Forensic Evidence: Reality and Fiction

By Corinna Kruse, author of The Social Life of Forensic Evidence

I have a confession to make: I find CSI (the long-running TV show Crime Scene Investigation) much less interesting than the non-fictional criminal justice system.

Kruse.SocialLifeOfForensicEvidenceI do admit, it feels a little unappreciative to write this. I’m quite sure that CSI’s popularity has helped my work find audiences, both within and without academia. But it’s no less true. Studying the (Swedish) criminal justice system from the inside – at least, from the considerable part of its insides that I was graciously given access to – has made me realize just how much more interesting non-fictional forensics are.

This difference, I think, boils down to complexity–complexity that I find fascinating and complexity that the criminal justice system has and CSI doesn’t. For example, on CSI, the same (fictional) crime scene investigators do lots of different things. They go to crime scenes and collect traces, they analyze these traces – and quite different kinds of traces, at that – in the laboratory, they talk to witnesses, and they cause suspects to confess in the face of overwhelming evidence.

In non-fictional criminal justice, these different tasks are done by different experts: in the Swedish criminal justice system, crime scenes are examined by crime scene technicians, traces are analyzed by forensic scientists – different forensic scientists for different types of evidence – and witnesses, plaintiffs, and suspects are interviewed by police investigators. What is more, work on a case is led and coordinated by an investigation leader, often a prosecutor but sometimes a police investigator. Other criminal justice systems may differ in organization and labor division – not all forensic scientists are state employees like the Swedish ones are, for example – but what they have in common is that forensic evidence (and criminal justice) is produced through the cooperation of a number of professions.

This is unavoidable. Regardless of the dismissiveness with which CSI treats crime work outside of the laboratory and crime scene, all these tasks require quite different skills and competences. Knowing where and how to find and recover relevant traces from a crime scene is a different thing entirely from analyzing them, or from persuading a witness, plaintiff, or suspect to want to talk to the police. So is producing suspects in the first place – which, on CSI, is, not surprisingly, done by means of forensic evidence.

To me, these different competences and skills are fascinating. And what I find, if possible, even more fascinating are the different perspectives that come with these competences and skills: to crime scene technicians, forensic evidence is the hoped-for end product of their examination of the crime scene – but certainly not all putative crime scenes yield decisive evidence. To forensic scientists, forensic evidence is most often a single trace, and, because forensic scientists only see cases in which forensic evidence is expected to provide essential answers, they regard it as very important for criminal justice. To police investigators, forensic evidence is a tool to be used in (mainly) interrogations. And to prosecutors as well as judges, forensic evidence is but one piece, and not necessarily the most important piece, in a large puzzle. Their different perspectives may at times cause friction, but also that makes their cooperation much more interesting than CSI’s rather one-dimensional production of forensic evidence.

Another complexity in the criminal justice system has to do with uncertainty. What forensic science does on CSI is to produce absolute certainty – in other words to eliminate any and all uncertainty – just by virtue of it being “scientific.” This scientificness seems to mainly consist of the main characters’ assertion that they are scientists and that, in consequence, evidence speaks to them.

No doubt a great arrangement. But non-fictional forensic evidence does not speak, neither to “scientists” nor to anyone else, and absolute certainty is unattainable. Instead, the criminal justice system must deal with inescapable uncertainties: there is the uncertainty whether or not the site the crime scene technicians examine has been the scene of a crime – the presumed crime may have been committed elsewhere or not at all. In addition, at the time the crime scene is being examined, there often is quite a lot of uncertainty about which crime may have been committed and which kind of questions – and thus which kind of evidence – will become salient later in the investigation. Then, there is the uncertainty whether a match between, say, a fiber from the crime scene and one from the suspect’s shirt is due to coincidence or their presence at the scene. There is the uncertainty whether a witness (or plaintiff, or suspect) is telling the truth – and which truth, at that. Even when they’re truthful about what they have seen, they may still misremember, and everyone sees the world through their frame of reference. And finally, there is always the uncertainty whether more work might produce more evidence that might change the outcome of the case. Seeing my interlocutors deal with these uncertainties and still manage to achieve certainty beyond a reasonable doubt in many cases has been much more fascinating than watching CSI achieve absolute certainty.

