Category Archives: Politics

What Prisoners Tell Us: The Making of Concrete Mama

Concrete Mama: Prison Profiles from Walla Walla, by Ethan Hoffman and John McCoy, won the Washington State Book Award in 1981 for its stark, sympathetic portrayal of life inside the maximum-security prison. The University of Washington Press is publishing a new edition of the book, long out of print but as relevant as ever.

McCoy was recently interviewed by prison scholar Dan Berger, who wrote the book’s new introduction, in Berger’s class at the University of Washington Bothell. For University Press Week, here are some edited highlights from the interview about our neighbors behind bars.


DAN BERGER: Why did you decide to write about the prison?

JOHN MCCOY: My first glimpse of the penitentiary was as a cub newspaper reporter at the Walla Walla Union Bulletin. At that time—this was 1977—the State Penitentiary was ending a reform experiment in which prisoners were allowed a fair amount of autonomy inside the walls and allowed outside furloughs. The theory was that the more contact that prisoners have with the outside world, the better the chances are that they can be safely returned to society. But this reform project was failing. I wondered why.

So you and Ethan Hoffman, a photographer at the paper, quit your newspaper jobs to do a book on the penitentiary?

The guard in 9-tower, his rifle ready, watches as new prisoners arrive “on the chain,” a bus that carries them shackled from the state corrections reception center in Shelton.

Yes. Ethan and I spent four months in the fall and winter of 1978-79 inside the prison. We were allowed to come in as early as 5:00 in the morning and stay as late as 10:00 p.m. We were unescorted, which was absolutely crucial. If we walked around with a guard, we were not going to get any information from prisoners. Then, towards the end of our time there, we spent some time with guards, which was interesting, because some prisoners who had talked to us earlier ceased talking to us. It’s a very polarized world inside prison.

How did you approach doing the book?

As journalists. Ethan and I were not prison experts. We simply wanted to photograph and report on what we saw inside the walls. Here’s what prisoners tell us. Here’s what their day-to-day life is like depending on whether they’re tough or vulnerable, men or women, black, white, or brown. Here’s what the Parole Board members say. Here’s what the warden says. Here’s the guards.

Besides the warden, did you have to talk to others to get access?

Not to get access—but politically, I had to talk to the head of the guards’ union and the prisoners who served on the Resident Council, the elected representatives of the general population.

One thing that helped pave our way with prisoners was Ethan’s decision to give anyone who asked a nice 8-by-10-inch black-and-white portrait photo of themselves. So Ethan had guys posing with weights, stripped to the waist, displaying all their tattoos. He took pictures of whatever they wanted, but one picture only. And in return, they signed a release form that said we could use these pictures in the book. Ethan spent a lot of nights in the darkroom because prisoners wanted quick results. Nonetheless, the decision created a lot of goodwill and gave us great access.

Kim, right, spends time with Leomy, his “inside lady” and a member of Men Against Sexism, a club popular with prison gays and queens.

At this time, there were all kinds of areas that were off limits to guards. So, in order to enter these areas, we had to have either the president of the Lifers’ Club, or the Chicano Club, or the Meditation Group, or Men Against Sexism, or some other prison leader, either accompany or approve us. We had to tread cautiously. If we got crosswise with any particular group, we would be out of there, or we could have caused harm to ourselves. There were certainly some tense situations with both prisoners and guards.

Could you describe an average day in those four months you were there?

Prisoners were locked in their cells overnight. The day began with morning chow, about 7:00, for the general population—those not confined in the segregation unit or in protective custody.

Prisoners were released by tiers and walked to the chow hall—an ugly, cold brick building with a lot of cold metal tables and metal serving trays. Sometimes there were fights in the chow hall, or food was thrown, and guards intervened.

Some prisoners spend hours playing dominoes in the black prisoners’ club room.

After chow, most prisoners had nothing to do. There were certainly not enough jobs to employ even a minority of the 1,400 prisoners. So they were free to go back to their cells or wander the breezeways. There was recreation time in the gym, the weight room, and the Big Yard, where prisoners played baseball, card games, and smoked weed. On occasion, the bikers were permitted to race their motorcycles around the inside perimeter. There was also a limited education program—which soon ended when the Legislature withdrew funding—in which prisoners could complete their GED or get community college credits or university credits. Occasionally, there were movies or shows in the auditorium.

Some prisoners hung out at their private club rooms. Although you could get an infraction for smoking weed, it was basically tolerated. And there was heroin and other drugs smuggled in from outside.

You could work if you could find a job in the kitchen, chow hall, laundry, license plate shop, or elsewhere. Pay was pitiful—a few cents an hour. The primary advantage of a job was access to things you could steal and then exchange or sell.

Lockup in the evening came early, right after dinner, unless you had a permit to be out for work or prison business.

Because most of the population spent most of their time in four-man, 10-by-12-foot cells, your cellmates were very important. The Resident Council ostensibly helped prisoners find compatible cellmates. But there were powerful guys in the prison who really controlled the cells. Often, you had to buy a cell. Sometimes you’d get a cell equipped with a television, a nice mattress, and so on, but you paid for that. And you paid for that with money, drugs, sex, cigarettes, pruno—which is prison-brewed liquor—or other things.

What did you expect to find at the prison and did you find it?

First of all, we knew it was a good and unexpected story. Look, these guys are in motorcycle gangs, and they’re in prison, and they’re racing their Harleys? We knew Ethan could get fabulous pictures. I mean, a sweat lodge—I’d never been to a sweat lodge before, and certainly not one inside a prison. A casino night at the Chicano Club. There were transgender or cross-dressing dancers. There was sex, there was drugs. So, without making a judgment call, we had to ask: What’s happening here? And why?

“Nert,” left, and “Kickstand” are bikers, cellmates and tattoo enthusiasts.

Our hope was to do a fair, balanced, and accurate account of life inside a state penitentiary—a notorious state penitentiary, perhaps—at a time in which hard questions continued to be asked about the purpose of prison.

How do you know you got at the truth?

Ethan had it easier, because photos don’t lie. I had to pursue multiple sources. Sometimes I heard prisoners explain their crimes and protest their innocence in ways that were preposterous. Fortunately, a helpful prison trustee was willing to share confidential records with me. And a prison attorney was quietly willing to access court records for me. I was able to verify prison stories and eventually developed a pretty good BS detector.

How did the experience of those four months in the prison affect you?

I went away humbled by the experience. I left with the strong feeling that this is really a destructive place. It’s destructive for those who are there, both keepers and the kept. It’s dangerous. It does little to help people adjust to the real world. In fact, it destroys a lot of prisoners’ chances of having a successful transition.

And it picks on the poor, the less educated, and the mentally ill. Incarcerated people are disproportionally poor and minorities. They have unaddressed behavioral issues; learning issues; addiction issues. Their keepers, at Walla Walla and prisons elsewhere, tend to be disproportionally white, rural, with a high school education, often veterans, and with limited understanding of those they are charged with “correcting.”

Why is Concrete Mama relevant 40 years later?

