Highlighting the groundbreaking roles played by Anna May Wong

This week in North Philly Notes, Shirley Jennifer Lim, author of Anna May Wong, explains what prompted her to investigate the career of the important twentieth-century performer whose work shaped racial modernity.

I first witnessed the acting grace of the Chinese American actress Anna May Wong in the 1939 movie, King of Chinatown. In the opening scene she puts down her surgical implements and takes off her cap and mask after a successful emergency room operation.  King of Chinatown underscores Wong’s character, Dr. Mary Ling’s, professional competence for immediately after the surgery, the (San Francisco) Bay Area hospital director offers her the position of resident surgeon. In melodious tones tinged with an upper-class British accent, Wong firmly but politely declines the prestigious appointment because she wishes to raise money to bring medical supplies to China to combat the Japanese invasion. Flashing her trademark smile, Wong gracefully strides across the room, Edith Head-designed skirt and blouse highlighting her all-American modern professionalism. Based on a real life Chinese American woman, Dr. Margaret Chung, Wong’s role represents a modern American woman who is proud of her Chinese heritage.

Before I viewed the film, I knew that the scant scholarship’s dominant storyline focused on Wong as a marginal and exploited actress. According to that narrative, she had mostly played “foreign” and/or “negative” stereotypical roles such as prostitutes or dancers, who often died at the end of each film. Startled at how King of Chinatown proved that viewpoint wildly inaccurate, I decided that Wong’s career merited further investigation.

Anna May Wong_smIn my book, Anna May Wong: Performing the Modern, I focus on Wong because she embodied the dominant image of Chinese and “oriental” women between 1922 and 1940. She played groundbreaking roles in American, European, and Australian theater and cinema to become one of the major global actresses of Asian descent between the world wars. Born near Los Angeles’ Chinatown in 1905, Wong made more than sixty films that circulated around the world, headlined theater and vaudeville productions in locations ranging from Sydney to Paris to New York, and, in 1951, had her own television series, The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong, produced by the now defunct DuMont Television Network. The sheer number of films, theatrical productions, magazine covers, and iconic photographs rendered Wong ubiquitous. Global cultural and political interest in the “Orient” propelled her fame in locales such as Germany and Mozambique. Although she is no longer a household name, I argue that Wong remains an important twentieth-century performer because her work shaped racial modernity.

As an Asian American, there was nothing authentically “oriental” about the very American Wong, who, until 1936, had never been to China. Yet decades before the civil rights–generated category of Asian American existed, Wong grappled with how to be an Asian American actress.

Throughout her career, Wong demonstrated an astounding ability to survive as a performer through adapting to technological and format changes. She started in black and white silent films, then pioneered silent two-tone technicolor cinema, then thrived in the “talkies” or sound motion pictures. When film work dried up, she successfully sought opportunities in radio, vaudeville, theater, and photography. Then, in the 1950s, she mastered live television. I have no doubt that if she were alive today, she would be an Instagram or Youtube star, sharing makeup and beauty tips with the world.

I situate this work as part of the feminist recuperation of women’s experiences, and, moreover, racial minority women’s responses to gender being unmarked as white. As decades of scholarship have established, this is not compensatory work but analysis that transforms how we conceptualize history. Body politics still have ramifications for people’s lives. What is at stake in this examination of Wong’s career is the very writing of history: who can speak, who can be a subject, and how it can be done. In doing this work, I wish to validate creative and risk-taking scholarly inquiry. Wong’s cultural creations point to an earlier historical moment of possibility. It shows us how she performed the modern despite facing extraordinary racial and gendered obstacles.

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Quality of Life and Courts

This week in North Philly Notes, Christine Zozula, author of Courting the Community, reflects on how low-level crimes have big implications for local communities.

In late July of this year, Los Angeles City Council voted to reinstate a city ordinance that made sleeping in vehicles on residential streets, or within a block of schools, parks and daycares a punishable offense. As reported by the LA Times and LA Podcast, politicians supported the ordinance by claiming it would allow police officers to link unhoused people to social services through the Homeless Engagement and Response Team. Some LA community members in favor of the ordinance claimed that the ordinance would free up parking for residents with homes and make streets safer and more sanitary. Critics of the ordinance claimed that this policy criminalizes homelessness and makes unhoused people less safe and less likely to be able to transition to housing. The issues raised in response to this ordinance, quality-of-life and debates about punishment and treatment, are all too familiar to me.

