Luso-Brazilian Review Is Now Free to Read on Project MUSE

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, volumes 41–56 (2004–present) of Luso-Brazilian Review are now freely available until May 31, 2020, on Project MUSE. In opening content, the journal joins a wider initiative led by Project MUSE to provide free access to many books and journals, in order to support scholars as they transition to remote teaching and learning. You can find a complete list of free resources on MUSE here.


Luso-Brazilian Review

Luso-Brazilian Review publishes interdisciplinary scholarship on Portuguese, Brazilian, and Lusophone African cultures, with special emphasis on scholarly works in literature, history, and the social sciences. Each issue of the Luso-Brazilian Review includes articles and book reviews, which may be written in either English or Portuguese.

A Cinema of Obsession

In honor of global celebrations for International Women’s Day, we share a guest post from Mariah Larsson. Her recent book, A Cinema of Obsession, is the first to focus on the life and career of notable Swedish director and auteur Mai Zetterling.

As representations of women in film have been heatedly debated, Mai Zetterling’s life and career provide important perspectives. When Zetterling’s first feature film, Loving Couples, premiered in 1964, she was one of very few women filmmakers in the world. After having worked as an actress for more than twenty years, she entered into the European art cinema scene and struggled to claim a space as an auteur, a film director who was also considered a great artist. During the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, she would break a long and winding path, beginning in the male-dominated art cinema institution, continuing into television and documentary, feminist film festivals and filmmaking, and commercial television as well as feature films, ending with ceaseless struggles to finance various projects during the final years of her life.

Provoking controversy and scandal on several occasions until her untimely death in 1994, Zetterling was prolific in her work on documentary, short film, feature fiction films, and television, while also writing novels and short stories. Politically, she claimed to belong within a leftist intellectual tradition, and she was for a while under investigation by the MI5 (the United Kingdom’s counterintelligence and security agency). Nevertheless, the ideology expressed in her films dealt with a deep romanticization of cultures on the margins of mainstream Western society. Her films are visually striking and their narratives often controversial, focusing on gender relations and alienation. Representations of sexuality and gender were both conservative and radical at the same time; paradoxical, often strongly symbolic.

Zetterling made many of her films in her native land of Sweden, though for the majority of her life she lived abroad. She is associated with the country of Ingmar Bergman and films with adult material. Her years as a film star in Sweden were brief, as she moved to England in 1947 shortly after a successful guest appearance playing the titular role in Basil Dearden’s Frieda (1947). In contrast to Ingmar Bergman, with whom Zetterling had worked (starring in Music in Darkness in 1948) and with whom she was often compared, there has been very little or even near to nothing written about her for an international audience.

One reason for Zetterling’s overlooked position in film history is that her work, to a large extent, seems to have fallen between the stools. It is no coincidence that the feature films she made within her native art cinema institution are the ones of her oeuvrebest recorded in film history: Loving Couples, Night Games (1966), The Girls (1968). Feature films were for a long time considered the highest form of moving image storytelling, and European art films were categorized in accordance to nationality. In addition, as the women’s movement in film began to highlight Zetterling’s work in the 1970s and 1980s, her films featuring female protagonists were the ones that were screened and remembered. However, Zetterling’s career was independent of national borders—as well as independent of genres and formats. She worked in Denmark, Greenland, the UK, France, and Canada. Her various productions focus alternately on male and female protagonists and Doctor Glas (1968), Vincent the Dutchman (1972), or her contribution to the 1972 Munich Olympics documentary, Visions of Eight (1973), are no less engaging than The Girls or Scrubbers (1983).

Zetterling navigated the changing industrial and contextual structures of the film and television industries during her career, sometimes successfully, at other times less so. Her path was, indeed, winding, but it mirrors the experiences of several other women directors, even today.

[Note: A collection of Mai Zetterling’s films with English subtitles is now available in a DVD box set: Mai Zetterling’s samlade verk, released by Swedish Studio S Entertainment (region 2).]

Mariah Larsson is a professor of film and literature at Linneaus University. She is the author of The Swedish Porn Scene: Exhibition Contexts, 8mm Pornography and the Sex Film, and the coeditor of Swedish Cinema and the Sexual Revolution: Critical Essays.