Of course, it would be difficult to convey all of these complexities in a TV series. And in this case, at least I certainly prefer reality over fiction.

Corinna Kruse is a lecturer in the Department of Thematic Studies—Technology and Social Change at Linköping University.

Motherhood Today: Doing the Best They Can

Motherhood (mŭth′ər-ho͝od′). noun: the state or experience of having or raising a child.

Sounds straightforward. Yet motherhood today is anything but straightforward. Whether they are single mothers, working mothers, teenage mothers, or surrogate mothers, all mothers seem to share a common thread — the constant struggle to navigate economic pressures and societal expectations while maintaining their identity and simultaneously creating a secure life for their children.

In recognition of Mother’s Day — and in honor of mothers in all walks of life — below are some books that shed light on the varying states of motherhood today.


On Becoming a Teen Mom: Life Before Pregnancy by Mary Patrice Erdmans and Timothy Black

Ironically, and sadly, when teen mothers are defined “as a problem, rather than a people with problems,” policies tend to focus on changing behaviors rather than addressing needs. Offering a fresh perspective on the links between teen births and social inequalities, this book demonstrates how the intersecting hierarchies of gender, race, and class shape the biographies of young mothers.

Hear from the authors about their experience interviewing teenage mothers.



Birthing a Mother: The Surrogate Body and the Pregnant Self by Elly Teman

In this beautifully written and insightful book, Elly Teman shows how surrogates and intended mothers carefully negotiate their cooperative endeavor. Teman traces the processes by which surrogates relinquish any maternal claim to the baby even as intended mothers accomplish a complicated transition to motherhood. Teman’s groundbreaking analysis reveals that as surrogates psychologically and emotionally disengage from the fetus they carry, they develop a profound and lasting bond with the intended mother.




The Fourth Trimester:Understanding, Protecting, and Nurturing an Infant through the First Three Months by Susan Brink

What every new mother needs! A comprehensive, intimate, and much-needed “operation manual” for newborns. Combining the latest scientific findings with real-life stories and experiences, Susan Brink offers well-informed, practical information and the reasons behind her advice so that parents and caretakers can make their own decisions about how to care of a newborn during this crucial period.




Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood before Marriage, With a New Preface by Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas

Why do so many poor American youth continue to have children before they can afford to take care of them? Authors Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas offer an intimate look at what marriage and motherhood mean to low income, single mothers and provides the most extensive on-the-ground study to date of why they put children before marriage despite the daunting challenges they know lie ahead.



Villalobos.MotherloadMotherload: Making It All Better in Insecure Times by Ana Villalobos

Inadvertently, mothers overwhelmingly expect the mothering relationship to “make it all better” for themselves and their children. But often their attempts to create security through mothering backfire, exhausting them and deflecting their focus from other possible sources of security and thereby creating more stress. Pointing to hopeful alternatives, Villalobos shows how more realistic expectations about motherhood lead to greater security in families and, ultimately, bring greater joy to mothering.

Read Ana Villalobos’ thoughts on how social inequality means insecurity for all.



Shadow Mothers: Nannies, Au Pairs, and the Micropolitics of Mothering by Cameron Lynne Macdonald

This book shines new light on an aspect of contemporary motherhood often hidden from view: the need for paid childcare by women returning to the workforce, and the complex bonds mothers forge with the “shadow mothers” they hire. Macdonald illuminates both sides of an unequal and complicated relationship and argues that these conflicts arise from unrealistic ideals about mothering, inflexible career paths and work schedules, and the devaluation of paid care work.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!

Without teachers and educators, where would the world be?

University of California Press is honored to collaborate with university professors who serve as authors of outstanding scholarship. The work of addressing society’s core challenges can be accelerated when scholarship assumes its role as an agent of engagement and democracy.