Courting the Community_smI spent about a year studying a community court—  I sat in the courtroom to observe daily case processing, talked to the people who worked there, and attended meetings court officials had with residents and various community groups. The first community court opened in New York City in 1993, since then, 37 more have appeared in cities including Minneapolis and Seattle, as well as in countries like Australia and Israel. The overarching thesis of community courts is that quality-of-life crimes victimize the community by creating disorderly conditions that lead to more crime. Whereas traditional courts often dismiss these charges or administer a small fine, community courts aim to “meaningfully punish” quality-of-life offenses. A teenager who vandalized a building might be ordered to paint over his graffiti. Someone who was publicly drunk may have to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and report back to the court. Community courts have a variety of sanctions at their disposal, and punishment might involve “paying back the community,” solving the “root causes” of offending, and jailtime for defendants who do not comply with court orders. They also frequently involve (non-offending) community-members in the justice process.

My experience observing what happened in court oscillated between watching Judge Judy and waiting at the DMV. I watched judges praise defendants who got clean, shaking their hands as the prosecutor ordered their initial crime to be removed from their record. When defendants failed to complete court orders, judges acted as a detached administer or a scolding parent, as he or she sentenced defendants to jail. Community courts embrace both rehabilitative and punitive ideas of punishment, which allow them to be simultaneously therapeutic and tough-on-crime. This seemingly conflictual logic is perhaps best put by one of my respondents, who said, “Some people want and need help, and others want to serve a life sentence 3 months at a time.”

Early in my fieldwork I was puzzled by how seamlessly the community court embraced contradictory goals of punishment and treatment. Over time, I came to understand that the flexibility of the community court model was integral to its success. Courting the Community explores how community courts act as flexible organizations in a deft way to create and maintain legitimacy. Community courts seductively promise residents and business owners safer neighborhoods and cleaner streets. They shower social service providers with additional judicial resources to aid in compliance. They pledge to traditional courts that they will ease burdensome case loads, freeing up more time for serious and violent crimes. My book explores how a community court strategically markets itself to various stakeholders by systematically deploying whatever narrative of effectiveness best fits the audience at hand.

Courting the Community focuses on just one court, but it contains larger lessons that extend far beyond the court’s walls. It raises important questions about what it means to construct “community” through the criminal justice system. It shows how community courts are involved in what I call the criminalization of incivility, which makes things like sleeping in public spaces or playing loud music late at night subject to criminal justice intervention. Courting the Community also guides readers to analyze how criminal justice reform movements make claims about their work and how those claims might obfuscate more empirically rigorous measurements of effectiveness.  

Golden nuggets for moving away from a technological culture to an ecological culture

This week in North Philly Notes, William Cohen, author of Ecohumanism and the Ecological Culture, writes about Lewis Mumford and Ian McHarg, who inspired his book and field of study.

I was a young city and regional planner in the 1970s. It was a turbulent time especially as there was a growing awareness that we are doing some fairly serious harm to our environment. I had heard about a dynamic professor from the University of Pennsylvania who was one of the organizers of America’s first Earth Day. He was scheduled to give a presentation in April 1970 at the University of Delaware and I decided to go and find out what was really going on. Well, Ian McHarg, a landscape architect and regional planner let his audience of over 500 people have it straight and to the point. We are despoiling our environment and if we don’t change our ways we may in fact be threatening our survival. He extolled us that we must embrace ecology in how we plan, design, and build our human settlements. The year before McHarg had published Design with Nature that immediately became a hallmark call for reversing current trends. It was a challenge not just to planners and designers, but to everyone else.

McHarg’s message to design with nature became my professional commitment that steered my professional life for over three decades and has lasted with me to this day. I would later study with McHarg at Penn and that educational experience became the icing on the cake.