Advanced Placement Classes Improve Skills, Increase Anxiety, Study Finds

Each year, more high schools across the United States are integrating Advanced Placement (AP) classes into their course offerings, providing students with a cost-effective alternative to general college courses. AP scores are seen to indicate college readiness and a student’s ability to succeed in a specific subject. According to a study recently published ahead-of-print in the Journal of Human Resources, more than 70% of US high schools have adopted AP courses into their curriculum, some even requiring students to take them. In the first-ever experimental study of the AP program, authors Dylan Conger, Alec I. Kennedy, Mark C. Long, and Raymond McGhee Jr. found that the classes succeed in improving students’ skills but conversely may also lead to reduced confidence.

The study offered enrollment in AP biology or chemistry courses to randomly selected students from twenty-three US high schools. At the end of the semester, researchers measured AP- and non-AP students’ ability to analyze and develop arguments about science and participants were surveyed to assess their confidence in the subject, their interest in a future STEM degree, and their levels of stress. As many high schoolers could attest, students in AP science classes were found to have increased stress levels and lower grades due to pressure and rigor. Additionally, taking AP classes decreased students’ confidence that they could succeed in STEM courses in college. But despite the negative impacts, the study found that these classes do successfully increase students’ scientific skill levels and prepare them for college-level coursework, as well as increasing high schoolers’ interest in majoring in STEM in college.

Study author Dylan Conger discussed with us these surprising findings, as well as the origins of tracking AP performance effects. To learn more, read the full Journal of Human Resources preprint article, “The Effect of Advanced Placement Science on Students’ Skills, Confidence and Stress.”


How did you decide to pursue this topic?

My collaborator, Mark Long, and I had been studying advanced high school courses for a few years and we were struck by the lack of causal evidence in support of the AP program despite its near-ubiquitous presence in US schools. Determining how the AP program affects students is difficult because students self-select into the program and teachers often decide which students are allowed entry. We started to brainstorm about how we might successfully randomize access to AP courses. We landed on a research design that was ethical and that would minimize concerns among parents, students, and educators. We decided to focus on AP science courses in particular because these courses were being promoted by policymakers and educators as a key tool for improving the STEM workforce in the US.

Though AP courses are often seen as a tool for college preparedness, how would you explain the low confidence that AP science students have for achieving success college STEM courses?

We spent some time reading the literature from psychology and learned, perhaps somewhat intuitively, that reduced confidence doesn’t necessarily have a negative effect on student performance. In fact, some of the literature suggests that overconfidence can lead to academic failure. AP courses are very challenging and they cause some students to lower their estimation of their own ability. In our study, we found suggestive evidence that this loss of confidence did not interfere with their learning in the AP class itself.  We found that the AP students gained more knowledge in science than the students in other honors and regular courses. How that affects learning in college is an open question.

What is one takeaway from your article that you’d like to communicate to a non-specialist?

The schools that participated in our study tend to have above-average shares of low-income students. Many of the students in our study were eligible for subsidized school meals. For these types of schools and students, our findings suggest that the AP program has both benefits and costs. For instance, we find that students appear to have learned more about science in the AP course than they would have learned in other regular and honors courses. At the same time, the AP courses led to worse grades, losses in confidence, and higher levels of stress.

Why did it make sense to publish in the Journal of Human Resources?

As one of the leading journals focusing on policies that promote human capital, the JHR was a natural fit for our paper. The JHR has also been intentional about disseminating the research to a broad audience.  

What’s one question that emerged from your research that you’d like to follow up on, or that you hope someone else looks into in the future?

This paper focuses on the short-run impacts of the AP program on students’ cognitive and socioemotional outcomes. Ultimately, everyone wants to know how the AP program influences students’ college-going, and in particular, college-going at selective institutions. We are currently working on a follow-up paper that estimates the effect of AP science on these important life outcomes. We also plan to follow our cohorts for a few more years to determine whether and how the AP science program influences their college graduation.


Dylan Conger is a Professor of Public Policy at the George Washington University and a research affiliate at New York University’s Institute for Education and Social Policy. Conger’s research focuses on explaining disparities in achievement between social groups and evaluating policies aimed at reducing those disparities. 

Announcing the Results of the Wisconsin Poetry Prize Competition

Out of nearly 900 entrants, Diane Kerr and Carlos Andrés Gómez have been selected as recipients of the Brittingham and the Felix Pollak Prizes in Poetry by Natasha Tretheway, nineteenth U.S. Poet Laureate. Three runners-up have also been identified by Trethewey and selected by series editors Ron Wallace and Sean Bishop to have their collections published by the University of Wisconsin Press next spring: Carlina Duan, Anna Leigh Knowles, and Christopher Nelson.

