Author Archives: UWP Publicity

UW Press at the Western History Association Virtual Conference

Meet UW Press’s History Editors

Three of the press’s acquisitions editors acquire in the field of the history of the US West, and each one has a particular specialty.

Mike Baccam (he/him) acquires in western history, critical ethnic studies, and Asian American studies. He is interested in projects that engage with race, gender, migration, imperialism, and labor and particularly welcomes interdisciplinary work. He accepts queries for the Emil and Kathleen Sick Series in Western History. He can be reached by email at mbaccam@uw.edu or on Twitter at @mikebaccam.

Andrew Berzanskis (he/him) acquires environmental history, geography, and books for general readers about the Pacific Northwest. Pitch him via email at andrewlb@uw.edu and find him on Twitter at @ABerzanskis. He also accepts proposals for our Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books series.

Larin McLaughlin (she/her) acquires in Native and Indigenous studies, women’s history, gender, and sexuality studies, and visual culture. She welcomes queries for the Indigenous Confluences series. lmclaugh@uw.edu.

We encourage you to reach out to the editor whose emphasis best reflects the focus of your work. And please visit the WHA virtual conference and stop by our virtual booth to learn more about new releases in western history, view series flyers, and access other information.

2020 WHA Award Winners

We are excited to share the news that two of our recent books have received awards from the Western History Association this year:

Becoming Mary Sully: Toward an American Indian Abstract by Philip J. Deloria has been selected for the 2020 Donald L. Fixico Award for best book on American Indian and Canadian First Nations history that centers on Indigenous epistemologies and perspectives.

Reclaiming the Reservation: Histories of Indian Sovereignty Suppressed and Renewed by Alexandra Harmon has been selected for the 2020 Robert G. Athearn Award for best book on the twentieth-century American West.

The awards will be formally announced during the Virtual Awards Ceremony on Friday, October 16, at 2:00 p.m. (CDT).

UW Press Eagerly Awaits Tri-West Virtual Book Exhibit with a Round-Up of New Regional Titles

We are eager to connect with our regional book buying community during the Tri-West Virtual Book Exhibit, a combined event for three regional booksellers associations. Please visit our virtual booth here.

For those interested in booking an appointment with one of our sales representatives during the virtual exhibit, we are represented in the following territories by:

Kurtis Lowe
kurtis@booktravelerswest.com
Pacific Northwest (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA)

William Gawronski
wgawronski@earthlink.net
West (AZ, CA, NM, NV)

Kevin Kurtz
kk2841@columbia.edu
Midwest (CO, KS, NE, OK, SD)

We have many exciting regional titles that we are looking forward to sharing with local bookstores. Here is a collection that highlights some of these important new books:

Emerald Street: A History of Hip Hop in Seattle

By Daudi Abe

Foreword by Sir Mix-A-Lot

“A vital and long overdue survey of how this great city in the Pacific Northwest sampled and remixed an art form born on the East Coast and made it their own. Abe has crafted a work that not only presents hip hop in Seattle, but also is the biography of a community that learned how to win on its own terms.”—Kevin Powell, author of When We Free the World and a forthcoming biography of Tupac Shakur

The Grizzly in the Driveway: The Return of Bears to a Crowded American West

By Rob Chaney

“Chaney writes with pith and pizzazz, and goes deep into understanding nature’s difficult relationship with people. This book is an incisive and motivating look into the future. It asks whether these brown bruins can be tolerated at levels reflecting their biological needs, meeting shifting ecological landscapes and our diverse American cultural pathways.”—Joel Berger, author of Extreme Conservation: Life at the Edges of the World

Edible and Medicinal Flora of the West Coast: The Pacific Northwest and British Columbia

By Collin Varner

Published with Heritage House

A concise regional guide to more than 200 plants with nutritional and medicinal uses. Practical and user-friendly, Edible and Medicinal Flora of the West Coast is an indispensable guide for beginning and experienced foragers alike.

Birds of the Pacific Northwest: A Photographic Guide, 2nd Edition

By Tom Aversa, Richard Cannings, and Hal Opperman

Published with Heritage House

“An essential reference for birders west of the Continental Divide , particularly for intermediate and advanced observers.”—Western Birds: The Quarterly Journal of Western Field Ornithologists

After the Blast: The Ecological Recovery of Mount St. Helens

By Eric Wagner

“This is a superb look at scientists and science at work.”—Publishers Weekly

“Like the seeds of lupine, Mount St. Helens is fortunate that such a writer landed on its soil, turning desolation into fertile ground.”—Natural History Magazine

Sailor Song: The Shanties and Ballads of the High Seas

By Gerry Smyth

Illustrated by Jonny Hannah

Published with the British Library

Reintroduces the traditional sea shanty for a new generation. Recently released films such as Fisherman’s Friend and Blow the Man Down demonstrate a reinvigorated interest in this long-standing maritime tradition, and Gerry Smyth is well-positioned to present this compilation of sea shanties, their backgrounds, and their accompanying musical notation.

