Category Archives: Books

Where’s Andrew? and where’s the Black Penguin?

Our guest blogger today is Andrew Evans. His book, The Black Penguinwas just released in paperback. It was awarded honorable mentions by both the Society of American Travel Writers and the American Library Association’s GLBTQ Roundtable in their book award competitions. It is published in the University of Wisconsin Press series Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiographies. Follow his travel adventures on Twitter at @wheresandrew

Writing such an intensely personal book as The Black Penguin has resulted in a bit of a neurotic roller coaster for me, given that every review feels like a myopic critique of my life. But, I’ve also seen in the responses to the book that I am not alone and that others have struggled and triumphed, too.

As a writer, I am one part thick, scaly dinosaur skin and two parts oversensitive mush. The paradox results from constant rejection versus daily attempts to corral my subconscious onto the page. This weird duality works, I hope, to produce above-average stories while keeping my confidence in check. But I, and I think most authors, continue to question our work long after publication.

After a book leaves your brain, your fingertips, and your control, you watch its progress. Like a tomato plant, it either takes over the backyard or becomes infested with beetles, withers, and dies. Either way, the book stops being yours and has a life of its own. There may be reviews and Amazon stars, awards, and the distant echo of social media. An author’s ego can be fed sumptuously, as when I saw my name displayed in the window of a famous bookshop, or crushed, as when I saw all the empty chairs for my reading.

For me, the real blessings of a book tour are the face-to-face meetings with readers.

It’s surprising how many feel that I wrote the book specifically for them. So far, very few readers I’ve met on tour are gay Mormons like me. I have met Muslim women who struggle between faith, family, and love, and elderly gay clergy, interracial couples with racist in-laws, or just people who feel that they don’t belong. Meeting them all has reminded me that what may seem to be a very individual and personal story can reflect a universal emotional experience.

As a travel writer, I discovered that the book tour highlighted the amazing diversity of my own country. Every night I caught a new glimpse of American urban life, from the debonair professionals of New York City, to the queer theorists who flocked at the Harvard Bookstore, to Powell’s in Portland, where a man with two pit bulls and no legs thrust a handful of homegrown cannabis into my hands.

I was also reminded how impossible it is to categorize my book, which reflects the struggles I faced in writing it. I have found my book shelved under Travel, Memoir, Autobiography, LGBTQ, and even Religion. Indeed, it is this intersection of genres that interests me.

I have been especially touched by the diverse book clubs that have selected The Black Penguin for their monthly reading. From Maryland to California, I’ve received letters from book club members (all mostly women) who have read and discussed my book. One club has been meeting monthly for more than twenty years! Perhaps my greatest compliment came from a book club of high school English teachers, who let me know that they felt my book was well written. Sigh. Thank you; I had to rewrite it so many times! Accolades from the front lines of American literature are reassuring, especially after reading an online review that summed up my gut-spilling memoir in two words: “mildly interesting.”

I have moved on to writing my next book, but I am thrilled to see The Black Penguin in paperback and reaching readers across the world. I never expected this book to be “huge,” but I feel it is a huge success when someone texts me a picture of a tattered copy of my book, which they found in a rented beach house, or in a school library, or in a distant youth hostel. Seeing the book travel across the globe is the greatest compliment of all, and I send my sincerest gratitude to all my readers, wherever they are.

Andrew Evans has completed more than forty assignments for National Geographic, reporting from all seven continents. He is the author of the Bradt travel guides Iceland and Ukraine and lives in Washington, DC.

 

 

 

 

Poet Alan Feldman: On Volunteer Teaching

Our guest blogger is Alan Feldman, whose newest poetry collection, The Golden Coin, is published today.

My mother died at 61, my father at 93. Since I didn’t know whose genes I got, I retired early. After thirty-seven years of teaching creative writing, I thought maybe I would give out eye drops in third-world countries. I expected to write poems about this, of course.

What happened, instead, was that I began teaching a free weekly drop-in workshop at the Framingham public library where I live in Massachusetts and, in the summer, at the Wellfleet library on Cape Cod. I started teaching with fellow poet Tony Hoagland, who wanted to give something back to the Cape community where he lived. But then I couldn’t seem to stop.

