Introducing Making Roots

By Matthew F. Delmont, author of The Nicest Kids in Town, Why Busing Failed, and Making Roots

When Alex Haley’s book Roots was published by Doubleday in 1976 it became an immediate bestseller. The television series, broadcast by ABC in 1977, became the most popular miniseries of all time, captivating over a hundred million Americans. As a scholar of popular culture and African American history I wanted to research and write this book because we know remarkably little about one of the most recognizable cultural productions of all time. One could fill a shelf with books on recent critically lauded television shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men, but Making Roots: A Nation Captivated is the first book length study of this unprecedented cultural phenomenon.

Alex Haley and his collaborators left a fascinating paper trail that shows, sometimes on a day-by-day basis, how Roots took shape from the early 1960s through the late 1970s. In researching Making Roots I examined tens of thousands of pages of Haley’s letters, notes, and manuscript drafts in the collections housed at the University of Tennessee, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and Goodwin College. At the University of Southern California, the archived papers of David Wolper and Stan Margulies offer similar insights into how these television producers adapted Haley’s story for the screen. In Making Roots, I foreground the voices and perspectives of the people who played a role in creating Roots: Haley, literary agent Paul Reynolds, Doubleday editors Ken McCormick and Lisa Drew, Haley’s editor Murray Fisher, Wolper, Margulies, screenwriter Bill Blinn, and actors like LeVar Burton, John Amos, and Leslie Uggams.

Alex Haley never published another book after Roots. He loved talking to people but found himself overwhelmed by the praise, criticism, and legal troubles Roots generated. “He made history talk,” Jesse Jackson said of Alex Haley at the author’s funeral in 1992. “He lit up the long night of slavery. He gave our grandparents personhood. He gave Roots to the rootless.” In this light, pointing out the flaws in Haley’s family history feels like telling your grandmother she is lying. Fortunately, Haley’s fabrications are only a small part of a much larger, more interesting, and more complicated story of the making of Roots. Making Roots tells that story.

Coming 8/2/16: Making Roots: A Nation Captivated; to pre-order a copy, visit your local bookstore, or order online at IndieboundAmazonBarnes & Noble, or UC Press (save 30% at; enter discount code 16M4197 at checkout).

Matthew F. Delmont is Associate Professor of History at Arizona State University and the author of Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregation and The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock ’n’ Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia, both published by UC Press.

50 Years Ago in New York City: Latin American Cinema at LASA 2016

By Paul A. Schroeder Rodríguez, author of Latin American Cinema: A Comparative History

2016 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Latin American Studies Association, the largest organization of Latin Americanists in the world. Appropriately, the meeting is taking place in New York City, site of the initial congress, with the theme “LASA at 50.” In keeping with this theme and this place, the Film Studies Group and the Visual Studies Group organized a screening of “The Life, Death and Assumption of Lupe Vélez” at The Film-Makers’ Cooperative last week.

Film still close-up of Lupe
Mario Montez in a film still from “Lupe” by José Rodríguez Soltero (1966)

Also shot in New York City exactly fifty years ago, “Lupe” is a tribute to Mexican film star Lupe Vélez. Directed by Puerto Rican filmmaker José Rodríguez Soltero, it is clearly rooted in New York City’s underground cinema movement of the 1960s: it is visually striking, with bold, saturated colors; and narratively, it is every bit as transgressive as comparable films by Andy Warhol and Jack Smith. Its soundtrack, on the other hand, and the superb acting by drag queen Mario Montez, also root it to Latin America and Spain. Some of its parts seemed to dialogue with Mexican musicals of the 1950s called cabareteras. Others seemed to dialogue with Cuban Santiago Álvarez’s agit-prop newsreels of the 1960s. And I would not be surprised to learn that Almodóvar was inspired by Lupe when he shot “High Heels“.

The experience was unforgettable, a reminder that Latin American cinema, whether made in Latin America or in New York City, is a triangulated cinema defined by the intense circulation of images, themes, and sounds between North America, Europe, and Latin America itself.

Schoeder RodríguezPaul A. Schroeder Rodríguez is Professor and Chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. The author of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea: The Dialectics of a Filmmaker, he has published extensively on Latin American cinema in leading academic journals.