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Diane Kerr (photo: Ruth Hendricks)

Diane Kerr mentors poets through the Madwomen in the Attic Creative Writing Program at Carlow University and is the author of the collection, Butterfly. Her work has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, Mississippi Review, and Pearl, among others. She holds an MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Kerr’s forthcoming Perigee follows a speaker’s emotional reckoning with a traumatic secret she felt pressured to keep during her girlhood. In varied lyric narratives, these poems reinforce that shock and suffering have no statute of limitations.

Carlos Andrés Gómez (photo: Friends & Lovers Photography)

Carlos Andrés Gómez is the author of the memoir Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood. His work has been featured in numerous publications, including New England Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and BuzzFeed Reader. A graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, Gómez is originally from New York City. Fractures, Gómez’s debut collection, is composed of poignant poems produced by a speaker at the breaking point, casting an uncompromised eye toward both brutality and tenderness. This collection navigates the realm of identity, interrogating race, gender, sexuality, fatherhood, and violence.

Carlina Duan

Carlina Duan teaches at the University of Michigan and authored the collection I Wore My Blackest Hair. She earned her MFA from Vanderbilt University. Jasmine An praises her forthcoming Alien Miss, “Duan wields her craft with keen intellect and infinite generosity in this ambitious collection that tenderly ushers into existence a glorious host of voices. Hailing the collective grit that undergirds racialized womanhood in America, her poetry becomes a radical invitation to celebrate clear-eyed and unflinching joy.”

Anna Leigh Knowles (photo: Michelle Elliott)

Conditions of the Wounded is Anna Leigh Knowles’s debut collection. Originally from Colorado, she teaches in Quito, Ecuador, and holds an MFA from Southern Illinois University–Carbondale. Judy Jordan says, “A poetry of narrative tension, lyrical beauty, and incredible, breath-stealing, imagination. These poems show place as a reliquary of trauma but they also show how joy and love can rise in even the most broken places. Grief struck and haunted, these are points of hope and light in a way only poems can be.”

Christopher Nelson

Christopher Nelson, founder and editor of Under a Warm Green Linden and Green Linden Press, will also have his collection, Blood Aria, published as part of the series. According to Boyer Rickel, “In meditations ranging from a child’s incomprehension of a father’s violence to the suffering of those cast out for their sexual desires to the horror of mass shootings, the poems of Blood Aria pulse with an urgency that is both anguished and exalted. And transformative. To experience poems as passionate, as charged with wisdom as these is to enter into a kind of spiritual quest.”

Submissions for the next competition will be accepted between July 15 and September 15, 2020.

UW Press Colophon

About the University of Wisconsin Press
The University of Wisconsin Press is a not-for-profit publisher of books and journals. With nearly 1,500 titles and over 8,000 peer-reviewed articles in print, its mission embodies the Wisconsin Idea by publishing work of distinction that serves the people of Wisconsin and the world.


For more information on the Wisconsin Poetry Prizes, please visit https://uwpress.wisc.edu/series/wi-poetry.html

“Part group memoir, part something more magical”: Intern Book Club (February)

This month we read The Toni Morrison Book Club, a group memoir by Juda Bennett, Winnifred Brown-Glaude, Cassandra Jackson, and Piper Kendrix-Williams. Our book club consists of Alexis Paperman, Publicity Assistant and grad student studying library information science; and Morgan Reardon, Marketing Assistant studying English literature and American Indian studies.

Morgan’s Thoughts

Before reading this book, I already knew it was special. The cover was the first thing I noticed, its brilliant colors and gorgeous silhouette catching my eye. It is certainly different than what we’ve read for this club before, part group memoir and part something more magical. As a reader and admirer of Toni Morrison, I was very excited to dive into this. At first, I was a bit concerned about how all four authors would have their voices heard in the book, but the way it was structured was actually very compelling, and each person’s voice shone throughout. Each author got their own section that started out with a secret, a small introduction to their chapter that often featured the group’s memories of the writing process, which was really interesting to see. Through these secrets and the following chapters, I felt like I really got to know these authors, like they were sitting right beside me and telling me their stories. These authors shared some of their darkest times with me, and some of their best. I felt like and still feel like I know them, and that if I met them, we could just pick up our conversation. These stories were full of vulnerability and love, and I could feel the heartbreak and hope as it was spread across the pages. The way the authors’ memories and the words of Toni Morrison were woven together will stay with me for a long time. I have already recommended this book to many of my close friends, and it will definitely be sitting on my shelf among my favorites.

