30 Fantastic Books for the Mother in Your Life — from the Art Lover to the News Junkie

We’ve compiled a list of recommended reads for the mother figure in your life — whether her interests lie in cultural artifacts or the 24-hour news cycle, Hollywood backlot backstories or intriguing historical tales. This list could be for any reader in your life — and that’s fine, too! — but when we typically think of a mother, these words come to mind: creator (and creative), teacher, protector. We think this reading list embodies those traits. Enjoy!

For the Art Lover

Summer of Love: Art, Fashion, and Rock and Roll edited by Jill D’Alessandro and Colleen Terry, with essays by Victoria Binder, Dennis McNally, and Joel Selvin

Slow Art: The Experience of Looking, Sacred Images to James Turrell by Arden Reed

Of Dogs and Other People: The Art of Roy De Forest by Susan Landauer

Ed Ruscha and the Great American West edited by Karin Breuer, with contributions from D.J. Waldie and Ed Ruscha

For the Cinephile

Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles by Jon Lewis

Lois Weber in Early Hollywood by Shelley Stamp

Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and Interviews, Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Alfred Hitchcock, edited by Sidney Gottlieb

Hellboy’s World: Comics and Monsters on the Margins by Scott Bukatman

For the Music Aficionado

Listening for the Secret: The Grateful Dead and the Politics of Improvisation
by Ulf Olsson, edited by Nicholas Meriwether

Loft Jazz: Improvising New York in the 1970s by Michael C. Heller

Better Git It in Your Soul: An Interpretive Biography of Charles Mingus by Krin Gabbard

Ronnie Gilbert: A Radical Life in Song by Ronnie Gilbert

For the Literary Bookworm

Thoreau and the Language of Trees by Richard Higgins, with a foreword by Robert D. Richardson 

Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro 

Autobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete and Authoritative Edition Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 by Mark Twain

A Poet’s Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov by Donna Hollenberg

For the Wine Connoisseur

French Wine: A History by Rod Phillips

I Taste Red: The Science of Tasting Wine by Jamie Goode

Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine by Bill Nesto and Frances Di Savino

Riesling Rediscovered: Bold, Bright, and Dry by John Winthrop Haeger

For the History Buff

A Half Century of Occupation: Israel, Palestine, and the World’s Most Intractable Conflict by Gershon Shafir

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Pursuit of War Criminals from Nuremberg to the War on Terror by Eric Stover, Victor Peskin, and Alexa Koenig

The Scholar Denied: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology by Aldon Morris

Black Elephants in the Room: The Unexpected Politics of African American Republicans  by Corey D. Fields

How Would You Rule: Legal Puzzles, Brainteasers, and Dilemmas from the Law’s Strangest Cases by Daniel W. Park

For the News Junkie

Borderwall as Architecture: A Manifesto for the U.S.-Mexico Boundary by Ronald Rael

The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security before and after 9/11 by Sylvester A. Johnson and Steven Weitzman

Exceptional America: What Divides Americans from the World and from Each Other by Mugambi Jouet

Reproductive Justice: An Introduction by Loretta Ross and Rickie Solinger

In the Fields of the North / En los campos del norte by David Bacon


The Dark Side of Technology and Separation/Divorce Violence Against Women: Image-Based Sexual Abuse

By Walter S. DeKeseredy, co-author of Abusive Endings: Separation and Divorce Violence against Women

Ample scientific evidence supports the claim that technology is routinely used to commit a variety of crimes, such as the distribution of child pornography. Yet, until recently the bulk of the research on the “dark side” of new technologies either ignored or overlooked the fact that the Internet is now a tool used by many men to seriously harm the women who leave them or who want to leave them.

This is one of the key reasons why Molly Dragiewicz, Martin D. Schwartz and I wrote Abusive Endings. Image-based sexual abuse is one of a number of new electronic means of inflicting pain that we devote considerable attention to. Often referred to as revenge porn, there is a huge worldwide audience for such imagery. Regardless of which term or definition one prefers, the pictures and videos are typically made by men with the consent of the women they were intimately involved with, but then distributed online without their consent following women’s termination of a relationship.

Few studies to date have actually measured the extent of image-based sexual abuse, but some researchers estimate that there are now more than 3,000 online sites and the bulk of perpetrators who post on them are male ex-husbands, ex-boyfriends, and ex-lovers.

The harm-done by image-based sexual abuse is often irreparable as demonstrated by Holly Jacobs’ experiences. She is the founder of the advocacy group End Revenge Porn and her boyfriend hacked into her Facebook profile and posted sexually explicit images for relatives and friends to see prior to disseminating more material through revenge porn sites and e-mailing material to her employers. Revenge porn sites were then used by groups of men to harass and abuse her. Consequently, she had to legally change her name, stop going to academic conferences, change jobs and her phone number, and endure other major traumatic hardships.

