Explore a year’s worth of award-winning thinking from UC Press authors. Click the image to enlarge:
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
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.
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.
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 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 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 (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.
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
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.
In this “Deep Mid-Winter Weekend Armchair” UC Press staff share what they’re reading … or skimming as the case may be. (Publicity Director Alex Dahne de-escalates any possible literary one-upmanship with a daring confession.)
I had never read David Foster Wallace before Infinite Jest, and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into as I browsed the packed shelves at Pegasus Books in Oakland. I don’t like to leave books unfinished, and its 1,079 pages were clearly a commitment—and, between work and family, one I wasn’t sure I should make. But once I started reading, I was hooked. No longer an obligation, it was an exploration of the odd and compelling lives of others. Simultaneously, funny, absurd, horrifying, challenging, and accessible, it’s a detailed account of the tragi-comedy of human existence.
I wasn’t much into Mark Twain’s fiction when I was forced to read it in high school. That changed a few years ago, however, when we published the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1. Between reading that book and frequent trips to the Mark Twain Papers at the Bancroft Library on the University of California, Berkeley campus—where we were shown Mark Twain’s original manuscripts, intimate pictures of his family, and family heirlooms—I found myself unable to get enough of Mark Twain.
That ended up being a good thing as the book became a New York Times Best Seller, and Mark Twain was back in the cultural zeitgeist (and certainly in our daily lives at UC Press!). He would have loved that.
What many people don’t know is that was the first of a three-volume set of his previously unpublished (in its totality) autobiography. As part of our run up to the publication of Volume 3, I’ve been reading the V3 manuscript. Even printed out double-sided, it is not a small stack of paper—and I’m thrilled that it’s a fascinating read full of scandal, morality tales, scathing wit, deep sadness, and love of family. It further lifts the veil of Samuel Clemens, the man. Once again, I’m in. (Note: Volume 3 is slated for a Fall 2015 publication.)
Director of Marketing
My favorite read of the last couple of years is John Williams’s Stoner (first published in the 1960s but enjoying renewed attention lately). It’s a beautifully written book whose stoic protagonist—William Stoner—leaves a farming life for literature, marries badly, loves well, and is thwarted by a colleague–enemy during his 40-year career at the University of Missouri. I loved this novel, though it’s wrenching at times because Stoner’s disappointments are so ordinary and familiar.
I’ve only been reading holiday catalogs and People magazine. Does that look bad?
Okay, okay, that part is totally and utterly true, but lest I be judged, buried under the towering pile of catalogs rests a dog-eared paperback copy of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, schlepped in my backpack on various flights and then shoved in the side pocket of our family minivan (subject to something sticky, I’m not asking), to be finished en route to my in-laws’ house over the holiday break. Now read, I’m thankful for the experience of it, mostly because Strayed makes writing seem easy when we know it’s not. Memoir is not my usual genre of choice—celebrity gossip is, naturally—but I’m glad I picked it up, and no, I have yet to see the movie (but likely will), and yes, this story of a woman’s independent journey on the Pacific Crest Trail confirmed to me that I must accept that I am not her therapeutic kin. I will continue to seek my epiphanies over brunch, and I would never sleep alone in the woods. Ever.
Also on the same nightstand, The Master, Colm Tóibín’s complex and sympathetic novel about Henry James, which I devoured, and a copy of Rohinton Mistry’s book Family Matters, because I loved one of his other books, A Fine Balance, and have been wanting to read more from this author.
And finally, a stack of books recently read to my kindergarten-aged twin sons while we were buried under the covers, prolonging the bedtime ritual: Lemony Snicket’s strange and wonderful 13 Words, Brian Floca’s Locomotive (one son’s train obsession sated), and the beautifully-illustrated A Sick Day for Amos McGee.
Oh, and some more magazines, contents of which I will exclude from this post. But let’s just say Girls has been renewed for a fifth season: yay!
Remember life before the web?
It’s now hard to imagine (or recollect, depending on your age) that a generation ago, in 1995, Sergey and Larry were just meeting at Stanford. (“Their mutual first reaction was that the other was pretty obnoxious.”)
Craigslist, Match.com, and Salon.com all began in 1995. Yahoo was incorporated in 1995. eBay was launched (as AuctionWeb) in 1995. Netscape IPO-ed spectacularly, and Jeff Bezos launched Amazon. In fact, during the course of 1995 the Internet and the World Wide Web—a word of the year according to the American Dialect Society—went from “near-invisibility to near-ubiquity” in the words of legendary Internet pioneer Vinton G. Cerf.
Other events that occurred in 1995?
The Oklahoma bombing, the O. J. Simpson trial, the Dayton Peace Accords, and the start of the Clinton–Lewinsky relationship—all of which had lasting effects and consequences for American culture. It is “a year that matters still,” according to W. Joseph Campbell, and 1995: The Year the Future Began shows why.