The Great Quake Debate: The Crusader, the Skeptic, and the Rise of Modern Seismology

By Susan Hough

“Hough is the ideal author for this story, being a seismologist herself, steeped in the history of her trade, and a masterful raconteur. Whether it’s how to reopen the economy after a pandemic or what to do about climate change, the great quake debate was a precursor to modern tussles between science and policy.”—Callan Bentley, geologist, Northern Virginia Community College

The Port of Missing Men: Billy Gohl, Labor, and Brutal Times in the Pacific Northwest

By Aaron Goings

“Persuasively challenges a century-long belief: did the maritime labor activist at the largest lumber port in the world really deserve an enduring reputation as a monstrous serial killer? Goings provides the defense that Billy Gohl never got in court. What a welcome labor history lesson from the Pacific Northwest!”—Karen Blair, editor of Women in Pacific Northwest History

The River That Made Seattle: A Human and Natural History of the Duwamish

By BJ Cummings

“An amazing historical reflection on the Duwamish River and surrounding lands, which also addresses the pollution that affected both Natives and settlers.”—Cecile A. Hansen, chairperson of the Duwamish Tribe

“Cummings brings the river and its history to life in a chronicle of colonization, neglect, and rebirth. A must-read for anyone who wants to know the story flowing through Seattle.”—David R. Montgomery, author of King of Fish and The Rocks Don’t Lie

Walking the High Desert: Encounters with Rural America along the Oregon Desert Trail

By Ellen Waterston

“Readers of Oregon’s local history, advocates of the environment, and high desert dwellers on the left and right side of the aisle will connect with this book. In Waterston’s classic voice that imparts her immense research while speaking to readers like a friend, Walking the High Desert is an important addition to Oregon’s literature about place.”—Bend Magazine

Anticipating Future Environments: Climate Change, Adaptive Restoration, and the Columbia River Basin

By Shana Lee Hirsch

“An important early intervention in our understanding of how climate change affects restoration practice and environmental management globally.”—Rebecca Lave, Indiana University

The Whale and the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska

By Julia O’Malley

Foreword by Kim Severson

Published with the Anchorage Museum

“Through this book, [O’Malley] doesn’t merely introduce us to Alaskan foods, she discovers the soul of Alaska itself.”—Anchorage Daily News

Grays Harbor Workers: Aaron Goings on “The Port of Missing Men”

History has not been kind to the Washington coast’s working class. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries thousands of the region’s workers toiled long hours in logging camps and lumber mills and in maritime trades—some of the country’s most dangerous industries. Those who acted collectively to improve their working and living conditions were targets of persecution, physically attacked by employers and their allies in the local, state, and federal governments. Vigilante businessmen beat, shot, and kidnapped activists, and deported them from towns, while police jailed them and raided their halls. Indeed, many of the most famous financially successful men in the history of the Olympic Peninsula and southwest Washington defended their wealth through a combination of violent anti-labor activism and support for anti-union legislation. Stories of vigilantes and cops brutalizing working-class women, men, and children fill early twentieth-century newspaper columns—providing potent reminders that the scenes playing out across the United States in 2020 are part of a long history of violent reactions against workers’ movements.

In the past forty years, many of the region’s workers have faced a fresh round of horrors: layoffs and mill closures, as parts of southwest Washington and the Olympic Peninsula began to resemble a Pacific Northwest “Rust Belt.” A recent gut punch came in June 2018 when the Aberdeen Museum of History burned. The fire destroyed priceless labor history collections—virtually the entire archive of Grays Harbor’s rich working-class history is now lost to posterity.

The archive told the important history of collective action in the heart of lumber country. Highlights included huge collections from the International Woodworkers of America and locals of the Cooks and Waiters’ Union—the latter an important source of women’s working-class activism before women won the right to vote. The fire also turned to ashes a collection of records from maritime unions—groups of workers that persistently fought for the types of work-life improvements Americans celebrate on Labor Day.

One of the most important (and certainly the most famous) labor activists from Washington’s coast was William “Billy” Gohl, subject of my new book from the University of Washington Press, The Port of Missing Men: Billy Gohl, Labor, and Brutal Times in the Pacific Northwest. Gohl served as agent for the Aberdeen branch of the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific between 1903 and 1910, when Grays Harbor ranked as both the world’s most prolific lumber port and Washington State’s most densely unionized area.

Gohl was the best-known and most effective union activist in Grays Harbor. His fellow unionists twice elected him president of the local labor council, and he led efforts to force ship captains to follow union contracts and workplace safety laws. Gohl’s activism extended well beyond the shop floor: he was also a community activist committed to improving the lives of maritime workers and making the local waterfront safer.

Not surprisingly for anyone who has done much reading in US labor history, Gohl’s lasting fame has nothing to do with his community activism. Instead, Gohl’s life has long interested journalists and true-crime junkies, because “Billy” is widely known as the “Ghoul of Grays Harbor.” Dozens of true-crime tales—and popular memory—blame Gohl for the deaths of dozens of working men whose corpses were found floating in the Chehalis and Wishkah Rivers. Journalist and popular historian Murray Morgan wrote, “These anonymous dead men, culled from the hordes of migrant laborers who had flocked to Grays Harbor to cut trees, came to be known as the Floater Fleet. Billy Gohl was credited with launching most of them. If he was responsible for even half of the floaters found in the harbor during his day, Gohl was America’s most prolific murderer. Over a ten-year period the fleet numbered 124.”

Arrested and charged with murder in early 1910, Gohl became the subject of a massive campaign by local employers and their allies in the mainstream press to pin the region’s entire history of violent crimes on him and “his gang.” On the day of his arrest the Aberdeen Daily World blamed Gohl “for many of the members of the ‘floater fleet,’ comprising more than 40 bodies.” Three months after his arrest, Gohl was convicted of one murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Gohl was not the only convicted murderer in early Grays Harbor history, and the jury had difficulty coming to a decision about his guilt. Yet by the time the jury convicted him of a single murder Gohl already had been convicted in the public mind of being a cold-blooded killer who spent seven years ravaging Grays Harbor. The case against him appeared to be “the dream of some dime store novel writer,” said Gohl, as employers and the state conspired to remove Gohl from his place in the labor movement. Media accounts of Gohl’s “crimes”—like subsequent stories about Gohl—omit the important historical context that shows employers acting collectively and often brutally to eliminate labor activists in Grays Harbor and throughout the United States.