Ecohumanism and the Ecological Culture_SMThose of us in both the professional and academic worlds that have a curiosity for discovery are continually looking for that little piece of wisdom, brilliance, or revelation that will bring about a new awareness—not just intellectually, but emotionally. We can find these “golden nuggets” almost anywhere as we proceed through life experiences. I discovered one at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland in 2006 when I was part of a team that interviewed a number of forward looking thinkers concerned about the present state of our environment. It was Graham Leicester director of the International Futures Forum who somewhat casually remarked: “We are subject to rapid technological change, new interconnectedness, speed of advance; we are in a world we don’t understand anymore. The old rules no longer seem to apply. The new rules haven’t been discovered. What we need is a Second Enlightenment.” This was more than a discovery, it was a jolt of lightening.

In retrospect I can say that my professional work as an ecological planner discovered a new twist with this golden nugget. Yes, I concluded we do need to embrace a “second enlightenment” that will be a guiding mantra to move us away from a technological culture to an ecological culture. The evolution and development of the machine—from the earliest clock to today’s computer—has for sure given us great advantages to make life easier and more enjoyable. And this strikes at the center of the concern: Has the advance in technological achievement begun to steal away our basic humanity? Are we losing a connection with our natural environment?

These two points became the focus of the voluminous writings of Lewis Mumford, one of the great public intellectuals of the twentieth century. He bemoaned the reality that human aspiration and purpose was becoming overwhelmed by technological progress. Think about it; think about how our cities and small towns have declined and how suburbia has grown exponentially. Think about how we have damaged our cultural resources; how we have witnessed diminishing natural and agricultural areas; how we have to tolerate increasing traffic congestion; and how we have seemingly become addicted to our Smartphones and other electronic devices. If we all stand back for a moment and take an assessment of where we are in the continuum of history can we say we are satisfied with our lives, our living patterns, and our environment?

This overriding question gave me the impetus to write Ecohumanism and the Ecological Culture. I firmly thought when I began this enterprise that I could somehow meld historical trends with today’s realities and provide a future direction. It was not difficult to conclude that the work of both Lewis Mumford and Ian McHarg gives us a strong guiding light to examine and even project that the achievement of an ecological culture is both evident and a necessity. This transition takes on special significance when we look at our current educational system. How we prepare the next generation of planners and designers will be crucial to our success. By advancing an ecohumanism philosophy, as the premise to planning, designing, and building our human settlements, we can see the light of an ecological culture on a reachable horizon. We just need to get there to preserve our environment and our humanity.

 

 

A look at the political identities and social attitudes of young evangelicals

This week in North Philly Notes, Jeremiah Castle, author of Rock of Ages, asks: Are young evangelicals becoming more liberal? (This blog is re-posted with permission from Religion in Public.)

For the past several decades, evangelical Christians have been one of the strongest and most reliable Republican constituencies. Massive numbers of evangelicals mobilized into politics in the 1970s and 1980s, concerned over issues like abortion, gay marriage, and religion’s declining role in the public sphere. Prominent evangelical elites including Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson fervently endorsed the GOP, and evangelical organizations like the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, and Focus on the Family further linked evangelicalism to conservative politics. On the partisan side of the equation, prominent Republican candidates like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush spoke the language of evangelical Protestantism and made a point of reaching out to evangelical voters. Occasionally, the religious and political spheres even fused, as in the case of religious broadcaster Pat Robertson’s challenge to George H.W. Bush in the 1988 Republican Party primaries.

However, over the course of the last decade or so a number of political observers have speculated that the youngest generation of evangelical Christians, those belonging to the Millennial generation, are more liberal than their Baby Boomer and Gen-X predecessors.  Commentators have suggested several types of change: young evangelicals may be moving left on cultural issues or abandoning the culture wars, they may be increasingly concerned about issues like the environment and poverty, and they may even vote for Democratic candidates. Given that evangelicals constitute roughly one-fifth of the voting population, if young evangelicals are becoming more liberal in any of these ways, it would have the potential to shake the bedrock of American party politics for the next several decades.

