Editor’s Spotlight: Naomi Schneider

Other than Maxwell Perkins or Jackie Kennedy Onassis, even dedicated readers and authors may have trouble identifying editors — and understanding exactly what they DO. This occasional feature examines how editors at UC Press bring you your favorite books.

Executive Editor Naomi Schneider
Executive Editor Naomi Schneider

What Does an Editor Do?

My primary responsibility is to acquire manuscripts, and to make sure that after I acquire them they’re brought to fruition and published. The process involves a lot of skill sets, including an assessment of what kinds of books and authors the Press can best publish successfully.

Though it’s a naive notion on the surface, books can change the world through the ways certain ideas are understood, socially involved scholars interact and speak about the large issues of the world, and data is interpreted for a broader audience. There’s an inchoate energy between the UC system—the best public university in the world, committed to educating students across class, race, and sexual identities—and the mission of UC Press. My goal—and it dovetails with the Press’s mission—is to publish books that have an impact on the larger issues of the day.
A Typical Day

I work very quickly. I’m not sure I’m a model for anyone else, but I’m very reactive: I like to get back to people expeditiously. The challenge—and it’s more difficult than it sounds—is to clear your desk so you can think about your program in a more creative way and do higher-level strategizing about what to acquire.
On Acquiring

Because I’ve been at this job for a while, people come to me all the time with their projects, but I also track down authors in various ways: through social networks, at conferences, from an article I might read in the New York Times, or through something I might see on Facebook. Often, you do have to be more assertive to acquire the books you find truly exciting and that have potential to really reach a broader audience.
Editing Itself

I do work closely with some authors in conceptualizing their books, in developing organizational frames, in helping them tease out their theses and the way they want to develop arguments. I don’t copyedit, I don’t have time for that, or even have time to do in-depth editorial work on all my manuscripts, just on books that might have an audience beyond specialists.
On Editing Two Nobel Prize Winners

I acquired Dora Bruder by Patrick Modiano fifteen years ago. This novella grapples with a host of issues—being Jewish in Nazi-occupied Paris, collaboration, memory, identity, and suffering—with a nuanced sensibility that really captures a noir-ish mood and dark historical moment. When the prize was announced in October we immediately sought out Modiano’s French publisher at the Frankfurt Book Fair and begged them to allow us to re-acquire  English language rights for North America. Quite expeditiously—because my colleagues in production, editing, design, and marketing made it happen!—we reprinted the book within a month, and we’ve already sold over 5,000 copies! It’s been so gratifying that a book and an author I believed in received this kind of recognition.

Jody Williams
Jody Williams

Jody Williams won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. I worked really closely on her memoir, My Name is Jody Williams, to ensure Jody melded her life story—she’s a very interesting woman with a blunt and straightforward approach—with her work on the ground. What I love about Jody—and what really reflects on UC Press’s mission and on my list—is that she believes every woman can be an activist, that she’s not extraordinary, not an anomaly, and that the work continues. After she won the prize, she formed the Nobel Women’s Initiative. The prize was a high point of her life, but after she won she formed the Nobel Women’s Initiative, and she continues day in and day out to be an activist.
On Having An Imprint

My imprint is an acknowledgment that I’ve developed a coherent list of books that have often received lots of attention, that I’ve brought in books that have sold really well, and that my list reflects the mission of UC Press. The books I put in the imprint reflect the kinds of work that UC Press is proud to publish: books that deal with inequality, human rights, and social justice in interesting and sometimes proactive ways. An imprint is an honor … and I feel very, very grateful.
An Author Who’s Been at the Center of My Work: Paul Farmer (and Protégés)

Paul Farmer
Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer is a doctor, anthropologist, and co-founder of Partners in Health. When Paul won the MacArthur “genius grant” he used the monies to build the only hospital on the central plateau of Haiti, where he’s worked for 30 years. He’s rebuilt, with Rwandan partners, the medical infrastructure of that country after the genocide. In a major new initiative, Partners in Health is now on the ground in Liberia and Sierra Leone confronting the Ebola crisis in an aggressive effort to end the epidemic. I’m his editor but I see my commitment to Paul’s work as an all-encompassing one: I support his on-going medical activism in the field and give money to Partners in Health.