To that end we take a moment to celebrate our authors’ and professors’ contributions to our society. The following are just some titles that share how teachers make a difference in our world, everyday.  

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! #TeacherAppreciationDay


Grit and Hope: A Year with Five Latino Students and the Program That Helped Them Aim for College by Barbara Davenport

Grit and Hope tells the story of five inner-city Hispanic students who start their college applications in the midst of the country’s worst recession and of Reality Changers, the program that aims to help them become the first in their families to go college. This year they must keep up their grades in AP courses, write compelling essays for their applications, and find scholarships to fund their dreams. The book also follows Christopher Yanov, the program’s youthful, charismatic founder in a year that’s as critical for Reality Changers’ future as it is for the seniors. Told with deep affection yet without sentimentality, Grit and Hope shows that although poverty and cultural deprivation seriously complicate youths’ efforts to launch into young adulthood, the support of a strong program makes a critical difference.

Hicks.RoadOutThe Road Out: A Teacher’s Odyssey in Poor America by Deborah Hicks

Can one teacher truly make a difference in her students’ lives when everything is working against them? Can a love for literature and learning save the most vulnerable of youth from a life of poverty? The Road Out is a gripping account of one teacher’s journey of hope and discovery with her students—girls growing up poor in a neighborhood that was once home to white Appalachian workers, and is now a ghetto. Deborah Hicks, set out to give one group of girls something she never had: a first-rate education, and a chance to live their dreams. The author’s own life story—from a poorly educated girl in a small mountain town to a Harvard-educated writer, teacher, and social advocate—infuses this chronicle with a message of hope.



School’s Out: Gay and Lesbian Teachers in the Classroom by Catherine Connell

How do gay and lesbian teachers negotiate their professional and sexual identities at work, given that these identities are constructed as mutually exclusive, even as mutually opposed? Using interviews and other ethnographic materials from Texas and California, School’s Out explores how teachers struggle to create a classroom persona that balances who they are and what’s expected of them in a climate of pervasive homophobia. Catherine Connell’s examination of the tension between the rhetoric of gay pride and the professional ethic of discretion insightfully connects and considers complicating factors, from local law and politics to gender privilege. She also describes how racialized discourses of homophobia thwart challenges to sexual injustices in schools. Written with ethnographic verve, School’s Out is essential reading for specialists and students of queer studies, gender studies, and educational politics.


The Separation Solution? Single-Sex Education and the New Politics of Gender Equality by Juliet A. Williams

Since the 1990s, there has been a resurgence of interest in single-sex education across the United States, and many public schools have created all-boys and all-girls classes for students in grades K through 12. The Separation Solution? provides an in-depth analysis of controversies sparked by recent efforts to separate boys and girls at school. Reviewing evidence from research studies, court cases, and hundreds of news media reports on local single-sex initiatives, Juliet Williams offers fresh insight into popular conceptions of the nature and significance of gender differences in education and beyond.




The Real School Safety Problem: The Long-Term Consequences of Harsh School Punishment by Aaron Kupchik

Schools across the U.S. look very different today than they did a generation ago. Police officers, drug-sniffing dogs, surveillance cameras, and high suspension rates have become commonplace. The Real School Safety Problem uncovers the unintended but far-reaching effects of harsh school discipline climates. Evidence shows that current school security practices may do more harm than good by broadly affecting the entire family, encouraging less civic participation in adulthood, and garnering future financial costs in the form of high rates of arrests, incarceration, and unemployment. This text presents a blueprint for reform that emphasizes problem-solving and accountability while encouraging the need to implement smarter school policies.

Beyond Mass Incarceration: The Cognitive Legacy of the Clinton Era

By Michela Soyer, author of A Dream Denied: Incarceration, Recidivism, and Young Minority Men in America 

SoyerheadshotWhen Bill Clinton signed the federal “Three Strikes Bill” in 1994, most of the teenagers I interviewed between 2010 and 2013 were barely a year old. Some of my interviewees were not even been born yet. For several of those young men, the upcoming presidential election will be the first one in which they are able to cast their vote. One of their likely choices will be the woman whose husband’s political choices in the mid-1990s have wrecked havoc in their communities. Twenty years later, Hillary Clinton works hard to put a distance between herself and her husband’s legacy; on her campaign website, she calls for an end of mass incarceration and criminal justice reform.