May Day for Media Workers

May Day, “International Worker’s Day,” is a curiously un-American holiday. Celebrated by labor groups and political parties outside the United States, it began in 1890 as a global day of solidarity to commemorate those who lost their lives in Chicago’s Haymarket Square while demonstrating for an eight-hour workday. Haymarket, a symbol of labor’s rising activism, also sparked America’s first major “red scare,” a political backlash that created tensions within the U.S. labor movement and hived it off from its counterparts around the world. That legacy is still with us, as most American labor organizations 9780520290853continue to frame issues through the prism of national interest. Even in Hollywood, labor groups describe their most pressing challenges in terms of “runaway production,” which is industry parlance for out-sourcing. Consequently, many workers fail to grasp the larger set of forces that is killing jobs, intensifying workplace pressures, and undermining creativity. They also have a hard time making connections between the challenges they face and those confronted by counterparts overseas. Interestingly, the situation isn’t so different in Bollywood (Mumbai), Nollywood (Lagos), and Prague, as demonstrated by two dozen scholars in Precarious Creativity: Global Media, Local Labor, a newly released UC Press volume that’s also available through the Luminos open access platform.

As these scholars show, motion picture production practices in cities around the world are growing more closely aligned under the pressures of media globalization and corporate conglomeration. Distribution protocols and audience behaviors are also converging. Although these transformations offer fresh opportunities for media makers and their fans, they also open the door to managerial strategies that exact a heavy toll on workers and make it difficult for them to organize and respond. Interestingly, one of the most widely shared complaints is about the long workdays that run well past the eight-hour limit advocated by Haymarket demonstrators more than a hundred years ago!

A demonstration by VFX workers outside the 2013 Oscars when “Life of Pi” was winning the special effects award only two weeks after the company that made the effects went bankrupt and the workers were fired. Learn more here.

Precarious Creativity provides a window into the everyday lives of film, television, and video game workers, while also offering a critical perspective that makes connections and comparisons across the globe. Essays also reflect on the prospects for labor activism and transnational organizing. We are therefore delighted to have the opportunity to release it on the Luminos open access platform where it is already reaching a global audience. Only weeks after publication Precarious Creativity has been accessed by readers in Nigeria, India, and the Czech Republic; and it has generated a bit of buzz stateside as well, even in Hollywood.

So here’s to May Day, and to greater awareness of the diverse yet interwoven challenges facing media workers around the world!

curtin_photoMichael Curtin is the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Professor of Global Studies in the Department of Film and Media Studies and cofounder of the Media Industries Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His previous books include The American Television Industry; Reorienting Global Communication: Indian and Chinese Media Beyond Borders; Playing to the World’s Biggest Audience: The Globalization of Chinese Film and TV; andDistribution Revolution: Conversations about the Digitial Future of Film and Television.


eca5eb6b9121c94762157af75cda5077-bpfullKevin Sanson is a Lecturer in Entertainment Industries at Queensland University of Technology in Australia. He is coeditor of Distribution Revolution: Conversations about the Digital Future of Film and Television and Connected Viewing: Selling, Streaming, & Sharing Media in the Digital Era and is part of the founding editorial collective of Media Industries, the first peer-reviewed open-access journal for media industries research.


UC Press Titles at the 2016 Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards

We’re delighted to announce that multiple UC Press titles are on the shortlist and longlist for the 2016 Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Book Awards.

The Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards are the UK’s leading prizes for books published in the fields of photography and the moving image (including film, television and new media). The KKF Book Awards celebrate excellence in photography and moving image publishing.

Shortlisted titles:

Longlisted titles:

These titles, along with the other Moving Image award finalists, will be among the 10 books exhibited at the Somerset House during the Photo London Exhibition this May.

Best of luck to all of the participants!

Comics like Hellboy produce a heightened adventure of reading, Stanford scholar says

This story, written by Leah Stark, first appeared on the Stanford University website on April 18, 2016 and is cross-posted here with their kind permission.

The Hellboy comics — about a demon who tries to resist his predestined role to destroy our world — provide a powerful vantage point from which to view the extraordinary and unique powers of the comic book medium, a Stanford scholar suggests.

That is the viewpoint of Scott Bukatman, a Stanford professor of film and media studies. He researched the Hellboy series by creator Mike Mignola and found that the pleasures of reading a comic book can reveal something about contemporary visual culture and even the act of reading itself.

“Trying to understand what comics are in and of themselves is really important because we are in a moment where comics are very, very popular, whether in the new popularity of superheroes, which are now ubiquitous in our culture, or in the graphic novels, memoirs and journalism that have been appearing over the past few decades,” said Bukatman, who details his findings in a new book, Hellboy’s World: Comics and Monsters on the Margins.