The Port of Missing Men bears little resemblance to earlier writings about Gohl. I strove to avoid portraying him as a caricature, instead placing Gohl in his historical context. Unfortunately, like Billy the Kid, Gohl has reached the status of a legend. He is now a part of Wild West mythology that often casts imagined “monsters” like him—rather than larger forms of structural oppression—as responsible for violence.

The myth of Billy Gohl the mass murderer has proved remarkably resilient, and rare indeed is the person who, when asked about their knowledge of Billy Gohl, fails to mention the term “serial killer.” But Gohl was a militant labor leader and local bosses saw him as a dangerously effective enemy who needed to be silenced. My new book returns Gohl—the labor and community activist—to the center of a region’s working-class history, a history that, like the materials lost in the Aberdeen museum fire, often ends up in the dustbin.

 

Aaron Goings is associate professor of history and chair of the History and Political Science Department at Saint Martin’s University. He is coauthor of The Red Coast: Radicalism and Anti-radicalism in Southwest Washington and Community in Conflict: A Working-Class History of the 1913–14 Michigan Copper Strike and the Italian Hall Tragedy. His latest book, The Port of Missing Men: Billy Gohl, Labor, and Brutal Times in the Pacific Northwest, is available now.

A Newcomer to the Big Empty: Sam Waterston on Ellen Waterston’s “Walking the High Desert”

We’ve all noticed how sharp our sensations, perceptions and observations are when visiting a place for the first time, from the Grand Canyon to the manmade canyons of New York City. We take in the sounds, smells, and sensations more acutely, more vividly, before familiarity moves in on our guilelessness, bringing its partner, contempt, along with it, the deadening “taking for granted” of the inherent and unique beauty of a place.

My brother Sam has visited me at various locations in the high desert: when I was ranching on the Crooked River; in Bend, at the foot of the Cascades mountains where I run a literary nonprofit; and in the wilds of Oregon’s Outback, during my research for Walking the High Desert. His below comments illustrate his capacity for experiencing this grand space each time as if for the first time. He brings, as he does to all he does, a fresh eye, an open mind and heart, and then extrapolates to a bigger invitation, tuning in to the plea of the place or the circumstance. Covid-19 has upped our appreciation game as everything seems more precious, fleeting. The pandemic has reminded us to appreciate what is right in front of us, what, perhaps, we have heretofore taken for granted; and, as Sam’s generous comments advocate, to take action to protect what is “fierce, fragile, beautiful,” the high desert and the earth itself.

Ellen Waterston


IMG_7410 (1)

Ellen Waterston and her brother Sam Waterston in Washington, D.C. in a Fire Drill Friday rally in support of legislation that protects the environment. January 2020

The high desert is like the ocean or the mountains of the moon: by itself, the name calls up space, the vast sky, the nearby stars, the one-hundred-mile gaze, the place where things and people stand out. It’s amazing. Many born and raised in it know this and never lose their awareness. After a lifetime of living in it, some still have the cowboys’ long horizons in their eyes. Some others, working to make it yield and bend to their needs, temporarily or permanently lose their amazement . . . Even an amazing place can become commonplace, merely where you do what you do; even here, a person can forget where they are. And isn’t that the way of it for most of us, wherever we live?

Most visitors do feel the wonder of the high desert at first, like babes in the woods, and that astonishment can last and last. It has with me. I first came out here to see my sister Ellen, who wrote Walking the High Desert. There aren’t so very many places where a hay field is measured by the thousand acres, where your front yard is fifty acres of wild iris, and the view is of the moon.

My sister was a newcomer to the Big Empty once. Because of the life she led and the person she is, her amazement at the wonder of the place she had come to never left her…and she went deep, looked deep. She is a poet and a journalist. She spent a lot of her time out in the desert, recorded what she witnessed, and brought the place to second life in words. This book is one fine example. She has a lot to say about the high desert. The high desert has a lot to tell. Almost inevitably, the long walks Ellen Waterston took out there over all those years landed her on the Oregon High Desert Trail—and she brought out for us the gold, the story of the place, entwined in her own story.

The earth is like the high desert, a fierce, fragile, beautiful, amazing place. We can’t afford to take it for granted anymore. There are as many opinions about what to do with it and for it now as there are interested parties . . . and we are all interested parties where the fate of the earth is involved. At least, we need to be. There is no place left for bystanders now. We all have to put our heads into this. My sister’s book will get you in the right state of mind.


Sam Waterston is an American actor, producer, and director. Waterston is known for his work in theater, television and film as well as his environmental activism.

Ellen Waterston is author of Where the Crooked Desert Rises: A High Desert Home, a memoir, and four poetry collections including a verse novel. She is the founder and president of the Waterston Desert Writing Prize and the founder of the Writing Ranch in Bend, Oregon. Her latest book, Walking the High Desert: Encounters with Rural America along the Oregon Desert Trail, is available now.

Walking the Waterfront: UW Press’s Audrey Truitt on “Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces”

One beautiful aspect about Seattle is that there are truly endless ways to explore the city. There are many museums, famous monuments, tours, and restaurants to visit. However, if you are looking for something unique to do, Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces by James Rupp offers tours of public art for each of Seattle’s many popular areas. He offers a unique way for you to learn some of Seattle’s history through its artworks. Katie Felton and I, marketing assistants of UW Press, were lucky enough to tour the waterfront for its public spaces, and we discovered some striking art.