For the teenagers whose lives I describe in A Dream Denied, Clinton’s promise to undo some of her husband’s damage comes too late. Five of the young men I portray in my book won’t be allowed to vote in the upcoming election; they are either serving time in a state prison or are on parole for a felony. The others may have escaped the tragic cycle of incarceration and recidivism, but their formative teenagers years were nevertheless stunted. Their life trajectories have been shaped by a juvenile justice system unable to fill the void Clinton’s welfare reform has created. Their middle class counterparts may face anxieties about their lack of self-fulfillment and financial insecurities. The young men in my study learned early on that their basic freedom is nothing they should take for granted.

In June 2013, I conducted my final interview for the book. The young man I spoke with had just suffered through a string of family tragedies. His cousin and his aunt had been killed. “Why does this s*** keep happening to me and my family?” he asked. I didn’t know how to respond, and I still believe that there was nothing I could have said to ease his pain. His experience of incarceration, recidivism, fosSoyer.ADreamDeniedter care and death are deeply personal. On the other hand, the seeds for his troubled teenage years were laid around the time of his birth, when the Clinton administration ended “welfare as we know it.”

These young men grew up with the double disadvantage of a defunct welfare system and a racially biased highly punitive criminal justice system. Astonishingly, these young men still believed in a bright future. If Hillary Clinton were to meet with them, they probably would not confront her like a protestor did recently in South Carolina. Most of the young minority men whose lives I describe blamed themselves. They pointed to their lack of self-control, their laziness, or inability to listen to the adults in their lives. In that sense, they are true children of the Clinton years. They did not expect the government to help their families. Some even believe their punishment was justified. Worse than the time many young men have lost in the juvenile or criminal justice system, however, is that they were never able to develop any concept that they deserve better. This cognitive burden may be the most tragic legacy of the Clinton years, and it will shape the life trajectories of the young men in my study well beyond the presidential election this fall.

Michaela Soyer is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Hunter College.

Save 40% with UC Press during the 2016 Academy of Criminal Justice Annual Meeting

The 2016 ACJS Annual Meeting meeting convenes March 29 – April 2 in Denver, CO.

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 16, 2016.

Additionally, be sure to take a look at these great guest posts from our Criminology authors:

The Crime Risk Kaleidoscope

By Joel M. Caplan and Leslie W. Kennedy, authors of Risk Terrain Modeling 

This blog post is reposted courtesy of the authors and in conjunction with the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference and American Association of Geographers conferenceTo learn more, about Risk Terrain Modeling, please visit

In our various collaborations with researchers and practitioners throughout the world, we learned … realized… from multi-city projects that the spatial dynamics of crime are not the same in different settings, even for similar crime types. Standard patterns of crime cannot be expected across study settings.

Think about this through the analogy of a kaleidoscope. The kaleidoscope itself represents the particular environment, or study setting, that we are interested in examining (see Figure). The pieces of the kaleidoscope (i.e. the glass and the cylinder) are similar from one time to another. The mechanisms for bringing the pieces together in certain patterns (e.g. gravity, the roundness of the cylinder) operate constantly, and the characteristics of the pieces (color, value) are the same from one turn to another. The patterns that are formed, however, change with different combinations of the pieces. So, it is with crime locations that the shards of glass represent features of that environment, such as bars, fast food restaurants, grocery stores, etc. that could attract illegal behavior and create spatial vulnerabilities. Moving from study setting to study setting represents a turn of the kaleidoscope whereby the pieces come together in different ways, creating unique spatial and situational contexts that have implications for behavior at those places.

