarse and cracked— I was too busy fighting to win the election. Yet the moment did come, with the decisiveness of nightfall in the tropics. From school yards and post offices across the island, election volunteers counted the votes signaling the Nationalists’ defeat. The Democratic Progressive Party had captured the presidential palace, formerly the bastion of power for Chiang Kai-shek and the symbol of authority for Japanese colonial governors. On the night of March 18, 2000, the specter of foreign dominance departed with the defeat of the Nationalists, a political party transplanted to Taiwan from China after World War II. For the first time in the history of Taiwan, a native Taiwanese man from a poor, landless family had become president. For the first time in five thousand years of Chinese history, I, a woman from an ordinary family, had been elected by the public to serve the number-two position in an ethnically Chinese nation [. . . .]

This is the story of how Taiwan came to such a crossroad in history, as well as the story of how a girl who was twice nearly given away as a child discovered a love for her country that would change her life. It is the story of how a woman who suffered from cancer, imprisonment, and torture found ways to love her country through democratic politics and to advance the cause of freedom in the world. This is the true story of my life.


Lu Hsiu-lien (Annette Lu) is a graduate of National Taiwan University, the University of Illinois, and Harvard Law School. She was vice president of the Republic of China from 2000 to 2008 and currently is president of Green 21 Taiwan Alliance.

Ashley Esarey, a former journalist, held the An Wang Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard University and currently is visiting assistant professor of political science and East Asian studies at the University of Alberta.

Hear Annette Lu and Ashley Esarey discuss the book at the following events:

  • Pomona College, Claremont, California, April 17 at noon
  • University of California Santa Barbara,  April 18 at 11:00 a.m. with book sales by Chaucer’s Bookstore
  • North American Taiwanese Women’s Association, New Orleans, LA,  April 19 at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. with book sales by Garden District Books
  • Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 22 at noon with book sales by Harvard Book Store
  • Columbia University, International Affairs Building, New York City, April 23 at noon
  •  New York University, New York City, April 23 at 2 p.m.
  • Georgetown School of Foreign Service, April 25 at 12:30 p.m.
  • Town Hall Seattle, April 28 at 7:30 p.m. with book sales by Elliott Bay Books

Behind the Covers: “Citizen 13660″

Miné Okubo’s Citizen 13660 is the newest book in our Classics of Asian American Literature series. First published in 1946, it was acquired by UW Press in 1983 and has been a perennial bestseller ever since. In addition to a new introduction by Christine Hong, the book underwent a radical redesign, which UW Press senior designer Thomas Eykemans walks us through here.

Miné Okubo was one of over one hundred thousand people of Japanese descent—nearly two-thirds of whom were American citizens—who were forced into “protective custody” shortly after Pearl Harbor. Citizen 13660, a graphic memoir of Okubo’s life in relocation centers in California and Utah, illuminates her experience with poignant illustrations and witty, candid text. Reissuing the book created an irresistible opportunity to rethink the cover design and presentation of the illustrations of one of our most beloved and misunderstood publications.

Citizen 13660

Top left: First edition hardcover jacket, 6 x 9″, 1946.
Top center: First edition hardcover cloth, 6 x 9″, 1946.
Top right: First UW Press paperback edition, 6 x 9″, 1983.
Middle left: New UW Press paperback reissue, 6 x 9″, 2014.
Middle center: New UW Press hardcover special edition, 8 x 8″, 2014.
Middle right: Special edition titlepage spread.
Bottom left: Original edition spread.
Bottom right: Special edition spread.

The original 1946 jacket, lettered and illustrated by Okubo herself, was both classic and practical. However, it gave absolutely no clue as to the content of the book. The 1983 paperback did little to remedy this, simply appropriating the beautiful, but misleading, case stamp from the original cloth edition. The two new editions feature details of actual illustrations from the interior, while preserving the unique and memorable deco typography of the earlier title design.

Okubo’s original illustrations are in the collection of the Japanese American National Museum. Each drawing is approximately 15 x 10″, vastly bigger than the 5 x 4″ reproductions in the paperback. The new hardcover special edition is a comfortable 8 x 8″ and showcases the artwork at half its original size — much closer to how it was intended to be viewed. With a soft matte lamination, casewrap cover, black endsheets, and red headbands, Okubo’s important and stunning work has finally found a worthy home.

