University Press Week 2018 Friday Blog Tour: #TurnItUP Science

Continue the blog tour today by visiting these great university press offerings:

  • Princeton University Press director Christie Henry writes about the evolution of science publishing at university presses, focusing on how these programs depend on creating equitable and inclusive populations of authors.
  • Columbia University Press acquisitions editor Miranda Martin discusses why it’s importand for university presses to publish in the sciences.
  • Rutgers University Press talks about Finding Einstein’s Brain by Frederick Lepore, MD.
  • University of Colorado Press shares a post from author Char Miller about how imagination requires hope: at once a mode of survival and a form of resistance.
  • Toronto University Press reaches back to the archives of The Heritage Project to highlight some key titles on the history of science.
  • University of Georgia Press posts the latest episode of their podcast: a talk William Bryan gave recently at the Decatur Book Festival for his book The Price of Permanence: Nature and Business in the New South.

Hope you enjoy all these great #TurnItUP posts!

University Press Week 2018 Thursday Blog Tour: #TurnItUP History

Continue the blog tour today by visiting these great university press offerings:

  • University Press of Kansas celebrates the passion of military history readers by interviewing authors, critics and customers.
  • University of Nebraska Press discusses the importance of Midwestern history with Jon K. Lauck.
  • University of Georgia Press spotlights their new series, Gender and Slavery.
  • University of Rochester Press interviews Angel David Nieves about the role of African American women in the design and construction of schools in the post-Reconstruction South.
  • Rutgers University Press focuses on their recently published memoir by acclaimed cultural historian H. Bruce Franklin, Crash Course: From the Good War to the Forever War.
  • University of California Press shares an excerpt from Shaped by the West, Volume 2: A History of North America from 1850 by William Deverell & Anne F. Hyde.
  • Wilfred Laurier University Press explores how the Great War impacted Wittgenstein’s philosophy with author Nil Santiáñez.
  • Beacon Press takes a look at their ReVisioning Amerian History and ReVisioning American History for Young Readers Series.
  • Harvard University Press executive editor Lindsay Waters looks back on the press’s history of publishing philosopher Bruno Latour.
  • University of Alabama Press presents roundup of new and forthcoming history books celebrating Alabama’s bicentennial.
  • MIT Press has a Q&A with longtime editor Roger Conover about his history at the MIT Press.

Hope you enjoy all these great #TurnItUP posts!

University Press Week 2018 Wednesday Blog Tour: #TurnItUP the Neighborhood

Continue the blog tour today by visiting these great university press offerings:

  • University of Illinois Press announces their new regional trade imprint, Flame & Flight Books, which will tell the unknown stories of the heartland’s unique places, people, and culture.
  • Syracuse University Press writes about their encyclopedic grasp on the region they hold dear.
  • Northwestern University interviews Harvey Young, founding series editor, about the “Second to None” Chicago regional series.
  • Columbia University Press features excerpts from some of their newest and most poplular publications about New York and its neighborhoods.
  • Rutgers University Press discusses Walking Harlem by Karen Taborn, recently featured in a New York Times roundup of walking tour books.
  • University of Washington Press shares some highlights from an interview by prison scholar Dan Berger with John McCoy, co-author of Concrete Mama: Prison Profiles from Walla Walla, soon to be released in its second edition.
  • University of Toronto Press writes about connections to their neighborhoods.
  • Ohio State Press takes a behind-the-scenes look at Time and Change, a forthcoming book celebrating the University’s 150th year.
  • University Press of Mississippi posts a Q&A with Catherine Egley Waggoner and Laura Egley Taylor, authors of Realizing Our Place: Real Southern Women in a Mythologized Land.
  • Oregon State University Press talks to journalist John Dodge about the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 and his forthcoming title, A Deadly Wind.
  • University of Manitoba Press talks to GIS specialist and author Adrian Werner about how he used mapping to make a Metis community in Winnipeg visible.
  • Following Temple University Founder Russell Conwell’s ideas of Acres of Diamonds, Temple University Press mines riches in its backyard.
  • Fordham University Press discusses the changing neighborhood of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant with Ron Howell.
  • University of Alberta Press author Carissa Halton explores what is it like to move into a neighborhood that was given a zero quality of life rating.
  • University of Georgia Press hosts a Q&A with Sandra Beasley, editor of a poetry collection that touches upon uniquely southern connections to food.
  • University of Texas Press presents an interview with Lance Scott Walker about his oral history of Houston Rap.