Ed Mead, a founder of the radical George Jackson Brigade and a Marxist revolutionary serving time for armed assault on a bank, is confined to the “intensive segregation unit” commonly known as “the hole.”

For two reasons: First, prison life doesn’t change much. Prisoners spend most of their time caged. They have little to do. They band together for protection and personal gain. And they generally leave prison more alienated and damaged than when they came in. As a result, two-thirds of them return.

Secondly, starting in the early 1970s, Washington State had tried to reform its prisons by emphasizing rehabilitation rather than punishment. That meant giving prisoners a good deal of autonomy with the expectation that if they could make something of themselves inside, they could be successful on the outside. For a variety reasons, it was a failure. Ethan and I were there as the experiment finally fell apart. But you have to ask, what have we done since?


John A. McCoy is the author of A Still and Quiet Conscience, a biography of Seattle Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen. He was a reporter and editor at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and has taught writing courses at the University of Washington-Tacoma and Seattle University.

Dan Berger is associate professor at the University of Washington Bothell, and an interdisciplinary historian focusing on critical prison studies. He is the author of several books, including Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era, and coauthor most recently of Rethinking the American Prison Movement.

To learn more about Concrete Mama: Prison Profiles from Walla Walla or to buy your copy of the book, click here.

Q&A with ‘Risky Bodies and Techno-Intimacy’ author Geeta Patel

Risky Bodies & Techno-Intimacy traverses disparate and uncommon routes to explore how people grapple with the radical uncertainties of their lives. In this edgy, evocative journey through myriad interleaved engagements–including the political economies of cinema; the emergent shapes taken by insurance, debt, and mortgages; gender and sexuality; and domesticity and nationalism–author Geeta Patel demonstrates how science and technology ground our everyday intimacies. The result is a deeply poetic and philosophical exploration of the intricacies of techno-intimacy, revealing a complicated and absorbing narrative that challenges assumptions underlying our daily living.

Today we talk to the author about her book, publishing soon in our Feminist Technosciences series. 

What inspired you to get into your field?

Geeta Patel: I don’t have a field in any strict sense, although most of my friends now would think of me as a literary ‘type.’ I, however, don’t think of myself that way. I compose in visual metaphors, and the way I look at things askance, as though they were transparent and opaque at the same time, is as a scientist who loves poetry.

I grew up in a family full of women doctors, which along with the push toward science if you grew up in South Asia and had even a vestige of a brain, meant I ended up being saddled with science, specializing in the sciences from when I was eleven years old. But I loved all the sciences, particularly ‘the natural sciences’ with the kind of curiosity of many eighteenth-century scientists. In that period ‘scientific’ curiosity leaked out into more than what we would now call science. It embraced poetry, literary prose, questions of politics, the ways in which money and goods moved, finance, drawings, maps, and instruments. A sort of porous curiosity, rather than directed curiosity along blinkered pathways. Eighteenth-century journals, as well as the South Asian magazines of my childhood, had tidbits on science, poetry, politics, fiction, oddities from the ambit of the political, and off-kilter instruments of measurement. This is what I grew up reading and it is was as though they all belonged in the same place and together made sense.

So when I think of what my ‘field’ consists of, it lives at the cusp of all these things. Where more than one intellectual formation or terrain fades into each other, informs each other, pushes at each other, and inflects each other. And a field formation gets taken up in such a way that it makes an assumption in another field discomfiting. One such place I approach/broach that in Risky Bodies & Techno-Intimacy is the technology of time.

What would you have been if not an academic?

GP: Probably a health practitioner, a healer.

Why did you want to write this book?

GP: I wanted to sit with, ponder, think about, and ruminate on the places, moments, pauses, and sudden jolts where I stopped thinking. Where my capacity to envision something else failed me, felt as though it had faded from my grasp. Many intellectuals imagine this as the horizon towards which one ambles, gallops, or comes up against in some putative future. When I was writing my previous book on the Urdu poet Miraji, I came to see it as he had, and how the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein had, as that which is inside what we think, visualize, do. The bedrock of belief lives where we come to a grinding halt, and we find ourselves in a double bind—facing what we must let go of, but can’t. How could we, following on Michel Foucault and Marcel Mauss, understand these as technologies that make us who we are, which are the armature of our very ordinary, everyday habits?

I also wanted to mess with what had come to be conventional ways of bringing intellectual fields together. I wanted to make that broaching or bridging awkward—and this is what I practice in Risky Bodies & Techno-Intimacy. What would chemistry do to transgender possibilities in South Asia? What would it mean to transmute the aesthetics of linear time to lay out the gatherings that took on the resistance to a film on sexuality? How would the historical congruencies between these events and the fights over insurance in the Indian parliament give us insights? Allow us to delve into the modes through which financing loss became the conduit to grapple with the political desires that undergird nationalism? In the process how would science emerge in writing about events that might, in some simple way, not be said to be scientific (in the ways we now see science)?

Who do you see as the audience for this book?

GP: Everyone, feminists, science studies aficionados, cultural studies scholars, media studies scholars, finance practitioners, political theorists, literary theorists. In India I have found the audience to include artists, film-makers, fiction writers, poets, and non-academics.

What is your next project?

GP: I have many ongoing projects. One is a book on Ismat Chughtai, in particular on two of her short stories. That book interrogates the lineages of historical realism in South Asia. It brings quantum and relativity as conduits through which I can grapple with the desires that readers ferry along with them as they read fiction and mine it for information. One is a book on 1950s and ‘60s billboards in Mumbai, and I look at what they reveal about advertising, fiscal fantasies, national sentiment, and nationalist aesthetics in post-colonial states. Another is about the long history of pensions and insurance in South Asia. One of the first of its chapters rethinks the eighteenth-century history of capitalism through colonial pensions.


Geeta Patel is associate professor of both Middle Eastern and South Asian languages and cultures and of women, gender, and sexuality at the University of Virginia. She is author of Lyrical Movements, Historical Hauntings: Gender, Colonialism, and Desire in Miraji’s Urdu Poetry.

August 2017 News, Reviews, and Events

News

UW Press publishes two (out of three) titles on the shortlist for the European Association for Southeast Asian Studies (EuroSEAS) Social Science Book Prize 2017 (Humanizing the Sacred by Azza Basarudin and Forests Are Gold by Pamela D. McElwee). Winners will be announced at the organization’s annual meeting in England from August 16-18, 2017. Congratulations to and fingers crossed for the finalists, editors, and all involved!

Monthly Giveaways

Reviews and Interviews

The Seattle Times features Waterway by David B. Williams, Jennifer Ott, and staff of HistoryLink (dist. for HistoryLink) and mentions Native Seattle by Coll Thrush in an article about the 100th anniversary celebrations for the Locks on July 4. The Wedgewood in Seattle History blog also features Waterway.


The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette features an op-ed by Bike Battles author James Longhurst.


