Monthly Archives: September 2015

October 2015 News, Reviews, and Events


The University of Washington Press is thrilled to share this recent feature article from the September issue of Columns: The University of Washington Alumni Magazine marking 100 years of Press history as well as the five year rollout of our centenary celebrations. The University of Washington published its first book in 1915, and the University of Washington Press imprint its first title in 1920.


TooHigh-WilliamsToo High and Too Steep by David B. Williams is reviewed by Michael Upchurch in the Seattle Times:

“Williams does a marvelous job of evoking the cityscape that used to be. He clues us in to the spirit of civic ambition that drove Seattle’s geographical transformations. He methodically chronicles the stages by which its regrade, canal and landfill projects were accomplished. And he’s meticulous about placing his readers on present-day street corners where they can, with some sleight of mind, glimpse the hills, lake shores and tide flats that vanished.”

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Q&A with ‘Too High and Too Steep’ author David B. Williams

TooHigh-WilliamsIn his new book Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography, David B. Williams tells an engaging story about the radical ways in which the leaders and inhabitants of Seattle have altered the landscape to better accommodate their visions for the city. Williams uses his science and nature writing background, extensive research and interviews, and deep knowledge of Seattle to illuminate the real physical challenges and sometimes rather startling hubris of these large-scale transformations: the altering of the original shoreline and lowering of the inconvenient bluffs; the filling in of the vast tideflats at the mouth of the Duwamish to make new, flat land; the creation of the ship canal to link Puget Sound with Lake Union and Lake Washington; and the removal of millions of cubic yards of earth in order to lower Denny Hill at the north end of downtown. He also helps readers connect the landscape of today with the landscape of the past and find the visible traces of the ways the topography has been changed. Senior acquisitions editor Regan Huff spoke with Williams about the book, published this fall.

Join us for these events:

Saturday, October 10, 2:00 p.m. // Seattle Public Library with Elliott Bay Book Company

Thursday, November 12, 7:00 p.m. // Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park

Regan Huff: Topographic change is an unusual subject. What led you to it?

David B. Williams: I have long been interested in Seattle and its landscape. In particular I am intrigued by how our geologic past has influenced and continues to influence the city in many ways, from where we build to how we move through the landscape to why Seattle even came into existence. Several years ago I got involved with The Waterlines Project, a Burke Museum endeavor that focuses on Seattle history through an examination of its shorelines. Working with them, I realized that the incredible story of topographic change—of regrades, tideflat filling, and waterway replumbing—had never been told in a detailed, accessible manner. As I dug deeper into the topic, I became more and more fascinated with the stories, people, and engineering and how they provided an intriguing way to tell a history of Seattle.

Q: Do you see any relationships between the subject matter of your book and the current much-publicized woes of Seattle’s urban tunnel project?

David B. Williams: Yes, on several levels. The first is that the problems we’ve had with groundwater and sinking buildings are due precisely to our history of altering the landscape. If the city were built on bedrock instead of a stew of fill, including sand, coal, old lumber, piles, and cinders, those concerns would not exist. Hard rock does not have the hydrology and building stability issues that are creating our present-day problems.

Author David Williams. Photo by Andrew Croneberger.

Author David B. Williams. Photo by Andrew Croneberger.

The second relationship has to do with how we view landscape. I think that altering our topography has become part of our collective DNA. So many projects took place in the past that it created the mentality that large scale engineering was the only way to deal with our challenging topography. This is certainly what we are seeing with the new tunnel, the removal of the Viaduct, and the new seawall. Each is a response to the landscape, both natural and human created.

Q: You have said that one aim of your book is to help Seattle readers become better observers of their city; in other contexts you’ve expressed a lot of enthusiasm for urban walks and urban exploration. Why do you think this is important?

David B. Williams: On the most basic level, getting out and exploring the city and paying attention to what one sees simply makes this a more interesting place to live. It allows one to make connections between disparate areas and ideas and also promotes a stronger connection to the place itself. By discovering these stories of the land and people, we have richer and I would argue happier lives. Research even shows that such connections make us healthier, more creative, and smarter.