Alexis’s Thoughts

I’ve been looking forward to this book for nearly a year. By the time the book was actually in my hands I began to question myself. Could a book really live up to a yearlong anticipation period? Surprisingly, to me, this book surpassed this year of build-up. It’s shocking that such a small book, 196 pages, can be doing so many things. This book acts as memoir, literary criticism, and a continuation of conversations both old and new. As I read each of the authors’ sections, I felt as if I were beginning to make new friends. The secrets that are shared, the memories and emotions, allow you to begin to know each of the authors—glimpses into their lives, into the ways Toni Morrison speaks to each of them. There is an anticipation about the relevance of Morrison in each separate occasion of the authors’ journeys in life. No matter who you are or what stage of life you’re in, I truly believe you will take something from this book. I’m reading it now as a grad student and seeing reflections between this book and my studies on race. I’m making connections to theories and readings that I’d been struggling with. Already, I plan on rereading this book in the future.

Our Conclusion

When Morgan and Alexis discussed the book before writing this post, we decided that this is one of our top-tier books. It is a book we would place next to Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith and Citizen by Claudia Rankine.

Journal Editor Receives Book Prize from the British Academy

Toby Green, Senior Lecturer in Lusophone African History and Culture at King’s College London and a co-editor of the UW Press journal African Economic History, was recently awarded the British Academy’s 2019 Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for his book A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 2019). The Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize honors a non-fiction book that promotes global cultural understanding.

A Fistful of Shells describes the relationship between West Africa and European colonial powers as it evolved through the growth of the slave trade. Prior to the fifteenth century, gold-rich African kingdoms and European economies had been on equal terms, but Green shows through six case studies how European merchants created an imbalance by importing large quantities of objects used as currency in African kingdoms, such as cowrie shells and copper rings, to exchange for gold and slave laborers. This influx of currency created inflation and lead to economic instability and social upheaval in West African societies. The book then traces political developments that led to a revolutionary nineteenth century in Africa.

In an interview on the British Academy’s blog, Green emphasizes the importance of fieldwork to his project and for anyone studying the history of West Africa. “The problem with using just written materials . . . is that in the end you will reproduce the perspectives of the authors. In this case, they were white male slave traders and that’s going to give you a very lopsided view – which is what traditionally has happened.” To avoid this pitfall, Green’s research supplemented written narratives with archival research, oral histories, art, archaeology, and letters. The book is the culmination of over twenty years of research.

To learn more about West African economic history, read an excerpt from the book, and browse the latest African Economic History, a special issue entitled “Colonial Economic History in West Africa” co-edited by Green and George M. Bob-Milliar.

Postnationalism in the Street Carnival of Rio de Janeiro

Pre-carnival parade of Céu na Terra. Photo by Andrew Snyder.

For the next five days, the streets of Rio de Janeiro will fill with the sounds of diverse musical traditions. The music of carnival has traditionally played an important role in Brazilian national identity, explains Andrew Snyder in “From Nationalist Rescue to Internationalist Cannibalism: The Alternative Carnivalesque, Brass, and the Revival of Street Carnival in Rio de Janeiro,” from the Luso-Brazilian Review. Snyder shows, however, how new movements are expanding Rio’s street carnival repertoires, creating diverse new affinities and identities. In the following interview, he describes the ethnographic fieldwork that led him to write the article, including his experience playing trumpet among the four hundred musicians of Orquesta Voadora (the Flying Orchestra) in Rio’s street carnival.


How did you decide to pursue this topic?

This Luso-Brazilian Review article was part of my dissertation research for my PhD in ethnomusicology, and it examines the national and international repertoires of the brass movement known as neofanfarrismo (“new brass band-ismo”) that emerged from Rio de Janeiro’s street carnival. I came very haphazardly to write my dissertation on this musical community and its engagements in local activism. Though I had always loved and played Brazilian music and had majored in music and Romance languages, my earliest graduate studies were focused elsewhere. In 2011, Occupy Wall Street exploded, and I found at those protests the Brass Liberation Orchestra (BLO), a brass band in the Bay Area that emerged to play solely for protests during the 2003 Iraq War and is still going strong. Though I was also a music major focused on guitar and piano, I hadn’t been playing trumpet much, but I was quickly swept up into playing in the BLO during those exciting political times. Now trumpet is my main performing instrument!