Hope you enjoy all these great #TurnItUP posts!

Complicity, Complacency, and #TurnItUP Politics

For University Press Week 2018, we are highlighting an interview with Michael J. Lazzara, author of Civil Obedience: Complicity and Complacency in Chile since Pinochet which was published in May as part of the Critical Human Rights series. We spoke with Lazzara about civilian complicity, complacency, and the implications of Chile’s political history on the country today.

Q. Why is it so important to talk about civilian complicity now, more than forty years after the September 11, 1973, coup that put General Augusto Pinochet in power?

A. In the midst of the Cold War, the Pinochet regime (1973-1990) came to power as a violent reaction against democratically elected President Salvador Allende’s “Peaceful Road to Socialism.” Pinochet’s seventeen-year dictatorship resulted in the murder, disappearance, and exile of thousands of Chilean citizens who longed to build a more just and equitable society, as well as the torture of tens of thousands more. Throughout the 1990s, the early years of Chile’s transition to democracy, people almost exclusively attributed the Pinochet regime’s human rights violations to the military, the most egregious perpetrators. Yet we know that dictatorships are always supported behind the scenes by a cast of complicit civilians who play roles—major or minor—in perpetuating the violence and who, through complex processes of rationalization, manage to turn a knowing blind eye to the torture and murder of their fellow citizens.

The stark reality is that many of those who supported the Pinochet regime “behind the scenes” in the 1970s and 1980s remain active in politics, business, and other sectors today. Victims, their families, artists, academics, journalists, lawyers, and concerned citizens have struggled for decades to fight for memory and create a culture of respect for human rights. To a great extent, they have succeeded. But we can’t easily forget that memory and human rights constantly find themselves under attack from political and economic forces that still perpetuate certain violent attitudes fostered under dictatorship.

Q. Is the public discourse of these civilian accomplices relevant for thinking about the “post-truth” era in which we’re living?

A. Definitely! My book is not only about civilian complicity in Chile but also about how civilian accomplices remember and justify their past actions and commitments. I use the phrase “fictions of mastery” to talk about the vital lies (or partial truths) that such accomplices spin, both publicly and privately, in order to live with themselves or to convince others that they were acting in the “best interest” of the country or out of a sense of patriotic duty.

Clearly, our contemporary scene is full of individuals who spin stories to advance particular agendas or maintain their hold on political and economic power. My book deconstructs and “outs” such self-serving fictions—and actors—while also advocating for a need for accountability (moral, ethical, and even judicial, when applicable).

Q. Your work provocatively suggests a relationship between complicity and complacency. How are these two concepts linked?

A. The question is important because it forces us to ask: Who is complicit? My book answers this question boldly, even somewhat controversially. It asserts that the spectrum of complicity is vast—that it includes not only those who participated directly in the dictatorship’s crimes but also those who knew what was going on but stood by and did nothing. Even more assertively, I argue that the vast spectrum of complicity in Chile may very well include certain people who years ago fought for revolutionary change and social justice and who now, decades later, wholeheartedly embrace the neoliberal model that the General and his civilian economists espoused. I call these revolutionaries-turned-neoliberals “complacent subjects” and wonder if their political stance, interested in protecting their own status and wealth, might be construed as a form of complicity with the dictatorship’s legacy.

Q. The Chilean dictatorship ended nearly three decades ago. Many analysts praise the country’s transition to democracy as highly “successful.” Why is it important that we continue thinking today about the legacies of the Pinochet regime?