Many different genres are juggled in the Hellboy comics and, as a result, the stories themselves have different tonalities, Bukatman said.

“Some are really funny, some are melancholy. Some are cosmic in scope, others are local and small. There’s a lot of variety within this strange story world that Mignola has come up with,” he said.

Mignola also overtly draws upon genre fiction, art history and other comics traditions to build his world; Hellboy‘s world intersects with other aesthetic and literary worlds, according to the Stanford scholar.

Bukatman’s research homes in on the aesthetic space that Mignola creates where he emphasizes the page over the linear sequence of panels, always thinking about the impact of two pages side-by-side.

“The experience of Hellboy is the experience of holding the book open and having two pages in front of you … so that when you’re holding it, you’re immersed in a hugely aestheticized world. In my reading, Hellboy‘s world is the world of the book,” Bukatman said.

Bukatman also emphasizes the color palette that comic colorist Dave Stewart has given Hellboy. Color is an understudied aspect of comics, he points out, even though it has such a visceral impact on readers. He wonders whether American culture’s suspicion of comics has something to do with the lurid colors that marked them in newspapers and comic books.

The color palette in Hellboy illustrates an understudied aspect of comics, says Scott Bukatman, who points out color’s visceral impact on readers. (Image credit: Courtesy Scott Bukatman)

Stillness in comics

As a film studies scholar, Bukatman has explored the similarities between comics and films as types of moving image media. But in Hellboy’s World, he is more concerned with the deep differences between these media.

Though Bukatman acknowledges that a Hellboy comic and a Hellboy film (directed by Guillermo de Toro) are both action-adventure stories, he notes distinct differences between them.

“The movies are highly kinetic, even frenetic, especially the second one [Hellboy II: The Golden Army]: lots of special effects, lots of bustle and noise. The comics, by contrast, are really still and quiet,” he said.

Mignola creates an experience of stillness by avoiding the traditional motion lines (and other cues to motion) that many comic artists use. He does not emphasize deep space, as other comic artists tend to do in an attempt to imitate film. Instead, Mignola renders panels that are “strikingly quiet, flat and still,” Bukatman said.

“The more I thought about the [Hellboy] comics, the more I realized how different they were from the films, different in ways that helped me to think more broadly about the ways these media diverge,” he said.

Bukatman suggests that comic books provide something that film does not: silence – and the freedom of the reader to peruse the world created by the comic, each in his or her own way. Within this silence, the reader’s imagination uniquely animates each panel and page.

Ultimately, Bukatman concludes that the nature of Hellboy‘s aesthetic sophistication is uniquely suited to the printed medium of comics.

Comics in the classroom

Hellboy’s World by Scott Bukatman (University of California Press, 2016)

Bukatman treats comics as serious objects of inquiry. He emphasizes the acts of watching and reading over the demand to find “meaning” in these kinetic and colorful experiences. How are we animated by films and comics, and how do they animate us?

His students have been highly receptive to his approach to culture and film studies. He thinks that they are “appreciative because I do open up ways of approaching culture that are different from the ways they’ve often been taught to do it.”

In addition, he co-founded a student workshop, The Stanford Graphic Narrative Project, that facilitates collaboration among scholars, writers, artists and teachers on topics such as comics, manga, animation and graphic novels.

Bukatman brings a child-like spirit to contemplating serious issues; perhaps not all things require “gravity” to be taken seriously.

He points to the “tendency of scholars to overemphasize seriousness.” By contrast, he respects the lightness of his objects of study.

He wants “to engage with their lightness, and explicate it in a way that never weighs them down, but which continues to respect what they are, be it a Fred Astaire dance sequence or a page of a Hellboy comic or a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

“Women in Cinema & Media” – Celebrating SCMS 2016 with Film Quarterly and Feminist Media Histories

To celebrate the 2016 annual conference for the Society for Cinema & Media Studies, which kicks off tomorrow in Atlanta, we are pleased to offer a collection of limited-time free articles from Film Quarterly and Feminist Media Histories that together honor “Women in Cinema & Media.” Enjoy free access to these articles today through the end of the meeting on April 3, and be sure to meet the editors if you are attending the conference!


3.cover-source-2FILM QUARTERLY

Editor: B. Ruby Rich, Associate Editor: Regina Longo, Book Review Editor: Noah Isenberg

*SCMS attendees: Meet the editors on Friday, April 1 (12:15-2:00pm) in Room 205, Second Floor (Hilton Atlanta).