In 2012, we played at the HONK! Festival of Activist Street Bands in the Boston area, where alternative and activist brass bands play on the streets for free in support of social and political causes. Through that festival network, I learned of a vibrant musical world in Rio de Janeiro where brass ensembles historically connected to the street carnival were experimenting with diverse global repertoires and playing on the front lines of protest. In search of a dissertation topic, I first visited Rio de Janeiro for a preliminary fieldwork trip during the momentous 2013 June protests, which these bands were musically supporting. Still, I couldn’t grasp the full, massive scope of what goes on in the neofanfarrismo community until undertaking fieldwork in Rio de Janeiro between 2014 and 2016 spanning two carnival seasons. This was a fascinating eighteen months between the World Cup and the Olympics and, in retrospect, it was the beginning of the end of the Workers’ Party and the Pink Tide, which had helped set the conditions for the street carnival revival to explode in the early twenty-first century.

What is one part of your research that surprised you, and why?

It would be quite an understatement to say that the neofanfarrismo community “surprised me”—more that it stunned me—but I would say that the biggest thing that stuck with me is the difference between a musical scene and musical movement, the street carnival and neofanfarrismo communities most certainly being the latter. I had no concept of the level of dedication and organization that could be put into community-led mass street music events. The scale of carnival beyond the samba schools, which I also participated in and are also amazing, is bafflingly awe-inspiring. The main group I worked with, Orquestra Voadora, the band that really pushed the neofanfarrismo community beyond traditional repertoires like the marchinha (traditional carnival songs), is a band of about 15 people who organize around 400 people to play for over 100,000 people on carnival day. That’s not even a really big bloco (carnival music ensemble). The more traditional brass bloco Bola Preta brings two million to the streets!

Despite, or because of, this enormity, the neofanfarrismo community is incredibly close-knit and collaborative, with musicians actively working through oficinas (classes or workshops) to teach music to other people. The “-ismo” suffix really underlines the fact that the bands are not just a loosely-connected scene but a social movement. Though the Bay Area also has a vibrant musical scene, I can’t say that there is anything that comes close to neofanfarrismo in the United States; though the international HONK! movement and New Orleans come to mind as related phenomena, they seem quite small in comparison. I certainly believe that this difference between the countries is especially due to the availability of playing in, and yes also drinking in, public space. I have come to see the ways public space is regulated as being a crucial part of the abilities of social movements, especially culturally defined ones, to thrive. Scenes are what evolve in a more splintered cultural worlds like the Bay Area where we are bound to celebrate most often in private clubs.

How did your role as a musician combine with your role as an ethnomusicologist to guide the direction of your research?

As a professional trumpet player, I was immediately “dentro do cordão,” or inside the cords that separate bloco musicians from the crammed audiences that would follow the musicians. It would certainly be possible to study street carnival and neofanfarrismo from alternative perspectives (which some are doing), focusing, for example, on the experiences of the audience or what it is like to be a new musician learning in the movement’s oficinas. But certainly playing trumpet was an asset in accessing “key informants,” getting the insider perspectives, and being a “participant-observer.” That research methodology language really does not capture my experience with the community, however, which could be summed up, with all due respect to more “sober” disciplines, by what I would tell people at the time: if you can’t do academic research while playing music and drinking in the street, is it really worth doing?

As a trumpeter, I was able to play in almost all of the bands and blocos I wrote about. I taught trumpet in the oficinas and participated in their movement of mass musical education. In 2016, I went on tour with the Carioca band Bagunço for five weeks in France. I helped organize the very first HONK! Rio Festival de Fanfarras Ativistas, which Mission Delirium, a band I co-founded, attended in 2015. The HONK! festivals are grass-roots international street/brass band festivals that originated in the US in 2006 and are spreading around the world. There are now five HONK! Festivals in Brazil alone! During preparations for that first festival, I and some co-organizers were robbed at gunpoint in Santa Teresa, and I lost my trumpet, my most crucial “fieldwork tool.” The local community took it upon themselves to organize busking events to help me, an American researcher, with the finances of my loss. I can’t speak for my informants, but I felt known first and foremost as a musician who was firmly part of the movement, rather than a researcher. I wouldn’t want to have done it any other way.