In addition, by getting to know the city more intimately, we are better able to understand the issues it faces, whether it’s salmon in our streams, troubles with tunnels, or too many geese. For instance, consider the recent news about sinking buildings. Walk around Pioneer Square and you cannot help but notice that there is something odd underfoot. Tilting sidewalks, buckling streets, and below grade sinking foundations all point to the fact that the city has been settling long before Bertha. That does not mean that the tunnel is not problematic, but that it is not the lone issue challenging the engineers.

Q: Did you come away from your research admiring or questioning the hubris of Seattle’s past efforts to change the urban landscape?

David B. Williams: It’s hard not to be both amazed and flabbergasted by our predecessor’s projects. None of the large-scale changes I write about could take place today. We have too many regulations and too many people who would protest. Back in the day, all it took was a person with an idea and the ability to raise money and the project could begin. Nor can we even fathom the scale of these projects. Filling the tideflats, cutting down hills, and rejiggering lakes were epic, landscape-scale changes with profound consequences economically and ecologically. Nothing taking place at present compares.

I am not saying that I approve of the projects but I cannot condemn them either. The people who undertook them truly believed that they were making Seattle a better place to live. Yes, they often benefited financially, but that was not typically what drove them. You have to remember that these endeavors were undertaken when Seattle was not the hip, trendy, financially successful place it is now. It was a relatively small city, or even a town, on the edge of the continent. These projects developed because their proponents often thought they had no other choice; in their minds, these projects were essential for growing and developing the city’s business and industry. Without them, Seattle would not survive.

Native American Art Studies Association Conference Preview

Later this month we’re heading to Santa Fe, New Mexico for the annual meeting of the Native American Art Studies Association (NAASA) from September 30-October 3. If you are attending the conference, come by our booth in the exhibit hall to browse our new titles and to meet Senior Acquisitions Editor Regan Huff.

Take a look at our new Native American studies and Art and Art History subject brochures. Even if you can’t attend the meeting, you can take advantage of our 30% conference discount on all Native Studies titles! Just order online or call 1-800-537-5487 and use promo code WST1601.

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Q&A with ‘Living Together, Living Apart’ co-editor April Schueths

Immigration reform remains one of the most contentious issues in the United States today. For mixed status families–families that include both citizens and noncitizens–this is more than a political issue: it’s a deeply personal one. Undocumented family members and legal residents lack the rights and benefits of their family members who are US citizens, while family members and legal residents sometimes have their rights compromised by punitive immigration policies based on a strict “citizen/noncitizen” dichotomy.

The personal narratives and academic essays in Living Together, Living Apart: Mixed Status Families and US Immigration Policy are among the first to focus on the daily lives and experiences, as well as the broader social contexts, for mixed status families in the contemporary United States. Threats of raids, deportation, incarceration, and detention loom large over these families. At the same time, their lives are characterized by the resilience, perseverance, and resourcefulness necessary to maintain strong family bonds, both within the United States and across national boundaries.

April Schueths is associate professor of sociology at Georgia Southern University, a licensed social worker, and co-editor with Jodie Lawston of this important forthcoming volume. In this first of two planned Q&As with the co-editors, April Schueths discusses how she came to study mixed-status families and how Living Together, Living Apart came to be.

Q: What inspired you to get into sociology?

April Schueths: Growing up I constantly asked questions and my family always said I cared ‘too much’ about others. Being raised in a traditional working class family I was able to see how socio-economic status, gender, and race impacted peoples’ life chances. This understanding, along with my desire to help others, led me to a career as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker where I worked with individuals, families, communities, and policy. While working on my PhD in sociology at the University of Nebraska I had the privilege of joining the Latino Research Initiative (LRI), a university-community partnership focused on meeting the needs of the Latino community. This supportive group is where I started my research with mixed-status families.

Q: What would you have been if not an academic?

April Schueths: If I hadn’t become an academic I would have probably worked in student affairs, public policy, or a non-profit advocacy group like Appleseed. It’s always been important for me to find ways to challenge unequal power structures with the goal of improving peoples’ lives, especially those who are most vulnerable.

Q: What is the biggest misunderstanding people have about your field and what you do?

April Schueths: Immigration policy is inherently complex. Unfortunately the public often relies on incorrect (and often hateful) media stereotypes that stigmatize immigrants, especially individuals without legal status. Many people don’t realize that harsh immigration policy impacts US citizens. In reality deportation policies have negative consequences for both immigrants and citizens. Mixed-status families often live in fear, face separation, or are forced to live transnationally. Another misconception is that if a person who is undocumented marries a citizen, their legal status will automatically be adjusted and that all of their immigration problems will be resolved. However, immigrants who’ve lived in the US without legal status are automatically barred from living here for a certain amount of time–sometimes life–even when married to a citizen or when they are parents to citizen children.