The author of five other nonfiction books (including Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism), Campbell is persuasive as to why 1995 represents a “clear starting point for contemporary life,” and elaborates his argument via a chapter on each event:
They were profound in their respective ways, and, taken together, they define a watershed year at the cusp of the millennium. Nineteen ninety-five in many ways effectively marked the close of one century, and the start of another.
At his blog devoted to the book and the year 1995, Campbell answers the question “why write a book about 1995?”
Campbell’s prose reflects his 20-year background in journalism; though meticulously researched, the book reads like a thriller. Given that Campbell is social-media savvy as well as a lively writer—as befits both his subject matter and his current ‘beat’ as a Professor in the School of Communication at American University—let’s let him do the talking: you can listen to his recent Newseum interview here.
Quick as he is to demur when queried about, say, Marc Andreesen’s re-tweeting him—“we’re not acquaintances or anything … but it makes a difference when he re-tweets, for sure”—Campbell comes prepared for most social media situations (as befits his coverage of the massively “up-and-to-the-right” rise of American Internet adoption).
The best way to experience 1995 is just to start reading. Remember the roots of the Internet as you relive 1995. Once you’re hooked, explore Campbell’s other books, blogs, and feeds.
You’ll be in august company: not long ago, Intel CEO Brian M. Krzanich—at the Consumer Electronics Show keynote in Las Vegas, no less—declared that “1995 was a watershed moment in consumer technology.” You can’t get much better confirmation than that!
(Yes, this hyper hyper-linking is an homage to what’s changed in just two decades … or, in ‘Internet time,’ approximately 1,000 years. And if you believe you’re as prescient as Vinton Cerf, please share your predictions for five events that 2035 will look back upon as watershed exemplars of the ‘mid-teens’ of the twenty-first century.)
|Getting it Wrong
Newsrooms have been meeting tech for a long, long time and typically have not dealt very well with it. One of the chapters in Getting It Wrong discusses the famous (or infamous) “War of the Worlds” radio dramatization of 1938, and how newspapers really took the occasion to beat up on radio as an immature and irresponsible medium. By doing so they helped perpetuate what was an exaggeration of the notion of nationwide panic and mass hysteria caused by that program. It did not happen. There may have been some frightened people that night, but nowhere near on a national scale, nowhere near mass panic or broad-based hysteria.
It’s a recurring theme in American journalism that established media treat upstart new media with suspicion and a fair amount of skepticism, if not overt hostility, and they often do so to their detriment. We see that same trend in 1995 with the rise of the Internet into mainstream consciousness. One of the top editors at the time said, “Well, thankfully, people getting their news from the Internet is a very small audience, and likely will remain as such for a long time.”
Campbell’s provocative Getting It Wrong won in 2010 the Society of Professional Journalists’ national award for “Research about Journalism.” He maintains the MediaMythAlert blog.
To acknowledge AHA’s theme this year of “History and the Other Disciplines” and to celebrate the publication of Teaching Big History, we offer this timeline.
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University of California Press is exhibiting at the 2015 Society for Classical Studies/Archaeological Institute of America Joint Annual Meeting. The meeting convenes January 8-11 in New Orleans.
Please visit us at booth 402 in the exhibit hall at the Sheraton New Orleans to purchase our latest Ancient World publications and take advantage of the following offers:
- 30% conference discount + free worldwide shipping
- Request exam copy requests for course adoption for your upcoming classes
- Win $250 worth of books! Sign up for our monthly eNews in the booth for a chance to win
While at our booth, explore our latest titles on ancient history, late antiquity, and classical literature in translation. We will also have issues of Classical Antiquity on hand and offer special subscription rates for attendees.
Please see our conference program ad for our latest releases. Acquisitions and marketing staff will be available for your publishing questions.
Hear from authors of recent and forthcoming Late Antiquity titles as they share the motivations and stories behind their research. We hope these personal glimpses into their scholarship will inspire a broad community of readers.
Follow @apaclassics for current meeting news.
Bring in the new year with University of California Press at the 2015 American Historical Association Annual Meeting. The meeting convenes January 2-5 in New York City.
Please visit us at booth 401 in the New York Hilton Grand Ballroom to purchase our latest American Studies publications and for the following offers:
- 30% conference discount and free worldwide shipping
- Submit exam copy requests for course adoption for your upcoming classes
- Win $100 worth of books! Join our eNews subscription
Our history list is comprised of a broad selection of titles ideal for research and course usage. While at our booth, explore topics such as United States history, Latin American history, and world history. We’ll also offer subscription rates for our history journals.
Please see our conference program ad for our latest offerings. Acquisitions and marketing staff will be available for your publishing questions.
Follow hashtag #AHA2015 and @ahahistorians for current meeting news.