Academic researchers have only just begun to examine whether or not these observers are correct. In a short research note, Buster Smith and Byron Johnson find that young evangelicals are similar to their older counterparts on issues including abortion, stem cell research, marijuana use, welfare spending, healthcare, and the Iraq war. Only on the environment did they find substantial evidence of liberalization among young evangelicals. However, their data are only cross-sectional, and therefore they cannot help distinguish between age, period, and cohort effects. Justin Farrell shows that young evangelicals are more liberal on same-sex marriage, premarital sex, cohabitating, and pornography. However, he finds that higher education, delayed marriage, and shifts in views on moral authority are the likely causes, rather than changes in religion itself. Most recently, Mikael Pelz and Corwin Smidt find evidence of consistency in young evangelicals’ political identities and social issue attitudes. However, they also uncover some evidence of their change in attitudes on non-cultural issues including the environment, foreign policy, and government aid to the needy. While these works serve an important purpose in beginning to test the empirical claims being made in this debate, together this scholarship highlights the need for a more unified theory of public opinion among evangelicals that can help explain why we see change in some instances and continued conservatism in others.

Rock of Ages_smIn my book Rock of Ages: Subcultural Religious Identity and Public Opinion among Young Evangelicals, forthcoming from Temple Press in August 2019 in the Religious Engagement in Democratic Politics series, I develop just such a theory. Drawing on John Zaller’s work in The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion, I argue that the evangelical tradition has the potential to impact public opinion among members by changing the underlying distribution of considerations on political issues. The evangelical subculture engages in several processes that might help it influence public opinion among adherents, including building and reinforcing evangelical identity, discrediting issue considerations from the secular culture, promoting its own distinctive values, and even delivering explicitly political messages.

However, evangelicalism is unlikely to impact all political attitudes equally. My Issue Hypothesis predicts that we are more likely to see stability in evangelical public opinion on topics or issues that are important to the evangelical subculture’s identity and distinctiveness. As I explain in the chapter, those issues include Republican Party identification, ideological conservatism, and opposition to cultural issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. My Commitment Hypothesis predicts that evangelicalism should exert a greater effect on those who are more engaged within the evangelical subculture (including those who attend church more often, pray more frequently, and self-report that religion is an important guiding factor in their daily lives).

The heart of the book provides a thorough investigation of public opinion among young evangelicals. Chapters 2 and 3 use nationally representative survey data to explore trends in public opinion among young evangelicals over time (including comparisons to both older evangelicals and non-evangelicals). I focus on numerous issues, including abortion, same-sex marriage, welfare, the environment, immigration, and foreign policy. One of the key findings from this section is the consistency of Republican party identification among young evangelicals. The figure below, created using General Social Survey data, shows that young evangelicals today are just as reliably Republican as they were in the 1980s and 1990s.

RoA Figure 2.1b July 2018 color

The remainder of the book provides a series of tests of the mechanisms behind my theory of public opinion. Chapter 4 provides a closer look at how evangelicalism influences public opinion, emphasizing how evangelicalism can impact issue considerations among adherents. Chapter 5 provides a more careful test of whether immersion in evangelical institutions causes opinion change, including the use of panel data. Finally, Chapter 6 explores political attitudes among the 12-15% of young evangelicals who do identify as politically liberal. The evangelical subculture’s conservatism on cultural issues appears to influence liberal evangelicals, too; liberal evangelicals remain more opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage compared to other young liberals. Overall, the results discussed in the book provide strong support for my theory of public opinion among young evangelicals.

In the Conclusion, I use the findings to speculate about the future of the evangelical-Republican coalition. The results suggest that young evangelicals may push the Republican Party to the left on a few issues, including same-sex marriage and possibly the environment. However, it is unlikely that young evangelicals will become a true “swing constituency.” Young evangelicals have been reliably Republican for many decades, and thanks in part to the intense socialization within the evangelical subculture documented in my book, that trend seems poised to continue for the foreseeable future.

 

Vice as a tourist attraction?

This week in North Philly Notes, Andrew Israel Ross, author of Public City/Public Sex, writes about the “problem” of public sex in cities. 