FigureCaplan.RiskTerrainModeling.Figure: The crime risk kaleidoscope illustrates how unique settings for illegal behavior form within and/or across jurisdictions as pieces come together in different ways, creating unique spatial and situational contexts for crime, as depicted by the triangular or hexagonal outlines in the figure.






When we diagnose the underlying characteristics of “hot spot” areas across jurisdictions, we realize that the characteristics of places where these crime incidents are occurring in each city are very different. As evidenced by this study, detailed in the forthcoming book, Risk Terrain Modeling: Crime Prediction and Risk Reductioneven though crime problems can cluster within cities, the ways in which features of a landscape come together to create unique behavior settings for crime is not necessarily generalizable across cities.
Caplan.RiskTerrainModelingMindful of the kaleidoscope metaphor, it is not safe to assume that a “standard” response to crime problems will provide similar returns across all environments. This is true for areas within jurisdictions and also across jurisdictions. So one crime problem, such as robberies, will not necessarily respond to a “1-size-fits-all” intervention strategy (even if the strategy worked elsewhere). Behavior settings differ, so interventions need to be tailored accordingly. Risk terrain modeling facilitates this custom analysis of crime problems at various geographic extents.

Joel M. Caplan is Associate Professor at Rutgers University, School of Criminal Justice

Leslie W. Kennedy is University Professor of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University, where he served as Dean from 1998-2007.

How Foundations Avoid Tackling Inequality

By Erica Kohl-Arenas, author of The Self-Help Myth: How Philanthropy Fails to Alleviate Poverty

This guest post is published in conjunction with the American Association of Geographers conference and in advance of Cesar Chavez Day

Kohl-ArenasWhile conducting research for my book, The Self-Help Myth, a California foundation program officer told me, “Foundations are bizarre beasts. They are created to solve societal problems by using inordinate amounts of wealth—wealth that is inherently contradictory because it was gleaned out of the inequalities that it proposes to address.”

Recent debates across the Twittersphere reveal how this grand paradox of philanthropy is unfolding today. The Gates, Walton, and Broad foundations claim to address inequality in educational achievement but advance competitive approaches that build market opportunities for private educational service providers while failing to improve outcomes for poor students. In settings such as New Orleans, disaster recovery aid has displaced low-income residents through partnerships between nonprofits, foundations, and private developers. The same story is playing out in the fields of global health, agriculture, and technology.

Without the explicit profit generating schemes evident in our current ‘philanthrocapitalist’ moment, major foundation initiatives of the twentieth century similarly avoided confronting entrenched systems of power and production by favoring individualistic and behavioral approaches to addressing poverty and inequality.

In my research I found that the Rosenberg, Field and Ford Foundations were interested in addressing farmworker and migrant poverty by supporting the historic California Farmworker Movement. Movement leader Cesar Chavez believed that addressing the inequities faced by farmworkers required collective ownership by farm laborers, strikes, boycotts, union organizing, and popular protest. Through highly charged debates that are documented in archived correspondence, program officers from these foundations tried to convince Chavez that grants to the movement could not include union organizing or confrontation with the agricultural industry. For example, in 1967, Leslie Dunbar of the Field Foundation changed his tune about funding the movement when he found out that it was affiliated with the AFL-CIO, America’s largest labor union federation.

Chavez pleaded to Dunbar that social, economic, and civil rights must be addressed together in a broader movement to achieve dignity, justice, and equality for farmworkers:

“Dear Mr. Dunbar… Your letter implies that our organization does not come within the area of your interests, which are civil rights, human relations, and child welfare. Somehow we are not able to draw the same conclusion . . . Our approach has been to offer a broad program of services, which build a base of membership cooperation from which to launch out in the direction of strikes for union recognition . . . In every action we take, we face tremendous opposition . . . Consistently our pickets have been arrested as a means of harassment. Our civil rights are disregarded daily.”

Yet the Field Foundation refused to fund any work in the ‘economic sphere.’ Eventually, Chavez incorporated nonprofit organizations (which he initially nicknamed “the Hustling Arm of the Union”) in order to channel funds to its service work. He ultimately retreated to these organizations, and moved away from organizing field workers, when the movement met major challenges.

Kohl-Arenas_NSGiven this history, what can be expected from foundations that intend to address inequality today, especially if they want to transform the systems and structures that produce it in the first place? To join the conversation, follow Erica Kohl-Arenas, author of The Self-Help Myth on twitter @EricaKohl

Erica Kohl-Arenas is Assistant Professor at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at The New School in New York.

On Religion and Bad Debate

This presidential election season seems to have raised the question around debate—good and bad—to a new level.

Given the role of religion so far, the below excerpt from Seeking Good Debate: Religion, Science, and Conflict in American Public Life by Michael S. Evans, is both timely and instructive.

Seeking Good Debate

Throughout this book I emphasize that representatives exercise constitutive power simply by virtue of being visible in public debate. This cartographic power, as I refer to it, sets the boundaries of what a debate, or debates, involve. When it comes to religion in public debate, representatives of the Religious Right are the only religion representatives who explicitly pursue credibility in the public sphere. The manner of this pursuit violates deliberative expectations that ordinary Americans have of the public sphere. In theory, this normative conflict should have consequences for how ordinary Americans understand religion in public life.

But does it really? In practice, does this normative conflict emerge in evaluations of religion in the public sphere? And if so, how does it matter? To answer these questions, I analyzed how interview respondents evaluated what “religion” and “religious” mean in the religion-and-science debates in this study. I did not simply ask, “What do you think of religion in these debates?” Instead, I examined how respondents invoked religion, discussed religion, identified who and what was religious, connected religion to other ideas and concepts, and resolved apparent conflicts involving religion in their responses. What counts as religion for respondents, and what religion in public life means to them, became apparent from their responses to a variety of questions and evaluations.

For the ordinary Americans I interviewed, religion in the public sphere, no matter what the source, was commonly seen as a marker of bad debate across a variety of evaluative dimensions. Respondents understood religion in public life to violate deliberative preferences in two ways. First, prominent individual representatives from the Religious Right, whether religious figures or politicians, were recognized and evaluated negatively as public crusaders whose efforts work against good deliberative debate. Similarly, respondents were more likely to use religious identification for politicians of whom they disapproved either wholly or partly, even though most American politicians identify as religious. In contrast, ordinary persons suggested as ideal representatives persons seen as open-minded and willing to engage in considered, deliberative debate, such as respected local ministers, friends, or neighbors.

Second, and more broadly, the Religious Right’s association with distinctively religious language prompted negative evaluation of any religion talk as contrary to good debate. Because of the Religious Right’s success in “owning the space” of public religion, respondents expected that religion talk, whatever the source, indicated opposition to deliberative debate. When respondents evaluated typical statements and résumés stripped of identifying information, they identified religious language of any kind, even when uttered by moderate or liberal religious figures, as inhibiting rather than contributing to good debate. This normative conflict held across respondents despite substantive agreement or disagreement with the particular claims that representatives made in these debates.

In two separate ways, the normative conflict between the Religious Right’s pursuit of religious credibility and the preferences of ordinary persons for good debate ends up defining religion in public life as contrary to good debate. On one path, individual representatives are evaluated as “public crusaders” more interested in advancing a moral agenda than participating in deliberative debate. On the other path, ordinary persons evaluate public religious language and reasons as contrary to norms of deliberative debate. The result is that in public religion-and-science debates, no matter which path is followed to the conclusion, “religion” means “bad debate.”

Read more from the author in a recent article, ‘The Hidden Religion and Science Debate’ on the Huffington Post blog, sample another excerpt on The Page 99 Test, or follow him on Twitter and join the debate.

What Citizenship Means to Mexican American Women in Los Angeles

Immigration has been a key issue in the 2016 presidential elections. In Making Los Angeles Home: The Integration of Mexican Immigrants in the United States  authors Rafael Alarcon, Luis Escala, and Olga Odgers shed light on the different facets (economic, social, cultural, political) of an immigrant’s integration process.