UW Press News, Reviews, and Events


Weyerhaeuser-BookThe Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books catalog celebrates the first sixty titles published in the Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books series under founding editor William Cronon’s direction. Authors published into the series express their gratitude for Cronon’s visionary editorial guidance and for the generosity of Jack and Jan Creighton, who have supported the series since its inception over twenty years ago. Browse the catalog and you’ll begin to get a sense of how the Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books series has shaped the discipline as well as popular understandings of environmental history. For more on William Cronon’s recent retirement as series editor, see our post Editorial Changes to Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books Series.


The South China Morning Post has reviewed Joshua Howe’s book Behind the Curve: Science and the Politics of Global Warming. In Howe’s “fastidiously researched” book, “there are no clear heroes and villains…Howe relates a multi-layered conflict that is leading us to a catastrophe of biblical proportions.” Read the review here.




Diana L. Di Stefano, author of Encounters in Avalanche Country: A History of Survival in the Mountain West, 1820-1920, has written a guest opinion article in the Seattle Times. As a historian who studies disasters, Di Stefano is struck by the similarities between the recent mudslide in Snohomish County and earlier catastrophes. Read the article here.




Christopher Wells, author of Car Country: An Environmental History,  recently appeared on Minnesota Public Radio to talk about why we became ‘car country’ USA. Listen to the interview here. And watch for a new paperback edition of Car Country coming out in Fall 2014!



David Biespiel, Charming Gardeners, The Station, April 9 at 7:00 p.m. (A Stranger Recommended event!)

LA Times Festival of Books, April 12-13

  • David Biespiel, Charming Gardeners, Panel: Poetry: The Art of Place; The Place of Art, Saturday, 2:00 p.m.
  • Kinokuniya booth signings:  Kendall Brown, Traditions Transfigured, Sunday from 12:30-2:00 p.m. and Lane Hirabayashi and Marilyn C. Alquizola, coauthors of the introduction to the new edition of Carlos Bulosan’s classic, America Is in the Heart, Sunday from 2:00-3:30 p.m.

Jack Hart, Skookum Summer: A Novel of the Pacific Northwest, Elliott Bay Books, April 18 at 7:00 p.m.

Annette Lu and Ashley Esarey, My Fight for a New Taiwan: One Woman’s Journey from Prison to Power, Town Hall Seattle, April 28 at 7:30 p.m. Presented by Downstairs at Town Hall in partnership with Elliott Bay Book Company and World Affairs Council.

Katie Bunn-Marcuse, In the Spirit of the Ancestors: Contemporary Northwest Coast Art at the Burke Museum, University Book Store, April 30 at 7:00 p.m.


Building a Sacred Mountain: The Buddhist Architecture of China’s Mount Wutai
By Wei-Cheng Lin

Wei-Cheng Lin traces the confluence of factors that produced this transformation and argues that monastic architecture, more than texts, icons, relics, or pilgrimages, was the key to Mount Wutai’s emergence as a sacred site. Departing from traditional architectural scholarship, Lin’s interdisciplinary approach goes beyond the analysis of forms and structures to show how the built environment can work in tandem with practices and discourses to provide a space for encountering the divine.


Citizen 13660
By Mine Okubo, with new introduction by Christine Hong

Mine Okubo was one of over one hundred thousand people of Japanese descent —nearly two-thirds of whom were American citizens—who were forced into “protective custody” shortly after Pearl Harbor. Citizen 13660, Okubo’s graphic memoir of life in relocation centers in California and Utah, illuminates this experience with poignant illustrations and witty, candid text. The cover featured here is the 8×8 inch cloth artist edition of the book; another paperback edition of the book can be found here.


China Watcher: Confessions of a Peking Tom
By Richard Baum
New in paperback
This audacious and illuminating memoir by Richard Baum, a senior China scholar and sometime policy advisor, reflects on forty years of learning about and interacting with the People’s Republic of China, from the height of Maoism during the author’s UC Berkeley student days in the volatile 1960s through globalization. Anecdotes from Baum’s professional life illustrate the alternately peculiar, frustrating, fascinating, and risky activity of China watching—the process by which outsiders gather and decipher official and unofficial information to figure out what’s really going on behind China’s veil of political secrecy and propaganda.