A. Many people, especially economists outside of Chile, have called Chile an “economic miracle” because its economy did relatively well when compared to other countries in the region. This may indeed be true by some measures. But we cannot forget that Chile’s economic strength has its origins in a dark history of torture, disappearances, and murders. We also can’t forget that, despite its economic growth, Chile remains one of the most unequal countries in the world. Moreover, socioeconomic inequality has sparked massive protests and deep disenchantment with political elites from across the ideological spectrum.

The past does not go away. Anyone who goes to Chile today can see and feel signs of the dictatorship’s legacy everywhere. It’s palpable! The political and economic class that sympathized with the dictatorship is now back in power, and the dictatorship’s constitution, penned in 1980, remains in effect. There are still families who have not located their disappeared loved ones. And despite the valiant efforts of those who have struggled to create a culture of human rights and justice, every so often people in positions of power appear in the media denying past human rights violations or explaining them away. Schools avoid talking about the recent past, particularly at the primary and secondary levels. Lots of families remain politically divided. For all of these reasons, it is just as important now as it was in the 1980s and 1990s that we continue the fight for accountability, truth, and justice.

When I began researching Civil Obedience, eight years ago, almost no one was talking about civilian complicity with the South American dictatorships. The topic was complete public taboo. Over the past five or so years, important works of journalism have started to address the subject, and it is now commonplace to hear people in Chile use the term “civilian-military dictatorship” (dictadura cívico-militar). I hope that my book will help fuel an honest debate about the uncomfortable ways in which Chile’s brutally violent past still maintains a hold on the present.

Michael J. Lazzara is a professor of Latin American literature and cultural studies at the University of California, Davis. His several books include Chile in Transition: The Poetics and Politics of Memory and Luz Arce and Pinochet’s Chile: Testimony in the Aftermath of State Violence.

Critical Human Rights
Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus, Series Editors 

 

University Press Week 2018 Monday Blog Tour: #TurnItUP Arts and Culture

Happy University Press Week! Begin the blog tour today by visiting these great university press offerings: 

  • Duke University Press writes about how partnerships with museums have helped them build a strong art list. 
  •  Athabasca University Press offers a playlist by author Mark A. McCutcheon of all the songs featured in his book The Medium Is the Monster: Canadian Adaptations of Frankenstein and the Discourse of Technology
  • Rutgers University Press dedicates a post to our their book Junctures in Women’s Leadership: The Arts by Judith Brodsky and Ferris Olin.
  • Over at Yale University Press, check out a post by author Dominic Bradbury about how immigrants enrich a country’s art and architecture. 
  • University of Minnesota Press is running a post about their author Adrienne Kennedy, who will be inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame on Nov. 12th.

Hope you enjoy all these great #TurnItUP posts! 

The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) Turns 30

Society for Ecological Restoration 30th Anniversary

Partner society of Ecological Restoration journal celebrates major anniversary

This September, the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) looked back on 30 years of bringing together scientists, practitioners, policymakers dedicated to reviving ecosystems around the world. Ecological Restoration journal, published by the University of Wisconsin Press, is a partner journal of SER. The roots of this partnership go deep: William R. Jordan III, who started the journal (originally named Restoration & Management Notes) in 1981, went on to become one of SER’s founders, along with John Reiger, Anne Sands, and John Stanley.

Since the Society was originally incorporated on September 28, 1988, SER’s membership has grown to nearly 3,000, comprising 13 active chapters. The organization has an international reach, holding biennial world conferences and drawing members from over 75 countries. Last year, SER launched the world’s first certification program for ecological restoration. Additionally, SER brings the latest information to members and the public through its online Restoration Resource Center, a database of publications and restoration projects, and its own peer-reviewed journal, Restoration Ecology.

SER’s growth is evidence of how far the field of restoration has come in the past 30 years. As John Reiger, the first SER board president, reflects in the organization newsletter’s anniversary issue, “The mainstreaming of restoration on the international stage, and its recognized role as an important part of climate change and other commitments means that both the global and local reach and vision of SER is more important—and exciting—than ever. But that global engagement should be balanced with continuing to serve a diverse mix of individual members that includes practitioners, academics, and land managers.”