Cover Your Webcam: Unencrypting Laura Poitras’s Citizenfour (Lisa Parks)

Giving Credit to Paratexts and Parafeminism in Top of the Lake and Orange Is the New Black (Kathleen A. McHugh)

The Vulnerable Spectator: Minnie and Me and the Living Girls (Amelie Hastie)

Candida Royalle, 1950–2015 (Constance Penley)

Follow Film Quarterly Facebook and Twitter for updates at #SCMS16 .



Editor: Shelley Stamp, Managing Editor: Christina Corfield

*SCMS attendees: Meet the editors on Thursday, March 31 (11:00am-12:00pm) at the UC Press booth (Hilton Atlanta). Be sure to keep an eye out for the SCMS Women’s Caucus Graduate Student Writing Prize! The 2016 winner will be announced at the SCMS Women’s Caucus meeting on 3/31, and the 2017 contest is now open for submissions.


Something More Than a Seduction Story: Shiga Akiko’s Abortion Scandal and Late 1930s Japanese Film Culture (Chika Kinoshita)

Lesbian Feminist Cinema’s Archive and Moonforce Media’s National Women’s Film Circuit (Roxanne Samer)

Paper Girls: Gender and Materiality in Turn-of-the-Century Outdoor Advertising (Beth Corzo-Duchardt)

Nené Cascallar’s Thirsty Heart: Gender, Voice, and Desire in a 1950s Argentine Radio Serial (Christine Ehrick)

Follow Feminist Media Histories Facebook and Twitter for updates at #SCMS16.

Join us at the 2016 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia


University of California Press is exhibiting at the 2016 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Annual Conference! The meeting convenes this week: March 30 – April 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Please visit our booth in the exhibit hall at the Hilton Atlanta for the following offers:

  • 40% conference discount on all orders
  • Request exam copies to consider for course adoption
  • Enter for a chance to win $100 worth of books by subscribing to UC Press eNews

In addition, come by the booth to meet our new acquisitions editor, Raina Polivka. If she is in a meeting, she’d be happy to hear from you via email. You can also catch Raina talking about Luminos, our new Open Access program, at the ‘Audiovisual Aids: Producing Media Adjuncts to Scholarly Publications’ workshop on Thursday, March 31st from 5–6:45 pm. {see SCMS program for room details}

Follow SCMS’s Facebook, @scmstudies, and hashtag #SCMS16 for current meeting news. Catch up on our recent blog posts on Cinema and Media here.

Save 40% with UC Press during the 2016 Popular Culture Association Annual Conference

The 2016 PCA/ACA National Conference meeting convenes March 22 – 25 in Seattle, WA.

Check out the following UC Press titles and save 40% online with discount code 16E8104, or request an exam copy for consideration to use in your upcoming classes. The discount code expires April 9,  2016.

Meet Raina Polivka, our new Acquisitions Editor for Music, Cinema and Media Studies

rainaWe are very pleased to announce that Raina Polivka will be joining the University of California Press as our new acquisitions editor in Music and Cinema & Media Studies.

Raina is currently an acquisitions editor at Indiana University Press, where she acquires books in music and cinema, in addition to several other humanities areas. She holds masters degrees in both library science and comparative literature from Indiana.

We are delighted that Raina will bring not only her knowledge and experience in both music and cinema to the press, but her passion for scholarly communication and her genuine warmth.

In her words:

“University of California Press has long been a leader in publishing and scholarly communication, pushing the industry into new directions. I am delighted to join such an innovative and creative organization, to uphold a high standard of scholarship, and to further contribute to the fields of music, film, and media studies in major and lasting ways.”

Raina’s first official day at the press will be December 7th, but she will be joining UC Press staff on Saturday, November 14th, at our booth in Louisville for the American Musicological Society (AMS) meeting.

Along with other staff, our editorial director, Kim Robinson, will also be at AMS this year. Please go by booth 202 in the Galt House Hotel’s Grand Ballroom A and say hello.

Banned Books Week: For Further Reading

If you’re interested in learning more after this year’s Banned Books Week festivities, here are some suggestions to deepen the conversation about freedom of speech and the censorship of literature and other media through the years.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn9780520266100-1
Mark Twain (Author), Victor Fischer (Editor), Lin Salamo (Editor), Harriet E. Smith (Editor), Walter Blair (Editor)

Read the oft-challenged classic! This 125th Anniversary edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is expanded with thoroughly updated notes and references, and a selection of original documents—letters, advertisements, playbills—some never before published, from Twain’s first book tour.

