Happy Holidays from Temple University Press

This week, the staff of Temple University Press offers what books they would like to give, read, and get for the holidays.

Janet Francendese, Editor-in-Chief

Envisioning Emancipation_smWHAT I WILL GIVE:  Envisioning Emancipation by Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer, a book whose originality and poignancy will add a very different dimension to the spate of Civil War and Emancipation coverage that’s sure to come in the next two months.

WHAT I WILL READ: I do not plan to read anything but cookbooks over the break. If someone wants to give me the new Thomas Keller, I will cook something from it for them.

Alex Holzman, Director

WHAT I WILL GIVE: Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer’s Envisioning Emancipation. It restores African Americans to the discussion stimulated by the 150th anniversary of that epic document.  In photos and texts they remind us that African Americans were not passive recipients of freedom, but active participants in making it happen and in responding to it.  We are so very proud to publish this much-needed study, which is both a joy to read and a joy to view.

WHAT I HOPE TO READ: My most ambitious reading hope over the break is to make a serious dent in War and Peace, which my book group–a collection of slow readers–has chosen as our selection for May 2013.  If I don’t make a dent now, I’ll never finish on time!

WHAT I HOPE TO GET: Two books I want with equal fervor–NW by Zadie Smith and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.

Charles Ault, Production Director

WHAT I WILL READ: Dear Life, Alice Munro’s latest collection of short stories, which is my book club’s current selection, and Designing Information, Joel Katz’s just-released book.

Karen Baker, Operations Manager

WHAT I WANT TO GET: I Could Pee on This and Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano.

Hapa Girl final pick.inddGary Kramer, Publicity Manager

WHAT I WILL GIVE: Hapa Girl by May-lee Chai. This beautifully written, heartbreaking memoir about a mixed-race family struggling against racism in South Dakota proves how deep the bonds of family can be.

WHAT I WANT TO GET: Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. I’ve been meaning to get/read this along with Head in Beds and Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her. Maybe someone will save me the trouble?

WHAT I WILL READ: Big Sur by Jack Kerouac, since I’m just finishing On the Road: The Original Scroll. And I hope to read The Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa. I started this fantastic novel a few months ago but had to put it down because of review commitments. I just want to lie in a hammock and read.

Ann-Marie Anderson, Marketing Director

I Walked With Giants sm compWHAT I WOULD GIVE:   Envisioning Emancipation by Deb Willis and Barbara Krauthamer, as it’ll make the perfect holiday gift! I Walked with Giants, jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath’s autobiography that recalls his early years in Philadelphia and his musical training that extended his career to the present.

WHAT I WANT TO GETt: NW by Zadie Smith has been on my to-read list since it came out this year. And cookbooks!!  Yummy.

Greenspan approved COMP_sm

Joan Vidal, Senior Production Editor

WHAT I WILL GIVE: Elements of Discipline, by Stephen Greenspan. This is an excellent resource for my niece, a caring and dedicated teacher.

WHAT I WANT TO GET: The next alphabet mystery by Sue Grafton. I was thoroughly enjoying the series until I got sidetracked a few years ago. But now I need to figure out where I left off.

WHAT I WILL READ: The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver. This author’s novels never disappoint me.

Brian Murray, Marketing Assistant

WHAT I WOULD GIVE:  Elements of Discipline by Stephen Greenspan. The perfect gift to my friends who are just beginning their teaching careers or to my mother, a seasoned teacher who may find something she did not know.

WHAT I WANT TO GET: Customizing the Body by Clinton R. Sanders and D. Angus Vail.  The culture surrounding tattoos has always interested me and after hearing an interview with the author I’ve been waiting for my chance to read it.

The End of Backlash Politics?

In this blog entry, Jocelyn Boryczka, author of Suspect Citizens,looks at the broader issue of women’s citizenship and how it helps explain why backlash politics does not end with the 2012 elections.