Last year’s Reimagining Global Health—edited by Paul; Jim Kim, President of the World Bank (and cofounder of Partners in Health); Arthur Kleinman, who founded the field of medical anthropology; and Matt Basilico—offers a set of intellectual paradigms for providing people around the world with the same types of medical care that we who live in a very wealthy country would receive. The book is already part of a MOOC around the class that Paul, Jim, and Arthur lead at Harvard. Perhaps needless to say, Reimagining Global Health has been an astounding success, as all of Paul’s books are, and it’s a teaching tool for medical students, public health workers, and social scientists who aim to provide a “preferential option for the poor.”

I’ve just published Blind Spot, a book by one of Paul’s protégés, Salmaan Keshavjee, who is also a doctor/anthropologist who has worked on drug-resistant TB in central Asia, Siberia, and Lesotho. Blind Spot takes on how corporate philanthropy and foreign aid priorities have been developed, probing the disjuncture between foreign aid imperatives and the reality of how poor people are actually treated.

Seth Holmes
Seth Holmes

Seth Holmes (Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies) is also an MD/PhD who has written a powerful ethnography based on his journey with farm workers from Mexico to Washington state. Through his understanding as an MD and as a socially engaged anthropologist, he looks at the bodily suffering of the perhaps poorest-paid and most stigmatized workers in the US—and how violence is imposed on their bodies. This first book has sold over 10,000 copies in a year, and just won the most prestigious award from the American Anthropological Association.
“An Amazing Coterie of Feminist Authors”

I’ve only brought up men so far, but I’m really committed to working on gender and gender inequality, and have published an amazing coterie of feminist authors.

We just published Marianne Cooper‘s books Cut Adrift, that’s gotten a lot of recognition and attention; she’s a colleague of Sheryl Sandberg, who’s been very supportive of the book.

Cynthia Enloe
Cynthia Enloe

Marianne, an ethnographer and protégé of Arlie Hochschild, examines, through the experiences of families in Silicon Valley, how inequality during the economic recession we’ve just experienced plays itself out in families across the class spectrum.

Cynthia Enloe is an unconventional political scientist who provides accessible yet provocative ideas on how patriarchy and militarism have deeply embedded themselves in our institutions and in our personal lives. We’ve just published a second edition of Bananas, Beaches, and Bases. She’s a feminist icon and a very, very generous mentor to several generations of students and activists.

Arlie Russell Hochschild
Arlie Russell Hochschild

We’ve also just published a new edition of Arlie Russell Hochschild’s classic work about emotional labor entitled The Managed Heart as well as a book of her essays entitled So How’s The Family? Arlie’s probably the most important feminist sociologist in the post-war period who has altered our notions of work and family in radical ways.

I work with young scholars like C. J. Pascoe who wrote Dude, You’re A Fag—a book with a provocative title to say the least. Pascoe is conducting research on a new book about teenage love that will offer a radical portrait of young people that belies our notions of their jaded cynicism. Raising the Transgender Child: Being Male or Female in the Twenty First Century, by a young sociologist at Harvard, Tey Meadows, will chart one facet of our configuring of gender in the contemporary period. This is cutting-edge stuff because we’re just now seeing the first generation of openly transgender young people come of age.

TLS on the “Sad Tale” of Student Loan Debt

The Times Literary Supplement says Joel and Eric Best, the father-son team behind The Student Loan Mess: How Good Intentions Created a Trillion-Dollar Problem, have “produced what is probably the best and clearest book on the United States’ complex student debt problem.” Student debt, which now exceeds $1 trillion and is predicted to reach $2 trillion by 2020, threatens to become the sequel to the mortgage meltdown, the authors argue in their new book. The review (only available to TLS subscribers), describes the Bests’ project to reveal the severity of America’s student debt crisis and explain how we arrived here:

Expanded student loan programmes boosted the demand for college, which made college more expensive, which in turn increased the need for student loans. Along the way, the federal government was classifying student loans as an asset on its books and so it received few serious warning signals that a major problem was building up. State governments saw that the loans were maintaining the demand for college and so they cut back on direct aid to the institutions, which further hurt affordability.

TLS isn’t sanguine about where we go from here, but concludes that The Student Loan Mess is a must-read for understanding the scope of the problem. Ultimately, the author writes, there “will be a very painful restructuring for what has traditionally been one of America’s strongest sectors – maybe its strongest – by global standards. If this does end up being a century of American decline, the student debt debacle will have played a modest but not minor role.”