I recently visited Amsterdam for the first time and I could not help but be struck by how successfully the city marketed what once would have simply been considered “vice” as a tourist attraction. After making their pilgrimage to the Anne Frank House, for example, tourists can take advantage of the walking tours of the Red Light District. Meandering along the streets of the Dutch city, gawking through windows at nearly-naked women hawking sexual services, women, men, and children can tell themselves that they participated in a venal economy even if they did not actually purchase anything from the women. Indeed, the success of the Red Light District as tourist district has outstripped the imaginations of those who legalized it. The Dutch government has considered limiting how many people could enter the area and permitting sex workers to work elsewhere in the city. The legalization of sex work may or may not have actually made it safer for those engaged in the profession, but it definitely made it into an apparently appropriate experience to the millions of international tourists who flock every year to the Dutch capital. Inscribed in the city, but also cordoned off into its own zone, female sex work becomes a carefully curated experience of the urban center.

Public City Public SexTwenty-first century Amsterdam represents the height of trends I explore in my book Public City/Public Sex: Prostitution, Homosexuality, and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris. The book traces the relationship between those who participated in and sought out a culture of public sex and those who sought to regulate, understand, and control that culture in Paris over the course of the nineteenth century. In doing so, the book shows some of the ways that public sex was more central to the nineteenth-century city than to the twenty-first. Public sex —primarily evidence of female prostitution and men seeking sex with other men — was not “marginal” to the life of the city. Rather, it was central. Indeed, I show how nineteenth-century urban culture relied upon a culture of public sex that could not be evaded. It was only with the rise of modern consumer culture in the latter decades of the century that public sex came to be a “safe” attraction for Parisians and tourists, sold by male entrepreneurs to a willing audience of middle-class men and women.

During the nineteenth century, state administrators, expert moralists, and private entrepreneurs collaborated in an effort to transform Paris in ways that would open the supposedly “medieval” city to control by the police, to business by capitalists, and to movement by residents. Coupled with new systems of regulation, urban development enabled greater surveillance of the city by the police, but it also offered opportunities for social practices the authorities had intended to prevent in the first place. In an effort to remove sex workers from the streets, the Prefecture of Police “tolerated” brothels that could and would be recognized by anyone passing one by. In an effort to clean the city’s filth, public hygienists advocated for the provision of public urinals that could and would be appropriated by men who sought sex with other men. The creation of new boulevards, parks, and commercial spaces such as cafés and dancehalls where people interacted and encountered one another all enabled public sexual interaction that could be viewed by anyone at any time. The existence and availability of public sexual activity became a key feature of the nineteenth-century city, as administrators, businessmen, prostitutes, men seeking sex with other men, and other Parisians all competed to define urban space in their own terms. The urban culture of the nineteenth century emerged through these tensions.

By arguing that the origins of “modern” urban culture rested on forms of public sexual activity recognized and recognizable by anyone and everyone, Public City/Public Sex historicizes efforts to manage the experience of urban environments, both those explicitly sexualized like the Red Light District and those meant to be asexual. Understanding our own responses to the sexualization of space depends on acknowledging the thin line between the two. Public City/Public Sex historicizes the experience of public sexual encounter by showing how female prostitutes and men who sought sex with other men in deployed city space to locate sexual partners and assert their right to the city. The emergence of the Red Light District as a solution to the “problem” of public sex, therefore, was as much as way of taking power away from sex workers as it was an attempt to ensure their safety in the modern city and can only be fully understood as a direct response to the more fluid sexual culture of the nineteenth century.

All-Star Baseball Books to celebrate the All-Star Break

This week in North Philly Notes, we highlight nine of Temple University Press’s All-Star baseball books to celebrate baseball’s All-Star Break.

The Whiz Kids and the 1950 Pennantby Robin Roberts and C. Paul Rogers

The 1950 Phillies unexpectedly captured the hearts and imaginations of Philadelphians. A young upstart team—in fact, the youngest major league baseball team ever fielded—they capped a Cinderella season by winning the pennant from the heavily favored Brooklyn Dodgers in Ebbets Field on the last day of the season. It was the first National League pennant for the team since 1915. With that dramatic victory the 1950 Phillies went into the history books, known forever as the Whiz Kids.

This inspiring era in Phillies history comes alive with the personal reflections of Robin Roberts, a Hall of Famer and arguably the best right-handed pitcher in Phillies history.  Rich with anecdotes never before published from players like Hall-of-Famer Richie Ashburn, Bubba Church, Andy Seminick, Curt Simmons, Del Ennis, Dick Sisler, Russ Meyer, and many others, this book relives the success of the Whiz Kids in all their glory.