Secrets of Successful Drafting by Jack Hart

In today’s post, Skookum Summer: A Novel of the Pacific Northwest author Jack Hart provides some helpful writing advice, geared toward academic and non-academic authors alike. Jack Hart is a former managing editor and writing coach at The Oregonian and is the author of Storycraft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction and A Writer’s Coach: The Complete Guide to Writing Strategies That Work. This post is bound to inspire you to get out of your writer’s rut!

“Writing is easy,” Gene Fowler famously said. “All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” All you have to do to write, Red Smith said, was “open a vein.” Other wordsmiths have talked about bleeding at their keyboards, turning out words in blood, and producing poems “drop by drop.”

Writing is a process, of course. It starts with idea development, involves research and organizing, and ends with polishing. But there’s no doubt that drafting, the stage that Fowler found so daunting, causes the most agony, the kind of pain that has led to torrents of blood metaphors.

Most of those come from journalism and fiction writing, and I can vouch for the misery both can generate. But I’ve done my share of academic writing, too. And I fully sympathize with anybody who has to grind out a journal article, monograph, or convention paper. If anything, the precision that scholarly work demands makes the writing even bloodier.

Whatever the genre, writing will never be easy. But the research shows that certain tactics for turning out first drafts not only ease the pain, but also improve the work.

My own experience confirms that. I’ve worked as an editor in newsrooms big and small. And for decades I routinely administered writing questionnaires when I taught at newspapers, magazines, and professional workshops. Invariably, the writers who were happiest and most productive had a similar game plan.

Somehow they’d learned what both writing professionals and academics say is the secret to successful drafting — operating with a split personality. The pros say that the happiest, most productive writers approach their rough drafts as a literary version of Mr. Hyde. They cast civilized restraint aside, letting an uninhibited process of creation carry them quickly through the first version of the story. They don’t stop. They don’t revise. They don’t look back. They push relentlessly forward, seldom even consulting their notes as they rough out a draft.

Jack Hart. Photo by Wes Pope

Jack Hart. Photo by Wes Pope

Only when they’re finished with that first version do they slip back into a Dr. Jekyll persona. Then they sweat each detail, checking facts for accuracy, revising sentences for rhythm, and scrutinizing words for precise meaning.

Former Los Angeles Times writing coach Bob Baker heartily endorses this Hyde-and-Jekyll process. “What I am asking you to do,” he says in his book, News Thinking, “is to become selectively schizophrenic. I am asking you to shift gears after you finish typing and before you start editing.”

Bill Blundell draws the same distinction in The Art and Craft of Feature Writing. “The storyteller,” he says, “selectively becomes two people as he works. The first is the sensitive artist-creator, the second a critic who savages every weakness in the creation.”

The research backs up the experts. Two Harvard psychologists, V.A. Howard and J.H. Barton, summarize existing studies in their book Thinking on Paper with the observation that drafting involves “intuition, imagination, risk-taking, a headlong plunge down new corridors of thought and experience.” Only after the draft is finished, they conclude, does the writer give way to “cool detachment, doubt, skepticism, testing, rigorous assessments of logic and evidence.”

One thing virtually all observers say is that we should place fewer demands on ourselves when we’re drafting. If we let harping little voices pick, pick, pick as we write, they will sap our confidence, create tension, and paralyze our creative subconscious. At their worst, these hobgoblins of the keyboard can freeze us up entirely, creating the dreaded writer’s block. And, as poet William Stafford put it, “the cure to writer’s block is to lower your standards.”

In other words, don’t futz.

Trying to get every sentence perfect during drafting is a fool’s errand. Wait until the polish stage before sweating the small stuff. The important thing at the drafting stage is roughing out what will later become a finely finished piece of work.

A food writer who attended one of my workshops passed along this metaphor: Master furniture makers, she said, don’t cut out one leg of a table, sand it, stain it and shellac it before going on to the next leg. If they did, the completed creation would be a mess of mismatched pieces. Instead, they create the entire table out of rough lumber first. Then they sand and stain and polish to a high gloss.