Ecological Restoration Vol. 33.4 CoverCurrent Ecological Restoration editor Steven N. Handel agrees that nurturing this diversity of roles is crucial for the success of the field: “The membership of SER is a mosaic of professionals, mirroring in its way the mosaic nature of so many of our habitats. Scientists, students, land managers, nursery operators, conservation organizations, and dedicated volunteers with environmental interests all turn to [SER and] Ecological Restoration. This is quite different from the membership of many science organizations, which is dominated by working scientists.” Handel says that Ecological Restoration has responded by ensuring that its contents are useful to a variety of different professionals, “emphasizing articles that are based on formal tests and that have generalizable findings, but making sure that the work has a practical side, so that practitioners can quickly use the results when working on the land.”

Handel sees design, particularly, as a key instrument in the toolkit of restorationists, especially given the unprecedented environmental challenges of the twenty-first century. He notes, “We have also invited the landscape architect crowd to visit our journal, hoping that designed natural landscapes, many installed on new sites, become a greater part of their efforts. The meshing of restoration and design work remains a critical part for the years ahead as SER members will be dealing with modified lands, changing with the climate, that will need design as well as management inputs.”

Clearly, it is more important than ever to cultivate innovation and conversation across the many disciplines working to restore ecosystems. In an era of intense professional specialization, where deep divides between academic scholarship and communities of practice are the norm, it is refreshing to witness the collaborative spirit that SER and Ecological Restoration have promoted for over three decades.

All SER memberships include a membership in the SER Chapter or Section of your choosing, discounts on Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner program fees, reduced pricing on world conferences, subscriptions to monthly newsletters, complimentary webinars, and discounts on publications including Ecological Restoration. Learn more about membership and join the community: ser.org/join.

The Story Behind The Book of Joshua

Our guest-blogger today is Jennifer Anne Moses, author of the new novel The Book of Joshua, a novel that portrays the challenges of mental illness. (Content warning: this post contains references to self-harm and suicide.)

 

Danny Greenberg was my first boyfriend. Our summer romance occurred when we were both seventeen and students at the same college-prep summer school. Danny was handsome, clean-cut, sweet on me.  In August, he returned to his home in L.A.  A year later, both of us enrolled in colleges on the east coast, we embarked on a friendship that would last only a few more years, during which Danny became oversensitive, depressed, and paranoid, convinced that only by taking on the world’s pain would the world’s sufferings abate.

He was, at times, obsessed with me. Just before I flew to London for my college “junior year abroad” he crossed the English Channel from France, where he himself was spending his junior year, to find me. How he did it I still don’t know, but there he was, waiting for me outside the cell-like room of my dorm in southeast London.

Then the shit got real. Back on the east coast and torn by psychoses, he committed what he later called “a blood sacrifice,” and, while staying at a YMCA in New York, poked out his own eye with—was it a wire hanger? A fireplace implement? A letter opener? I’m not sure I ever knew.

He survived his wounds and even graduated from college—in his case, Princeton. Afterwards, he moved back home, to Los Angeles, and did what he did.  Grad school. A serious girlfriend. Social work. Through the world of Jewish communal philanthropy, our mothers were friends, and now and then Mom would call me with an update. But by then I was too busy having babies to notice much of anything outside my own home. Then I was thirty-six, with two two-year-olds and a hyperactive six-year-old, and Mom called to say: “Are you sitting down?” After I assured her that I was indeed sitting down, she said: “Danny Greenberg killed himself. He lit himself on fire in front of his parents’ house in Los Angeles.”  Up until her own death, many years later, from cancer, Danny’s mother called me every year on Danny’s birthday. I always theorized that she wanted to talk to me, especially, because I had known him, if only briefly, before he was ravaged by the beasts of mental illness.

His story gripped me—because here was an unusually sunny boy, a popular and gifted and beloved boy, who, even before he struck that match, had been destroyed by a cancer so much worse than cancer, because cancer merely destroys the body, whereas mental illness destroys you, claiming your personality and mind and soul as its own. I wrote a short story called “This Danny of His, This Most Beloved,” that was vaguely sort of kind of about my  Danny.  I didn’t think it was that good a story, though. I was surprised when it was published.