Andrew Snyder’s research explores the political and social impacts of mass public festivity, especially focused on brass and percussion ensembles in diverse locations including Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans, San Francisco, and beyond. He completed a PhD in Ethnomusicology at UC Berkeley in 2018 with a dissertation focused on the carnival brass band community in Rio de Janeiro, the basis for his current book project with Wesleyan University Press. Beyond his article in the Luso-Brazilian Review, his research appears in Journal of Popular Music Studies, Latin American Review, Yearbook for Traditional Music, and Ethnomusicology, and he is co-editor of HONK! A Street Band Renaissance of Music and Activism (Routledge 2020). An avid trumpet player in diverse musical groups, he is co-founder of San Francisco’s Mission Delirium Brass Band, which has toured to Brazil and throughout Europe. Currently a Research Associate at UC Santa Cruz, he has taught at UC Berkeley, University of the Pacific, and UC Davis.

Four Writers and a Funeral

On Toni Morrison’s birthday, we share a guest post from Cassandra Jackson. She is an author of The Toni Morrison Book Club along with Juda Bennett, Winnifred Brown-Glaude, and Piper Kendrix Williams. Uncle Bobbie’s will host the authors for a reading and signing tonight (2/18) at 7pm.

On June 25, 2018, I sent a group text to Piper, Winnie, and Juda: “My father needs to die. He is suffering and it is so terrible. If you pray, please ask for this part to end.”

I knew that my message had no business in a pop-up notification on a phone, that it would snatch my friends away from dinners, books, and children. Winnie would have to sit down, Juda would stand up, and Piper would cry. But it never occurred to me that I should not tell them what was happening in my world even though I was in Alabama and they were scattered along the line that divides Pennsylvania from New Jersey.

I had arrived in the South with my husband and children to visit my parents for a week. Over the course of those days, my father, who had lived with bone cancer for years, went from playing with his grandchildren to writhing in pain in his hospice bed. If I was to survive his transition from life to death, I needed the three of them to see me do it, to say it back to me, to let me know that the surreal was now real.

We call ourselves the Toni Morrison Book Club, but I am never sure if that name belies too much or too little of what we are. For those who have never been in a book club, the name just means people who talk about books. Those who have participated in a book club probably wonder at the deadly seriousness of one that focuses on a single author, and one of the most acclaimed and sophisticated at that. But our book club is probably not so different from theirs. We talk about human experience, gliding seamlessly between fictional characters and our lives.

As ordinary as it might sound, a book club where friends talk about books and themselves was a radical departure from the thing we had spent years learning to do. Three of us are scholars of literature and a fourth is a sociologist. We have been trained to cultivate scholarly distance and the veneer of objectivity. We say “the ways in which” rather than “how,” “meanings” rather than “the message,” and one of us (I won’t say who, but his name rhymes with Buddha) occasionally sprinkles a bit of French into everyday conversation. When our students judge characters, we remind them that characters are “constructions,” and we redirect them to think about what the character means rather than who the character is. If they tell us what the author meant to say, we tell them that the author (whether living or not) is dead because we do not have access to authors’ thoughts and even when we do, intentions are not art. In these ways, we do away with writers as people and thus kill off ourselves too.

When Juda knocked on my office door rambling and gesticulating about a book that would abandon all that, I thought, sure, why not. I have long been done with writing books of literary criticism that no one but a handful of specialists would read. But when he said the book would be about Toni Morrison, I said, “Have you lost your mind? Boy, if you don’t get away from my door—” But for him, Ms. Morrison’s work would make the perfect jumping-off point. Who more ideal for a book in which writers think about the relationship between literature and their own lives than the woman who, upon finding out that she had won the Nobel Prize for literature, told a committee member, “If you’re going to keep giving prizes to women—and I hope you do—you’re going to have to give us more warning. Men can rent tuxedos. I have to get shoes. I have to get a dress.” But after years of watching scholars argue over the meaning of Ms. Morrison’s work like she was the last cocktail at the Modern Language Association open bar, I had made a quiet pact with myself: Better to die of thirst than sit at that hot mess of a bar. I made Morrison my not-so-secret side-chick who I taught and loved on in class but refused to write about publicly.