Unfortunately, the way we’re trained to write often encourages the one-leg-at-a-time approach. We are urged to watch ourselves at every step of the draft, guarding against typos, grammatical mixups, and factual errors. We’re told to write the perfect first sentence before we write anything else. We’re taught to be cautious and critical, when we should be cavalier and creative. As a result, we work with imaginary editors at our shoulders, dwelling on the ways that mistakes can damage our careers, ruin our reputations, or embarrass our institutions.

But some writers manage to push all these gremlins to the side. They draft easily, naturally, armored against anxiety-producing distractions with tactics that keep them moving ahead along the paths they have set for themselves. If they have doubts about a fact, they flag it for checking later. If they need a quotation or some other tidbit from their notes, they mark the spot and move along. They stroll through their assignments at a steady, even pace.

And they never leave a single drop of blood on their keyboards.

Jack Hart’s latest book, Skookum Summer: A Novel of the Pacific Northwest, is a murder mystery set in the 1980s Pacific Northwest. In the book, Hart masterfully interweaves a suspenseful plot with richly observed Pacific Northwest history and a vivid picture of a community on the brink of change. Hear him read from the book at these upcoming events

Elliott Bay Books, Seattle, April 18 at 7:00 p.m.
Powell’s City of Books, Portland, April 29 at 7:30 p.m.
University Book Store, Seattle, June 10 at 7:00 p.m.
Village Books, Bellingham, June 14 at 7:00 p.m.

America is in the Heart: A New Look at Carlos Bulosan’s Classic Memoir

First published in 1943, America is in the Heart—a classic memoir by Filipino poet Carlos Bulosan—describes his boyhood in the Philippines, his voyage to America, and his years of hardship and despair as an itinerant laborer following the harvest trail in the rural West. In the new 2014 edition of the book, Marilyn C. Alquizola and Lane Ryo Hirabayashi eloquently situate this classic work within a contemporary context while also highlighting the book’s legacy in Filipino American literature as well as in labor and immigration history. Below, we feature an excerpt from this introduction.

On October 2, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 123, a bill that will require public school instruction featuring Filipino Americans’ contributions to the farm labor movement in California. Assembly member Rob Bonta, who sponsored the bill, explained:

The goal of AB 123 is to supplement California’s rich farm worker history with the contributions of the Filipino American community. The Filipino American population composes the largest Asian population in California and it continues to grow, yet the story of Filipinos and their official efforts in the farm labor movement is an untold part of California history.(1)

Sadly, as is thoroughly documented in publications such as the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States (2013), the plight of farm laborers—not from the Philippines, for the most part, but now mainly men, women, and children from Mexico and Central American countries—is as horrific and unsettling in the new millennium as ever. Perhaps public awareness of today’s exploitation of field-workers will be heightened by AB 123, as well as by the continuing circulation of Filipino American author Carlos Bulosan’s masterpiece of labor history, America Is in the Heart.

bulosanSince its original publication in 1943, America Is in the Heart has appealed to a wide variety of audiences that continue to have differing interpretations of the book’s conclusion. The responses of a 1940s postwar readership reflected a relative innocence bordering on naiveté with regard to American foreign policies. The paranoia of the subsequent McCarthy era may have generated receptions that were less open to Bulosan’s socialist underpinnings. With its republication in 1973 by the University of Washington Press in the midst of anti–Vietnam War protests and progressive student movements, Bulosan’s work was taught in many ethnic studies and other politically progressive classes that utilized America Is in the Heart as a vehicle to reveal social injustices. From the 1970s onward, the classroom use of the book in college courses was diverse, running the gamut from literature to sociology to history to psychology.

America Is in the Heart stands apart from the body of American literature in its form as well as in its content. In its noncompliance with traditional novelistic form, America, which was written about Filipino immigrant experiences of the 1930s, defies inclusion in the traditional Anglo-American canon. With Bulosan’s disregard—perhaps tacit defiance—of novelistic conventions, America stands as a de facto redefinition of aesthetic principles. Moreover, the protagonist’s geographic and emotional journey forces readers to redefine the spatial parameters of the United States, a place in which geography is written on the historical map of imperialism and etched into the hearts of immigrants of color who sought a life framed by falsely sold ideals.