Years later, I started writing about a Danny-like figure again, only in this case, the protagonist of the book that eventually became The Book of Joshua, would have hope. In real life, Danny’s parents had long since endowed a program called “Daniel’s Place,” hoping to give to others who suffer from mental illness the light and love that their own beloved son wasn’t able to find.

 

Jennifer Anne Moses is a multigenre author whose many books include Tales from My ClosetVisiting Hours, and Bagels and Grits. Her journalism and essays have appeared frequently in Time magazine, the New York TimesWashington PostWall Street JournalUSA Today, and other publications.

When Nature Bites the Hand that Tills It

Today’s guest blogger is Brian DeVore, author of the new book Wildly Successful Farming: Sustainability and the New Agricultural Land Ethic.

Tyler Carlson farms near “Gopher Prairie,” the fictional setting for Sinclair Lewis’s 1920 novel, Main Street. In the book, Lewis, who grew up in the real Gopher Prairie, otherwise known as Sauk Centre, used biting satire to poke fun at small town life. On this summer day, Carlson is finding the havoc burrowing rodents are raising in his part of central Minnesota less than amusing.

“Some of the vision of this farm is really trying to make agriculture work alongside wildlife and wild ecosystems,” he says to me while examining a three-foot-tall white pine tree that’s listing to one side in a pasture, its roots gnawed off by gophers. “But wildlife are pests in certain instances.”

That’s a harsh reality for someone who studied restoration ecology in college before moving onto this 200-acre farm in 2012 to launch an operation that includes practices like “silvopasturing” — a system combining tree production with rotational grazing of livestock. Carlson saw silvopasturing as an economically viable way to re-build soil, combat climate change, contribute to cleaner water, and support wildlife and pollinator habitat.

Six years later, the 32-year-old farmer is still committed to producing ecosystem services, but reality checks like root-chomping rodents have tamped down his enthusiasm a bit, prompting him to readjust how he reaches his environmental goals while staying economically viable. Carlson, pictured below, has accepted the fact that farming with nature utilizing the principals of diversity, biology, and interdependence—rather than attempting to bring it to heel with iron, oil, and chemistry—means exposing oneself to a world that can be pretty unforgiving. This is the reality of being an “ecological agrarian,” someone who is unwilling to separate a working farm from a working ecosystem.

As I show in my new book, Wildly Successful Farming: Sustainability and the New Agricultural Land Ethic, ecological agrarians are using everything from managed rotational grazing and cocktail mixes of cover crops to the integration of native perennials and annual row crops to blend the wild and the domesticated on agricultural landscapes.

Ideally, these wildly successful farms strike a balance that provides practical benefits to the farmer while countering the negative repercussions of industrialized agriculture: dirty water, eroded soil, loss of wildlife habitat, and greenhouse gas emissions. A healthy soil ecosystem, for example, not only sequesters carbon but allows farmers to better manage precipitation while providing free fertility for crops.

Ecological agrarians trust that a healthy ecosystem will eventually produce a healthy working farm. Some may argue that by placing their trust in the ways of the wild, farmers are abdicating control over their own destiny in a way that’s no better (or is worse) than allowing human-centered technology to call the shots. But during my thirty years as an agricultural journalist who has interviewed a wide range of farmers, I have observed that ecological agrarians are continuously on the lookout for a better way—the opposite of being passive recipients of whatever life tosses their way. When a corn and soybean operation is reliant on petroleum-based inputs and technology developed in a biotech firm’s laboratories, events far from the land determine that farmer’s destiny. War in the Middle East can disrupt the flow of oil; yet one more consolidation in the biotechnology sector can limit the availability of affordable seed. But building a healthy, functional ecosystem starts and ends with a farm’s local terra-firma, literally from beneath the ground up.

Tyler Carlson and his partner Kate Droske have modified their silvopasturing system and made it, if not exactly ecologically pristine, at least a benefit to the environment. And the forage being produced by building their soil health between the rows of surviving trees is good enough to consistently produce quality beef, which is important economically.