This electronic type of separation/divorce violence will likely get worse. There is no particular reason to believe that men are reducing their use of sexist, racist, homophobic comments, or verbal attacks. Certainly, this is nothing new. For years, men have being making these remarks in public places. The difference is that today that the same comments, together with hurtful sexual imagery, can gain a wider audience than a few men who happen to be present. Thousands of people can view pictures that were posted without men’s ex-partners’ consent and they will stay on the Internet forever. With the constant stream of new technologies, it is easy for gender-related offenses inflicted by some new invention to take place.

There is, however, some good news. At the time of writing this blog, 36 states have revenge porn laws. Of those that do not, many respond to image-based sexual abuse through other criminal statutes such as laws forbidding harassment, extortion, and stalking. The creation of laws targeting image-based sexual abuse may serve as a powerful deterrent and thus reduce much pain and suffering.


Walter S. DeKeseredy is Anna Deane Carlson Endowed Chair of Social Sciences, Director of the Research Center on Violence, and Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at West Virginia University. In addition to being the co-author of Abusive Endings with Molly Dragiewicz and Martin D. Schwartz, he is also co-author of Dangerous Exits: Escaping Abusive Relationships in Rural America with Martin D. Schwartz. Walter has received major awards from divisions of the American Society of Criminology for his work on violence against women.


The Complicated History of Crime and the Truth in Mexico

This guest post is published in conjunction with the meeting of the Latin American Studies Association taking place April 29-May 1 in Lima, Peru. #LASA17

by Pablo Piccato, author of A History of Infamy: Crime, Truth, and Justice in Mexico

Projects like the one resulting in my latest book have a life of their own. At first my goal was to take to the present the social history approach to the history of crime in Mexico City I used in City of Suspects (2001), and to engage more explicitly with the growing social science scholarship on security and drug trafficking in Mexico. But as I started the research, and the situation in Mexico deteriorated, the project changed, forcing me to ask new questions. For example, I compiled the statistics of indicted and sentenced in the entire country during the twentieth century only to find that violent crime had steadily decreased until the last years of the century. How to reconcile that with the increasing centrality of the themes of crime and justice in Mexican life? More important, perhaps, was my own disappointment with the emerging scholarship mentioned above. Political scientists, sociologists and legal scholars embraced a state-centered perspective that focused on security and policy models to solve the problem of crime. Yet much of this scholarship did not challenge some of the basic assumptions of the state discourse about crime: criminals were a well-defined group of people, policing and punishment were the only mechanisms to control them, civil society had no role in dealing with transgression, drug trafficking was the cause of everything bad that was happening in the country. A lot was happening indeed: criminal organizations were diversifying their activities and engaging in human trafficking, extortion and other predatory activities along with the production, smuggling and sale of illicit drugs. Mexican governments were increasingly relying on a militarized approach to the so-called “war on drugs.” Policies and aggressive enforcement nevertheless failed to stem the flow of drugs and reduce corruption and impunity. The arrests or killing of the higher ups of some organizations only created internecine fighting among them, and more violence across the national territory. By the beginning of this decade the toll had reached more than a hundred thousand deaths and a large number of disappeared.

Facing the overwhelming scale of the problem, it became clear to me that a mere historical narrative of the transformation of crime during the century would not be so useful. In 2010 I had published another monograph, Tyranny of Opinion, focusing on the history of the public sphere in the nineteenth century. That project’s focus on the public sphere helped me refine my approach to twentieth-century crime: questioning the way in which multiple actors discussed the problem of violence and the shortcomings of justice revealed the basic assumptions that informed contemporary understandings of crime. Thus, for example, examining the debates about famous cases in front of the jury, in the press, and in detective fiction explained the central role that murderers acquired in Mexican visions of crime during the century. Murderers became fascinating and complex characters whose first-person accounts, usually in the form of confessions, revealed the truth in a way that judicial institutions failed to achieve. Listening to people’s skeptical views about the police and judicial system since the 1930s gave me the key to understand the centrality of the problem of truth in contemporary Mexico. The majority of the homicides that are committed these days will never be investigated because the state gives priority to the disruption of criminal organizations over the loss of life that the war on drug entails. As a result, Mexican civil society, particularly the relatives of victims, no longer trust official accounts, and fight for their right to know the truth. Reading old crime news and detective novels allowed me to see the relevance and deep roots of Mexican citizens’ claims for the truth.

A History of Infamy also addressed another legacy of the middle decades of the twentieth century: Mexico’s reputation as a place of arbitrary violence and complete impunity. Today, this infamy is expressed through images and narratives of powerful narcos, and has been exploited by Donald Trump as a way to justify anti-immigrant measures. Murderers became celebrities decades ago, but it is only in recent years, and as a result of the scale of the violence of organized crime, that the entire country came to be identified with the threat of violence. As is the case with Mexican civil society, U.S. public opinion needs to go beyond the acceptance of these problems and demand the truth. Trying to understand this present, the book became an exploration of the difficult relationship between violence and the truth.