In the end, Juda tricked me into it. You’ll have to read the book to find out how, but suffice it to say that he is one sneaky BFF, and I am forever grateful for his conniving.

We met, and talked, and wrote about Toni Morrison’s novels, ourselves, and the world. In one conversation over cupcakes and tears, we moved from Song of Solomon to the death of Philando Castile, a black motorist murdered by police, to Winnie’s son, who she had to warn to be careful, even though no amount of careful ever seems to be enough. Our fear and anger settled over Juda’s table like a thick fog until Juda spoke in a shaky voice, adding himself and Alton Sterling, also murdered by police, to the mix.

This is how our secret lives emerged—things that you think you can never talk about—your brother who hates black people, the gay boy you tried to turn, the white boys you hid from your mother, the tourist visa your family used to immigrate permanently to this country. We decided to center the book on this concept of secrets, the things that we had learned to say with each other’s help. And somewhere in the process, though I am not quite sure of the precise moment, we became something else—not simply friends or colleagues but something overlapping and converged—at once multiple and singular.

I cannot say precisely when we became the Toni Morrison Book Club. But for me, the signs of this merger coalesce around moments of shared grief. In 2017, I was cleaning my attic when my husband called to say that my brother—who was, as far as anyone knew, healthy—had died of a heart attack that morning. I made the necessary calls to my family, still unable to fully process his death. Then I texted TMBC to let them know that I couldn’t meet: “My brother died this morning. I have to go to Alabama. Not sure when I will be back.” They all wrote back immediately, their messages sounding like words one would direct to someone who has been shot. That’s when I realized that the words “Your brother died” had made me feel like I’d been shot—they had penetrated my body, cutting and burning before my mind could understand or accept what happened. I stared at my phone and to my surprise, I was no longer alone in the attic.

We never set out to be this to each other. It felt, instead, like we were just doing what Ms. Morrison would have wanted us to do, telling our own stories as if language was the only thing that could save us. So when we got word in the summer of 2019 that Ms. Morrison had read part of our manuscript and wanted to see more, we were thrilled and scared. Would she see the gift that she had given us? Would she understand that this book was our thank you? Or, would we be remembered as the four nitwits who needed to write a whole-ass book just to tick off the great Toni Morrison?

We would never find out what she thought of The Toni Morrison Book Club. On the morning of August 6, 2019, I sent the following text to TMBC: “Toni Morrison died last night.”

Cassandra Jackson is a professor of English at The College of New Jersey and the author of Violence, Visual Studies, and the Black Male Body and Barriers between Us: Interracial Sex in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction.

Restoring Wetlands

From “Experiences Establishing Native Wetland Plants in a Constructed Wetland,” by David Steinfeld, Native Plants Journal 2:1. Photo by David Steinfeld.

This week, the Press will be exhibiting at the annual Wetland Science Conference of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association in Elkhart Lake, WI. We’ve gathered a list of recommended readings on ecological restoration from our books and journals. The articles listed here are freely available to read until the end of February.


Field Guide to Wisconsin Sedges: An Introduction to the Genus Carex (Cyperaceae), by Andrew L. Hipp

Field Guide to Wisconsin Streams: Plants, Fishes, Invertebrates, Amphibians, and Reptiles, by Michael A. Miller, Katie Songer, and Ron Dolen

Field Guide to Wisconsin Grasses, by Emmet J. Judziewicz, Robert W. Freckmann, Lynn G. Clark, and Merel R. Black

Wildly Successful Farming: Sustainability and the New Agricultural Land Ethic, by Brian DeVore

Force of Nature: George Fell, Founder of the Natural Areas Movement, by Arthur Melville Pearson

A Lakeside Companion, by Ted J. Rulseh

“Restoration Outcomes and Reporting: An Assessment of Wetland Area Gains in Wisconsin, USA” by Rusty K. Griffin and Thomas E. Dahl, Ecological Restoration vol. 34.3 (2016)

“The Use of Sediment Removal to Reduce Phosphorus Levels in Wetland Soils” by Skye Fasching, Jack Norland, Tom DeSutter, Edward DeKeyser, Francis Casey, and Christina Hargiss, Ecological Restoration vol. 33.2 (2015)

“Experiences Establishing Native Wetland Plants in a Constructed Wetland” by David Steinfeld, Native Plants Journal vol. 2.1 (2001)

