It’s University Press Week! All week long university presses will be participating in the UP Week Blog Tour, where presses will be blogging each day about a different theme that relates to scholarly publishing.
November 12 – Subject Area Spotlight: Throwback Thursday: A look back at an influential project or series.
Ask the Temple University Press staff for examples of influential scholarship and they respond unanimously with the books in the Asian American History and Culture series (AAHC). The series was founded in 1991 by Sucheng Chan and represented the Press’s commitment to an emerging academic field that has from the start been rooted in communities and unique experiences of race and ethnicity.
Under the guidance of Temple University Press Editor-in-Chief, Janet Francendese and series editor Chan, AAHC books immediately began to shape the discipline. Pioneering AAHC titles such as Gary Okihiro’s Cane Fires (1992), Renqiu Yu’s To Save China, To Save Ourselves (1995), Evelyn Hu-DeHart’s Across the Pacific (1999), and Sucheng Chan’s Chinese American Transnationalism (2005), had a profound impact on scholars, many of whom went on to become Temple University Press authors.
As the series evolved, it attracted young scholars who learned from their forerunners. Many authors appreciated the fact that the AAHC provided an outlet for Asian American scholarship at a time when it was not always easy to find one. AAHC books often addressed the relationship between ethnic studies and globalization when this kind of work wasn’t de rigueur. One young scholar, Belinda Kong, author of Tiananmen Fictions Outside the Square (2012), saw the series as a beacon for academic publishing. She became interested in work that had a transnational focus and linked Asian America to Asia, and saw in the series a home for her work.
Other trends emerged as the series developed, and the AAHC positioned books in a field that had been shifting and changing—not unlike the demographics in Asian American populations. The Sum of Our Parts, edited by Teresa Williams-León and Cynthia Nakashima (2001), became a key text on mixed-race scholarship and continues to be frequently referenced. At a point when mixed-race studies primarily addressed black and white examples, The Sum of Our Parts put Asian Americans at the forefront.
The AAHC series promotes rigorous scholarship on Asian America, but the series editors encourage scholars to push their work in new directions. As such, authors came to address a myriad of issues about identity and region within Asian America. Transnational scholarship became a significant focus around 2000, as scholars foundational to Asian American studies developed frameworks of analysis beyond the nation. Titles such as The World Next Door, by Rajini Srikanth (2005), about South Asian American literature, and Sunaina Maira’s Desis in the House (2002), about Indian American youth culture in New York City, reflected Indian culture at home and abroad.
Likewise, This Is All I Choose to Tell, by Isabelle Thuy Pelaud (2010), and Transnationalizing Viet Nam by Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde (2012), focused on Vietnamese American literature and culture in the diaspora, respectively. These and other books were integral to developing this academic exploration.
The approach to the discipline exemplified in the AAHC series has been widely embraced; 9 of the 18 Association of Asian American Studies Presidents—Sucheng Chan, Gary Okihiro, Franklin Odo, Elaine Kim, Yen Le Espiritu, Rajini Srikanth, Rick Bonus, Josephine Lee, and, Linda Trinh Võ—have been Temple University Press authors. All but one of those scholars (Kim) have published in the AAHC series; her book was published before the series was established. Such influence is an accomplishment the press is particularly proud of.
In addition to reporting on and influencing changes in the discipline, books in the AAHC series have won numerous prizes. Cane Fires received the Outstanding Book in History and Social Sciences from the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) in 1992, and since then, nine other titles in the series have won AAAS prizes.
AAHC books have won various other awards as well. Six have been named “Outstanding Academic Titles” by Choice, the American Library Association publication. Other titles have won prestigious awards from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America, as well as from history, sociology, political science and LGBT associations.
To date there are 65 books in the Asian American History and Culture series, more than any other press with a similar Asian American studies list. The authors cross disciplines, trained in a variety of fields in humanities and social science, which is unique for such a series. It will continue to grow as one of the key components of Temple University Press’ list. In time, the students of the current scholars influenced by AAHC titles will be publishing their books in the series, taking it into other new, exciting directions.