Pablo Piccato teaches Latin American history at Columbia University. He studied at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and the University of Texas at Austin. His books include City of Suspects: Crime in Mexico City, 1900–1931 and The Tyranny of Opinion: Honor and the Construction of the Mexican Public Sphere.


Ephemeral Histories

This guest post is published in conjunction with the meeting of the Latin American Studies Association taking place April 29-May 1 in Lima, Peru. #LASA17

by Camilo Trumper, author of Ephemeral Histories: Public Art, Politics, and the Struggle for the Streets in Chile

Chile’s Museum of Memory and Human Rights marked 2017’s World Book Day by circulating a photograph of uniformed cadets burning books and magazines on city streets in 1973, a jarring image mobilized in hopes that “Never Again” would Chileans censor the written word as they had after the bloody coup that toppled Salvador Allende’s democratically elected socialist government. Photographer Kena Lorenzini’s collection of images, published as Marcas Crónicas: Rayados y panfletos de los 80, reveals a different practice of writing and erasure in Santiago, Chile’s capital city. Hers are austere records of the breathtaking range of rayados scrawled in public and semi-public spaces in the almost two decades of military rule: complicated debates taking place on, and taking advantage of the fleeting privacy afforded by, the locked doors of bathroom stalls; party slogans furtively etched on the back of bus seats; and banners unfurled by students, artists and activists to protest the dictatorship’s terror. These photographs map a hidden landscape of political writing hiding in plain sight.

The political activists who created this political landscape drew on a long history of urban contest that reached its apex under Allende. My book, Ephemeral Histories: Public Art, Politics, and the Struggle for the Street in Chile, studies how women and workers, students and artists claimed public spaces as their own, turning to murals, posters, and graffiti as a means of shaping city streets, squares and walls into vibrant arenas of political exchange in democracy. Creative forms of public art and writing were quickly targeted by the nascent military regime, which looked to “cleanse” the landscape of any trace of activism, and forced residents to whitewash walls at gunpoint, to burn and bury posters alongside books and magazines. But santiaguinos responded creatively to censure. Lorenzini’s most compelling images focus on the ordinary inscriptions that citizens carved onto city walls as everyday acts of urban transgression that sustained resistance to military rule. In one particularly poignant series, her lens follows a web of text as it snakes along city walls, arching across buildings and around corners. Erasure leads only to further expression. Just as quickly as phrases condemning dictatorship are scratched out, new, vibrant responses appear, crying out over the thin cover of whitewash. Her photographs suggests that santiaguinos turned again to clandestine public writing in dictatorship, perfecting techniques originally learned in democracy to re-build spaces of vibrant political debate. These ephemeral acts of public writing help build a public sphere of political debate rooted in public space, and an ephemeral practice of political citizenship played out in the very streets and walls quieted by state violence and attempted censorship.

This year’s LASA congress theme, “Dialogues of Knowledge,” suggests that we must open ourselves to consider creative forms of knowledge generated at the boundaries between disciplines, experiences, and spaces. Lorenzini’s photographs offer an excellent example of this form of critical interdisciplinary thinking. They reveal the strategies and tactics of urban conflict, and public writing in particular, to be creative responses to dictatorial rule, an “other” form of knowledge Chilean citizens living under dictatorship developed to navigate public and private spaces, sustain political dialogue, and limit the authority and legitimacy of military authority. In so doing, they transformed the city it into a vital political arena and themselves into active political citizens in the face of state-sponsored violence and terror.


Camilo D. Trumper is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Latin American History at the University at Buffalo, SUNY.


Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene Call for Papers: Earth & Environmental Science

We invite you to submit your next paper to the Earth & Environmental Science domain of Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, a trans-disciplinary, open-access journal whose mission is Open Science for the Public Good.

Elementa publishes original research with the ultimate objective of accelerating scientific solutions to the challenges presented by this era of human impact. Structured into six distinct knowledge domains, the Earth & Environmental Science domain encompasses research on processes impacted by humans that occur on the land surface, in groundwater, and in rivers, lakes and coastal areas. This includes, but is not limited to, the traditional sub-disciplines of surficial geology, geomorphology, physical geography, hydrology, glaciology, geochemistry, biogeochemistry, geomicrobiology, limnology, soil science, remote sensing, climate science, and contaminant fate and transport. Studies published in Elementa should relate to processes that have occurred during the Anthropocene epoch (i.e., since the onset of the industrial revolution ~250 years ago) or earlier if they are significantly affected by human activities.