In its accessibility and the seeming simplicity of its narrative style, America can be read as an expression of hope and belief in the United States’ ideals, in spite of the terrible struggles that had to be endured by the protagonist and his compatriots. To gain an appreciation of the narrative’s actual complexity, we suggest that readers adapt a simple reading strategy: be aware of the different voices or vantage points that Bulosan has woven into the book’s narrative. Two distinct narrative voices should be readily apparent to the mindful reader. One is that of an analytical Carlos Bulosan, who has grown wise and politically savvy with hard experience, while the younger voice, Allos (presumably a nickname for Carlos), is bewildered, naive, and prone to questioning the reason for the hardships that befall him and his fellows.(2) [....]

Initially heralded by some as a poignant autobiography, expressing the dreams of downtrodden immigrants of color, America still stands today as both an indictment of twentieth-century American imperialist designs overseas and a testament condemning a pre–World War II domestic regime of racialized class warfare. At its most explicit and compelling level, the book documents how Filipino immigrants suffered brutal treatment in the Anglo-oriented west of the United States before the war, evolving a specifically race- and class-oriented consciousness as a response. However, their evolution of an awareness from a racialized “class in itself” to a “class for itself” was not a linear, orderly, or clear-cut process.(3) It is amazing that Bulosan was able to conjecture both the transnational and global dimensions of the larger working-class Filipino immigrants’ trajectories in terms of conditions at home and conditions abroad. And, as the Southern Poverty Law Center reminds us, for farmworkers these conditions remain as material and compelling today as they have been in the past. Beyond this, America endures because Bulosan was wise enough to know that the path of racialized class consciousness may be a necessary route, but it may also be a provisional one, if we are to truly grapple with the miasmas of global capitalism.

Lane Ryo Hirabayashi is “The George and Sakaye Aratani Professor of the Japanese American Incarceration, Redress, and Community,” at UCLA, and coauthor of A Principled Stand: The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States. Marilyn C. Alquizola has taught Asian American literature at several universities nationwide, and is author of numerous articles including “The Fictive Narrator of America Is In the Heart” and co-editor of Privileging Positions: The Sites of Asian American Studies.

Alquizola and Hirbabayashi will be signing copies of America is in the Heart in the Kinokuniya Books booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books from 2:00-3:30 on April 13.

(1) Assemblyperson Bonta’s quote appears on his official website, (accessed July 26, 2013).

(2) We draw here from two previous essays by Marilyn C. Alquizola: “The Fictive Narrator of America Is in the Heart,” pp. 211–17 in Frontiers of Asian American Studies: Writing, Research, and Commentary, ed. Gail M. Nomura et al. (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1989), and “Subversion or Affirmation: The Text and Subtext of America Is in the Heart,” pp. 199–209 in Asian Americans: Comparative and Global Perspectives, ed. Shirley Hune et al. (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1991).

(3) The distinction between a “class in itself” and a “class for itself” (that is, between a group that can be seen as holding a similar relationship to the means of production and a group that is self-consciously aware of itself as holding similar class interests) has been a conceptual tool that sociologists, political scientists, and historians have all drawn from and found useful in their analyses. Although attributed to Karl Marx, some scholars dispute that claim; e.g., Edward Anrew, “Class in Itself and Class against Capital: Karl Marx and His Classifiers,” Canadian Journal of Political Science 16, no. 3 (1983): 577–84.

The new edition of America is in the Heart was published into the University of Washington Press’s Classics of Asian American Literature series. Other titles in this series include:

Nisei Daughter by Monica Sone; with a new introduction by Marie Rose Wong
With charm, humor, and deep understanding, Monica Sone tells what it was like to grow up Japanese American on Seattle’s waterfront in the 1930s and to be subjected to “relocation” during World War II.


Citizen 13660 by Mine Okuba; with a new introduction by Christine Hong
Mine Okubo was one of over one hundred thousand people of Japanese descent – nearly two-thirds of whom were American citizens – who were forced into “protective custody” shortly after Pearl Harbor. Citizen 13660, Okubo’s graphic memoir of life in relocation centers in California and Utah, illuminates this experience with poignant illustrations and witty, candid text.

UW Press News, Reviews, and Events


We are pleased to announce that Vacationland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High Country by William Philpott has been named the winner of the Western Writers of America 2014 Spur Award for Best Western Nonfiction in the contemporary category. This book was published in 2013 in the Weyerhaesuer Environmental Books series.