The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reviews The Tao of Raven by Ernestine Hayes: “Artistic and honest and moving in a way few memoirs ever dare to match. . . . A seminal work in the making, and one that all Alaskans should make a point not to miss.”—Addley Fannin


General Aviation News reviews The Propeller under the Bed by Eileen A. Bjorkman: “Any aviation enthusiast will appreciate all 200 pages of this work, but those of us who find our fathers and mothers staring up at a cloudless sky when the sound of a propeller breaks the silence will recognize both its timeless appeal and historic significance.”—Mark Jones Jr.


The Seattle Times features The Hope of Another Spring by Barbara Johns in the Lit Life column: “A powerful new book. . . . The book is a beautiful display of Fujii’s work, and it’s proof of the power of art and artists to witness events many would rather leave in the dark.”—Mary Ann Gwinn

8Asians also reviews: “The gem of the book is the reproduction of Fujii’s diary. . . . The Hope of Another Spring offers an Issei artist’s perspective to our understanding of Japanese American’s wartime incarceration, while also bringing a valuable study of Fujii and his artistic journey and long career.”—Lily Wong


The Pacific Northwest Inlander features A Year Right Here by Jess Thomson: “The book is filled with evocative food descriptions and enviable trips, but also encompasses the uncontrollable stuff of everyday life and explores the limits of physical ability. . . . Thomson’s book encourages readers to be curious about their natural habitats in a new way. . . . An invitation to adventure anyone can embrace.”—Cara Strickland


Greg in San Diego blog reviews Birds of the Pacific Northwest by Tom Aversa, Richard Cannings, and Hal Opperman: “I believe this is the most useful regional field guide to the birds in the northwest corner of the contiguous United States.”—Greg Gillson


Western Birds, the journal of Western Field Ornithologists, also reviews the birding guide: “For the majority of serious birders in the West who tend to limit their explorations to one or another state or province, this guide should expand their horizons and encourage more cross-border birding. . . . This guide is an essential reference for birders west of the continental divide, particularly for intermediate and advanced observers.”—Eugene Hunn


TrailBlazerGirl.com reviews Seattle Walks by David B. Williams: “Not your typical tourist guide book. . . . Seattle Walks is an excellent guide to help you experience Seattle in a new way.”


KCTS 9 Borders & Heritage mentions Signs of Home by Barbara Johns in a segment and article about the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066.


UW Today features news from the College of Arts & Sciences that the family of video art pioneer Doris Chase have donated 59 of her works to the Henry. We published a book about the artist, Doris Chase, Artist in Motion by Patricia Failing, in 1992.


TrailblazerGirl.com reviews Hiking Washington’s History and Walking Washington’s History by Judy Bentley: “Enhance your exploration of the Evergreen State with Judy Bentley’s books.”


Plant Science Bulletin reviews Timber Trees of Suriname by Chequita R. Bhikhi (dist. for LM Publishers): “Timber Trees of Suriname will be very useful for foresters and, as a first introduction to the rich tree flora of Suriname, for all botanists, ecologists, and amateurs interested in flora of the Guiana Shield.”—Marcel Rejmánek


The HOME — So Different, So Appealing exhibit is on view at LACMA through October 15, 2017. We will distribute the accompanying catalogue—edited by curators Chon A. Noriega, Mari Carmen Ramirez, and Pilar Tompkins Rivas—for UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press. The exhibit gets mentions at ARTnews and Cuban Art News, and a review in the New Yorker: “’Home – So Different, So Appealing’ is a big, keen show. . . . It tells many stories and is a story in itself.”—Peter Schjeldahl

The exhibit also gets a review in the Los Angeles Times: “If ‘Home’ is a harbinger of what to expect for the rest of the series, it has set the bar high.”—Carolina A. Miranda


KEXP’s KEXPlorer posts an audio recording of an April 2017 panel discussion at the Wing Luke Museum on “Feminism and war in the Asia Pacific” program with Cindy Domingo (coeditor of A Time to Rise; October 2017).


KEXP’s Mind Over Matters Sustainability Segment interviews Unlikely Alliances author Zoltán Grossman. WORT’s A Public Affair (Madison, WI) will also interview the author live on August 11, 2017.


Greg Robinson of Nichi Bei mentions No-No Boy by John Okada in his latest weekly column.


The Now & Then column of Pacific NW Magazine features Frederick L. Brown and The City Is More Than Human. Paul Dorpat’s blog features an expanded version of the column.


TrailblazerGirl.com reviews Haida Gwaii by Dennis Horwood:”For a comprehensive guide to one of National Geographic’s 20 Best Trips, check out Haida Gwaii.”


DCist features Carlos Bulosan and America Is in the Heart in an article about this weekend’s Smithsonian Asian American Literature Festival, as well as their weekend events round-up. The Festival features a two-day reading of Bulosan’s book and Troubling Borders editor Isabelle Thuy Pelaud will also be participating.


The Science magazine podcast features an interview with Smell Detectives author Melanie Kiechle. The American Scholar’s Smarty Pants podcast also interviews the author.


Not Another Sports Show podcast (#NASSRadio) interviews Playing While White author David J. Leonard.

New Books

Razor Clams: Buried Treasure of the Pacific Northwest
By David Berger

In this lively history and celebration of the Pacific razor clam, David Berger shares with us his love affair with the glossy, gold-colored Siliqua patula and gets into the nitty-gritty of how to dig, clean, and cook them using his favorite recipes. In the course of his investigation, Berger brings to light the long history of razor clamming as a subsistence, commercial, and recreational activity, and shows the ways it has helped shape both the identity and the psyche of the Pacific Northwest.

Waterway: The Story of Seattle’s Locks and Ship Canal
By David B. Williams, Jennifer Ott, and Staff of HistoryLink
Distributed for HistoryLink

Why does a city surrounded by water need another waterway? Find out what drove Seattle’s civic leaders to pursue the dream of a Lake Washington Ship Canal for more than sixty years and what role it has played in the region’s development over the past century. Historians Jennifer Ott and David B. Williams, author of Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography, explore how industry, transportation, and the very character of the city and surrounding region developed in response to the economic and environmental changes brought by Seattle’s canal and locks.


Picturing India: People, Places, and the World of the East India Company
By John McAleer
Published with British Library

Few historians have considered the visual sources that survive from the British engagement with India and what they tell us about the link between images and empire, pictures and power. This book draws on the unrivaled riches of the British Library — both visual and textual — to tell that history. It weaves together the story of individual images, their creators, and the people and events they depict. And, in doing so, it presents a detailed picture of the Company and its complex relationship with India, its people and cultures.