For the full Aims & Scope of the Earth & Environmental Science domain, please click here.

In addition to innovative features including a value-sharing business model and an article-promotion partnership with Kudos, Elementa articles are highly used and downloaded (see highlighted articles below). For the full Elementa story, visit our website at elementascience.org.

For Elementa news and updates, be sure to follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

There has never been a more important time to ensure that transparent, evidence-based, peer-reviewed research has the widest and most impactful dissemination as possible. Please consider submitting your Earth & Environmental Science papers to Elementa or developing a Special Feature or Forum, and feel free to get in touch with Oliver A. Chadwick, University of California, Santa Barbara, Editor in Chief for Earth & Environmental Science, should you have any questions.


Special Features currently open for submissions
Deltas in the Anthropocene

High-impact Earth & Environmental Science content from Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene

(All metrics from May 2, 2017)

Dating the Anthropocene: Towards an empirical global history of human transformation of the terrestrial biosphere
Ellis EC, Fuller DQ, Kaplan JO, Lutters WG
Total usage: 31,617 views/downloads and 7 citations since original publication on December 04, 2013

Seasonally varying contributions to urban CO2 in the Chicago, Illinois, USA region: Insights from a high-resolution CO2 concentration and δ13C record
Moore J, Jacobson AD
Total usage: 19,240 views/downloads and 2 citations since original publication on June 05, 2015

Sources and sinks of carbon in boreal ecosystems of interior Alaska: A review
Douglas TA, Jones MC, Hiemstra CA, Arnold JR
Total usage: 19,097 views/downloads and 1 citation Since original publication on November 07, 2014

Earthcasting the future Critical Zone
Goddéris Y, Brantley SL
Total usage: 18,259 views/downloads and 2 citations since original publication on December 04, 2013

Major impact of climate change on deep-sea benthic ecosystems
Sweetman, Andrew K., et al.
Total usage: 2,554 views/downloads since original publication on February 23, 2017


America’s Past Through the Lens of Asian and Pacific Islander History

This month is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. A broad term, Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. As author of American History Unbound Gary Y. Okihiro points out in the following excerpt from his introduction to the book, the term itself is elastic, and when first used, referred principally to Chinese and Japanese.

He also writes that the standard narrative of Asian American history begins with Asians immigrating to California in search of new opportunities. Indeed, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is observed in May to commemorate the first Japanese immigrants who arrived in the U.S. on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad—the majority of workers being Chinese immigrants—on May 10, 1869.

In American History Unbound, Okihiro offers a rewrite of that standard narrative:

The term Asian American was invented in the late 1960s, for the purposes of political solidarity and mobilization. Asians living in America determined that a shared history of Orientalism and oppression united them and that by organizing as a group named by Europeans, they could counter white supremacy more effectively. Following the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, the literary critic Gayatri Spivak has named that argument strategic essentialism, or a temporary strategy pursued in a war of positions. Readers should think of categories such as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as temporary contrivances in the struggle against oppression—as contextual, relational, and impermanent.

Asian American is an elastic term. When first used, it referred principally, if not exclusively, to Chinese and Japanese. Some of the founding figures in the emerging field of Asian American studies insisted that it applied only to those born in the United States and not to the migrant generation born in Asia. Gradually, through the initiatives of the neglected ethnicities, it grew to embrace Koreans, Filipinos, and other Southeast Asians, along with South Asians and, most recently, West Asians, such as those from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey…

…The standard narrative of Asian American history begins with Asians, mainly Chinese, immigrating to California to escape poverty and political repression and in search of new opportunities, not unlike Europeans in the transatlantic circuit of uprooting and transplantation. Writing against this version of Asian American history, I maintain that Asians did not go to America; Americans went to Asia. I thus situate this telling within the expansion of European imperialism. The presence of Asians in America and Pacific Islanders within the U.S. orbit is a consequence of that expansion. Further, Pacific Islanders and Asians did not migrate for the same reasons as many Europeans, who were pushed by necessity and pulled by opportunities. Rather, Europe and the United States recruited Pacific Islanders and Asians as migrant laborers in the global traffic of goods and labor. Pacific Islanders, additionally, lost their lands, waters, and sovereignty to the imperial order….

…American History Unbound emerges from but also rewrites the standard narratives of nation. Through their struggles for sovereignty and the full rights of citizenship and membership, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and indeed all peoples of color in the United States, despite their discursive and material “minority” status, have transformed, and revolutionized, the nation. In that sense, American history from the fringes of the national consciousness reveals and clarifies the nation’s past and promise of equality in their fullness and entirety.

A survey of U.S. history from its beginnings to the present, American History Unbound reveals our past through the lens of Asian American and Pacific Islander history. In so doing, it is a work of both history and anti-history, a narrative that fundamentally transforms and deepens our understanding of the United States.