Women played a decisive role in the 2012 elections. They voted for President Obama in much greater numbers than men. Single women and mothers stood out as voting for Obama and against Republicans running for House and Senate seats.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, among others, see this election as marking the American people’s clear rejection of prolife Republican candidates who took extreme positions on banning abortion even in cases of rape, identifying legitimate rape, and supporting a ban on contraceptives. Politicians such as Todd Akin, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney lost because they held positions with which nearly 60% of Americans disagree.

Do the 2012 election results mean an end to the endless cycles of backlash politics against women?Suspect Citizens_sm

Around 1990, people asked similar questions about feminism, wondering if it was “dead.”  Susan Faludi in 1991 wrote Backlash:  The Undeclared War against Women.  In this book, she coined the term “backlash” to refer to the cycles of political reactions against advances made by women toward equality. Feminism, for “backlashers,” serves as the real source of women’s continued discontent with their jobs, education, and political status. For women to be happy, they must abandon the women’s movement and return to their traditional roles as mothers, wives, and obedient daughters.

The fact that we keep asking the same questions indicates that neither the backlash nor feminism is dead.

Taking a step back to look at the broader issue of women’s citizenship helps to explain why backlash politics does not end with the 2012 elections.

The number of female representatives in the U.S. House and Senate is a common way to measure women’s citizenship, or membership in the political community. Voting for women to represent the interests of the people living in their state or congressional district involves trust. Such trust in politics gives the representative the legitimacy necessary to vote on behalf of their constituency. Getting elected to the House or Senate indicates that more Americans trust women as citizens with the legitimacy and authority to represent other citizens.

Women in the 2012 elections still only hold about 17% of the seats in the House and Senate. This number has basically stayed the same since 1992, the “Year of the Woman” when we saw a jump in these female office holders from 6 to 10%. Globally, the U.S. remains on par with the average number of female representatives in legislative bodies at 19%. In comparison to fledgling democracies in the developing world, however, the U.S. is far behind. 56% of Rwanda’s legislature are women, the largest proportion in the world, surpassing even Sweden. A major reason for such higher numbers is that these nations build proportional representation of men and women into their constitutions.

Needless to say, the U.S. has not amended its constitution in this way and, indeed, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) failed in large measure due to an intense backlash led by women such as Phyllis Schlafly. While some feminists still fight for the ERA, its political future remains quite bleak.

Beneath these numbers, however, a deeper issue exists within the American political culture that helps to explain why the 2012 elections do not mark the end of backlash politics. Women who run for and hold office, much less protest against war or for reproductive freedoms abandon the way Americans traditionally understand women’s relationship to politics – as mothers and wives. These female roles historically grant women the power to socialize future male citizens. Women’s domain in the private sphere of the home also serves as an anchor of social stability amid the disorder of democracy and capitalism.

“Backlashers” remind Americans of this traditional view. Doing so raises the specter of distrust and suspicion of women representatives and activists who claim an active, engaged part in the political community. That part dramatically breaks with the conventional role of women in politics.

As long as Americans hold onto this view of women, they will remain suspect citizens who lack the level of trust necessary for full membership in the political community.  People will sustain doubts about their legitimacy. Such societal doubts about women are the fuel for backlash politics.

The 2012 elections then may be a backlash against backlash politics, but not an end to its endless cycles.

Lamp Lighters and Seed Sowers: Tomorrow’s YA

In this blog entry, Beth Kephart, author of Flow and the forthcoming Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent, provides the keynote address she gave at the Publishing Perspectives Conference, “YA: What’s Next” held recently at the Scholastic auditorium in New York City.

Illustrations by William R. Sulit

In the days following the colossal storm called Sandy, stories held us captive, terrifying aerial views, the news that began to leak in from friends. Trash bags strapped on like shiny boots, brand-new adults walked through rising fumes and fresh flotsam, looking for signs of ordinary life. Heartbroken by saturated eggplants and devastated garden fruits, they crouched to gather seeds.