Kurkpatrick Dorsey, author of Whales and Nations: Environmental Diplomacy on the High Seas on New Hampshire Public Radio’s The Exchange

The Exchange takes a look at the legacy of the whaling industry. The new book Whales and Nations, by University of New Hampshire Professor Kurkpatrick Dorsey explores the history of international conservation efforts through the lens of the commercial whaling industry. They talk with him about whaling in the 20th century and why international diplomacy failed to regulate commercial whaling.

Chigusa and the Art of Tea coauthor Andrew Watsky on NPR’s The Salt

“Eight hundred years ago, tea was rare in Japan. It arrived from China in simple, ceramic storage jars. Chinese ceramists churned these jars out with little care or attention; they stuffed tea leaves into them and shipped them off. The jars were ‘the Chinese version of Tupperware,’ says Andrew Watsky, a professor of Japanese art history at Princeton.”

Read more and listen to the interview here.


Brad Evans, Return to the Land of the Head Hunters, Saturday, March 22, 2:00 p.m., Seattle Public Library with Elliott Bay Books

Roberta Brown and Patricia Killen, Selected Letters of A.M.A. Blanchet,  Thursday, March 27, 7:00 p.m., St. James Cathedral, Seattle

Robin Wright and Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse, In the Spirit of the Ancestors, Friday, March 28, 7:00 p.m., Elliott Bay Books

Linda Tamura, Nisei Soldiers Break their Silence: Coming Home to Hood River, Saturday, March 29, 7:00 p.m., Nisei Veterans Memorial Hall


How to Read the American West: A Field Guide
By William Wyckoff 

From deserts to ghost towns, from national forests to California bungalows, many of the features of the western American landscape are well known to residents and travelers alike. But in How to Read the American West, William Wyckoff introduces readers anew to these familiar landscapes. A geographer and an accomplished photographer, Wyckoff offers a fresh perspective on the natural and human history of the American West and encourages readers to discover that history has shaped the places where people live, work, and visit.

Skookum Summer: A Novel of the Pacific Northwest
By Jack Hart

As Skookum Summer begins, the year is 1981, and reporter Tom Dawson slinks back to his tiny Puget Sound hometown after making a disastrous mistake at the LA Times. Working reluctantly at the local weekly, the Big Skookum Echo, Tom is drawn into investigating a powerful logger’s murder. As the mystery deepens, the murder exposes the strains on the community as pollution, development, and global change threaten traditional Northwest livelihoods. Hart weaves together a gripping and suspenseful plot with richly observed Pacific Northwest history and a vivid picture of a community on the brink of change.

My Fight for a New Taiwan: One Woman’s Journey from Prison to Power
By Lu Hsiu-lien and Ashley Esarey

Lu Hsiu-lien’s journey is the story of Taiwan. Through her successive drives for gender equality, human rights, political reform, Taiwan independence, and, currently, environmental protection, Lu has played a key role in Taiwan’s evolution from dictatorship to democracy. The election in 2000 of Democratic Progressive Party leader Chen Shui-bian to the presidency, with Lu as his vice president, ended more than fifty years of rule by the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party). Taiwan’s painful struggle for democratization is dramatized here in the life of Lu, who was imprisoned for more than five years in the 1980s. My Fight for a New Taiwan’s rich narrative gives readers an insider’s perspective on Taiwan’s unique blend of Chinese and indigenous culture and recent social transformation.

Return to the Land of the Head Hunters: Edward S. Curtis, the Kwakwaka’wakw, and the Making of Modern Cinema

Edward Curtis’s 1914 silent film, In the Land of the Head Hunters, was a landmark of early cinema and provided a rare glimpse into Curtis’s encounter and collaboration with indigenous peoples, in this case the Kwakwaka’wakw of British Columbia. Despite its historical significance, the film was a commercial failure and the film was lost soon after its debut. Scraps of the film would resurface decades later but, until now, it was never fully restored. Working with a team of collaborators—including members of the Kwakwaka’wakw tribe and group of interdisciplinary scholars—Brad Evans and Aaron Glass have meticulously reassembled the film and its original orchestral score so that it closely resembles the movie as it would have been seen by audiences in 1914. In today’s guest post, Evans and Glass discuss the process of restoring the film and place it within the broader context of American film history.