Sara Shostak Talks Environmental Health with Human Capital

Sara Shostak’s book, Exposed Science: Genes, the Environment, and the Politics of Population Health, recently received two huge honors from the American Sociological Association: the Eliot Freidson Outstanding Publication Award from the Medical Sociology Section and the Robert K. Merton Book Award from the section on Science, Knowledge, and Technology (SKAT). In this interview with Human Capital, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s blog, Shostak talks about what the awards mean for her, both personally and professionally. She also elaborates on the subject of her book, gene-environment interaction, and its ascendance within the field of environmental health science. The book’s central argument, Shostak explains, is that “scientists’ perceptions of and responses to the structural vulnerabilities of the field of environmental health science have both intended and unintended consequences for what we know about the somatic vulnerabilities of our bodies to environmental exposures.” 

Read the full interview at Human Capital.

Honoring 3 Award-Winning Titles on Agriculture, Labor and Justice from UC Press

UC Press is home to one of the oldest and most prestigious lists in Food Studies, an interdisciplinary field that brings together scholars from diverse backgrounds to examine the role and impact of food consumption and production. Many of our authors, like Marion Nestle and Janet Poppendieck, highlight and challenge the food industry’s negative impact on health and the environment.

Today, the conversation about what constitutes “just food” has moved beyond talking solely about eating organic and local. Building on Julie Guthman’s seminal work Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in Californiaa new generation of scholars is turning its attention to labor justice in the agricultural sector. Three new UC Press books from Sarah Besky, Margaret Gray, and Seth Holmes take on the issue of agricultural labor and all have received major society awards in recognition for their important work.

Sarah Besky’s The Darjeeling Distinction: Labor and Justice on Fair-Trade Tea Plantations in India is the first book to explore how fair trade operates on large plantations. The global demand for fair trade and organic tea is increasing, yet workers on plantations experience justice in uneven and contradictory ways. For her rigorous ethnography, Besky will be awarded the Society for Economic Anthropology Book Prize at the annual American Anthropological Association meeting.

Margaret Gray, author of Labor and the Locavore: Building a Comprehensive Food Ethic offers a revealing look at labor practices in Hudson Valley, New York. Despite Hudson Valley’s reputation as the bucolic landscape from which much of New York City’s local food is grown, it’s a region rife with labor conflict and abuse. The author challenges us to bring labor justice into the food justice movement. Labor and the Locavore won the annual Association for the Study of Food and Society 2014 Book Prize. It was also named co-winner of the Best Book Award from Labor Project from the American Political Science Association.

In his gripping book Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States, anthropologist Seth Holmes exposes the violence experienced by migrant laborers today. Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies was honored with the Association for Humanist Sociology Book Award, the New Millennium Book Award from the Society for Medical Anthropology, and the Anthropology of Work Book Award from the Society for the Anthropology of Work, among other awards.

Congratulations Sarah Besky, Margaret Gray, and Seth Holmes!


Judging a Book by Its Cover: Color Drenched Acts of Resistance

by Caitlin O’Hara

Can’t Catch a Break, publishing this month, is a brilliant book that teases out the nuanced relationship between gender, drugs, and jail in many women’s lives.

We asked coauthor Susan Starr Sered the story behind the cover image, which features an abstract image of bold colored stripes, dripping paint, and few hints as to how to contextualize what we’re seeing.

In an email, Susan describes her search in vain for appropriate images dealing with women and prison. The results depicted literal prison imagery that didn’t capture the range of experiences of the women her book profiles, or “disgustingly voyeuristic male-fantasy pornography.”

And then she came upon “this gorgeous image.” The piece is part of an installation by artist Markus Linnenbrink, at the JVA/Prison in Düsseldorf, in a 132 ft long underground tunnel that connects its security check to the visitors’ area. The artist explains that the JVA prison is considered “a model institution and has been designed to deal with security and humanity as best as possible, thus the desire for a unique approach [to its visitor entrance].” You can find more images and information about the project at this Colossal profile.

“It’s hard for me to describe why this image struck me so forcefully,” Sered writes. “Perhaps the vertical lines look like bars made out of women’s make-up and nail polish. The color dripping down from the horizontal stripes looks as if it’s weeping. The ambitious horizontal stripes decaying down into drips on the wall evoke, for me, the mess that’s come of the good intentions behind trying to cut down on crime, drug use and so on. And finally, people in prison spend so much time with nothing to do but stare at blank walls, so I love imagining those walls as color drenched acts of resistance.”