Asking What can we do?, they collected blankets, baked tins of lasagna, emptied their personal libraries of books and took their spontaneous gifts into darkened neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the 19-year-old Rutgers student who lost both her parents to a capsized tree and will now raise three younger siblings on her own, was reaching into some impossible well of suddenly-now-adultness to help others suffering the ravages of weather.

We live in a new world, a Sandy-Irene-Katrina world. A world of fiscal cliffs and residual recessions. A world in which the College Board advocates for a Common Core curriculum that asks that 70% of the 12th grade reading list feature nonfiction titles. A world in which the kids who were raised to win are now making their way among winnowing resources, and singing, top of their lungs, We’re gonna die young.

What happened to the promises we made, and to the promises we ourselves believed? What happened to the perceived value of stories? What can we still give to those whose lives haven’t fully begun?

I don’t mean to politicize stories, but I am going to argue for their radical significance in this fragile stretch of time. I’m going to argue, specifically, on behalf of stories written for young adults and Generation Y. What is the future of Young Adult literature? That is the question. We can adopt the pose of forecasters here—pick and choose among genres, speculate, place bets—or we can build the scaffolding for the kind of stories good sense demands we leave behind.

I am biased and fervent. I have opinions and needs. There are kids I happen to love. Kids who follow my blog and profess their dreams with enviable certitude. Kids who crowd into my too-small memoir classroom at the University of Pennsylvania to learn the power of telling, and reading, the truth. Kids who travel far and inconveniently to meet other kids just like themselves — reader/writer kids taking rare advantage of a hodgepodge workshop.

I feel a personal responsibility to these kids when I write my own YA novels—to make room for them inside my landscapes, to instill in them compassion and empathy, to entertain them not just with plot but with ideas, to teach them something of the past, to suggest wisdom and value difference, to introduce places they’ve not yet seen, to invite them to declare themselves. Nothing is altogether black and little is crystalline.

The stories we write for young adults must, I think, be enlivened and also tested by all that percolates and yearns in between. They must come from a moral place, from writers who seek to do more than self-indulgently dazzle their Crayola-hued imaginations on a wavering literary line. They must, ultimately, be perceived as powerfully relevant and life-shaping as anything we might call fact.

We are a globe on the verge, I’m saying, and because we are, mere entertainment for mere entertainment’s sake — for mere (forgive me) profit — strikes me as an increasingly unviable platform. Literature as easy distraction, literature as untempered horror, literature as gossip, literature as desolation, literature as isolation, literature as sensationalism, literature that leaves us stooped, numb, incinerated, angry, distracted, glassy-eyed, New Jersey Shored (and I am referring the show), and emotionally paralyzed: Do we honestly have time for this now? The future of Young Adult literature, I believe, is directly and profoundly tied to the future of young adults. It is bound, to borrow from Jay Asher and Carolyn Macker, to the future of us.

There’s a reason why Patricia McCormick, with her riveting, poetic novels Cut, Sold, Purple Heart, and Never Fall Down, is not just an award-winner but an iconic force in YA today. It’s not because her books are well-meaning. It’s because they have actual meaning. It’s not because they didactically teach — about self-abuse, about child sex slavery, about Cambodian genocide, say — it’s that they engage, they make us care, they make us want to step up or step in.

They galvanize.

There’s a reason, likewise, that John Corey Whaley’s debut novel, Where Things Come Back, won so many awards and turned its young author into an insta-star. Because it’s brilliantly odd. Because it’s fantastically germane. Because it is about a search to know and overcome in a woodpeckers-are-going-extinct-and-parents-are-losing-their-way world.

Eliot Schrefer is winning accolades with his new novel Endangered because it is a novel elevated — concerned with a ravaged Congo and the helpless beasts caught in the war, brave enough to depict a young girl who learns what happens when she chooses to save something bigger than herself, when she understands herself to be larger and more capable than she might have thought. Eliot’s Sophie is navigating the world we’ve made, the world we wish we weren’t leaving behind. She has the opportunity to turn the tides with a singular act of courage. And so Endangered both alerts and moves us.

Ruta Sepetys’ new book, Out of the Easy (due out in February) is destined to soar because it takes us on a journey with a prostitute’s daughter in 1950s New Orleans who sure as hell wants a better life for herself, a girl who knows that better means books and education and learning tapped out of unexpected places.

A.S. King’s Ask the Passengers is getting named to this year’s best of lists because it asks readers to forswear boxes and labels and to see what happens when you catapult love into the world. Elizabeth Wein with her plucky, smart, history-saturated, we-will-defy-the-odds-or-at-least-go-down-vividly-trying Code Name Verity is a celebration of truth in friendship. It’s a World War II story that feels entirely right now. It gives its heroines opportunities to decide who they will be at the very worst of times.

And why is Lois Lowry still as relevant today as she was when she first created a type of story that has now been branded dystopian? Because Lowry’s dystopian landscapes teach us about the world in which we live. They teach us about the responsibility of knowing and the salve of empathy, something she calls veering. They suggest that teens abandon familiar places and established rules in search not only of what could be better, but of what could be made better. Lowry’s teens don’t simply harness power. They find it within themselves.

William Alexander’s Goblin Secrets — not, strictly speaking, a YA book but the winner of this year’s National Book Awards prize for young people’s literature — may be viewed as a particularly prescient precursor of the future as well — a magical, fantastical, steampunk story that, for all its revving inventions, for all its brilliant hues, is a story about a civilization working to stem off both evil and the obliterating force of floods. It’s about Staten Island, Long Beach Island, Queens, if we think about it. Desolation is on its way. What can, and will, young Rownie do?

Finally, let’s face the facts about Mr. John Green and Mr. David Levithan, as close to a YA Lit Rock Stars as they come. We don’t have to wonder why they’re loved; we know. John Green and David Levithan are loved because they are writing about love, and because they show their couple zillion vocal fans that love is the smartest version of cool.

These books—and of course there are others, for we are talent blessed in our lit world—are the books of right now, but they are also, I believe, the books of our future. They’re the books that transcend genres, age groups, and socio-economic lines, the books that have not been label-reduced or ghetto-ized, the books whose people and landscapes—real or imagined, historical or fantastical — have been rendered alive, authentic, urgent. They’re the books that, ten or twenty years from now, will take their place alongside The Book Thief, The Giver, The House on Mango Street, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Call of the Wild, The Outsiders — on a bookshelf, in a Kindle, on a smartphone — as classics. They’re the books that have something to say, in other words, and not simply a story to tell.

The YA books of the future will — if we’re smart, if we harness our resources, if fiction still has a central place in public school curricula, if we are still free to want and free to read—be like the best of what is being written and published today. Which is to say intelligent and searching. Original and impassioned. Lit from within and motivated by a desire to start a conversation about what it means to be alive, what it means to choose, what it means to controvert the status quo, what it means to lead, what it means to yearn, what it means to be different, what it means to get along, what it means to take a stand, what it means to hope.

The YA books of the future will give rise and shape to the generation whose job it has become to fix the mess we’re in.

Call me naïve. Call me idealistic. Call me helplessly immune to the ways of commerce, to the power of trends, to the rules and regulations of the 140-character Tweet. You will not, I promise, be the first to accuse.

But I’m looking out my window these days, and I’m thinking about my kids. I’m thinking about dying woodpeckers, sick-making wars, wrung-out-eco-systems, the ceaseless battles of self-interested legislators, the jobs that aren’t, the families that are suffering. I’m thinking about a 19-year-old Rutgers student who is suddenly mom, dad, provider.

I’m thinking that politics aren’t working so well, and that our planet and our children need us, and that our stories, meticulously made, can still be the cure.

Beth Kephart’s fourteenth novel, Small Damages (Philomel), takes place in southern Spain and received starred rePreviewviews. She blogs daily at www.beth-kephart.blogspot.com and is at work on a novel set in Florence.

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