Introducing American Studies Now, an E-book First Series

Much of the most exciting contemporary work in American Studies refuses the distinction between politics and culture — focusing on historical cultures of power and protest on the one hand, or the political importance of cultural practices, on the other. We are excited to announce American Studies Now: Critical Histories of the Present, a series publishing titles that cover these political and cultural intersections, exploring the ways the events of our past continue to shape our present.

An e-book first series, American Studies Now publishes short, timely books on significant political and cultural events while such teachable moments are at the center of public conversation.

We spoke with editors Lisa Duggan and Curtis Marez to discuss the goals of American Studies Now and how these books can be used in the classroom and beyond.


What inspired you to develop the American Studies Now series?

Lisa Duggan: We need new ways to publish and distribute the work of American Studies scholars. The monograph and the journal article have a crucial role in our field, but they aren’t serving us well in the undergraduate classroom. And they aren’t putting our work into circulation in the pressing, scary political present. This new series is one new way to address those needs — short, accessible e-books (also available in print) on Black Lives Matter, climate change, neoliberalism, BDS, the continuing urban crisis, indigenous politics, queer and trans issues, the crises in higher education and more. They are designed to provide timely, provocative analysis for teaching, for activism, and for engagement now.

The series is described as “critical histories of the present” — could you elaborate on what this means?

Curtis Marez: Given the constant rush and hum of information in our social media saturated worlds, it’s easy to get stuck in the here and now in ways that make it difficult to take a critical perspective on where we are and how we got there. So American Studies Now reflects not only the urgency of the questions raised by each volume in the series but also suggests what we mean by critical histories of the present — scholarship that helps readers think about contemporary problems in terms of their larger historical, social, and cultural significance.

Why the need to publish e-books before the print editions?

LD: E-books can come out quickly and circulate widely. We want to counter the long, slow publication process and relatively narrow circulation of most academic publishing with an option designed for speed and impact, on the timeclock of the political present. Offering broad context provided by deeply knowledgeable American Studies scholars, these e-books can contribute to classroom and public discussions on issues that matter now.

How will these books contribute to the field of American Studies?

CM: Each book brings American Studies concepts and methods to the analysis of vital contemporary social movements. Authors build on and rethink the field’s historical social movement focus by foregrounding a host of contemporary grassroots movements such as Black Lives Matter, student movements, and movements for sexual justice. At the same time, American Studies Now presents critical accounts of dominant social movements such as the movement to privatize higher education and to silence dissent; the law and order movement supporting the expansion of police power; climate justice; and the movement for free market fundamentalism that informs contemporary state policies.

Continue reading “Introducing American Studies Now, an E-book First Series”


For the Rights of Laborers Worldwide: Recommended May Day & International Workers’ Day Reading

Though many in the Northern Hemisphere are more familiar with the traditional celebrations of the springtime season, people around the world also gather today to recognize the working class. May Day, sharing a date with International Workers’ Day and chosen to commemorate the 1886 Chicago Haymarket affair, serves to commemorate the fight for representation and rights for laborers worldwide — as well as the continuing efforts and struggle of the labor movement, shown by organized demonstrators and marchers every May 1st.

We invite you to peruse our recommended reading list that appears below in honor of May Day and the international labor movement.

Precarious Creativity: Global Media, Local Labor and Voices of Labor: Creativity, Craft, and Conflict in Global Hollywood
Edited by Michael Curtin and Kevin Sanson

Free ebook versions of these titles are available through Luminos, University of California Press’s open access publishing program. Visit www.luminosoa.org to learn more.

Precarious Creativity examines the seismic changes confronting media workers in an age of globalization and corporate conglomeration. This pathbreaking anthology peeks behind the hype and supposed glamor of screen media industries to reveal the intensifying pressures and challenges confronting actors, editors, electricians, and others. With contributions from such leading scholars as John Caldwell, Vicki Mayer, Herman Gray, and Tejaswini Ganti, Precarious Creativity offers timely critiques of media globalization while also intervening in broader debates about labor, creativity, and precarity.

“Wide-ranging, diverse, and authoritative. . . this book succeeds in building a balanced and comprehensive portrayal of the reshaping of the contours of work and industry organization under the twin circumstances of digital disruption and a globalizing media system.” —Tom O’Regan, Professor of Media and Cultural Studies, The University of Queensland

Rather than offer publicity-friendly anecdotes by marquee celebrities, Voices of Labor presents off-screen observations about the everyday realities of Global Hollywood. Ranging across job categories—from showrunner to make-up artist to location manager—this collection features voices of labor from Los Angeles, Atlanta, Prague, and Vancouver. Together they show how seemingly abstract concepts like conglomeration, financialization, and globalization are crucial tools for understanding contemporary Hollywood and for reflecting more generally on changes and challenges in the screen media workplace and our culture at large.