Events

AUGUST

August 4 at 7 p.m., Ernestine Hayes, The Tao of Raven, Alaska State Library, Summer Lecture Series at the APK, Juneau, AK

August 5 at 11 a.m., Jess Thomson, A Year Right Here, Bear Pond Books, Stowe, VT

August 7 at 7 p.m., David B. Williams, Seattle Walks, King County Library Services – Renton Highlands, Renton, WA

August 11 at 7 p.m., Zoltán Grossman, Unlikely Alliances, A Room of One’s Own, Madison, WI

August 15 at 7 p.m., Judy Bentley, Walking Washington’s History, King County Library System – Lake Forest Park, Lake Forest Park, WA

August 15 at 7 p.m., David B. Williams, Seattle Walks, Co-presented with Capitol Hill Historical Society and Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA

August 30 at 7 p.m., Kathleen Alcalá, The Deepest Roots, Third Place Book Club hosted by Seattle7Writers (Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff), Seattle, WA

August 31 at 7 p.m., David B. Williams, Seattle Walks, with Kevin O’Brien, Third Place Books, Seward Park, Seattle, WA

SEPTEMBER

September 7 at 7 p.m., David Berger, Razor Clams, University Book Store, Seattle, WA

September 7 at 7:30 p.m., David Leonard, Playing While White, BookPeople, Moscow, ID

September 9 from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Multi-author signing from 1 – 2 p.m.), Readerfest with Kathleen Alcalá, The Deepest Roots, The Brig & Ampitheater at Magnuson Park, Seattle, WA

September 12 at 6 p.m., Paula Becker, Looking for Betty MacDonald, Sno-Isle Libraries, Mountlake Terrace Library, Mountlake Terrace, WA

September 13 at 7 p.m., Barbara Johns, The Hope of Another Spring, in conversation with Tom Ikeda, Seattle Public Library – Central Library with Elliott Bay Book Company and Denshō, Seattle, WA

September 13 at 7:30 p.m., David Berger, Razor Clams, Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau, Olympia Timberland Library, Olympia, WA

September 16 at 2 p.m., Paula Becker, Looking for Betty MacDonald, Humanities Washington, Sno-Isle Libraries, Stanwood Library, Stanwood, WA

September 16 at 2 p.m., William Wei, Asians in Colorado, Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, Colorado Springs, CO

September 19 at 7 p.m., David Berger, Razor Clams, Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau, Wheelock Library, Tacoma, WA

September 20 at 6:30 p.m., David B. Williams, Jennifer Ott, and staff of HistoryLink, Waterway, MOHAI, History Café, Seattle, WA

September 20 at 7 p.m., Barbara Johns, The Hope of Another Spring, Friends of Mukai at the Vashon Land Trust building, Vashon Island, WA

September 21 at 7 p.m., David Berger, Razor Clams, Eagle Harbor Books, Bainbridge Island, WA

September 23 at 11 a.m., David B. Williams, Jennifer Ott, and staff of HistoryLink, Waterway, King County Library System – Newcastle, Newcastle, WA

September 23 at 11 a.m., David Berger, Razor Clams, Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau, Aberdeen Timberland Library, Aberdeen, WA

September 23 at 2 p.m., David Berger, Razor Clams, Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau, Westport Timberland Library, Westport, WA

September 23 at 7 p.m., David Leonard, Playing While White, Auntie’s Bookstore, Spokane, WA

September 29 at 7 p.m., David Leonard, Playing While White, Elliott Bay Books, Seattle, WA

September 30 at 2 p.m., Judy Bentley, Walking Washington’s History, Timberland Regional Library – Olympia, Olympia, WA

September 30 at 2 p.m., David Berger, Razor Clams, Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau, Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, Ilwaco, WA

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July 2017 News, Reviews, and Events

News

Next Thursday evening, Seattle Theatre Group will present a screening of the film Promised Land, a documentary about the Duwamish and Chinook fight for treaty recognition influenced by several UW Press books. The Neptune Theatre screening is free and open to the public and will include preshow songs and drumming with the Chinook Indian Nation and Duwamish Tribe, and a postshow discussion with representatives from the tribes and the filmmakers. There’s still time to RSVP, and we hope you can join us!

The Scholarly Kitchen features the Mellon University Press Diversity Fellowship program and interviews editor in chief Larin McLaughlin: “The [Mellon] University Press Diversity Fellowship program is not a lament at how the pipeline is limited but rather a recognition that university presses can take responsibility for expanding their own recruiting pool directly.”—Roger C. Schonfeld

Senior acquisitions editor Catherine Cocks moderated a live panel discussion on the how, when, and why of developmental editing for the monthly Association of American University Presses (AAUP) Art of Acquisitions Panelists included Ann Regan (editor in chief, Minnesota Historical Society Press) and Matt Bokovoy (senior editor, University of Nebraska Press). You can watch the recorded Hangout video on YouTube, and catch up on public Art of Acquisitions Hangouts on the AAUP site and follow the series on Twitter at #artofACQ.

Book of the Month Giveaways

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

  1. Playing While White by David J. Leonard (Entry form)
  2. The Portland Black Panthers by Lucas N. N. Burke and Judson L. Jeffries (Entry form)

The giveaways will close on Friday, July 14, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. PT. Winners will be notified by Monday, July 17, 2017.

Reviews and Interviews


No-No Boy by John Okada gets a mention in an advice essay at Inside Higher Ed.


Anthropology News features an article by Sanctuary and Asylum author Linda Rabben.


New Books in Genocide Studies / New Books network (NBn) interviews editor John Roth about Losing Trust in the World: “A compelling body of essays. . . . Readable and challenging. In the end, I’m not sure I know exactly how to ‘confront’ torture. But I am better equipped to try.”—Kelly McFall


Penn State News interviews author Madhuri Desai about Banaras Reconstructed.


UW Today features a May 2017 Perspectives newsletter article about UW art professor Zhi Lin and his eponymous exhibit. The Zhi LIN exhibit is view at Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) from June 27, 2017 – February 18, 2018, and we will distribute the accompanying book, Zhi Lin, for TAM.


The Rumpus reviews Vagrants & Accidentals by Kevin Craft: “A pleasure to hold and behold. . . . Through the conflation of music, birds, personal lives, and a shaky natural world, Craft troubles the reader with the impossible question: How are we to live when loss—personal, environmental, and political—is heaped upon loss?”—Cate Hodorowicz


artnet News features Queering Contemporary Asian American Art and coeditors Laura Kina and Jan Christian Bernabe: “Via its challenging and diverse reflections, Queering Contemporary Asian American Art shows how the specific questions of Asian American art history make the stakes of resisting a homonormative queer community (i.e. one that models itself after standards of success defined by white privilege and capitalism) even more vivid.”—Terence Trouillot

In conjunction with the book’s release and Pride month, the Center for Art and Thought is hosting a virtual exhibition called “Queer Horizons,” featuring artists showcased in the book, and curated by the coeditors.


Inquirer.net mentions A Time to Rise edited by Rene Ciria Cruz, Cindy Domingo, and Bruce Occena (forthcoming October 2017) in an article about the retirement of community organizer-leader Lillian Galedo.


Library Journal Xpress Reviews includes a short review of The Hope of Another Spring by Barbara Johns: “Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Asian American studies, art, art history, and U.S. history; in particular, those wanting to read more about Japanese American history.”—Tina Chan


Bronxnet features video from a lecture by City of Virtues author Chuck Wooldridge, taped at Lehman College’s Leonard Leif Library this past April.