Bill Giles and Baseballby John B. Lord

Bill Giles oversaw one of the greatest eras of winning that the Philadelphia Phillies ever enjoyed and helped guide major league baseball through the most turbulent era in its history. In Bill Giles and Baseball, John Lord deftly chronicles Giles’ remarkable career—which includes 44 years with the Phillies—to provide an insider’s view of the business of the sport. He addresses the often controversial, sometimes ill-advised, moves by baseball’s hierarchy that have nonetheless propelled the game to unimagined economic growth.

The Phillies Reader Edited by Richard Orodenker

The Phillies Reader features essays on the athletic achievements of such legendary players as Chuck Klein, Richie Ashburn, Dick Allen, and Mike Schmidt; the political turmoil surrounding the “ok” from manager Ben Chapman to “ride” Jackie Robinson about the color of his skin; the bizarre shooting of Eddie Waitkus; the heroics of the Whiz Kids; the heartbreak of ’64; and the occasional triumphs and frequent travails of controversial managers Gene Mauch, Frank Lucchesi, and Danny Ozark. It asks why fans boo great players such as Del Ennis, but forgave Pat Burrell for his horrendous 2003 slump.

Featuring essays by Red Smith, Pete Dexter, Roger Angell, and James Michener, among others, The Phillies Reader presents a compendium of Phillies literature that reveals what it is that makes legends.

Dominican Baseball: New Pride, Old Prejudice by Alan Klein

Outstanding Book Award from the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, 2015

In his incisive and engaging book, Dominican Baseball, Alan Klein examines the history of MLB’s presence and influence in the Dominican Republic, the development of the booming industry and academies, and the dependence on Dominican player developers, known as buscones. He also addresses issues of identity fraud and the use of performance-enhancing drugs as hopefuls seek to play professionally.

Dominican Baseball charts the trajectory of the economic flows of this transnational exchange, and the pride Dominicans feel in their growing influence in the sport. Klein also uncovers the prejudice that prompts MLB to diminish Dominican claims on legitimacy. This sharp, smartly argued book deftly chronicles the uneasy and often contested relations of the contemporary Dominican game and industry.

Will Big League Baseball Survive?: Globalization, the End of Television, Youth Sports, and the Future of Major League Baseball by Lincoln A. Mitchell

Major League Baseball is a beloved American institution that has been a product of the economic, social, and media structures that have evolved in the United States over the last century. In his shrewd analysis, Will Big League Baseball Survive?, Lincoln Mitchell asks whether the sport will continue in its current form as a huge, lucrative global business that offers a monopoly in North America—and whether those structures are sustainable.

Mitchell places baseball in the context of the larger, evolving American and global entertainment sector. He examines how both changes directly related to baseball—including youth sports and the increased globalization of the game—as well as broader societal trends such as developments in media consumption and celebrity culture will impact big league baseball over the next few decades.

Suicide Squeeze: Taylor Hooton, Rob Garibaldi, and the Fight against Teenage Steroid Abuseby William C. Kashatus

In his urgent book Suicide Squeeze, William Kashatus chronicles the experiences of Taylor Hooton and Rob Garibaldi, two promising high school baseball players who abused anabolic steroids (APEDs) in the hopes of attracting professional scouts and Division I recruiters. However, as a result of their steroid abuse, they ended up taking their own lives.

In Suicide Squeeze—named for the high-risk play in baseball to steal home—Kashatus identifies the symptoms and dangers of steroid use among teens. Using archival research and interviews with the Hooton and Garibaldi families, he explores the lives and deaths of these two troubled young men, the impact of their suicides on Major League Baseball, and the ongoing fight against adolescent APED use that their parents have been waging.

A passionate appeal to prevent additional senseless deaths by athletes, Suicide Squeeze makes an important contribution to debates on youth and sports and on public policy.