“By listening carefully to their interlocutors, Michael Curtin and Kevin Sanson craft a powerful elegy for organized labor, demonstrating how critical theory is sung to the everyday rhythms of the workplace.” —Vicki Mayer, author of Almost Hollywood, Nearly New Orleans: The Lure of the Local Film Economy


Almost Hollywood, Nearly New Orleans: The Lure of the Local Film Economy

By Vicki Mayer

A free ebook version of this title is available through Luminos, University of California Press’s open access publishing program. 

Early in the twenty-first century, Louisiana, one of the poorest states in the United States, redirected millions in tax dollars from the public coffers in an effort to become the top location site globally for the production of Hollywood films and television series. Why would lawmakers support such a policy? Why would citizens accept the policy’s uncomfortable effects on their economy and culture? Almost Hollywood, Nearly New Orleans addresses these questions through a study of the local and everyday experiences of the film economy in New Orleans, Louisiana—a city that has twice pursued the goal of becoming a movie production capital. From the silent era to today’s Hollywood South, Vicki Mayer explains that the aura of a film economy is inseparable from a prevailing sense of home, even as it changes that place irrevocably.

“A visionary in the study of cultural labor, economy, and geography, Mayer is that rare writer who combines exquisite storytelling with rigorous scholarship. This is an essential contribution to film and media studies, and an urgent history lesson for policy makers.”—Melissa Gregg, author of Work’s Intimacy

The New Food Activism: Opposition, Cooperation, and Collective Action
Edited by Alison Alkon and Julie Guthman

The New Food Activism explores how food activism can be pushed toward deeper and more complex engagement with social, racial, and economic justice and toward advocating for broader and more transformational shifts in the food system. Topics examined include struggles against pesticides and GMOs, efforts to improve workers’ pay and conditions throughout the food system, and ways to push food activism beyond its typical reliance on individualism, consumerism, and private property. The authors challenge and advance existing discourse on consumer trends, food movements, and the intersection of food with racial and economic inequalities.

The New Food Activism is one of the most important books on food this century. It is required, inspiring, and challenging reading for every student of food, every ‘foodie,’ as well as every grower, worker, and eater in today’s food system. . . groundbreaking.” —Seth Holmes, author of Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States

Precarious Claims: The Promise and Failure of Workplace Protections in the United States
By Shannon Gleeson

A free ebook version of this title is available through Luminos, University of California Press’s open access publishing program.

Precarious Claims tells the human story behind the bureaucratic process of fighting for justice in the U.S. workplace. How and why do vulnerable workers in low-wage industries, despite enormous barriers, come forward to seek justice, and what happens once they do? Based on extensive fieldwork in Northern California, Gleeson investigates the array of gatekeepers with whom workers must negotiate in the labor standards enforcement bureaucracy and, ultimately, the limited reach of formal legal protections. The author also tracks how workplace injustices—and the arduous process of contesting them—carry long-term effects on their everyday lives. Workers sometimes win, but their chances are precarious at best.

“Exceptional . . . Gleeson masterfully demonstrates how institutional inequality weakens employment rights through workplace power imbalances, bureaucratic procedures for claiming rights, and broader shifts toward precarious work in the global economy. A must read.” —Catherine Albiston, Professor of Law and Sociology, University of California Berkeley

 
Invisible Labor: Hidden Work in the Contemporary World
Edited by Marion Crain, Winifred Poster, and Miriam Cherry

Across the world, workers labor without pay for the benefit of profitable businesses—and it’s legal. Labor trends like outsourcing and technology hide some workers, and branding and employer mandates erase others. Invisible workers who remain under-protected by wage laws include retail workers who function as walking billboards and take payment in clothing discounts or prestige; waitstaff at “breastaurants” who conform their bodies to a business model; and inventory stockers at grocery stores who go hungry to complete their shifts. Invisible Labor gathers essays by prominent sociologists and legal scholars to illuminate how and why such labor has been hidden from view.

“A terrific collection . . . Resonating with our everyday experiences of life, this is a lively and thought-provoking volume.” —Miriam Glucksmann, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Essex 

The Last Great Strike: Little Steel, the CIO, and the Struggle for Labor Rights in New Deal America
By Ahmed White

In May 1937, seventy thousand workers walked off their jobs at four large steel companies known collectively as “Little Steel.” At least sixteen died and hundreds more were injured before the strike ended in failure. The violence and brutality of the Little Steel Strike became legendary. In many ways it was the last great strike in modern America. Traditionally the Little Steel Strike has been understood as a modest setback for steel workers, one that actually confirmed the potency of New Deal reforms and did little to impede the progress of the labor movement. However, The Last Great Strike tells a different story about the conflict and its significance for unions and labor rights. More than any other strike, it laid bare the contradictions of the industrial labor movement, the resilience of corporate power, and the limits of New Deal liberalism at a crucial time in American history.