In the beginning of our tour, we visited the memorial of Ivar Hagland. The sculpture shows Hagland in a captain’s hat and seamen’s jacket feeding seagulls french fries, which was one of his favorite pastimes. He’s a perfect companion to sit next to as you watch people pass by or enjoy a nice lunch of fish and chips from Ivar’s Fish Bar. Ivar Hagland (1905–1985) was known to be a restaurant owner and entrepreneur who advocated for the city and its people. He was very well liked by the Seattle community. After his death in 1985, many of his friends pooled together the funds to build a statue in his name because he was so beloved by them. Since 1912, this is the first memorial of a Seattle citizen placed in a public space. Richard Beyer sculpted the memorial out of aluminum and bronze and helped leave Ivar Hagland’s legacy behind.

Waterfront Fountain will not fail to leave an impression of awe on the sightseer. Made from a combination of cubic structures, with water cascading off the tall bronze artwork, it is a piece to appreciate. Waterfront Fountain is the last fountain that James Fitzgerald made for Seattle. He designed it with his wife, painter Margaret Tomkins, in October 1973. Sculptor Terry Copple and welder Art Sjodin collaborated with the couple on the piece, due to their past work with Fitzgerald. This work was given to Seattle in memory of Edward M. and Margaret J. Harrington. The Harringtons came to Seattle in 1921 and, like Ivar Hagland, had an undying love and devotion for the city.

2.3 Waterfront Fountain, James FitzGerald and Margaret Tomkins

Waterfront Fountain

As Katie and I approached one of our last artworks, we were delighted to see a colorful mosaic at the bottom of the staircase at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center. Called Danza del Cerchio, Seattle artist Ann Gardner created this piece using glass mosaics and ancient Byzantine techniques. The mural is 48 feet long, with bright, multicolored disks in every color of the rainbow. Ann Gardener first drafted this design on paper, then transferred it to the mosaic form. This piece put us both in a better mood by the time we left it; it is a piece that can brighten up anybody’s day.

Many people often think to go to the waterfront because there are a number of fun things to do there. However, not many notice the art that lives within the area. Katie and I were both grateful to go on this tour for that very reason. Katie has lived in Seattle for several years, and I have lived here my whole life, but neither of us had noticed this hidden world of art. It was synonymous to going on a treasure hunt—no doubt! We realized that many precious pieces of the past go unnoticed and unappreciated. Every day, people pass by these artworks—but how many recognize the piece, appreciate its presence, and know why it’s there? Most likely, not many. What James Rupp has compiled for us is a gift to explore the greater depths and personalities that reside and resided in Seattle. It gives us a way to see how artists expressed themselves through their artwork, or how and why individuals were remembered. It’s more than just seeing art, but a glimpse into why things are the way they are.

 

The tours offered by James Rupp in Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces present something unique to both the out-of-town tourist and lifetime Seattleite. If you are a tourist, you can explore the city’s art history in depth by seeing how interwoven the art is within the streets of Seattle. As an old-time Seattleite, art lovers can appreciate the hidden gems that cover the entire city in open spaces and hidden crevices. The waterfront tour takes about an hour to complete, with seven destinations along the many piers of the waterfront. However, there are many tours that you can take that span from seven to more than thirty public art pieces. Depending on your curiosity and adventure levels, you can break up the day with a short art tour while sightseeing the rest of the city, or devote an entire afternoon to exploring the art in Seattle’s public spaces.


Perfect for art and architecture lovers, as well as visitors and newcomers to the city of Seattle, Art in Seattle’s Public Spaces by James Rupp showcases the wealth of urban art to be freely enjoyed by all.

The Changes that Led to Taiwan’s “Global Moment”: Ryan Dunch and Ashley Esarey on “Taiwan in Dynamic Transition”

The Covid-19 death toll in the United States exceeds 148,000; in Taiwan this statistic is seven. Taiwan has done a better job of fighting the pandemic than South Korea, Japan, or New Zealand. Taiwan adjusted the teaching protocol for schools but never closed them. Restaurants lost business but largely remained open. Taiwan’s economy has continued to grow, as other nations face the sinking prospect of a recession.

Taiwan is having its global moment, but few can tell the tale of how this island country arrived where it is. This is unfortunate but unsurprising: Taiwan is seldom mentioned in global media reports beyond articles about its disputed sovereignty, or histrionic outbursts from Chinese diplomats seeking to bar Taiwan from observer status in the World Health Organization and other international bodies.

During five decades of Japanese colonial rule (1895–1945), Taiwan began to experience what we call the “twin transformations” of nation building and democratization. Nation building commenced during Japanese rule, when Taiwanese were united by their common culture yet marginalized as second-class citizens in their homeland. Democratization, including early forays into local electoral politics under Japan, gradually introduced new rights and freedoms for Taiwanese to campaign in local and national elections.

Nation building and democratization became interrelated concerns as Taiwan emerged in the 1980s from four decades of one-party rule under martial law. The pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, founded in 1986 in defiance of a ban on opposition parties, would eventually become one of two main political parties that have alternated in power since the first direct presidential election in 1996. Nation building and democratization changed the way Taiwanese saw their society, leading to overwhelming support for democratic life and broad recognition that their nation was Taiwan, not China.

One important reason for Taiwan’s resilience during the current pandemic is that Taiwan’s twin transformations did not occur in isolation. They proceeded alongside a public hunger for broader reforms in a range of related areas, including women’s rights, freedom of speech and association, indigenous rights, environmental justice, animal rights, abolition of the death penalty, and gay marriage, to mention but a few examples.

All of these movements involved increasingly sophisticated activism amid growing trust in government as a willing and capable partner in reshaping the country’s course. This was in part due to the pivotal leadership of recently deceased President Lee Teng-hui, who pardoned political prisoners and worked to forge consensus over reforms that converted a political system designed to rule China in the 1940s into a democratic system suited to govern Taiwan.

Over time, Taiwanese society experienced what might be called a “normalization” of non-violent contestation that touched nearly every corner of society. Consider, for example, the 2014 occupation of parliament by students opposing a Taiwan-China free trade pact. The movement won widespread public support, prompted the tabling of the agreement, and elevated the fortunes of the Democratic Progressive Party, which had supported the demonstration. In Hong Kong, by comparison, pro-democracy demonstrators have been treated as criminals, traitors, and repressed by the police. Taiwanese “Sunflower activists” were cleared of criminal charges after occupying the national legislature for over three weeks. In her May 2020 inaugural address, President Tsai Ing-wen underscored the role of Taiwan’s “mobilization culture”: She noted that “people’s dissatisfaction provides motivation for reform” and that Taiwan’s ability to overcome its many challenges wasn’t because of “one or two heroes” but because of “nameless heroes” who together “turned the great wheel of history.”

Ironically, such views of Taiwanese society seem entirely foreign in China. Politicians and military figures in Beijing ignore Tsai Ing-wen’s soaring approval ratings and belittle her political record: they have accused her government of “unilaterally” destabilizing relations by failing to express commitment to unification; urged Taiwanese to refrain from commenting on national security legislation for Hong Kong; and warned that Taiwan independence is “a road of death.”

Our book Taiwan in Dynamic Transition: Nation Building and Democratization traces how this remarkable country emerged as a resilient democratic nation, despite the absence of widespread agreement on sovereignty or democratic norms after World War II and within a political system designed to govern a different place (China). The contributors to the volume, many of them Taiwan-based academics, consider several dimensions of Taiwan’s experience of nation building and democratization, including constitutional reform, grassroots elections and social movements, and defense spending and national security.

Speaking to her compatriots at her inauguration in 2020, President Tsai argued that Taiwan’s story “pertains to everyone and requires everyone.” Taiwan in Dynamic Transition helps readers to understand the background to Taiwan’s extraordinary success during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the future security of Taiwan is uncertain, not due to internal failings but the threat of a Chinese invasion. During these uncertain and dangerous times, perhaps Tsai’s words are also true for all who respect freedom and human dignity and wish to see them flourish?


Ryan Dunch is professor of history at the University of Alberta. Ashley Esarey is assistant professor of political science at the University of Alberta. Their book Taiwan in Dynamic Transition: Nation Building and Democratization is available now.

Five Tips for Better Science Communication: Susan Hough on “The Great Quake Debate”

How can scientists best talk about the risks of natural hazards with the general public? And how can a lay reader assess debates among scientists? Susan Hough offers useful tips for both, drawing on her new book, The Great Quake Debate: The Crusader, the Skeptic, and the Rise of Modern Seismology.


Through spring of 2020, the publication process moved forward apace for The Great Quake Debate. In a sense, it might be considered a coming of age story, focusing on the chapter in time when a major metropolitan region, Los Angeles, first came to grips with a seemingly existential peril: earthquake hazard. Could the rapidly growing city—one of the leading oil-producing regions in the world—really be hit by a massive earthquake like the one that had left San Francisco in ashes not too many years earlier? The Great Quake Debate is a story complete with (putative) heroes and villains, drama and intrigue.

It is also a story with lessons for our times, in particular now that the entire world struggles to come to grips with a different mortal peril. In the early 20th century, many people had the luxury of viewing earthquake hazard as somebody else’s problem. Later science would prove them only partly right, but, indeed, earthquakes pose a real and present dangerin some places than in others. Microbes, on the other hand, do not concentrate along narrow fault lines. Potentially they reach us all. The realization dawns, that some of the lessons of The Great Quake Debate are especially relevant for our tumultuous times, including lessons for both scientists and the public regarding the business of science communication. Let me pull out five of them, three for consumers of scientific information, and two for those who disseminate it.

  1. If you want information, go to the source. As directly as possible, go to the source. When parts of The Great Quake Debate have been told before, renowned geologist Robert T. Hill has been painted as the villain, a “tool” used by local city boosters to advance their agenda. A generally well-researched earlier biography focused on the extent to which Hill was manipulated by city boosters, describing him as a victim of their machinations. The personal papers that he and others left behind tell a far more nuanced, complex story.
  2. When you are looking for scientific information, know that science has limitations. There are truths in science, and as the saying goes, science doesn’t care what you believe. But in a rapidly developing field, science can be messy. The answers might not be black-and-white, and even well-respected scientists can be wrong. In his crusade to convince the public to take earthquake hazard seriously, in 1926 protagonist Bailey Willis made public statements that southern California would likely be wrenched by a great earthquake within three to 10 years of 1926. Although many saw the 1933 Long Beach earthquake as vindication of Willis’ prophesy, the magnitude-6.4 earthquake was not the major temblor that he had predicted. Hill’s refutation of the prediction, on the other hand, drew from sound science.
  3. Listen to scientists. Wait, what? Why should anyone listen to scientists, if they might themselves be wrong? The thing is, scientists might not be right, but at any given time, their understanding is as good as it gets. Had people listened carefully to either Willis or Hill, they would have heard a debate on some key questions, but also very similar messages from both, delivered with no small degree of passion, regarding the importance of understanding earthquake hazard and taking steps to reduce earthquake risk.
  4. For those of us who are ourselves scientists, beware the perils of over-stepping what science allows us to say. Willis based his prediction on analysis of early surveying data that he should have known to be highly uncertain. Hill correctly debunked the prediction, but did make statements downplaying the severity of earthquake hazard in Los Angeles. His reassuring statements, while never dismissing hazard entirely, were based on some misperceptions of his day, for example concerning the potential severity of shaking caused by moderately large earthquakes. He, too, should have known that such statements were not well-supported by available data. The media may have amplified the message, but scientists themselves set the tone. Where science collides with public welfare and public fears, missteps in one direction can assuage fears, while missteps in the other direction can fan flames. Neither serves the public good.
  5. Sooner or later, the natural world will have the last word. Scientists can debate the severity of the perils that we face, and the need to take risk mitigation seriously. People and policy-makers can choose to heed warnings, or not. Depending on the nature of the risk, it can be expensive to heed warnings, or personally uncomfortable, or inconvenient. If worst fears are borne out, what will you wish you had done yesterday? Do it today.

 

Susan Hough is a research seismologist in Pasadena, California. Her popular-science books include Earthshaking Science: What We Know (and Don’t Know) about Earthquakes and Richter’s Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man. Her latest book The Great Quake Debate: The Crusader, the Skeptic, and the Rise of Modern Seismology is available now.

 

 

 

The Future of Diversifying Publishing: Reflections from Hanni Jalil, the 2019-2020 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellow

Academic publishing is a fascinating world, as my time as the Mellon University Press Diversity Fellow at the University of Washington Press has shown me. During my fellowship, I have met and worked with intellectually curious and critical individuals committed to collaborative work, to producing scholarship and knowledge as a public good, and to opening doors to diverse voices in publishing and in the academy. But what should commitment to diversity really look like in an industry that is still 76 % White? When we look at editorial departments, the numbers are less encouraging: a recent survey on diversity in publishing revealed that Black/Afro-American/ Afro-Caribbean colleagues in these departments make up only 1% of all editorial positions. Folks that identify as Latinx/Latino/Mexican make up only 2%, and Native Americans or First Nations colleagues represent less than 1% of all editorial jobs.

The Mellon University Press Diversity Fellowship, spearheaded by Larin McLaughlin, editor in chief at the University of Washington Press and this year’s AUPresses Constituency Award winner, is a pipeline program designed to address this problem, with a particular emphasis on diversifying acquisitions departments at participating presses and beyond. “Fixing” the diversity problem in publishing necessitates more than increasing representation of BIPOC people across the industry. We should also reflect about diversity in terms of representation for our LGTBQ+ colleagues as well as in terms of neurodiversity and ability. However, here, I want to focus on the need to provide spaces and retention practices that encourage BIPOC folks to enter, stay, and thrive in the publishing industry.

Undoubtedly, those of us who have participated in this fellowship have benefited from this opportunity. During the fourteen months I worked at the press, I learned about the acquisitions process through formal and informal mentoring opportunities and conversations with my colleagues Mike Baccam, Lorri Hagman, Neecole Bostick, Andrew Berzanskis, and Larin McLaughlin. I have also had the privilege of sharing this experience with an incredible cohort of fellows past and present, whose support and mentorship has been invaluable. Because of the UW Press’s incredibly collaborative spirit, I also had the opportunity to learn from other colleagues in editorial design and production, marketing, and in rights and contracts.

I’m leaving the fellowship with experiences and lessons that will continue to shape my professional journey, so in my mind there is no question that the Mellon Fellowship is a significant resource and intervention to challenge the industry’s inequities and an amazing opportunity. But what will happen when the program ends? What happens at presses where there are no analogous programs? We need more than programs like this fellowship to fix problems that are structural and for which there are no easy solutions. Coming up with ways to solve the lack of diversity in publishing requires an industry-wide commitment to radically transform the visible and invisible structures that make academic publishing a predominantly white industry. In this post, I would like to focus on three types of barriers to inclusion, which the industry must face head-on. The first, the need to reimagine our outreach and hiring practices across departments; the second, the need to build meaningful and engaged mentoring relationships with BIPOC folks who enter publishing; and the third, the need to establish pay equity across the industry.

The first barrier speaks to the question of how to make diversity not a platitude or afterthought but a central goal in our outreach and hiring practices. Make this an intention and purpose in all of your efforts. What would happen if we gave the candidate’s engagement with and commitment to diversity the same weight we give the rest of their professional experience? Think about the transformative potential of these considerations and make them central to your outreach and hiring practices.

The second barrier speaks to the value of fostering meaningful and engaged mentoring relationships with BIPOC folks in publishing. Mentorship can make a difference as an effective retention strategy. Consider how your BIPOC colleagues feel about entering and working in an industry where the majority of folks who work in it are white. Here are some possible fears: Will I be tokenized? Will I face micro-aggressions? Will I be encouraged to speak-up? Will my opinion and viewpoints matter? The most effective pedagogies are those where educators think about and design their courses not with the average student in mind (thinking in terms of “average” is a fraught concept, anyway), but in ways that unlock individual potential, while acknowledging that the diversity of our life experiences is a constituent part of how we learn. Meaningful and engaged mentorship is similar to the role of instructors and facilitators in that it requires intentionality and cultural responsiveness. Make establishing a mentoring relationship intentional, provide guidance, be proactive about meeting the needs of your mentee, and, lastly, open spaces for your mentee to approach you with uncomfortable or hard conversations.

Lastly, think about the urgency of establishing pay equity across the industry, particularly for folks in entry-level positions. Retention strategies require us to think about our colleagues’ material realities. Should we be asking our colleagues in entry-level positions to sacrifice their financial stability and well-being in order to stay in publishing? Most of us would agree the answer is no. Let us go a step further: because publishing is an apprenticeship-based industry, where moving from entry-level positions to mid-career or managerial positions takes a considerable investment of time, are there expected sacrifices ultimately matched in compensation, possibilities of advancement, and job security? Can BIPOC people or folks who come from low-income families, folks who are first-generation students, who have familial responsibilities, or who do not have networks of financial support really assume this sacrifice? Now think about the ways that oppression and exclusions intersect and overlap, and ask yourself if promoting pay equity and paying higher livable wages is not also a necessary component of the industry’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

We all have privileges, some more than others, but if publishing is serious about overcoming the historical and structural barriers that keep the industry predominantly white, we need to take action. While implementing diversity initiatives like the Mellon Fellowship is a step in the right direction, it must be one of many steps on the path to transformative change.


Hanni Jalil migrated with her siblings to the United States from Cali-Colombia; she is the 2019-2020 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellow. This fall, she will join California State University Channel Islands as an assistant professor of Latin American history.

Tips for the Home Gardener: An Interview with Linda Chalker-Scott, Co-Author of “Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest, Third Edition”

During the COVID-19 sheltering-at-home period, have you noticed an increased interest in home gardening?

Oh, wow, yes! Our Garden Professors Facebook group has been swamped with questions from new gardeners, and I’m glad I’ve got that group there to help provide science-based advice.

Is this interest mostly in growing edibles or ornamental plants?

It’s both, though I bet that vegetable gardens have the upper hand. But lots of people have been tackling long-term projects that they didn’t have time to do before, like removing lawns and putting in landscapes.

For beginning gardeners, what would be good projects to start with this summer?

I would really recommend building a raised bed system for growing vegetables, herbs, and flowers. We put one in last year and it was fantastic. We put up a fence to keep out the four-legged critters and used our native soil to fill the beds. It takes some time to do this correctly but once it’s done, it requires little upkeep other than laying down a protective mulch over the winter to keep weeds out.

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Courtesy of Linda Chalker-Scott

What mistakes should beginning gardeners try to avoid?

Don’t try to do it all the first year! Choose something you really want to focus on—a vegetable garden, a pollinator garden, or some other relatively small project. It is going to take time and patience to do this right. Don’t expect instant gratification. Plants are living organisms, not design elements—and they will require proper planting and care to thrive.

Now that nurseries are beginning to reopen, should people expect most of the usual plant inventory to be available?

From my personal experience, it varies! As I expected from our local nurseries, the inventory got pretty slim after the spring rush. However, I’ve found that some garden centers at hardware or big box stores still have excellent selections and the quality can be surprisingly good. And again, work with the nursery or garden center if you are looking for something they don’t have.

Which plants are good to order by mail? Do you recommend particular nurseries?

Only seeds and bare root plants are consistently reliable for ordering by mail. You can look online for other options, but be aware that mailing live plants is difficult on the plants and you may not like what you receive. It’s best to work with a local nursery to order plants.

How can people living in apartments grow edibles and ornamentals? Which plants grow well in pots on apartment balconies? What are successful indoor plants? What kinds of pots are best?

Tropical ornamentals are great choices for house plants, as are cacti and succulents; temperate perennials and woody plants are not good choices, as most of them do best with low winter temperatures. Whatever you choose, you’ll just need to make sure you have the right exposure for your desired choices. If you have a balcony that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day, you can grow some vegetables though yields can be low with reduced pot size. I think herb gardens are the easiest to create. You can also grow many smaller trees and shrubs. You will need to protect the pots from cold weather, not only so ceramic pots don’t crack but so that roots don’t freeze.

You really can use any type of pot you want, inside or out. You need to ensure that there are drain holes and protect surfaces, either with saucers or cachepots on top of some sort of impermeable material. I like to buy single-glazed floor tiles and then glue cork on the bottom.

Which are the best plants for edible landscaping?

First, you’ll want to know that you can safely eat plants in your landscape, and the best way to find out is to do a soil test to be sure you don’t have lead or some other heavy metal in your soil. Assuming you don’t have a problem, then choose perennials and woody plants you like to eat that are also ornamental. Consider perennial herbs, rhubarb (there are several cultivars with attractive leaves), berry bushes (we have lots of natives in this group), and dwarf cultivars of tree fruits that can be espaliered or otherwise formally trained. There are even ornamental groundcovers with edible fruit.

Which drought-resistant native plants do you recommend for home gardeners in the Pacific Northwest?

A lot of this is personal aesthetics, but you can tell which plants are going to be drought-tolerant by looking at their leaves. Plants with small, thick leaves, with a waxy covering that appears to be gray-green or gray-blue, use much less water than those with broad, thin leaves. But do understand that even drought-tolerant plants need to be watered through their first year of planting to get roots established.

For people who want to stroll (socially distanced) through a park or garden to see the mature sizes and shapes of plants they’re considering planting at home, can you recommend a few places in the Pacific Northwest?

Here are places I’ve visited where you can see many native (and nonnative) trees and shrubs in their full glory. Of course, state and national parks will also have many of our more ornamental natives, but the environmental conditions in large tracts of land may not reflect those in a small urban landscape. More managed gardens are probably the best bet. For more information, just look at their websites online.