Legal Bases: Baseball and the Law, by Roger I. Abrams

In Legal Bases, Roger I. Abrams has assembled an all-star baseball law team whose stories illuminate the sometimes uproarious, sometimes ignominious relationship between law and baseball that has made the business of baseball a truly American institution. Along the way, Abrams also examines such issues as drug use and gambling, enforcement of contracts, and the rights of owners and managers. He does not limit himself to the history of baseball and the legal process but also speculates on the implications of the 1996 collective bargaining agreement and those other issues—like intellectual property, eminent domain, and gender equity—that may provide the all-star baseball law stories of the future.

Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate: The Story of the Negro League Star and Hall of Fame Catcherby Rich Westcott

National Baseball Hall of Fame catcher James Raleigh “Biz” Mackey’s professional career spanned nearly three decades in the Negro Leagues and elsewhere. He distinguished himself as a defensive catcher who also had an impressive batting average and later worked as a manager of the Newark Eagles and the Baltimore Elite Giants.

Using archival materials and interviews with former Negro League players, baseball historian Rich Westcott chronicles the catcher’s life and remarkable career in Biz Mackey as well as providing an in-depth look at Philadelphia Negro League history. Mackey also mentored famed catcher Roy Campanella and had an unlikely role in the story of baseball’s development in Japan.

Rookies of the Year by Bob Bloss

Baseball players only have one opportunity to be named “Rookie of the Year” by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Although some recipients of this prestigious award such as Orlando Cepeda have become league MVPs, or Hall of Fame honorees, others, like Joe Charboneau, failed to live up to their initial promise. Rookies of the Year profiles 116 winners-from Jackie Robinson (the first Rookie of the Year in 1947), to Rod Carew, Derek Jeter, and the 2004 honorees. Each player’s initial major league season and subsequent career achievements are included. Featuring interviews with dozens of baseball stars, this is the most comprehensive book ever written on Rookies of the Year. It provides indispensable information on some of baseball’s greatest athletes.

Celebrating America

This week in North Philly Notes, we celebrate the Fourth of July with ten of Temple University Press’s “American” titles. These books look at colonial America,  American culture, and the American Dream, reflecting on our country, its past, present, and future.

COLONIAL AMERICA

Sex and the Founding Fathers: The American Quest for a Relatable Pastby Thomas A. Foster

Biographers, journalists, and satirists have long used the subject of sex to define the masculine character and political authority of America’s Founding Fathers. Tracing these commentaries on the Revolutionary Era’s major political figures in Sex and the Founding Fathers, Thomas Foster shows how continual attempts to reveal the true character of these men instead exposes much more about Americans and American culture than about the Founders themselves.

The Spirits of America: A Social History of Alcoholby Eric Burns

In The Spirits of America, Burns relates that drinking was “the first national pastime,” and shows how it shaped American politics and culture from the earliest colonial days. He details the transformation of alcohol from virtue to vice and back again, how it was thought of as both scourge and medicine. He tells us how “the great American thirst” developed over the centuries, and how reform movements and laws (some of which, Burn s says, were “comic masterpieces of the legislator’s art”) sprang up to combat it. Burns brings back to life such vivid characters as Carrie Nation and other crusaders against drink. He informs us that, in the final analysis, Prohibition, the culmination of the reformers’ quest, had as much to do with politics and economics and geography as it did with spirituous beverage.

Upon the Ruins of Liberty: Slavery, the President’s House at Independence National Historical Park, and Public Memoryby Roger C. Aden

In Upon the Ruins of Liberty, Roger Aden offers a compelling account that explores the development of the important historic site of the President’s House installation at Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park, and the intersection of contemporary racial politics with history, space, and public memory. Aden constructs this engrossing tale by drawing on archival material and interviews with principal figures in the controversy—including historian Ed Lawler, site activist Michael Coard, and site designer Emanuel Kelly.

AMERICAN CULTURE

“I Hear America Singing”: Folk Music and National Identity by Rachel Clare Donaldson

In America, folk music—from African American spirituals to English ballads and protest songs—renders the imagined community more tangible and comprises a critical component of our diverse national heritage. In “I Hear America Singing,” Rachel Donaldson traces the vibrant history of the twentieth-century folk music revival from its origins in the 1930s through its end in the late 1960s. She investigates the relationship between the revival and concepts of nationalism, showing how key figures in the revival—including Pete Seeger, Alan Lomax, Moses Asch, and Ralph Rinzler—used songs to influence the ways in which Americans understood the values, the culture, and the people of their own nation.