The Last Great Strike is a strong piece of scholarship, rich with archival discoveries. Compelling and accessible . . . an important contribution to our understanding of U.S. labor history, union organizing, and class conflict.”—Monthly Review

The Filth of Progress: Immigrants, Americans, and the Building of Canals and Railroads in the West
By Ryan Dearinger

In the summer of 1968 Peter Matthiessen met Cesar Chavez for the first time. They were the same age: forty-one. Matthiessen lived in New York City, while Chavez lived in the Central Valley farm town of Delano, where the grape strike was unfolding. This book is Matthiessen’s panoramic yet finely detailed account of the three years he spent working and traveling with Chavez, including to Sal Si Puedes, the San Jose barrio where Chavez began his organizing.

“The Filth of Progress persuasively outlines the dark underbelly of the much-celebrated ‘progress’ that transportation improvements . . . compact, vividly written.” —Thomas G. Andrews, Associate Professor of History at the University of Colorado and author of Killing for Coal: America’s Deadliest Labor War and Coyote Valley: Deep History in the High Rockies

Labor and the Locavore: The Making of a Comprehensive Food Ethic
by Margaret Gray

Labor and the Locavore focuses on one of the most vibrant local food economies in the country, the Hudson Valley that supplies New York restaurants and farmers markets. Based on more than a decade’s in-depth interviews with workers, farmers, and others, Gray’s examination clearly shows how the currency of agrarian values serves to mask the labor concerns of an already hidden workforce. She also explores the historical roots of farmworkers’ predicaments and examines the ethnic shift from Black to Latino workers. With an analysis that can be applied to local food concerns around the country, this book challenges the reader to consider how the mentality of the alternative food movements implies a comprehensive food ethic that addresses workers’ concerns.

Labor and the Locavore is a timely and important antidote to much of today’s popular food writing on eating local. . . Margaret Gray shows that labor abuses are not unique to industrial scale agriculture—or to California.” —Julie Guthman, author of Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism

Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California
by Julie Guthman

In this groundbreaking study of organic farming, Julie Guthman challenges accepted wisdom about organic food and agriculture in the Golden State. Many continue to believe that small-scale organic farming is the answer to our environmental and health problems, but Guthman refutes popular portrayals that pit “small organic” against “big organic” and offers an alternative analysis that underscores the limits of an organic label as a pathway to transforming agriculture.

“A meticulous academic study of the institutional dynamics of [California’s] organic agriculture.”—Steven Shapin, New Yorker

 

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States, With a Foreword by Philippe Bourgois
By Seth Holmes

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies provides an intimate examination of the everyday lives and suffering of Mexican migrants in our contemporary food system. An anthropologist and MD in the mold of Paul Farmer and Didier Fassin, Holmes shows how market forces, anti-immigrant sentiment, and racism undermine health and health care. Holmes’s material is visceral and powerful. He trekked with his companions illegally through the desert into Arizona and was jailed with them before they were deported. He lived with indigenous families in the mountains of Oaxaca and in farm labor camps in the U.S., planted and harvested corn, picked strawberries, and accompanied sick workers to clinics and hospitals. This “embodied anthropology” deepens our theoretical understanding of the ways in which social inequalities and suffering come to be perceived as normal and natural in society and in health care.

All of the book award money and royalties from the sales of this book have been donated to farm worker unions, farm worker organizations and farm worker projects in consultation with farm workers who appear in the book.

“By giving voice to silenced Mexican migrant laborers, Dr. Holmes exposes the links among suffering, the inequalities related to the structural violence of global trade which compel migration, and the symbolic violence of stereotypes and prejudices that normalize racism.” —Marilyn Gates New York Journal of Books


For more UC Press publishing relating to farmworkers, labor activism, and California history, click through to our recently posted Cesar Chavez Reading List.


The US Elephant in the Salvadoran Room

This guest post is published in conjunction with the meeting of the Latin American Studies Association taking place April 29-May 1 in Lima, Peru. #LASA17

by Matt Eisenbrandt, author of Assassination of a Saint: The Plot to Murder Oscar Romero and the Quest to Bring His Killers to Justice

As I’ve spoken to audiences about my new book, Assassination of a Saint, over the last few months, I’ve been interested to see that people are really knowledgeable about the geopolitical context in which the murder of El Salvador’s Oscar Romero occurred. People are very cognizant of the often detrimental role the US government has played in El Salvador. Many, however, incorrectly blame Ronald Reagan for Romero’s death.