And on a farm where the borders between the wild and the tame are porous, opportunities for making mid-course adjustments abound. If injecting a little bit of woodland into a domesticated pasture doesn’t pan out, why not reverse polarity?

At one point, Carlson leads me over a fence to an existing stand of bur oak, ash, ironwood, elm and aspen on a hill that slopes down to a pond. Invasive buckthorn has been set back considerably with the help of a chain-saw (Carlson has also thinned out bigger trees to let in more sunlight). In glade-like spots between trees, red clover and orchard grass Carlson had seeded are making use of the solar energy. For the past few years, this woodland has been a part of his rotational grazing system. Grazing among the trees isn’t as productive as running cattle through open pastures, but it is a low-impact way of attaining ecological goals in a financially viable manner. The cattle have a cool place to graze during hot weather while they help control buckthorn. Opening up the woodland hasn’t just benefited forages—recently Carlson noticed oak seedlings sprouting; in 2012, there were few oaks under 75-years-old here.

This woodlot has been abused and neglected for over a century. But through the introduction of innovative farming practices that involve disturbance and rest, it is being revived as a key ecological component of a working landscape. Transplanting a little nature into tame pastures has been surprisingly difficult, but reversing things and introducing domesticated beasts into an unruly corner of the farm is paying off. When the wild bites back, it doesn’t always hold a grudge.

“It shows that if you let it, nature can be pretty forgiving,” says the farmer as he makes his way among the trees in the dappled sunlight.

 

Brian DeVore is a contributor to farm and conservation magazines and an editor with the Land Stewardship Project in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up on a crop and livestock farm in southwestern Iowa and, while serving in the Peace Corps, managed a dairy cooperative in Lesotho, Africa.

Vanishing Independence

Today’s guest blogger is Charles Benjamin Schudson, author of the book Independence Corrupted: How America’s Judges Make Their Decisions.

They all agreed. Bret Kavanaugh and every senator on the Judiciary Committee agreed that independence is essential to judicial fairness, and that, to maintain independence, judges and judicial nominees must not forecast their positions on issues that could come before them.

So like all supreme court nominees, Judge Kavanaugh “answered” many questions by explaining that, to preserve at least the appearance of independence, he must promise only an open mind.  The senators agreed.

How surprising that neither Kavanaugh nor any senator mentioned that independence is no longer the fulcrum on which decision-making rests.  How disturbing that pundits and policy-makers don’t seem to know that, since 2002, America’s judges have been free to forecast their decisions on every issue – abortion, guns, executive privilege – even if they do so pandering for political support.

What happened in 2002?  The US Supreme Court decided Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, invalidating the “announce clause” of Minnesota’s Code of Judicial Conduct.  Like the judicial ethics codes of almost all states, it prohibited judges and judicial candidates from “announcing” their positions during their campaigns.  Thus, the Court upended America’s law and tradition of judicial independence.

Before 2002, when I ran in Wisconsin for both the trial and appellate bench, I campaigned – door-to-door, in bowling alleys and churches, and even at labor, corporate, and partisan gatherings.  But I could not offer opinions about abortion, guns, or other subjects I might be judging.  Even when vying for endorsements and financial support, silence was golden.  And if I violated that standard, I could be suspended or removed from office.

Starting in the 1960s, all fifty states enacted such codes.  But while almost all judges complied, some candidates rebelled.  Propelled by personal beliefs and political ambitions, they campaigned on controversial issues; they soon found themselves in court fighting the disciplinary prosecutions of their conduct.

One of them, a candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court, sought an injunction to stop the ethics board from disciplining him.  Minnesota’s Republican Party joined his cause. They argued that the code violated his First Amendment rights and denied voters what they needed for informed voting.  The US Supreme Court, 5-4, agreed.

The result:  judges and judicial candidates now are free to forecast their positions on any issue.  Thus, since 2002, judicial elections have morphed from low-financed yawners to high-financed screamers about abortion, capital punishment, gun control, same-sex marriage, and “tort reform.”