Volunteering weekly generally increases happiness at a rate that economists have calculated at between 176 to 256 dollars an hour. Indeed, for me, the payoff of teaching for free has been profound. No grades. No curriculum. I teach whatever I’ve been working on. I tell students whatever they need to hear, without worrying, as I used to, about their morale. And, most important, every week I think up an in-class writing exercise. I write it first to be sure it can work, and then we all try it out in class.

Indeed, for me, the payoff of teaching for free has been profound.

I’ve always had good luck in writing poems on the spot. Perhaps I get this way of working from a long study I did of Frank O’Hara. He wrote his poems quickly and (unlike me) rarely revised. We can document that he wrote “Sleeping on the Wing” in twenty minutes. I tell my students not to be afraid to make fools of themselves (though, of course, I never force anyone to read aloud).

As Allen Ginsberg put it, “the parts that embarrass you the most are usually the most interesting poetically, the most naked of all, the rawest, the goofiest, the strangest and most eccentric and, at the same time, most representative, most universal.” But, on the other hand, the presence of other people in the room works on people’s minds as well. As Pablo Neruda tells us, “a poet’s gifts spring from brotherhood, and the poet offers his art in recognition of that debt.”

My in-class assignments are generally suggestions (with examples from all cultures and periods) about how to construct a poem: Write a poem in which you mention very small objects and very large ones; write a poem where you describe a process in great detail; write a poem that’s one long sentence; write a poem that lists all the things you loved about a really painful experience, and so on.

Since I started offering my workshop I’ve completed two books: The Golden Coin (2018) and Immortality, which received the 2016 Massachusetts Book Award. In both books about a third of the poems come from assignments I gave to my workshop, and some of these were written in class, including “In November,” which appeared in Best American Poetry 2011, and “Love Poem” which was selected by Ted Kooser for his nationally syndicated newspaper column, “American Life in Poetry.” As well, I received a certificate (in Gothic calligraphy!) from my state legislature. My students have been rewarded too. Rosalind Pace, for example, won a coveted Massachusetts Artist Fellowships at age 77. And Judith Askew’s book, On the Loose, won the first poetry competition of the Cultural Council of Cape Cod.

I feel richly rewarded. But, as Stanley Kunitz wrote in old age, “I am not done with my changes.” I might still give out eye drops.

Alan Feldman is a poet whose many books and chapbooks include A Sail to Great Island and Immortality, winner of the Massachusetts Book Award. His work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the New YorkerPoetry, and Best American Poetry. He is professor emeritus of English at Framingham State University in Massachusetts.

Wisconsin Poetry Series
Ronald Wallace, Series Editor

 

 

A belief in jest: anarchic arts in postmodern Russia

Our guest blogger today is Alexandar Mihailovic, whose book The Mitki and the Art of Postmodern Protest in Russia is published this week. The art collective known as the Mitki emerged in Leningrad during the late Soviet period.

My road to writing The Mitki and the Art of Postmodern Protest in Russia was a circuitous one. I first discovered the Mitki by buying a pirated recording of their music at the Kiev train station in Moscow. Who were these satirical dabblers in paint, print, and sound? Like Yeats’s jester, the Mitki tossed up the gaudy “cap and bells” of their collective disinhibition to a public struggling to understand its sudden citizenship in a new country. Very quickly, other questions jostled for attention. How can artists categorize themselves as “non-conformist” while belonging to a movement?  And why do they occasionally regard alcoholism as a productive catalyst for artistic creation, while also acknowledging it as a social ill?

One of the artistic productions by the Mitki that first caught my eye was Olga Florensky’s remarkable 1994 claymation film A Story About the Miracle of Miracles (Rasskaz o chude iz chudes), a quasi-steampunk narrative of pre-Emancipation Russian military history that is also a reworking of Nikolai Leskov’s 1881 story “Lefty” [Levsha]. In Florensky’s film, a mechanical leg takes on a life of its own, separating from its owner, the military officer Major Propoitsyn. (Watch the short film on YouTube.)