In 1914, the American photographer Edward Curtis produced a melodramatic, silent feature film entitled In the Land of the Head Hunters. This was the first feature-length film to exclusively star Native North Americans, released eight years before Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North. An epic story of love and war set before Europeans arrived on the North Pacific Coast, it featured non-professional actors from Kwakwaka’wakw communities in British Columbia, a people already famous then for spectacular visual art and dance, as well as resistance to assimilation. For gala openings in New York and Seattle, Head Hunters was accompanied by an original orchestral score composed for the film by John Braham, best known at the time for arranging Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. This score—claimed by Curtis to be based on Native source music—is now thought to be the earliest surviving score for a silent feature film. A critical success but a financial failure, Curtis’s film was soon lost and largely forgotten, as so many early silent films were.

Original advertising card depicting "The Bridal Party" from In the Land of the Head Hunters, ca. 1914.

Original advertising card depicting “The Bridal Party” from In the Land of the Head Hunters, ca. 1914.

It was thus a great stroke of luck that in the 1960s a badly damaged copy of the film was discovered at The Field Museum in Chicago—likely rescued from a movie house dumpster. The museum preserved it as a record of aboriginal life on the Northwest Coast, with no thought of its historical significance to the development of modern cinema.  Until now, the only version of the film available to scholars or the general public, was one produced at the University of Washington in 1973 from this fragmented copy. Retitled In the Land of the War Canoes, and synched to a new naturalistic soundtrack, this version was distributed as a “documentary film” even though this genre did not exist in 1914.

Based on recent archival discoveries, a collaborative team including many contributors to this book, working closely with the Kwakwaka’wakw, have overseen a new restoration of the film. The new version, available in late 2014 on DVD and BluRay from Milestone Films, has returned the original title and inter-title cards, added long-missing footage, and restored the original color tinting and publicity graphics. It is also accompanied by a marvelous performance of the original musical score by Vancouver’s Turning Point Ensemble. Though still incomplete, it is now possible to get a sense of what audiences in 1914 would have seen and heard in theatres.

George Hunt (with megaphone), Edward S. Curtis, and actors filming In The Land of the Head Hunters, 1914. Photo by Edmund A. Schwinke. Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, 1988-78/135.

George Hunt (with megaphone), Edward S. Curtis, and actors filming In The Land of the Head Hunters, 1914.

Our new edited volume, Return to the Land of the Head Hunters, brings together leading scholars and artists from a wide range of fields to reassess the film and its legacy, as well as the restoration project itself. The multiple authors offer accounts of the film’s production and circulation, Kwakwaka’wakw views on its depiction of cultural practice, and innovative theoretical perspectives on film genre, indigenous agency, and colonial modernity. Returning to the film with fresh eyes, our book also argues for a re-appraisal of Curtis’s larger body of work, and a way out of the critical deadlock that has limited analysis of his photographs and film, largely by ignoring the motivations of his Native subjects and partners.

Gwa'wina Dancers under the Moore Theatre marquis, Seattle, June 10, 2008.

Gwa’wina Dancers under the Moore Theatre marquis, Seattle, June 10, 2008.

Rather than documenting Native life in 1914, Head Hunters documents a moment of cultural encounter and creative collaboration between Curtis and the Kwakwaka’wakw actors and consultants who were performing his scripted version of their own historical past for the camera. Moreover, they were doing so at a time in Canadian history when the potlatch was outlawed by the federal government in an attempt to force their assimilation. By adapting traditional ceremonies for Curtis’s film while refusing to play stereotypical members of a “vanishing race,” the Kwakwaka’wakw retained embodied cultural knowledge despite the prohibition, and they made a vital contribution to the development of the most modern of commercial art forms—the motion picture.

For a century now, this film has constituted a lens through which to reframe and re-imagine the changing terms of colonial representation, cultural memory, and intercultural encounter. Return with us to the Land of the Head Hunters.

Brad Evans is an associate professor of English at Rutgers University. Aaron Glass is an assistant professor of anthropology at the Bard Graduate Center.

This book was published in Native Art of the Pacific Northwest: A Bill Holm Center Series.

Hear Brad Evans speak at Seattle Public Library on Saturday, March 22 at 2 p.m.

For more on the project, visit

View the book trailer: