Category Archives: China

‘What makes work meaningful?’: Q&A with ‘The Social Life of Inkstones’ author Dorothy Ko

The following interview originally appeared at Barnard News and is adapted and used with permission. (Courtesy of N. Jamiyla Chisholm, Barnard College, New York City.)


To honor Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, Barnard College professor of history Dorothy Ko offers a peek into ancient and modern-day Eastern culture and politics.

According to the Library of Congress, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month takes place in May for two reasons: May 7, 1843, marked the immigration of the first Japanese citizen to the U.S.; and on May 10, 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed, mostly by Chinese immigrant workers.

Credit: Marvin Trachetenberg

Dorothy Ko explores the subjects of gender and body in early modern China. In her books, Ko unravels the complex worlds of Chinese footbinding (Cinderella’s Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding), fashion (Every Step a Lotus: Shoes for Bound Feet), and feminism (Teachers of the Inner Chambers: Women and Culture in Seventeenth-Century China). Her latest, The Social Life of Inkstones: Artisans and Scholars in Early Qing China, introduces the West to the world of ancient Asian stones and includes close to 100 images (see slideshow below). Ko explains the significance of this highly specialized art form.

What exactly is an inkstone and what is its significance in East Asian culture?

An inkstone is a piece of polished stone about the size of an outstretched palm. Before the invention of fountain pens, let alone laptops and iPads, every student, writer, or painter in East Asia had to grind a fresh supply of ink at the desk by dipping an ink-stick in water and rubbing it on the surface of the stone. This process was as instinctive to them as recharging our iPhones is to us. Day in and day out, the writers and painters developed deep attachments to their implements. More than an instrument for writing, the inkstone was a collectible object of art, a father’s gift to his school-bound son, a token of friendship, and even a diplomatic gift between states.

Why is this tool so unfamiliar to Western civilizations when it has represented so much for the East for more than a millennium?

Europeans drew ink from an inkpot so they had no use for an ink-grinding stone. Nor did the early European collectors appreciate its subtle beauty as the Chinese connoisseurs did. The color of the inkstone tended to be deep purple or black; it is small and does not display well in a stately home or fancy apartment. So it is no wonder that there is no notable collection of inkstones in Europe or America.

Your book shines a light on craftswoman Gu Erniang who became famous for her inkstone-making skills, which were refined between the 1680s and 1730s. What made her such a standout?

Her extraordinary skills. Gu Erniang was a remarkable woman who thrived in a field dominated by men; she became more famous than her male colleagues. Her name was associated with technical and artistic innovations as well as refined taste. It is also interesting to mention that she enjoyed more gender freedom than her genteel sisters in that she could receive male patrons in her studio to discuss commissioned projects face-to-face.

How has the significance of inkstone artisans changed over time?

Gu Erniang was one of the first inkstone makers in China to attach her signature mark on her work, suggesting a heightened respect that exceptional artisans like her enjoyed. Today, because the inkstone is no longer a functional object, all inkstone artisans have to present themselves as creative artists.

What interests you most in this topic area and what are some of the biggest “ah ha!” moments you had conducting research for the book?

I love all the modern conveniences we enjoy but increasingly feel the need to look back and reassess the heavy price we pay for such “industrial development” or “progress.” I became interested in the craftsmen because theirs was a sustainable livelihood that was environmentally responsible. Through their eyes, I arrive at tentative answers to my big question at the moment: What makes work meaningful? The craftsman’s answer: Making one-of-a-kind objects with attention and skill in a collaborative environment. Craft makes us more human by inspiring us to strive for perfection.

How does the research conducted for this book connect to research from your previous publications on footbinding and Chinese feminism?

As a historian of gender, I’m sensitive to power inequalities and trained to analyze the operations of power. In the same way that I had retrieved women in Chinese history in my earlier books, I set out to retrieve the artisans from erasure in the hands of male scholars. Little did I know that the latter turned out to be a far more difficult project.

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April 2017 News, Reviews, and Events

News

Seattle Magazine features director Nicole Mitchell and the University of Washington Press in a Spotlight piece: “The University of Washington Press is making a big noise in publishing circles. . . . Whether you’re an academic looking to wow undergrads with a reading list or a general reader aiming to wow yourself, the century-old press has a must-read book for you and an undeniable dynamism.”—Florangela Davila

Indian Blood by Andrew J. Jolivette is a finalist for the 2017 Lambda Literary Award (“Lammy”) in LGBTQ Studies. The winners will be announced at a gala ceremony on June 12, 2017 in New York City. Congratulations to the author and all involved!

Reviews and Interviews

KOMO Radio “Midday News” interviews David B. Williams about Seattle WalksThe National Association of Science Writers (NASW) news and features includes an interview with the author.


Alaska Dispatch News/We Alaskans reviews Menadelook edited by Eileen Norbert: “The story of Menadelook’s life is fascinating and well told and would be a worthy book even without the photographs, but to have the pictures as well makes this volume a treasure. . . . Much like the Menadelook we meet in these pages, this book is modest on the surface, but its contribution to Alaska is profound. It presents a world that would be completely vanished but for the presence of one man and his camera.”—David A. James

NBC Asian America picks Troubling Borders edited by Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, Lan Duong, Miriam B. Lam, and Kathy L. Nguyen as one of its “Six Asian-American Memoirs to Read for Women’s History Month”: “The wide variety of stories told dispel stereotypes and take on the complex challenges of colonialism, militarization, love, resistance, family, migration, and more. They reveal the intersectional and multilayered experiences of Southeast Asian women in the diaspora.”


Seattle Weekly/Seattle Review of Books reviews Kevin Craft’s Vagrants & Accidentals: “The University of Washington Press’ Pacific Northwest Poetry Series has shepherded a gorgeous new collection of Craft’s poetry into being: Vagrants & Accidentals, which feels like a book that’s been bottled up for a decade, just waiting to be introduced to an unsuspecting world. The poetry in Vagrants is eager and obsessed with big ideas like evolution and the act of becoming. . . . Craft argues that without the eyes to see and the lips to speak and the fingers to write, the world may as well not have existed at all. On that same wavelength, a Seattle without Craft’s poetry in it would be a forgettable dot on a map. He breathes life into our world, as an editor, a publisher, and most definitely as a poet.”—Paul Constant

NPR.org’s The Salt blog interviews Puer Tea author Jinghong Zhang in a post about the sought-after fermented tea.


Pacific NW Magazine features an excerpt from Ice Bear by Michael Engelhard.


Outdoor Research’s Verticulture blog features Reclaimers by Ana Maria Spagna in a round-up of OR’s favorite women’s adventure books: “The most influential book I’ve read recently. . . . It’s not a typical story of adventure, but I found it absolutely motivating to get out and learn about our wild places, cherish them, and listen to the stories of people who call them home. It also makes very clear that adventure is not just found high up on a rock face or in a deep snowy couloir – the world is full of places to take risks and dive deep into, to be curious and ambitious and wild and bold.”—Jenny Abegg

“Interfaith Voices” interviews Sanctuary and Asylum author Linda Rabben in an episode about “Welcoming the Stranger.”


KEXP’s “Mind Over Matters Sustainability Segment” interviews Native Seattle author Coll Thrush.


A KUOW interview with Dismembered coauthor David E. Wilkins about the NookSack Tribe aired on “All Things Considered.”


Anchorage Press reviews The Tao of Raven by Ernestine Hayes: “In a lyrically intoxicating style, Ernestine Hayes crafts a . . . mesmerizing story-telling, an alternative world, that reveals as much, if not more, about how our society works, or does not work, for today’s Alaskan Native citizen. . . . Her bold study marries the tragedies of her life with the greater horrors perpetrated upon Alaskan Natives. . . . Hayes manages to wrangle a promising, optimistic tinged message as she closes out her autopsy of what has gone awry. In her inimitable, metaphorical style she voices cause for hope – a prayer that all is not forsaken.”—David Fox


KUOW’s “Speakers Forum” aired a talk by Looking for Betty MacDonald author Paula Becker in celebration of Betty MacDonald’s 110th birthday on March 26.

New Books

A Year Right Here: Adventures with Food and Family in the Great Nearby
By Jess Thomson

Armed with “The Here List” and a Type-A personality, Seattle-based writer and cookbook author Jess Thomson sets out to spend a year exploring the food of the Pacific Northwest with her family. Planning to revel in the culinary riches of the region and hoping to break her son, Graham, of his childhood pickiness, the adventures into the great nearby include building a backyard chicken coop, truffle hunting in Oregon, and razor clamming on the Washington coast. With touching, funny, sometimes devastating stories that we all can relate to, Jess pulls the reader in as she abandons “The Here List” and learns that letting go can be just as important as holding on.

Join us for these author events:

March 30 at 7 p.m., University Book Store, Seattle, WA

April 17 at 7 p.m., Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA

April 20 at 7 p.m., Village Books, Bellingham, WA

April 22 at 7 p.m., Phinney Books, Seattle, WA

April 23 at 7 p.m., Powell’s City of Books in conversation with Diane Morgan, Portland, OR

May 8 at 6:30 p.m., Book Larder, Seattle, WA

The Propeller under the Bed: A Personal History of Homebuilt Aircraft
By Eileen A. Bjorkman

On July 25, 2010, Arnold Ebneter (82) flew across the country in a plane he designed and built himself, setting an aviation world record for aircraft of its class. Pilot and aeronautical engineer Bjorkman frames her father’s journey from teen plane enthusiast to Air Force pilot and Boeing engineer in the context of the rise, near extermination, and ongoing interest in homebuilt aircraft in the United States, and gives us a glimpse into life growing up in a “flying family.”

Idle Talk under the Bean Arbor: A Seventeenth-Century Chinese Story Collection
By Aina the Layman
With Ziran the Eccentric Wanderer
Edited by Robert E. Hegel

This landmark collection of twelve short stories from the early Qing (Doupeng xianhua) uses the seemingly innocuous setting of neighbors swapping yarns on hot summer days to create a series of stories that embody deep disillusionment with traditional values. The tales, ostensibly told by different narrators, parody heroic legends and explore issues that contributed to the fall of the Ming dynasty a couple of decades before. These stories speak to all troubled times, demanding that readers confront the pretense that may lurk behind moralistic stances. This collection presents all twelve stories in English translation along with notes from the original commentator, as well as a helpful introduction and analysis of individual stories.

The Nature of Whiteness: Race, Animals, and Nation in Zimbabwe
By Yuka Suzuki

This vivid ethnography explores the intertwining of race and nature in postindependence Zimbabwe. Nature and environment have played prominent roles in white Zimbabwean identity, and when the political tide turned against white farmers after independence, nature was the most powerful resource they had at their disposal. Suzuki provides a balanced study of whiteness, the conservation of nature, and contested belonging in twenty-first century southern Africa. The Nature of Whiteness is a fascinating account of human-animal relations and the interplay among categories of race and nature in this embattled landscape.

Book of the Month Giveaways

Enter to win one of this month’s picks! (Open to US residents only.)

  1. A Year Right Here by Jess Thomson (Entry form)
  2. Birds of the Pacific Northwest by Tom Aversa, Richard Cannings, and Hal Opperman (Entry form)

The giveaways will close on on Friday, April 7, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. PT. The giveaway winners will be notified by Monday, April 10, 2017.

Events

APRIL

April 5 at 6:30 p.m., Jess Thomson, A Year Right Here, Omnivore Books, San Francisco, CA

April 5 at 7 p.m., David B. Williams, Seattle Walks, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA

April 6 at 6 p.m., Lorraine McConaghy and Judy Bentley, Free Boy, Performance of Free Boy, the musical, MOHAI Free First Thursday, Free performance of Free Boy, the musical, by 5th Avenue Theatre’s Adventure Musical Theater Touring Company, Seattle, WA

April 6 at 7 p.m., Deborah Elizabeth Whaley, Black Women in Sequence, African American Museum of Iowa, Cedar Rapids, IA

April 7 at 5 p.m., Judy Bentley, Hiking Washington’s History, Words, Writers, and West Seattle, Westwood Village Barnes & Noble, Seattle, WA

April 8 at 11 a.m., Jess Thomson, A Year Right Here, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

April 15 at 2 p.m., Paula Becker, Looking for Betty MacDonald, Neverending Bookshop, Bothell, WA

April 17 at 7 p.m., Jess Thomson, A Year Right Here, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA

April 22 at 6:30 p.m., Paula Becker, Looking for Betty MacDonald, Island Books, Mercer Island, WA

April 20 at 7 p.m., Jess Thomson, A Year Right Here, Village Books, Bellingham, WA

April 22-23, 2017, Darren Speece, Defending Giants, Nonfiction: Nature & Politics, Conversation 1095, Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (University of Southern California), Los Angeles, CA

April 22 at 10:30 a.m., Paula Becker, Looking for Betty MacDonald, Tacoma Public Library, Kobetich branch, with King’s Books

April 22 at 2 p.m., Paula Becker, Looking for Betty MacDonald, Tacoma Public Library, Wheelock branch, with King’s Books

April 22 at 7 p.m., Jess Thomson, A Year Right Here, Phinney Books, Seattle, WA

April 23 at 2 p.m., Judy Bentley, Walking Washington’s History, Everett Public Library, Everett, WA

April 23 at 7 p.m., Jess Thomson, A Year Right Here, Powell’s City of Books, Portland, OR; in conversation with Diane Morgan

April 27 at 7 p.m., Linda Rabben, Sanctuary and Asylum, Annapolis Bookstore, Annapolis, MD (Monthly Book Club selection)

April 29 at 11 a.m., Jess Thomson, A Year Right Here, Book Larder, signing for Independent Bookstore Day, Seattle, WA

April 30 at 4 p.m., David B. Williams, Seattle Walks, Eagle Harbor Books, Bainbridge Island, WA

MAY

May 2 at 7:30 p.m., Carolyne Wright, Kathya Alexander, Laura Da’, Jana Harris, and Holly J. Hughes, Raising Lilly Ledbetter (Lost Horse Press), Town Hall Seattle, Seattle, WA (Tickets $5)

May 3, 2017 at 6 p.m., 12th Annual Literary Voices, Kathleen Alcalá, The Deepest Roots; Paula Becker, Looking for Betty MacDonald; Eileen Bjorkman, The Propeller under the Bed; Moon-ho Jung, The Rising Tide of Color; Tom Reese & Eric Wagner, Once and Future River; Jess Thomson, A Year Right Here; Thaisa Way, The Landscape Architecture of Richard Haag; Margaret Willson, Seawomen of Iceland; North Ballroom at the HUB. Tickets: $150 per person; $1,500 per table, register online

May 5 – 6, Kathleen Alcalá, The Deepest Roots, with Dani Cornejo and Nicole Yanes on Opata language and culture revival, “The Living Breath of wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ“ Indigenous Foods and Ecological Knowledge Symposium, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

May 6 at 11 a.m., Eileen Bjorkman, The Propeller under the Bed, Book signing and fly-in at Harvey Field, Snohomish, WA

May 7 at 7 p.m., Kathleen Alcalá, The Deepest Roots, Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA

May 8 at 6:30 p.m., Jess Thomson, A Year Right Here, Book Larder, Seattle, WA

May 11 at 6 p.m., Paula Becker, Looking for Betty MacDonald, Darvill’s Bookstore, Orcas Island, WA

May 12 – 13, Zuo Tradition / Zuozhuan, translated by Stephen Durrant, Wai-Yee Li, and David Schaberg, UCLA International Institute Asia Pacific Center, Taiwan Studies Lectureship Annual Conference, Los Angeles, CA

Association for Asian Studies Conference Preview

From March 16-19, we will be attending the 2017 Association for Asian Studies (AAS) annual conference in Toronto, Canada.

Executive editor Lorri Hagman and advancement and grants manager Beth Fuget will be representing the press at the meeting. Come see us in the exhibit hall at booth 409 and follow along with the meeting on social media at #AAS2017.

We are thrilled to celebrate the debut of a number of new and recent titles across the range of our Asian Studies titles including offerings in our Classics of Chinese Thought translation series, the Global South Asia series, the Critical Dialogues in Southeast Asian Studies series, books in the Mellon-funded collaborative Modern Language Initiative (MLI), and these recent book prize winners:

The Emotions of Justice by Jisoo M. Kim is winner of the 2017 James B. Palais Book Prize from the Association for Asian Studies.


Letters and Epistolary Culture in Early Medieval China
by Antje Richter was awarded an honorable mention for the 2016 Kayden Book Award in literary studies.

New and Recent Books

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Read an excerpt from Zuo Tradition / Zuozhuan: Commentary on the “Spring and Autumn Annals”

Forthcoming from the Global South Asia series

Banaras Reconstructed: Architecture and Sacred Space in a Hindu Holy City
By Madhuri Desai
Forthcoming May 2017

Desai examines the confluences, as well as the tensions, that have shaped this complex and remarkable city. In so doing, she raises issues central to historical as well as contemporary
Indian identity and delves into larger questions about religious urban environments in South Asia.


Displaying Time: The Many Temporalities of the Festival of India

By Rebecca M. Brown
Forthcoming June 2017

Using extensive archival research and interviews with artists, curators, diplomats, and visitors, Brown analyzes a selection of museum shows that were part of the Festival of India to unfurl new exhibitionary modes: the time of transformation, of interruption, of potential and the future, as well as the contemporary and the now.

Now Available in Paperback

March 2017 News, Reviews, and Events

News

Our job posting for the 2017-2018 Mellon Diversity Fellow is now live and we are accepting applications through March 15. If you know of excellent candidates, please send them our way!

Reviews and Interviews


The New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog features No-No Boy by John Okada: “Reading No-No Boy, this week, it no longer seemed bound to its past; it felt like a prophecy, a cosmic tragedy, a message in a bottle that arrives a half century later.”—Hua Hsu


A collaborative piece with PRI’s Global Nation Education and Densho mentions Miné Okubo’s Citizen 13660 in an article about activists working to keep the story of Executive Order 9066 alive today. Bustle also features the book in a round-up of “10 Graphic Novels Written by Activists That You Need to Read Now More Than Ever”: “Heartbreaking, candid. . . . Okubo recounts her experience with poignancy and a surprising amount of humor.”—Charlotte Ahlin

Continue reading

February 2017 News, Reviews, and Events

News

We are pleased to announce that Catherine Cocks is joining our acquisitions team as Senior Acquisition Editor, starting February 15. She started her career in academic publishing at SAR Press, the publishing arm of the School for Advanced Research, where she established the cutting-edge series in Global Indigenous Politics, among other accomplishments. She worked most recently at the University of Iowa Press, where she is currently Editorial Director. Please join us in welcoming Catherine to the press!

The University of Washington Press has five selected entries in the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) 2017 Book, Jacket, and Journal Show. Congratulations to the designers, our Editorial, Design, and Production department, and all involved!

Nine University of Washington Press authors will be participating in the 12th Annual Literary Voices event on May 3, 2017. Annie Proulx is this year’s keynote speaker.