“Site-Scale Disturbance Best Predicts Moss, Vascular Plant, and Amphibian Indices in Ohio Wetlands” by Martin A. Stapanian, Mick Micacchion, Brian Gara, William Schumacher, and Jean V. Adams, Ecological Restoration vol. 36.2 (2018)

“Seed Dormancy Break and Germination for Restoration of Three Globally Important Wetland Bulrushes” by James E. Marty and Karin M. Kettenring, Ecological Restoration vol. 35.2 (2017)

“Observations on Seed Propagation of 5 Mississippi Wetland Species” by Janet M Grabowski, Native Plants Journal vol. 2.1 (2001)

“Effects of Selectively-targeted Imazapyr Applications on Typha angustifolia in a Species-rich Wetland (Wisconsin)” by Craig A. Annen, Jared A. Bland, Amanda J. Budyak, and Christopher D. Knief, Ecological Restoration vol. 37.1 (2019)

“Edaphic and Vegetative Responses to Forested Wetland Restoration with Created Microtopography in Arkansas” by Benjamin E. Sleeper and Robert L. Ficklin, Ecological Restoration vol. 34.2 (2016)

Articles We Love: A Valentine’s Reading List

For all our fellow nerdy types out there, this Valentine’s Day, we’re highlighting scholarship from our journals on the literature and economics of love. The selection includes a study on falling divorce rates, an analysis of the courtly love lyrics of medieval Spain and Germany, an article on queer erotics and political action in poetry, and more. All articles listed here are freely available until the end of the month.

Motifs of Love in the Courtly Love Lyric of Moslem Spain and Hohenstaufen Germany by Charles M. Barrack, Monatshefte 105.2 (2013)

“My intention is to demonstrate the striking—even contradictory—attitude of the supplicant minstrel in both traditions to the object of his affection, viz., a noble but distant lady. Let us term this the ‘Platonic-Erotic Dilemma’: Is the beloved a distant, sublime, edifying force or a mere mortal capable of physical love?”

Why Have Divorce Rates Fallen? The Role of Women’s Age at Marriage by Dana Rotz, Journal of Human Resources 51.4 (2016)

“American divorce rates rose from the 1950s to the 1970s peaked around 1980, and have fallen ever since. The mean age at marriage also substantially increased after 1970. I explore the extent to which the rise in age at marriage can explain the decrease in divorce rates for cohorts marrying after 1980.”

Life, War, and Love: The Queer Anarchism of Robert Duncan’s Poetic Action during the Vietnam War by Eric Keenaghan, Contemporary Literature vol. 49.4 (2008)

“The queerness I associate with Duncan’s poetic anarchism, then, is related to the emphasis he places on how eroticism facilitates subjects’ resistance to the liberalist attitudes promoted by the biopolitical state. Whereas many gay and lesbian thinkers and activists promoted sex and eroticism as a means of resisting the state, Duncan was preoccupied with how language is an erotic vehicle mediating embodied experience and promoting transformative passions.”

Lucky in Life, Unlucky in Love? The Effect of Random Income Shocks on Marriage and Divorce by Scott Hankins and Mark Hoekstra, Journal of Human Resources 46.2 (2011)

“There are several reasons why positive income shocks could affect marital decisions. For married couples, more generous cash transfers may have a stabilization effect and relax financial constraints and arguments that lead to divorce. . . . On the other hand, increased resources may enable unhappy couples to incur the costs associated with divorce.”

Cosmopolitan Love: The One and the World in Hari Kunzru’s Transmission by Ashley T. Shelden, Contemporary Literature 53.2 (2012)

“Most critics will agree that the adjective cosmopolitan describes not just a way of organizing the world or a type of subject position but also a stance that pertains, in particular, to the ethical relation to the other. Few critics, however, in their explorations of the ethics of cosmopolitanism, inquire into what one might call the fundamental analytical category of ethics: love.”

Kathleen Fraser and the Transmutation of Love by Jeanne Heuving, Contemporary Literature 51.3 (2010)

“Fraser changes from writing through a poetic speaker as lover addressing her beloved to a transpersonal love writing, or a libidinized ‘field poetics’ (Translating 176). In the course of her career, Fraser comes to write an erotically charged prosody through a “projective” poetics that rejects individuated poetic speakers and cathects directly with her poems’ others and languages—engaging material aspects of language and of the page itself.”