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Interviews with Scholars of America about their New Books
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New Books in American Studies New Books Network

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.2 • 21 Ratings

Interviews with Scholars of America about their New Books
Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/american-studies

    Elizabeth Anker, "Ugly Freedoms" (Duke UP, 2022)

    Elizabeth Anker, "Ugly Freedoms" (Duke UP, 2022)

    With me on today’s show is Professor Elizabeth Anker, whose most recent book, Ugly Freedoms (Duke UP, 2022), works to understand how the idea of freedom, seemingly so fundamental to our understanding of the American experience, is often the very concept that allows for the brutal deprivation of the freedom of others. As she writes, “ugly freedom entails a dynamic in which practices of freedom produce harm, brutality, and subjugation as freedom.” Today we will be discussing Professor Anker’s theory of ugly freedom in the context of our unending crisis of gun violence in the United States. This show’s topic feels as essential as any that I have offered thus far. I hope you will find something hopeful in our conversation.
    Chris Holmes is Chair of Literatures in English and Associate Professor at Ithaca College. He writes criticism on contemporary global literatures. His book, Kazuo Ishiguro as World Literature, is under contract with Bloomsbury Publishing. He is the co-director of The New Voices Festival, a celebration of work in poetry, prose, and playwriting by up-and-coming young writers.
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    • 53 min
    Teresa Palomo Acosta, "Tejanaland: A Writing Life in Four Acts" (Texas A&M UP, 2021)

    Teresa Palomo Acosta, "Tejanaland: A Writing Life in Four Acts" (Texas A&M UP, 2021)

    Tejanaland: A Writing Life in Four Acts (Texas A&M UP, 2021) by Teresa Palomo Acosta--poet, historian, author, and activist--spans three decades of her writing, from 1988 through 2018. The collection is divided into four parts: poems, essays, a children's story, and plays. Each work addresses cultural, historical, political, and gender realities that she experienced from her childhood to the present.
    The plays, set in the Central Texas Blackland Prairies where Acosta was raised, provide a unique Latina vision of memory, identity, and experience and are a vital contribution to Chicana feminist thought. The essays focus on Acosta's literary heroes Jovita González de Mireles, Sara Estela Ramírez, and Elena Zamora O'Shea, important writers who contributed significantly to Tejana literature and to Texas letters. The children's story, "Colchas, Colchitas," is based on Acosta's most notable poem, "My Mother Pieced Quilts," which pays homage to her mother and the many women of her generation who employed needles and thread, creating both practical and symbolic artifacts.
    This collection is a creative and, indeed, essential expansion of boundaries for what we think of as history, offering a unique and compelling look into the lived experiences and interior contemplations of a Texas artist well worth knowing. Readers will increase their understanding of Tejana experience in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Tejanaland promises to become an important addition to the cultural record, informing historical perspectives on the experiences of Tejana women and contributing significantly to the existing body of work from Tejana writers.
    Tiffany González is an Assistant Professor of History at James Madison University. She is a historian of Chicana/Latinx history, American politics, and social movements.
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    • 30 min
    Joni Schwartz and John R. Chaney, "Gifts from the Dark: Learning from the Incarceration Experience" (Lexington Books, 2022)

    Joni Schwartz and John R. Chaney, "Gifts from the Dark: Learning from the Incarceration Experience" (Lexington Books, 2022)

    While in no way supporting the systemic injustices and disparities of mass incarceration, in Gifts from the Dark: Learning from the Incarceration Experience (Lexington Books, 2021), Joni Schwartz and John Chaney argue that we have much to learn from those who have been and are in prison. Schwartz and Chaney profile the contributions of literary giants, social activists, entrepreneurs, and other talented individuals who, despite the disorienting dilemma of incarceration, are models of adult transformative learning that positively impact the world. In focusing upon how men and women have chosen the worst moments of their lives as a baseline not to define, but to refine themselves, Gifts from the Dark promises to alter the limited mindset of incarceration as a solely one-dimensional, deficit event.
    Joni Schwartz is professor of humanities at the City University of New York – LaGuardia Community College and adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice Graduate Studies Program.
    John Chaney is assistant professor and director of Criminal Justice programs for City University of New York -- LaGuardia Community College.
    Schneur Zalman Newfield is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, and the author of Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (Temple University Press, 2020). Visit him online at ZalmanNewfield.com.
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    • 57 min
    Emily Mendenhall, "Unmasked: Covid, Community, and the Case of Okoboji" (Vanderbilt UP, 2022)

    Emily Mendenhall, "Unmasked: Covid, Community, and the Case of Okoboji" (Vanderbilt UP, 2022)