In fact, Jimmy Carter was president at the time, and Reagan would not take office until the year after the 1980 assassination. Moreover, while we can be rightly critical of US policy that led to the development and flourishing of the death squads in El Salvador, I am not aware of any compelling evidence that US government officials had a direct hand in Romero’s murder.

The Carter administration had a complex and sometimes contradictory policy toward El Salvador. Carter famously emphasized human rights in his foreign policy, and his ambassador to El Salvador in March 1980, Robert White, believed that Romero was an indispensable figure for holding the country together and preventing a civil war. At the same time, Romero himself openly criticized Carter for considering aid to the Salvadoran military that was responsible for the repression the archbishop denounced in his Sunday homilies. In return, top US officials wanted the Vatican to tamp down Romero’s criticisms. The aid Romero decried was approved shortly after his death.

Even Reagan, with his catastrophic underwriting of the Salvadoran Armed Forces throughout the civil war and his administration’s attacks on those who reported the military’s role in massacres, had a hand in developments in the investigation of Romero’s assassination. Among other things, the US government financed a Salvadoran investigative unit that tracked down the getaway driver for the murder, leading to his secret testimony before a Salvadoran judge. The FBI supported the investigative unit, including on polygraphs like one given to the driver. The US government eventually put the driver in the witness protection program and arrested and sought to extradite one of Romero’s killers, Álvaro Saravia, to El Salvador.

As my book documents, there is plenty of criticism to go around. Even so, there are also many layers of complexity with regard to the US government and the Romero assassination.


Matt Eisenbrandt is a human-rights attorney who has devoted his career to finding legal means to prosecute war crimes. In the early 2000s, he served as the Center for Justice and Accountability’s Legal Director and a member of the trial team against one of Óscar Romero’s killers. He is an expert in the field of U.S. human-rights litigation and now works for the Canadian Centre for International Justice.


On Suicide, Death, and Unsettling Notions of Mexico

This guest post is published in conjunction with the meeting of the Latin American Studies Association taking place April 29-May 1 in Lima, Peru. #LASA17

by Kathryn A. Sloan, author of Death in the City: Suicide and the Social Imaginary in Modern Mexico

My son asked me why I study morbid topics like suicide and death. He went on to inquire if I was depressed. I paused a moment before responding, recalling that many of my history colleagues have teased me for being attracted to salacious and macabre themes in Mexican history. I always laugh and remark on the richness of criminal documents for intellectual inquiry, especially for those of us who searching for plebeian voices. The fact is that studying a society in time and place through the lens of perceived social problems like suicide or crime or disease bears considerable scholarly fruit. In my work I have found that when I dig down into the weeds of judicial documents replete with testimony and letters and the newspaper reporting on said crimes, notions of Mexico or Mexicanidad are unsettled.

Indeed Mexico has long been associated with the macabre in popular culture. Heart sacrifice, conquest, civil war, and social revolution have marked Mexican society. Today drug traffickers act with impunity and hang headless corpses from overpasses and kidnap people in broad daylight. On a lighter note, Mexicans celebrate Day of the Dead by festooning tombstones with marigolds, feasting on delicacies, and toasting their dearly departed at gravesites. Likewise tourists consume sugary skulls as they gaze upon the exotic spectacle. Mexico’s making, cured in this crucible of conquest, war, and death, has led some prominent intellectuals to suggest that death defines Mexico. In fact, the stereotype is that Mexicans (especially the Mexican man) mock and face down death with a devil-may-care nonchalance. Death is his ever-present and intimate friend. He is immune to suffering around him.

Intellectuals shaped mexicanidad in a post-revolutionary milieu and strived to define a singular essence that set Mexico apart from its European and Anglo peers. To them Mexicans were trapped in ‘labyrinths of solitude’ and ‘cages of melancholy.’ Examining how Mexicans confronted suicide in Mexico on the cusp of the twentieth century reveals that they did not accept death with a cavalier snicker, nor did they develop a unique death cult for that matter. Mexicans behaved just as their contemporaries did around the modern world. They devoted scientific inquiry to the malady and mourned the loss of each life to suicide. Front-page articles eulogized the women who jumped from the cathedral to their deaths on the paving stones below. Mexico’s Central Park—Chapultepec Park—became a common destination for lovelorn suicides. Medical students and their teachers peered into the craniums of suicide victims in hopes of finding physical markers that foretold a death wish. Crowds of city residents congregated around literal stains of blood to mourn the young man or woman who took their lives in public spaces. Uncovering the myriad ways that Mexicans defined and approached the phenomenon of suicide reveals that they approached death like any world citizens, with an immense sense of concern, humanity, and sensitivity.


Kathryn A. Sloan is Associate Dean of Fine Arts and Humanities in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas. She is the author of Runaway Daughters: Seduction, Elopement, and Honor in Nineteenth-Century Mexico and Women’s Roles in Latin America and the Caribbean.