See more of our Mark Twain titles here.





Film Criticism, the Cold War, and the Blacklist: Reading the Hollywood Reds
Jeff Smith (Author)

This book examines the long-term reception of several key American films released during the postwar period, focusing on the two main critical lenses used in the interpretation of these films: propaganda and allegory. Produced in response to the hearings held by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) that resulted in the Hollywood blacklist, these films’ ideological message and rhetorical effectiveness was often muddled by the inherent difficulties in dramatizing villains defined by their thoughts and belief systems rather than their actions. Whereas anti-Communist propaganda films offered explicit political exhortation, allegory was the preferred vehicle for veiled or hidden political comment in many police procedurals, historical films, Westerns, and science fiction films. Jeff Smith examines the way that particular heuristics, such as the mental availability of exemplars and the effects of framing, have encouraged critics to match filmic elements to contemporaneous historical events, persons, and policies.


9780520283381The Essential Mario Savio: Speeches and Writings that Changed America
Robert Cohen (Editor), Tom Hayden (Editor)

This compendium of influential speeches and previously unknown writings offers insight into and perspective on the disruptive yet nonviolent civil disobedience tactics used by Mario Savio during the 1960s Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, California. The Essential Mario Savio is the perfect introduction to an American icon and to one of the most important social movements of the post-war period in the United States.




8975.160Outspoken: Free Speech Stories
Nan Levinson (Author)

With the government granting itself sweeping new surveillance powers, castigating its critics as unpatriotic, and equating differing opinions with abetting “America’s enemies,” free speech seems an early casualty of the war on terrorism. But as this book brilliantly demonstrates, to sacrifice our freedom of speech is to surrender the very heart and soul of America.

Nan Levinson tells the stories of twenty people who refused to let anyone whittle away at their right to speak, think, create, or demur as they pleased. In an engaging, anecdotal style, Levinson explores the balance between First Amendment and other rights, such as equality, privacy, and security; the relationship among behavior, speech, and images; the tangle of suppression, marketing, and politics; and the role of dissent in our society. These issues come to vibrant life in the stories recounted in Outspoken, stories that—whether heroic or infamous, outrageous or straightforward—remind us again and again of the power of words and of the strength of a democracy of voices.


9780520248601The Final Victim of the Blacklist: John Howard Lawson, Dean of the Hollywood Ten
Gerald Horne (Author)

Before he attained notoriety as Dean of the Hollywood Ten—the blacklisted screenwriters and directors persecuted because of their varying ties to the Communist Party—John Howard Lawson had become one of the most brilliant, successful, and intellectual screenwriters on the Hollywood scene in the 1930s and 1940s. After his infamous, almost violent, 1947 hearing before the House Un-American Activities Committee, John Howard Lawson spent time in prison and his career was effectively over. Lawson’s life becomes a prism through which we gain a clearer perspective on the evolution and machinations of McCarthyism and anti-Semitism in the United States, on the influence of the left on Hollywood, and on a fascinating man whose radicalism served as a foil for launching the political careers of two Presidents: Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. In vivid, marvelously detailed prose, Final Victim of the Blacklist restores this major figure to his rightful place in history as it recounts one of the most captivating episodes in twentieth century cinema and politics.

9780520242319Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the 1991 Gulf War, Updated with a New Preface
John R. MacArthur (Author), Ben H. Bagdikian (Foreword)

Now updated with a new preface that examines the current conflict in Iraq, this brilliant work of investigative reporting reveals the government’s assault on the constitutional freedoms of the American media during Operation Desert Storm. John R. MacArthur’s engaging and provocative account is as essential and alarming today as when the first paperback edition was published.



9780520239661Policing Cinema: Movies and Censorship in Early-Twentieth-Century America
Lee Grieveson (Author)
White slave films, dramas documenting sex scandals, filmed prize fights featuring the controversial African-American boxer Jack Johnson, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation—all became objects of public concern after 1906, when the proliferation of nickelodeons brought moving pictures to a broad mass public. Lee Grieveson draws on extensive original research to examine the controversies over these films and over cinema more generally. He situates these contestations in the context of regulatory concerns about populations and governance in an early-twentieth-century America grappling with the powerful forces of modernity, in particular, immigration, class formation and conflict, and changing gender roles.This book develops new perspectives for the understanding of censorship and regulation and the complex relations between governance and culture. In this work, Grieveson offers a compelling analysis of the forces that shaped American cinema and its role in society.