Q: Why did you want to put together Living Together, Living Apart?

April Schueths: In my social work practice and research I learned just how many families were impacted by punitive immigration policies. I felt compelled to make their experiences known. Thus it was especially important to include the narratives written by individuals in mixed-status families, along with the academic chapters. Most people not connected to these issues have very little understanding of the hardships mixed-status families face, and in many cases their positions are based on incorrect stereotypes. After reading this collection, I hope that readers understand how complex the issues of immigration and family are, but most importantly I want people to empathize with families and to see that their human rights are often violated. I want people to care.

Q: What are you reading right now?

April Schueths: Recently I’ve read Everyday Illegal: When Policies Undermine Immigrant Families by Joanna Dreby, and Forgotten Citizens: Deportation, Children, and the Making of American Exiles and Orphans by Luis Zaya, both of which I highly recommend. For fun I’m also reading Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg.

Fall 2015 Events Preview

This fall the University of Washington Press is thrilled to celebrate the publication of the first two books made possible by the Northwest Writers Fund: Reclaimers by Ana Maria Spagna and Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography by David B. Williams

The Northwest Writers Fund promotes the work of some of the region’s most talented nonfiction writers. We extend a special thanks to all of the fund’s establishing donors including Linda and Peter Capell, Janet and John Creighton, Michael J. Repass, Robert Wack, and others. To contribute to the fund or for more information, please contact Beth Fuget at (206) 616-818 or

Below please find a preview of some of the exciting local book talks and signings we have planned for Too High and Too Steep and Reclaimers. We hope you will join us.

Check out our full events calendar for more opportunities to meet our authors in Seattle and beyond!

Too High and Too Steep by David Williams

TooHigh-WilliamsResidents and visitors in today’s Seattle would barely recognize the landscape that its founding settlers first encountered. As the city grew, its leaders and inhabitants dramatically altered its topography to accommodate their changing visions. In Too High and Too Steep, David B. Williams uses his deep knowledge of Seattle, scientific background, and extensive research and interviews to illuminate the physical challenges and sometimes startling hubris of these large-scale transformations, from the filling in of the Duwamish tideflats to the massive regrading project that pared down Denny Hill.

In the course of telling this fascinating story, Williams helps readers find visible traces of the city’s former landscape and better understand Seattle as a place that has been radically reshaped.

Watch the trailer:

More information here.

Wednesday, September 9, 7:00 p.m. // University Book Store – Seattle

Wednesday, September 16, 7:00 p.m. // Village Books (Bellingham)

Saturday, September 26, 1:00-3:00 p.m. // A Book for All Seasons (Leavenworth)

Saturday, October 10, 2:00 p.m. // Seattle Public Library with Elliott Bay Book Company

Thursday, November 12, 7:00 p.m. // Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park

Reclaimers by Ana Maria Spagna

Reclaimers-SpagnaAcclaimed literary writer Ana Maria Spagna drives an aging Buick up and down the long strip of West Coast mountain ranges–the Panamints, the Sierras, the Cascades–and alongside rivers to explore the ways and places in which people (mostly women) have worked to reclaim land that has been co-opted by outside, usually industrial, forces. In uncovering the heroic stories of those who persevered for decades, Spagna seeks a way for herself, and for all of us, to take back and to make right in a time of unsettling ecological change. Her wonderful first-person narrative opens readers up to the urgency of recognizing the place of the natural world and nudges us all to remember that it’s not too late to make a difference.

More information here.

Friday, September 25, 7:00 p.m. // Elliott Bay Book Company

Wednesday, October 7, 7:00 p.m. // Lopez Bookshop (Lopez Island)

Thursday, October 8, 7:00 p.m. // Village Books (Bellingham)

Friday, October 9, 3:00 p.m. // A Book for All Seasons (Leavenworth)

Friday, October 9, 6:30 p.m. // Leavenworth Library (Leavenworth)

Thursday, October 15, 7:00 p.m. // Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park

Thursday, October 29, 7:30 p.m. // Powell’s Books on Hawthorne (Portland, OR)