Waterway by David B. Williams, Jennifer Ott, and staff of HistoryLink (dist. for HistoryLink) gets some nice coverage ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, including features at Shelf Talk, Pacific NW Magazine, and Seattle Magazine.

New Books

Smell Detectives: An Olfactory History of Nineteenth-Century Urban America
By Melanie A. Kiechle
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter

What did nineteenth-century cities smell like? And how did odors matter in the formation of a modern environmental consciousness? Smell Detectives follows the nineteenth-century Americans who used their noses to make sense of the sanitary challenges caused by rapid urban and industrial growth. Melanie Kiechle examines nuisance complaints, medical writings, domestic advice, and myriad discussions of what constituted fresh air, and argues that nineteenth-century city dwellers, anxious about the air they breathed, attempted to create healthier cities by detecting and then mitigating the most menacing odors.

New in Paperback

The Portland Black Panthers: Empowering Albina and Remaking a City
By Lucas N. N. Burke and Judson L. Jeffries

Readers will gain a valuable new understanding of what the Black Panther Party meant to a city far away from the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City, and activists will get priceless lessons in the dos and don’ts of local organizing.”—H. Bruce Franklin, author of Vietnam and America

Classical Seattle: Maestros, Impresarios, Virtuosi, and Other Music Makers
By Melinda Bargreen

Bargreen offers compelling personal insights into her subjects’ lives as performers and residents of our region. No other book provides such a well-informed and well-written perspective focusing exclusively on Seattle’s classical community.”—Dave Beck, KING FM

Reclaimers
By Ana Maria Spagna

Spagna’s enthusiasm for their dedication and causes is irresistible. Such struggles are the real deal, after all, and what reader wouldn’t cheer on these tenacious underdogs trying to remedy past damage? We’re blessed with opportunities to make a difference, the writing shows. . . . The lessons of her journeys. . . are ‘Do what you can. Hope without hope. Expect the unexpected.”—Irene Wanner, Seattle Times

Bike Battles: A History of Sharing the American Road
By James Longhurst

“Bike Battles is masterly in its treatment of public policy toward the ‘roads as commons,’ and has given new depth to our understanding of cycling in America. I envy the light and easy style of the author.“—Glen Norcliffe, author of Ride to Modernity


The Tanoak Tree: An Environmental History of a Pacific Coast Hardwood
By Frederica Bowcutt

Bowcutt examines the history of the tanoak tree, bringing to life a rich story about how humans are connected to this beautiful yet unassuming tree. . . . [T]his valuable book will be important for a broad audience.“—Choice

Events

JULY

July 6 at 8 p.m. (Doors at 7 p.m.) STG & Tall Firs Cinema present Promised Land documentary screening at the Neptune Theater, Nights at the Neptune, with University Book Store, Seattle, WA (Press books will be on display; authors featured in documentary)

July 7-9, Eileen Bjorkman, The Propeller under the Bed, Arlington Fly-In, Arlington, WA

July 8 at 2 p.m., David B. Williams, Seattle Walks, King County Library System – Burien, Burien, WA

(SOLD OUT) July 10 at 6 p.m., Paula Becker, Looking for Betty MacDonald, Historic Seattle and the Shoreline Historical Museum, Firland Sanatorium | CRISTA Ministries, Seattle, WA

July 11 at 7 p.m., Paula Becker, Looking for Betty MacDonald, Humanities Washington, Asotin County Library, Basalt Cellars Winery, Clarkston, WA

July 12 at 7 p.m., David B. Williams, Jennifer Ott, and staff of HistoryLink, Waterway, MOHAI, Seattle, WA ($15 general public / $10 members; RSVP)

July 12 at 7 p.m., David Berger, Razor Clams, Humanities Washington, Guemes Island Community Center, Anacortes, WA

July 13 at 7 p.m., Judy Bentley, Walking Washington’s History, King County Library System – Auburn, Auburn, WA

July 22 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., Judy Bentley, Walking Washington’s History, Pacific Northwest Historians Guild, Guided hike of Coal Creek Trail, Newcastle, WA (RSVP; $10-25)

July 23 at 2 p.m., Kathleen Alcalá, The Deepest Roots, Pierce County Library System – Sumner Library (flyer), Sumner, WA

July 23 at 3 p.m., David B. Williams, Jennifer Ott, and staff of HistoryLink, Waterway, Seattle Public Library – Central Library, Seattle, WA

July 24-30, Eileen Bjorkman, The Propeller under the Bed, EAA AirVenture Fly-In, “Author’s Corner,” Oshkosh, WI

July 27 at 5:30 p.m., Judy Bentley, Walking Washington’s History, Timberland Regional Library – Vernetta Smith Chehalis Timberland Library, Chehalis, WA

July 27 at 6:30 p.m., Jennifer Ott, Waterway, Mukilteo Yacht Club, MYC General Meeting, Everett, WA

July 28 at 7 p.m., Linda Rabben, Sanctuary and Asylum, Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends (Conservative) annual session (Program), Scattergood Friends School, West Branch, IA

July 30 at 2 p.m., David Berger, Razor Clams, Humanities Washington, Mason County Historical Museum, Shelton, WA

AUGUST

August 4 at 7 p.m., Ernestine Hayes, The Tao of Raven, Alaska State Library, Summer Lecture Series at the APK, Juneau, AK

August 5 at 11 a.m., Jess Thomson, A Year Right Here, Bear Pond Books, Stowe, VT

August 7, David B. Williams, Seattle Walks, King County Library Services – Renton Highlands, Renton, WA

August 15, Judy Bentley, Walking Washington’s History, King County Library System – Lake Forest Park, Lake Forest Park, WA

August 15 at 7 p.m., David B. Williams, Seattle Walks, Co-presented with Capitol Hill Historical Society and Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA

August 31, David B. Williams, Seattle Walks, with Kevin O’Brien, Third Place Books, Seward Park, Seattle, WA

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Q&A with ‘Dismembered’ coauthors David E. Wilkins and Shelly Hulse Wilkins

Today we speak with coauthors David E. Wilkins and Shelly Hulse Wilkins about their book, Dismembered: Native Disenrollment and the Battle for Human Rights, published this spring. Florangela Davila, writing in Seattle Magazine, calls it “a first-of-its-kind book that looks at tribal disenrollment.”

Since the 1990s, Native governments have been banishing, denying, or disenrolling citizens at an unprecedented rate. Nearly eighty nations, in at least twenty states, have terminated the rights of indigenous citizens. This first comprehensive examination of the origins of this disturbing trend looks at hundreds of tribal constitutions and interviews with disenrolled members and tribal officials to show the damage this practice is having across Indian Country and ways to address the problem.

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

David E. Wilkins and Shelly Hulse Wilkins: The conflicting stereotypes about Native peoples are always an obstacle to understanding. Indians are: extinct/corporations; poverty stricken/rich; addicts/mystics; craven opportunists/naive naturalists.

People who don’t know anyone Native swing back and forth between these ideas depending on the argument they are trying to make. This reliance on racist views obscures the real work being done by Native peoples and governments. There are only a handful of Native political scientists and it’s our job to provide the best level of research and writing possible so that Native governments, and those who interact with them, have the tools and knowledge they need for effective and long-lasting good governance.