Seattle area:

  • Bellevue Botanical Garden
  • Bloedel Reserve
  • Heronswood
  • Kruckeberg Botanical Gardens
  • Washington Park Arboretum/UW Botanical Gardens

Tacoma area:

  • Lakewold Gardens
  • Point Defiance Park
  • Rhododendron Species Garden
  • Wright Park

Spokane:

  • Manito Park

Portland:

  • Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

Vancouver/Victoria BC areas:

  • Butchart Gardens
  • The Gardens at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific
  • UBC Botanical Garden
  • Van Dusen Botanical Gardens

For people who want to support their local bee and bird populations, what are good landscape plants that provide pollen and seeds?

There are so many choices! There are great pollinator plant lists at websites such as Xerces. Don’t worry about having to use native plants (but do avoid any known invasive species). Wildlife is highly adaptable to their habitat and they learn to use new food sources. For the most part, the types of plants you choose because of their flower color and fragrance will be good choices for pollinators. And birds will eat just about any type of fruit. If you want to provide seeds without getting weed problems, you can cook seeds in the oven at 300°F for thirty minutes. This prevents germination but does not affect the nutrient content.


Linda Chalker-Scott is associate professor of horticulture and extension specialist at Washington State University. She cohosts the Garden Professors blog, and her books include Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific NorthwestThe Informed Gardener, The Informed Gardener Blooms Again, and How Plants Work.

 

 

What keeps us calm during the chaos: Nozomi Naoi on “Yumeji Modern” and finding the “moon-viewing” moment

In such uncertain times, it is important to remember the things that keep us human, keep us who we are, and allow us to persevere.

My book, Yumeji Modern: Designing the Everyday in Twentieth-Century Japan, has a chapter on the artistic reception and visualization of the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923 (Chapter 5). As tempting as it is to focus on the disaster and suffering, I want to introduce one newspaper illustration and accompanying text that focuses on a moment of serenity, beauty, and humanity amidst the chaos and wreckage.

The modern Japanese artist and main subject of the book, Takehisa Yumeji (1884-1934), wrote and illustrated a newspaper series called Tōkyō sainan gashin (“Sketches of the Tokyo Disaster”), which was published daily in the newspaper Miyako shinbun. Comprising both texts and images, Yumeji’s series records his reactions to the catastrophe and its aftermath and participate in a collective making of memory in modern Japanese history. His visual and literary observations showcase feelings of empathy and shock, as well as disappointment due to the inaction on the part the Japanese government in helping its citizens. Tokyo Disaster began its serialized, daily release merely thirteen days after the earthquake struck, running from September 14 to October 4, and the series presented some of the earliest responses to reach the public.

Out of the twenty-one issues in the series, one stood out: the twelfth issue from September 25, Chūshū no meigetsu (Moon-viewing; fig. 5.09, p. 161). It is a tranquil night scene with a mother and her two children, seen from behind, sitting in a field and looking up at the moon. It is a poignant scene and all the more so with Yumeji’s sensitive portrayal of the woman, as his interest in the female image made him popular with his iconic “Yumeji-style beauty.” The romanticized natural setting and the figures communicate a beautiful moment even within a series that dwells on the theme of destruction.

Moon-viewing

The text recounts how people had to spend many nights in the open due to a lack of shelter and then describes the mother:

I saw a woman pulling pampas grass in the field at Aoyama. I passed by casually, then realized that tonight was “moon-viewing” (chūshū no meigetsu). Some do not forget the offerings to the full moon even in such destitute times when people are living in shacks. Tonight there must be people gazing at the bright moon from the eaves of the galvanized iron roofs, grateful for their survival . . . (pp. 160-161)

Moon-viewing festivities celebrated the beauty of the autumnal moon and prayed for an abundant harvest. The appreciation of mother nature, which had just struck against humanity is nonetheless breathtaking. By homing in on the attempts of one woman to preserve the tradition of moon-viewing for her children despite the tragedy, the image and text also reflect Yumeji’s focus on the experience of the individual in the face of a cataclysmic natural disaster.

The desire for people to recreate and preserve normalcy even during a time of trauma touched Yumeji.

Serialization also allowed Yumeji’s reactions to the earthquake to reach a broad audience every day for three weeks, and the series became a platform that expanded and built upon itself, enabling a kind of memoristic journey that the artist and his audience experienced together.

The series finds its source in Yumeji’s artistic beginnings as an illustrator for socialist bulletins during the time of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) and demonstrates on a more personal level his concern for the place of the common people, of the voiceless within a climate of mounting government oppression and militarism. In addition, his keen observation and focus on the figure and its interiority was germane to his development in the portrayal of the female figure, one that evolved from his prolific production of bijinga (beautiful women) imagery, mostly for publications targeting a female audience.

Tokyo Disaster is an important series in the examination of the artist Yumeji and his role in the early twentieth-century mediascape. But it also holds a more personal meaning.

While doing research for this book in Japan, the Tōhoku Earthquake struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, followed by countless aftershocks and a massive tsunami. It was in the aftermath of this event and during Japan’s collective efforts to restore, reconcile, and narrate this disaster that led me to Yumeji’s responses to the Great Kantō Earthquake, the greatest natural disaster during his lifetime. This experience permitted me to approach this series with a better understanding of and insight into Yumeji’s heartfelt reactions to the 1923 earthquake, and I decided to devote my last chapter of the book on this series and include the entire series translation in the appendix. I completed the translations and analysis of this series with the 2011 disaster in mind, which even years later affects the many people who are still unable to return to their homes.

In our current circumstance in 2020, I now feel that the many reactions and critiques seen in this series are ever more relevant, and I hope that in our times today each and every one of us is able to find our own “moon-viewing” moment.


Nozomi Naoi is assistant professor of humanities (art history) at Yale-NUS College and author of Yumeji Modern.