    Unmasked: Covid, Community, and the Case of Okoboji (Vanderbilt UP, 2022) is the story of what happened in Okoboji, a small Iowan tourist town, when a collective turn from the coronavirus to the economy occurred in the COVID summer of 2020. State political failures, local negotiations among political and public health leaders, and community (dis)belief about the virus resulted in Okoboji being declared a hotspot just before the Independence Day weekend, when an influx of half a million people visit the town.
    The story is both personal and political. Author Emily Mendenhall, an anthropologist at Georgetown University, is a native of Okoboji, and her family still lives there. As the events unfolded, Mendenhall was in Okoboji, where she spoke formally with over 100 people and observed a community that rejected government guidance and public health knowledge, revealing deep-seated mistrust in outsiders and strong commitments to local thinking. Unmasked is a fascinating and heartbreaking account of where people put their trust, and how isolationist popular beliefs can be in America's small communities.
    Sharonee Dasgupta is currently a graduate student in the department of anthropology at UMass Amherst.
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    • 33 min
    Susan Hartman, "City of Refugees: The Story of Three Newcomers Who Breathed Life into a Dying American Town" (Beacon Press, 2022)

    Susan Hartman, "City of Refugees: The Story of Three Newcomers Who Breathed Life into a Dying American Town" (Beacon Press, 2022)

    City of Refugees: The Story of Three Newcomers Who Breathed Life into a Dying American Town (Beacon Press, 2022) paints an intimate portrait of the newcomers revitalizing a fading industrial town – illuminating the larger canvas of refugee life in 21st century America. For many Americans, ‘refugee’ still conjures up the image of a threatening outsider: a stranger who will steal jobs, or a family who will be a drain on the economy. Yet, most people know little about how refugees have actually fared in America: the lives they have built over generations and the cities they have transformed. In New York state, the old manufacturing town of Utica could have disappeared altogether if it wasn’t for the growing population of refugees who revved the economic engine – starting small businesses, renovating houses, and adding a fresh vitality to the community through cultural diversity. For eight years, journalist Susan Hartman followed three newcomers as they put down roots in a new city: Sadia, a bright, rebellious Somali Bantu girl battling her formidable mother; Ali, an Iraqi translator, still suffering trauma from the ongoing war in his homeland; and Mersiha, an ebullient Bosnian, who dreams of opening a café. They’re also the entry point to those leading the city: the mayor, teachers, doctors, and firefighters, who have adapted to the refugees that have made the city their home. Hartman explores the ways these refugees have stitched together their American and traditional identities, the dreams they have for their new lives in Utica, and the pain some still carry from their pasts.
    Stephen Pimpare is director of the Public Service & Nonprofit Leadership program and Faculty Fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire.
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    • 31 min
    Dayna Bowen Matthew, "Just Health: Treating Structural Racism to Heal America" (NYU Press, 2022)

    Dayna Bowen Matthew, "Just Health: Treating Structural Racism to Heal America" (NYU Press, 2022)

    In the United States, systemic racism is embedded in policies and practices, thereby structuring American society to perpetuate inequality and all of the symptoms and results of that inequality. Racial, social, and class inequities and the public health crises in the United States are deeply intertwined, their roots and manifestations continually pressuring each other. This has been both illuminated and exacerbated since 2020, with the Movement for Black Lives (BLM) and the disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on historically disadvantaged groups within the U.S. Dr. Dayna Bowen Matthew, Dean of the George Washington University Law School, explores and unpacks the public health crisis that is racism in her new book Just Health: Treating Structural Racism to Heal America (NYU Press, 2022). She describes how structural inequality undermines the interests of a thriving nation and the steps we can take to undo the pervasive nature of inequality to create more equitable and just systems.
    Dr. Bowen Matthew describes her personal relationship with the concepts of structural inequality and racism in the public health system, opening with a heart-wrenching ode to her father’s experience with poverty and prejudice, which ultimately led to his premature death. Through her family’s story, she explains how structural inequality is perpetuated on a large-enough scale and with a powerful-enough scope so as to virtually guarantee social outcomes that reflect predetermined hierarchies based on race and/or class, hierarchies that remain consistent across generations. These disproportionate outcomes are often dismissed as due to comorbidities without the attention paid to social factors are the primary cause of comorbidities, because oppression in its many forms blocks equitable access to the social determinants of health. These social determinants include, but are not limited to, clean and safe housing, adequate education, nutritious food and fresh water, access to recreational spaces, and mental health services. Individuals who lack these, through no fault of their own, are then obligated to accept disproportionate care, illness, and disturbingly shorter life spans then are the norm for many Americans and are much closer to life spans in impoverished countries. Dr. Bowen Matthew presents evidence of discrimination in housing, education, employment, and the criminal justice system, detailing how law has played a central role in erecting disproportionate access to the social determinants of health, and therefore is a requisite tool for dismantling it. She provides a clear path to undoing structural racism and providing an equitable society to all, encouraging health providers, law makers, and citizens all to fight to dismantle the hurdles that many patients face because of the zip code in which they live.
    Emma R. Handschke assisted in the production of this podcast.
    Lilly J. Goren is a professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012), as well as co-editor of Mad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015). Email her comments at lgoren@carrollu.edu or tweet to @gorenlj.
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    • 47 min

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