America’s judges now are more vulnerable to litmus testing and political pressuring than ever before.  Voters and interest groups may demand, “What would you decide?”  And now, like never before, judges and judicial candidates calculate their answers according to endorsements and dollars.

Without taking sides on the First Amendment merits of the Supreme Court’s decision, all can acknowledge its enormous consequences.  After all, approximately 99% of America’s court cases – from child custody to medical malpractice, from multi-million dollar disputes to murder – are decided by state judges.  And thirty-nine states, accounting for almost 90% of America’s judiciary, elect their judges.

Thus, except for Marbury v. Madison, the 2002 case may mark the Supreme Court’s most significant decision on judicial authority and conduct in American history.  The fairness (or at least the appearance of fairness) of all state judges may never recover.

Two hundred years ago, Chief Justice Marshall declared that “the greatest scourge an angry Heaven ever inflicted upon an ungrateful and sinning people, was … a dependent judiciary.”  And in a 2015 decision, Chief Justice Roberts implored, “Judges are not politicians.”  Perhaps.  But now we must ask whether America’s judicial independence can continue and, without it, whether our democratic republic will survive.

 

Charles Benjamin Schudson, a Wisconsin Reserve Judge Emeritus, served as a state and federal prosecutor, a trial and appellate judge, and an Adjunct Professor of Law at Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin. From 2009 to 2014, he was a Fulbright Fellow teaching at law schools abroad.

WISCONSIN FICTION AUTHOR JIM GUHL SHARES INSIGHTS ON DEBUT NOVEL

 

Today we present an interview with Jim Guhl, author of the book Eleven Miles to Oshkosh. As the Vietnam War grinds on and the Nixon presidency collapses, Del “Minnow” Finwick’s small world in Wisconsin has blown apart. His father, a deputy sheriff, has been murdered by the unknown “Highway 41 Killer.” His mom has unraveled. And a goon named Larry Buskin has been pummeling Minnow behind Neenah High. Minnow must seek justice by partnering with unlikely allies and discovering his own courage.

* * * * *

Q. Why did you choose the Fox Valley region of Wisconsin as the setting for your debut novel, Eleven Miles to Oshkosh

A. There are several reasons. For one, I grew up in Neenah-Menasha and learned to love the heartbeat and vitality of the place. Winnebago County is a very interesting region, flush with shallow lakes and wetlands, mills and foundries that never quit their churning, and a rich history that goes back to Nicolet, Chief Oshkosh, and the naming of Lake Butte des Morts (Hill of the Dead).

Q. What do you hope that people will get out of the book?

A.
Pleasure mainly—but also an appreciation for the history, geography and social evolution of the Fox Valley. At its core, Eleven Miles to Oshkosh is a coming-of-age story about an unlikely hero, the scared-of-everything fifteen-year-old, Del (Minnow) Finwick, who seeks to resolve his father’s murder and find courage along the way. Young readers will enjoy the kid’s magnetism for trouble and his willingness to stick up for what’s right. Baby boomers will enjoy images of a simpler time when a single-speed bicycle and access to Grandpa’s Chevy Apache truck keys were enough to get a kid to every nook and cranny in the county. I’m confident that readers will relate to the lively characters from a collection that includes the first black girl at Neenah High, a homeless Native American, and an assortment of bad guys.

Q. How did you get interested in writing fiction?

A.
Even though I worked a full career in the field of engineering, I’ve always had a leaning toward creativity. I enjoy painting, woodcarving, lapidary and guitar. About ten years ago I spotted a small ad in the community section of my local newspaper, inviting people to participate in the Pen & Think Writers Group of Hudson, Wisconsin. I joined up and have been writing short stories and memoirs ever since. About three years ago, I shifted into fourth gear and turned hard on the steering wheel in the direction of full-length novels. I absolutely love it and have no plans of stopping.

 

Jim Guhl grew up in the Fox Valley of Wisconsin in the 1960s and ’70s. He now lives in Hudson, Wisconsin and is a writer and visual artist.