And with that, Sered cuts to the heart with precision, as she does so often throughout the book. Beyond interpretations of line, color, drip, and context, what captivates is the image’s undefinable power: inviting yet defiant; strong despite, and owing to, its imperfections. Just like the women this book profiles.



Caitlin O’Hara is a Senior Publicist for UC Press. 

Sheryl Sandberg and Marianne Cooper Discuss The Anxieties of Modern Families

Last week at San Francisco’s Castro Theater, the Commonwealth Club hosted a conversation with Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Lean In fame and Marianne Cooper, the lead researcher on Sandberg’s book and author of the new UC Press book Cut Adrift.

Cooper’s book explores what keeps Americans up at night. Through poignant case studies, she reveals what families are concerned about, how they manage their anxiety, whose job it is to worry, and how social class shapes all of these dynamics. Watch their conversation below:

How Insecure Is the American Family? Marianne Cooper talks with Bloomberg

Marianne Cooper, author of Cut Adrift: Families in Insecure Times recently discussed the financial security of American families on Bloomberg TV’s “Taking Stock” with Pimm Fox. Watch to find out how families are dealing with economic instability, and what the ripple effects are on the economy at large.

Cut Adrift makes an important and original contribution to the national conversation about inequality and risk in American society. Through poignant case studies, Cooper reveals what families are concerned about, how they manage their anxiety, whose job it is to worry, and how social class shapes all of these dynamics, including what is even worth worrying about in the first place.

Live from ASA

UC Press staff and editors are having a great time at the American Sociological Association (ASA)’s annual meeting, Hard Times: The Impact of Economic Inequality on Families and Individuals. Here are some of the authors who stopped by our booth to say hello:

Ana Villalobos with her new book, Motherload Making It All Better in Insecure Times
Ana Villalobos with her new book, Motherload
Making It All Better in Insecure Times
Yen Le Espiritu (R) with her new book, Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refugees, and her daughter Maya, who designed the cover
Yen Le Espiritu (R) with her new book, Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refugees, and her daughter Maya, who designed the cover
UC Press authors John Iceland (L) and Dalton Conley with Executive Editor Naomi Schneider
UC Press authors John Iceland (L) and Dalton Conley with Executive Editor Naomi Schneider
Sanyu A. Mojola with her new book, Love, Money, and HIV: Becoming a Modern African Woman in the Age of AIDS
Sanyu A. Mojola with her new book, Love, Money, and HIV: Becoming a Modern African Woman in the Age of AIDS


Anxious Times in an American Suburb

by Rachel Heiman

One afternoon, while working as an “ethnographic babysitter” during fieldwork on middle class anxieties amid the lead up to the economic crisis, I was driving 11-year old Doug to soccer practice and then to guitar lessons. At one point I asked him the usual “How was school today?” question. In an overwhelmed voice he vented, “It’s so annoying that we have to go to school and be so busy when we’re young. Then, we have to spend the rest of our life working all the time.” I wasn’t surprised to hear these words from Doug. His extracurricular schedule was intense, and many parents in his suburban New Jersey town commuted three hours round trip to work each day—common occurrences among the insecure and aspiring middle classes. What did amaze me was what he uttered next: he wished we had “a society like communism because they don’t have to work so much.”

I wasn’t sure where Doug got his understanding of communism, though this potential seed of radicalism was striking. That is, until a few months later when he walked in from school and asked me for stock tips. His dad had just opened an E*Trade account for him to learn how to invest; his first mission was to make enough to buy a car for himself when he turned 17. I curiously asked Doug what happened to his interest in communism. He didn’t remember having made the comment. In fact, he seemed shocked that he would have said it since he’d rather be busy than bored.

Amid research for my forthcoming book, Driving After Class: Anxious Times in an American Suburb, I found many such moments when class anxieties fueled entrepreneurial sentiments, practices, and purchases that replaced longings for a supportive state. In its place emerged temporary feelings of security that often ultimately made families (and their neighbors) less secure. This is, in a way, the neoliberal culmination of the ideological plan for postwar suburbs. As famed homebuilder William Levitt infamously remarked during the Cold War, “No man who owns his own house and lot can be a communist. He has too much to do.”


Rachel Heiman is Associate Professor of Anthropology at The New School and author of Driving After Class: Anxious Times in an American Suburb, which will release in January 2015 and is now available for pre-order.