Why did you want to write this book?  

DEW & SHW: We wanted to call attention to the wrongs happening under the guise of sovereignty. Native people are very proud of their sovereign status yet, in some instances that has been used by scoundrels as an excuse, a shield behind which they destroy political opponents, enrich themselves, or take revenge for old grudges. Allowing sovereignty to be used in this way diminishes and endangers its power across Indian Country. Many are afraid to speak out because they don’t want to be seen as questioning a Tribe’s sovereign authority to decide for themselves who does and does not belong to their nation. Unfortunately, this attempt to protect sovereignty through silence—hoping the issue will just go away—ends up eroding it for everyone. Our book is an attempt to bring the facts behind these shameful actions to light so that they can be discussed and addressed in the open.

What do you think is Dismembered‘s most important contribution?

DEW & SHW: We want to educate everyone about the issue of disenrollment and encourage Native people to examine and appreciate the power of citizenship and sovereignty. The people, not the government, hold true sovereignty, thus it cannot exist without human and civil rights.

The power to define citizenship is critical to the exercise of sovereignty for Native Nations. That said, the tools and the concepts utilized by many Tribal governments are those they inherited from the US Federal Government. Traditional means of governance did not include making distinctions about belonging based on blood quantum, genealogy, or enrollment records.  These are standards set by a government with the goal of eliminating or assimilating Native people.

In the 1990s, a woman who was stripped of her Tribal citizenship contacted David. He had heard of banishment—a temporary punishment for wrong-doing—but the idea that a human being could be stripped of their citizenship, their Tribal identity, was shocking. He began to keep a file on the issue. At first, the practice wasn’t widespread and seemed to be confined to a few California Tribes, but his file began to grow.

The reasons given were all over the place. Some were accused of treason for voicing disagreement at open council meetings. Disenrollement—or, as we began to call it, dismemberment—was also an efficient means of dealing with whistleblowers. If someone uncovered corruption involving those in power, the Tribe found a reason to get rid of them. Elders, children, native language speakers, former chairs, and council members—no one was immune. A common assertion was that these people lacked sufficient blood quantum or were dually enrolled in other tribes, but the problem was that record keeping by the federal government was terrible. Even the lucky ones who were able to offer what was considered official proof of their rights to belong were confronted with changing rules. No sooner did they provide what was asked than they were presented with another arbitrary road block. One family was put through the horrific experience of exhuming their great-grandmother and grandmother for DNA testing. The tests proved they belonged, but the Tribe disenrolled them anyway.

Perhaps, even more shocking than this cruelty was posthumous dismemberment– stripping the dead of their Tribal identities. It’s a very efficient means of getting rid of trouble makers or trimming your rolls. If you traced your heritage through your grandpa and those in power decided your grandpa wasn’t an Indian, then all who descended from him were automatically out.

Some people are enrolled fraudulently. In a very few instances people deliberately have lied or forged documents but these make up only a small portion of the disenrollment cases.

Cast-out people had nowhere to turn. Tribal governments said that as a sovereign nation, it was right and proper that they have the ability to define their membership, just as any other nation. Their Tribal Courts offered no relief. Those systems have come a long way since that time, but many were (and many still are) beholden to the Tribal leadership. They were unable or unwilling to rule against their own sovereign government in favor of an individual that government had decided to terminate. Judges who tried to do so were fired and replaced with those more amenable to the status quo.

Disenrollees lost their citizenship, which may just sound like a shame to most people who take their US and state citizenship for granted. US citizenship can’t be taken away and, after all, the dismembered are still citizens of their states and the US, but in reality, losing citizenship is deadly. Folks lost their health care, access to education, jobs, homes, even their family members as the process split households—one brother was in, the other was out.

Ultimately, there is no due process.  These people can be labeled and accused of anything and they have had no rights, no means with which to fight back. A few hard working attorneys, like Gabe Galanda and Ryan Dreveskracht, have started to make a real difference—they were able to prevent the disenrollment of a group of folks from the Grand Ronde Community in Oregon and are fighting for the Nooksack 306 here in Washington. That gives us hope.

How did you come up with the title?

DEW & SHW: Tribes tend to call their citizens members, a term that came from the federal government that serves to diminish the importance of belonging to a Tribal Nation. It sounds more like joining the Rotary than being part of a nation. But we felt it important to deconstruct and reuse the term. The feelings these people described were so agonizing, as though they were physically cut off from the body that sustained them. Tribal nations, too, suffered when they cut off living beings that are the true embodiment of their sovereignty. That is why we refer to these people as dismembered.

Describe the process of writing the book.

SHW: David had more than 20 years worth of stories in his file and a network of friends who had been dismembered. He had also written articles over those years. Together, we wrote more articles and began to conduct formal interviews. Marty Two Bulls, an incredibly talented political cartoonist, contributed his work. The tireless Gabe Galanda, one of the few attorneys to take on the cause of disenrollees, shared photos from a social media campaign he and Louie Gong designed to call attention to the issue.

What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing the book?

DEW & SHW: Perhaps the most shocking thing we learned was the amount of money outsiders were making from fomenting discord within Tribal Nations. Non-native attorneys who keep the conflicts going in order to bill more hours, outside consultants—self-professed enrollment experts—who organize seminars or directly advise Tribal leaders on ways to “clean-up their rolls,” financial advisors who calculated how much further per-capita payments would go if membership were to be reduced.


David E. Wilkins is the McKnight Presidential Professor in American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota. He is the coauthor of American Indian Politics and the American Political System. Shelly Hulse Wilkins is a partner with the Wilkins Forum and specializes in tribal governmental relations.

June 2017 News, Reviews, and Events

News

We were thrilled to announce our 2017-2018 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellowship recipients earlier this month. Please join us and the MIT Press, Duke University Press, the University of Georgia Press, and the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) in welcoming the 2017-2018 fellows and in congratulating the 2016-2017 fellows on their accomplishments, including securing full-time positions within scholarly publishing! Read the full press release.

We are delighted that Western Washington University’s Western Reads committee has chosen Tulalip, From My Heart: An Autobiographical Account of a Reservation Community by Harriette Shelton Dover, as their common book for the 2017–18 school year. The Western Reads common book selection is just one example of how communities and readers engage with the work we publish. Read more from the desk of the director.

Congratulations to American Sabor coauthor Michelle Habell-Pallán, awarded the 2017 Barclay Simpson Prize for Scholarship in Public!

Building the Golden Gate Bridge by Harvey Schwartz is 2017 San Francisco Book Festival runner-up in History. The book is also a 2017 Nautilus Silver Award Winner in Young Adult Non-Fiction. Congratulations to the author and all involved!

Book of the Month Giveaways

Enter to win one a book bundle or the new Western Reads book! (Open to US residents only.)

  1. Native American and Indigenous studies summer reading bundle (Entry form)
    1. Native Seattle by Coll Thrush
    2. Dismembered by David E. Wilkins and Shelly Hulse Wilkins
    3. Unlikely Alliances by Zoltán Grossman
    4. Network Sovereignty by Marisa Elena Duarte
    5. The Gift of Knowledge by Virginia R. Beavert, edited by Janne R. Underriner
  2. Tulalip, From My Heart by Harriette Shelton Dover (Entry form)

The giveaways will close on Friday, June 16, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. PT. Winners will be notified by Monday, June 19, 2017.

Reviews and Interviews

High Country News reviews and features photographs from Once and Future River by Tom Reese and essay by Eric Wagner (May 2017 print issue): “From the recovering chinook salmon to the manufacturing plants that turned the Duwamish into a Superfund site, the images in this book portray a dynamic river carrying its complex legacy into a difficult recovery.”—Rebecca Worby


Critical Inquiry reviews Zuo Tradition / Zuozhuan translated by Stephen Durrant, Wai-yee Li, and David Schaberg (5/1/17): “It is impossible to do justice to this monumental publication in a brief review; let me merely emphasize that these renowned translators, working as a trio, amount to even more than the sum of their parts because their strengths are complementary. No single human being could have handled so many aspects of this text . . . which is compact but rooted in three lifetimes of learning and reflection.”—Paul R. Goldin


The New Statesman reviews Ice Bear by Michael Engelhard (with Yoko Tawada’s Memoirs of a Polar Bear): “Beautifully illustrated.”—Tim Flannery

National Observer also reviews the book: “Lets compelling images and snips of history tell the tale of human projection onto the bear’s white furry screen.”—Carrie Saxifrage


TheKitchn features an article by A Year Right Here author Jess Thomson, as well as an adapted excerpt from the book. ParentMap features the book in a round-up of parenting books to read this summer: “While readers have front row seats to razor clamming on the Washington coast, truffle hunting in Oregon and a winery tour in British Columbia, it’s the way Thomson’s preparations are thwarted that make this book an interesting read.”—Nancy Schatz Alton


New Hampshire Public Radio’s “Word of Mouth” interviews Bike Battles author James Longhurst. La Crosse Tribune also features the book and author.


Humanities Washington blog features Nisei Daughter by Monica Sone in a round-up of prominent Washington literary books (5/11/17): “With perspective, humor, and understanding, Monica Sone describes growing up in Seattle in the 1930s, then being deported with thousands of other Japanese Americans during World War II. Her descriptions of the roundup, the move to the Puyallup fairgrounds, and life in the camps opened the hearts and eyes of her readers, and the book continues to urge Americans to be more decent to all its people.”—Dan Lamberton


Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown publishes an online excerpt of Mother’s Beloved by Outhine Bounyavong.


Seattle Times reviews Woodland by John Bierlein and staff of HistoryLink (dist. for HistoryLink / Woodland Park Zoo) in a round-up of new summer books (print edition): “An intriguing history and exploration of the challenges, innovations, lore and controversies surrounding Seattle’s zoo that will enrich your next zoo visits, this summer and beyond. . . . Full of superb photography.”—Brian J. Cantwell


New Books in History interviews The Social Life of Inkstones author Dorothy Ko (5/18/17): “Dorothy Ko’s new book is a must-read. . . . It is a masterful study that is equally sensitive to objects and texts as historical documents.”—Carla Nappi

New Books

Playing While White: Privilege and Power on and off the Field
By David J. Leonard

Whiteness matters in sports culture, both on and off the field. Offering critical analysis of athletic stars such as Johnny Manziel, Marshall Henderson, Jordan Spieth, Lance Armstrong, Josh Hamilton, as well as the predominantly white cultures of NASCAR and extreme sports, David Leonard identifies how whiteness is central to the commodification of athletes and the sports they play.


The Gift of Knowledge / Ttnuwit Atawish Nch’inch’imamí: Reflections on the Sahaptin Ways
By Virginia R. Beavert
Edited by Janne L. Underriner

The Gift of Knowledge / Ttnuwit Atawish Nch’inch’imamí is a treasure trove of material for those interested in Native American culture. Linguist and educator Beavert narrates highlights from her own life and presents cultural teachings, oral history, and stories (many in bilingual Ishishkíin-English format) about family life, religion, ceremonies, food gathering, and other aspects of traditional culture.


Dismembered: Tribal Disenrollment and the Battle for Human Rights
By David E. Wilkins and Shelly Hulse Wilkins

Since the 1990s, Native governments have been banishing, denying, or disenrolling citizens at an unprecedented rate. Nearly eighty nations, in at least twenty states, have terminated the rights of indigenous citizens. This first comprehensive examination of the origins of this disturbing trend looks at hundreds of tribal constitutions and interviews with disenrolled members and tribal officials to show the damage this practice is having across Indian Country and ways to address the problem.


Network Sovereignty: Building the Internet across Indian Country
By Marisa Elena Duarte

Given the significance of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to social and political life, many U.S. tribes and Native organizations have created their own projects, from streaming radio to building networks to telecommunications advocacy. Duarte examines these ICT projects to explore the significance of information flows and information systems to Native sovereignty, and toward self-governance, self-determination, and decolonization.


Unlikely Alliances: Native Nations and White Communities Join to Defend Rural Lands
By Zoltán Grossman
Foreword by Winona LaDuke

Unlikely Alliances explores the evolution from conflict to cooperation through place-based case studies in the Pacific Northwest, Northern Plains, Great Basin, and Great Lakes, from the 1970s to the 2010s. They suggest how a deep love of place can overcome the most bitter divides between Native and non-Native neighbors. In these times of polarized politics and globalized economies, many of these stories offer inspiration and hope.


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

Between the late sixteenth and early twentieth centuries, Banaras, the iconic Hindu center in northern India that is often described as the oldest living city in the world, was reconstructed materially as well as imaginatively, and embellished with temples, monasteries, mansions, and ghats (riverfront fortress-palaces). Desai examines the confluences, as well as the tensions, that have shaped this complex and remarkable city.


Displaying Time: The Many Temporalities of the Festival of India
By Rebecca M. Brown

The U.S. Festival of India was conceived at a meeting between Indira Gandhi and Ronald Reagan to strengthen relations between the two countries at a time of late Cold War tensions and global economic change, when America’s image of India was as a place of desperate poverty and spectacular fantasy. Using extensive archival research and interviews with artists, curators, diplomats, and visitors, Rebecca 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.

Events

JUNE

June 10 at 7 p.m., John Bierlein, Woodland, Barnes and Noble, Federal Way, WA

June 10 at 5:30 p.m., Kathleen Alcalá, The Deepest Roots, Time Enough Books, Ilwaco, WA

June 11 at 3 p.m., Kathleen Alcalá, The Deepest Roots, with Iris Graville and Vicki Robin, Eagle Harbor Books, Bainbridge Island, WA

June 12 at 7 p.m., Judy Bentley, Walking Washington’s History, King County Library System – Issaquah, Issaquah, WA

June 15 at 6:30 p.m., James Longhurst, Bike Battles, Whitefish Bay Public Library, Milwaukee, WI

June 17 at 10 a.m., David B. Williams, Too High and Too Steep, Pacific Northwest Historians Guild, Guided walk of the Denny regrade, Seattle, WA (RSVP; $10-25)

June 20 at 5:30 p.m., Jennifer Ott, Waterway, Structural Engineers Association of Washington, SEAW Annual Spring Social & Awards, Seattle, WA (RSVP; $50)

June 21 at 12:30 p.m., Frederick L. Brown, The City Is More Than Human, Eagle Harbor Books, Bainbridge Island, WA

June 22 at 5:30 p.m., James Longhurst, Bike Battles, Bike/Walk Alliance for Missoula (BWAM), Bike History with BWAM at Imagine Nation Brewing, Missoula, MT

June 24 at 12:30 p.m., Jennifer Ott, Waterway, Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, Ivar’s on Northlake, Seattle, WA

June 24 at 2 p.m., Judy Bentley, Walking Washington’s History, King County Library System – Enumclaw, Enumclaw, WA

June 24 at 2 p.m., David Berger, Razor Clams, Humanities Washington, Monroe Library, Monroe, WA

JULY

July 6 at 8 p.m. (Doors at 7 p.m.) STG & Tall Firs Cinema present Promised Land documentary screening at the Neptune Theater, Nights at the Neptune, with University Book Store, Seattle, WA (Press books will be on display; authors featured in documentary)

July 7-9, Eileen Bjorkman, The Propeller under the Bed, Arlington Fly-In, Arlington, WA

July 8 at 2 p.m., David B. Williams, Seattle Walks, King County Library System – Burien, Burien, WA

July 10 at 4 p.m., Paula Becker, Looking for Betty MacDonald, Historic Seattle and the Shoreline Historical Museum, Firland Sanatorium | CRISTA Ministries, Seattle, WA (RSVP)

July 11 at 7 p.m., Paula Becker, Looking for Betty MacDonald, Humanities Washington, Asotin County Library, Basalt Cellars Winery, Clarkston, WA

July 12 at 7 p.m., David B. Williams, Jennifer Ott, and staff of HistoryLink, Waterway, MOHAI, Seattle, WA ($15 general public / $10 members; RSVP)

July 13 at 7 p.m., Judy Bentley, Walking Washington’s History, King County Library System – Auburn, Auburn, WA

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Q&A with ‘Queering Contemporary Asian American Art’ editors Laura Kina and Jan Christian Bernabe

This Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month we are excited to share special features with authors and editors of new and recent titles that celebrate Asian and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

Today we speak with Queering Contemporary Asian American Art editors Laura Kina and Jan Christian Bernabe about their groundbreaking volume, published this spring, and corresponding website.

Queering Contemporary Asian American Art takes Asian American differences as its point of departure for bringing together artists and scholars pushing back against normative assumptions, expectations, critiques, and practices within Asian American art and visual culture. Taken together, these nine original artist interviews, cutting-edge visual artworks, and seven critical essays explore contemporary currents and experiences within Asian American art, including the multiple axes of race and identity; queer bodies and forms; kinship and affect; and digital identities and performances. The interdisciplinary and theoretically informed frameworks in the volume engage readers to understand global and historical processes through contemporary Asian American artistic production.

Why did you want to put together this book?

Laura Kina and Jan Christian Bernabe: Most of the contributors of Queering Contemporary Asian American Art met at a 2012 National Endowment for the Humanities supported summer institute entitled “Re-envisioning American Art History: Asian American Art, Research, and Teaching” at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University. There we discussed the ways in which we could advance the field of Asian American art history through our teaching, writing, and curatorial projects.

We were very fortunate to have listened to a lecture on “doing” Asian American art history by the late Karin Higa. In her lecture, she described those of us invested in the field as “the termites of art history.” It was a call to critique and nibble away at what we call in the book “the white hegemonic pillars of art practice, history, and criticism.”

We wanted to heed Higa’s call to find innovative and timely ways to work on Asian American art history and thus formed a group at the seminar called “Que(e)rying Asian American Art,” for which the title of our book is named. We saw intense interest by the members of the group to think about the ways in which queer theory could inform Asian American art criticism.

In many ways, the discussions we had during the seminar and at many conferences after the seminar had ended informed the creation of our book. We like to think that our book is a product of our termite activities.

What was it like writing and putting together this kind of volume?

LK & JCB: The process of writing the book was extremely intense but exhilarating! We invited seven authors to write critical essays for the anthology and in total we interviewed 17 artists, from emerging to established in their careers. We started the process of interviewing during the summer of 2014 with genderqueer and transgender artists in Chicago: Kiam Marcelo Junio and Greyson Hong, respectively.

We worked together virtually and in coffee shops throughout Chicago in the two years of the book’s production, and we made a point of organizing panel discussions at academic conferences with the various artists and scholars involved in the book as. There was a lot of transcription of interviews involved as well as selecting artwork to be in the book. Our last interview was in spring 2016 with Tina Takemoto, a San Francisco based artist who self-describes as a “queer, gender queer, gender nonconforming, Asian American dyke.”

What do you hope is the book’s most important contribution?

LK & JCB: We hope our book builds on a queer of color critique and advances the field of Asian American art and contemporary art. The book is a call to build queer coalitions of resistance, to push back against the dominant “model minority” paradigm in Asian America of assimilationist “good” behavior—of not making waves and being silent and complicit in the face of anti-blackness, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and so forth that pervades US culture.

What is your next project?

LK & JCB: We are currently curating a virtual exhibition inspired by our book for the Center for Art and Thought called “Queer Horizons.” In this current moment of political and cultural transformations, especially affecting people of color and LGBTQ communities, the show seeks to envision what a queer futurity looks like. This idea of a queer horizon, borrowed from the late Jose Muñoz, proposes what he calls “a greater openness to the world.”

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

LK & JCB: The artwork is the most important thing. On a basic level, we just want to introduce the important work of the artists and scholars in this book to a wider audience. On a broader level, we want to inspire readers to form their own queer coalitional politics; we are writing to bring together feminists and queer of color artists and scholars to take up our “termite activities” and keep on nibbling at the hegemonic foundations of art history.


Laura Kina is an artist and a Vincent de Paul Professor of Art, Media, and Design at DePaul University. She is the coeditor of War Baby / Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art. Jan Christian Bernabe is the operations, new media, and curatorial director at the Center for Art and Thought. The contributors are Mariam B. Lam, Eun Jung Park, Alpesh Kantilal Patel, Valerie Soe, and Harrod J Suarez. Featured artists are Anida Yoeu Ali, Kim Anno, Eliza Barrios, Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik, Wafaa Bilal, Hasan Elahi, Greyson Hong, Kiam Marcelo Junio, Lin + Lam (H. Lan Thao Lam and Lana Lin), Viet Le, Maya Mackrandilal, Zavé Martohardjono, Jeffrey Augustine Songco, Tina Takemoto, Kenneth Tam, and Saya Woolfalk.