Mickey Mouse History and Other Essays on American Memoryby Mike Wallace

This is a book about why history matters. It shows how popularized historical images and narratives deeply influence Americans’ understanding of their collective past. A leading public historian, Mike Wallace observes that we are a people who think of ourselves as having shed the past but also avid tourists who are on a “heritage binge,” flocking by the thousands to Ellis Island, Colonial Williamsburg, or the Vietnam Memorial. Wallace probes into the trivialization of history that pervades American culture as well as the struggles over public memory that provoke stormy controversy.

Red War on the Family: Sex, Gender, and Americanism in the First Red Scareby Erica J. Ryan

In the 1920s, cultural and political reactions to the Red Scare contributed to a marked shift in the way Americans thought about sexuality, womanhood, manhood, and family life. The Russian Revolution prompted anxious Americans who sensed a threat to social order to position heterosexuality, monogamy, and the family as bulwarks against radicalism.  In her probing and engaging book, Erica Ryan traces the roots of sexual modernism and the history of antiradicalism and antifeminism. Red War on the Family charts the ways Americanism both reinforced and was reinforced by these sexual and gender norms in the decades after World War I.

Framing the Audience: Art and the Politics of Culture in the United States, 1929-1945, by Isaorda Helfgott

Framing the Audience argues that efforts to expand the social basis of art became intertwined with—and helped shape—broader debates about national identity and the future of American political economy. Helfgott chronicles artists’ efforts to influence the conditions of artistic production and display. She highlights the influence of the Federal Art Project, the impact of the Museum of Modern Art as an institutional home for modernism in America and as an organizer of traveling exhibitions, and the efforts by LIFE and Fortune magazines to integrate art education into their visual record of modern life. In doing so, Helfgott makes critical observations about the changing relationship between art and the American public.

THE AMERICAN DREAM

The American Dream in the 21st Century, edited by Sandra L. Hanson and John K. White

The American Dream has long been a dominant theme in U.S. culture, one with enduring significance, but these are difficult times for dreamers. The editors of and contributors to The American Dream in the 21st Century examine the American Dream historically, socially, and economically and consider its intersection with politics, religion, race, gender, and generation. The conclusions presented in this short, readable volume provide both optimism for the faith that most Americans have in the possibility of achieving the American Dream and a realistic assessment of the cracks in the dream. The last presidential election offered hope, but the experts here warn about the need for better programs and policies that could make the dream a reality for a larger number of Americans.

Free Time: The Forgotten American Dream, by Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt

Has the “American Dream” become an unrealistic utopian fantasy, or have we simply forgotten what we are working for? In his topical book, Free Time, Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt examines the way that progress, once defined as more of the good things in life as well as more free time to enjoy them, has come to be understood only as economic growth and more work, forevermore. Hunnicutt provides an incisive intellectual, cultural, and political history of the original “American Dream” from the colonial days to the present. Taking his cue from Walt Whitman’s “higher progress,” he follows the traces of that dream, cataloging the myriad voices that prepared for and lived in an opening “realm of freedom.” Free Time reminds Americans of the forgotten, best part of the “American Dream”—that more and more of our lives might be lived freely, with an enriching family life, with more time to enjoy nature, friendship, and the adventures of the mind and of the spirit.

Tensions in the American Dream: Rhetoric, Reverie, or Realityby Melanie E. L. Bush and Roderick D. Bush

Could the promise of upward mobility have a dark side? In Tensions in the American Dream, Melanie and Roderick Bush ask, “How does a ‘nation of immigrants’ pledge inclusion yet marginalize so many citizens on the basis of race, class, and gender?” The authors consider the origins and development of the U.S. nation and empire; the founding principles of belonging, nationalism, and exceptionalism; and the lived reality of these principles. Tensions in the American Dream also addresses the relevancy of nation to empire in the context of the historical world capitalist system. The authors ask, “Is the American Dream a reality questioned only by those unwilling or unable to achieve it? What is the ‘good life,’ and how is it particularly ‘American’?”

 

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