Our Zacatecan interviewees who arrived in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s were mostly undocumented. Although they entered a solid regional economy supported by a manufacturing base that offered plentiful permanent, well-paid, unionized jobs, the interviewees’ first jobs tended to be in worse-paid occupations with poor working conditions. …

Among women finding jobs in canneries processing fruits and other foodstuffs, Marcia worked in a fish-canning plant for more than three decades. But it was not easy for her to get this job in 1966: ‘I went every day with my husband, at four in the morning, to a room where everyone who wanted to work had to sit and wait . . . until we got work, and then we stayed put where we got it . . . we spent thirty-six years working there. My husband died and I kept on working to keep going. . . . When I left, in 2001, I was making $6.75 an hour. We never got ahead in there.’ 

Marcia is a US citizen, never was undocumented, and is now collecting retirement income.

As the Zacatecan interviewees began to acquire work experience, learn English, make employer contacts, and regularize their immigration status, it was found that those who became naturalized citizens or legal permanent residents were achieving relative occupational mobility at a higher percentage.

Among the business owners, Rafaela stands out. She arrived in Los Angeles in 1988, is a naturalized citizen, and is married with children born in the United States. In Zacatecas she was a cosmetologist and, although she didn’t want to keep working in this field, she needed to do so and later became the owner of a beauty salon: “I never really liked cosmetology. I did it because my mother told me I had to learn a trade. In Los Angeles, I wanted to work as something else, but talking with other women in laundromats and with my neighbors, they told me they were making $3.75 an hour. I said, I’m not working for $3.75, no way . . . some of them worked in restaurants, others in factories, one woman packed candles, another one sewed in a clothing factory where they paid her five cents per piece . . . my husband made $3.75 an hour too, which was the minimum wage in those days.

Rafaela tells how she found her first job: “I saw a beauty parlor with a sign that said ‘se habla español,’ so I went in and told the owner—a Salvadoran, twenty-one years old—I was a cosmetologist in Mexico and I wanted to work. ‘I’ve got five years’ experience,’ I said.” During the interview the owner asked Rafaela to cut the hair of three young men from Jalisco, and her work was good enough to get her hired right away. “That was Thursday, and by Sunday I had $70 in tips and $430 in pay because I got 60 percent of what I took in.” In 2008, twenty years after her arrival in Los Angeles, she owned a salon and had four employees.

Learn more about how other Mexican American immigrant women have made Los Angeles their home in Making Los Angeles Home: The Integration of Mexican Immigrants in the United States available now.

From the Blog Archives: Hard to Get and the Hardships of Hookup Culture

At UC Press, we believe that scholarship plays an important role in understanding our world. It’s important to us to continue to drive progressive change today as a part of the University’s progressive mission.

Following up last week’s International Women’s Day, we’d like to revisit a post from the blog’s archives that touches on an issue still relevant to today’s young women. Check out this podcast from Leslie Bell, author of Hard to Get.

While young women today benefit from unprecedented education and opportunity compared to previous generations, many have trouble navigating personal and sexual relationships, Leslie C. Bell argues in her new book, Hard to Get: Twenty-Something Women and the Paradox of Sexual Freedom. Drawing from her years of experience as a researcher and a psychotherapist, Bell takes us directly into the lives of young women who struggle to negotiate the complexities of sexual desire and pleasure, and to make sense of their historically unique but contradictory constellation of opportunities and challenges.

In the latest episode of the UC Press Podcast, Bell discusses the legacy of the sexual revolution and the need for honest conversation between women in their twenties and their predecessors. In a wide-ranging discussion, she addresses methodological issues like the representation of queer women in her study, the benefits of a small sample size, and what sets her findings apart from those discovered in a survey.

Listen now:

For more, read Salon’s interview with Bell, “Finally! A nuanced look at hookup culture,” and Bell’s op-ed in Psychology Today, “What Lena Dunham’s Girls Know, And Dora the Explorer Doesn’t.”