Reviews and Interviews

The Times Literary Supplement reviews Ice Bear by Michael Engelhard: “Engelhard has an apt and unusual background for a book such as this. . . . Among the strengths of Ice Bear is its grasp of the rituals by which humans have always aspired to draw the strength of the polar bear into themselves.”—Mark Abley

The Spectator also reviews the book: “[A] beautifully illustrated, hugely engaging book. . . . For all its nightmare-haunting power, however, the aspect of the polar bear that really makes it an icon of the age is its vulnerability . . . . Another merit of the book is the author’s willingness to track these themes to their origins.”—Mark Cocker

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In Memoriam: Yang Jiang

Credit: Caixin

The renowned Chinese writer Yang Jiang passed away on Wednesday, May 25 in Beijing at age 104. In 1984, University of Washington Press published her account of life during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76),  Six Chapters from My Life ‘Downunder’ (Ganxiao liuji), translated by Howard Goldblatt, who is known for his translations of works by major Chinese novelists, including Nobel Prize-winner Mo Yan. Yang’s New York Times obituary notes that “Goldblatt called [Six Chapters] ‘deeply personal and broadly representative of the “mundane” lives of intellectuals during that time’ — in contrast . . . to the tales of violence and victimization often found in other Cultural Revolution-era memoirs.”

The book brought literary fame to Yang, who was 70 when it was published in Chinese. Judith Shapiro reviewed Goldblatt’s translation of the memoir in the New York Times Book Review:

In richness, moral urgency, and drama, there can be few events of history with greater literary potential than the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Yang Jiang’s “Six Chapters from My Life ‘Downunder,’ ” her slender account of being sent ‘down’ for two years to a re-education school in the countryside, is one of the few memoirs of the period and all the more precious for that. . . . The book was published in China, if only briefly, because Yang Jiang focused on mundane activities. But her avoidance of obviously sensitive subjects in no way diminishes the work’s impact as a commentary on the Cultural Revolution. Many of her major themes have an allegorical quality, and many of her gently stated ironies are powerful indictments of Cultural Revolution policies. . . . In a brilliant inversion of the political lessons of the day, she finds that through collective labor directed by arrogant supervisors, toadies and politically correct spies, “I grew closer to grasping the meaning of ‘class sympathies.’ ”. . . . Yang Jiang’s is a memoir marked by the dignity, absence of recrimination, deep love of country and fatalism typical of her generation.

University of Washington Press also published Goldblatt’s translation of Market Street by Xiao Hong. Goldblatt remarked to us on the pairing of Six Chapters and Market Street: “Of interest to me is that both were written by women born in the same year (1911, the year of the revolution that brought down the monarchy). One, Xiao Hong, died at 30; the other, Yang Jiang, lived to be 104! Both wrote powerful memoirs with neither bombast nor rancor.”

The Association for Asian Studies in Seattle

The Association for Asian Studies (AAS) is the world’s largest organization focusing on research on and teaching about Asia. Its annual conference, attended by over three thousand members, is our most important opportunity to recruit new book projects and make our new publications in Asian studies available to scholars. This year, AAS will meet in Seattle for the first time, from March 31 through April 3, at the Washington State Convention Center.

AAS’s members are academics and other professionals whose work involves East, South, Northeast, and Southeast Asia, and whose expertise spans across disciplines—history, anthropology, and literary studies, to name just a few. At the hundreds of themed panels scattered across several days, they will give oral presentations on their current research. Our acquisitions editors scan the program to identify topics that could be developed into books, and arrange in advance to meet with potential new authors and to follow up with authors whose manuscripts already are in development. A popular feature of the conference is the exhibit hall, in which dozens of book publishers introduce new titles published in the last year, as well as feature backlist highlights.

In addition to lining up the usual dozens of meetings with authors, other scholars, and publishing partners, this year our Seattle-based staff will have the opportunity to meet the many University of Washington Press authors attending the meeting. Come see us at booth 310-312! We will also celebrate several recent prize winners: Continue reading