Florensky wrote her first version of this story in July 1986, during Mikhail Gorbachev’s dry law and at the height of the Soviet military campaign in Afghanistan. She points to the ways in which the machines of war may contain sub-routines for renouncing their bellicose owners. The fact that the name of the Major, Propoitsyn, contains the word ‘drunkard’ (propoitsa) also suggests that imperial ambitions are expressions of unhealthy political passion.  As Florensky put it in the program essay for her 1999 exhibit Taxidermy, “the more I think about the role of effigies in the life of man, the more I find myself leaning toward the following idea: can it be that he doesn’t have to kill, in satisfying his despotic creative urges? Or, as one friend put it—a Russian born in Germany, with an uncertain grasp of the language of his ancestors—that he does not have to enmortify [primertvliat’] animals? Let the ARTIFICIAL ANIMAL be utterly artificial—may it go with God, in all its violations of anatomy and truth!”

Several nineteenth-century Russian writers—most notably Tolstoy and Saltykov-Shchedrin—famously regarded literature as a criticism of everyday life. In the work of the Mitki, we encounter the group practice of documenting dialectical shifts, of showing us just how states of servitude and conformity can give way to sunburst recognitions of freedom, how jingoism engenders pacifism, and how inebriation may be countered by a sobriety that is no less heady than the intoxication that preceded it. No wonder that Florensky’s original name for “Major Drunkard” (Propoitsyn) was Nepeitsyn (non-drinker).

The Mitki’s body of work speaks in a dizzying range of tones and moves along descending scales of affect—from punchy instruction to the sotto voce of a political unconscious begging to be heard.

Alexandar Mihailovic is a professor emeritus of comparative literature and Russian at Hofstra University and visiting professor of Slavic studies at Brown University. His books include Corporeal Words: Mikhail Bakhtin’s Theology of Discourse; an edited volume, Tchaikovsky and His Contemporaries; and a coedited book, Navid Kermani: Contemporary German Writers.

 

Writing Against Impunity: State Violence in Thailand

Our guest blogger today is Tyrell Haberkorn, the author of In Plain Sight: Impunity and Human Rights in Thailand, the latest addition to New Perspectives in Southeast Asian Studies. In Plain Sight was published this month.

When I recently held In Plain Sight: Impunity and Human Rights in Thailand in my hands for the first time, I felt a sense of bittersweet urgency. Seeing one’s work in finished book form is always exciting. That’s the sweet part. The bitter part is that the publication of my book on the history of impunity for state violence in Thailand coincided with the stability of the harshest military dictatorship since the late 1970s. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), which fomented a coup in May 2014, is approaching its fourth anniversary with no clear exit from power in sight. Impunity, or the persistent and repeated failure to secure accountability for state violence, reigns supreme. Urgency arises from the ongoing need to act against impunity and, in the case of scholars, write against it.

I researched and wrote In Plain Sight as a scholar-activist who divides her time between the present and the recent past, and among reading in archives and libraries, observing human rights court cases, and translating accounts of state violence. Beginning with the end of Thailand’s absolute monarchy in June 1932 and ending with the coup by the NCPO in 2014, I asked: What does the history of a nation look like when told from the perspective of citizens whose rights are violated, rather than the perspective of victorious and powerful leaders?

What I discovered is that Thai citizens have experienced a range of forms of extrajudicial violence at the hands of state officials, including torture, disappearance, assassination, and massacre, across regimes both dictatorial and democratic. In nearly all cases, state officials have escaped sanction and accountability. This impunity has been produced and sustained through the unwillingness of state officials to find their colleagues responsible, the intimidation of victims of violence and other citizens, and weakness in legal systems and other institutions. Impunity takes place in public, is pedagogical, and is meant to be witnessed, from the instance of state violence to the evasion of accountability, and finally to the creation of evidence about it.

The title of the book comes from the most surprising lesson I learned while writing the book: state violence and impunity take place in full public view. My expectation was that finding evidence would be difficult. Instead, I mined archival and other publicly available state documents, newspaper articles, memoirs of civil servants and victims of state violence, and court observation to reveal a history of impunity. Many of the violent events I write about in the book have previously been unexamined or overlooked, but the primary reason is not a sheer lack of information. The events, as well as the evidence of violence, are in plain sight.

The urgency of writing against impunity is underscored every time another person’s human rights are violated. I finished the research for In Plain Sight a few weeks before the May 2014 coup. For several years it had seemed that there might be an end to impunity, rather than a resurgent dictatorship. Political prosecutions, particularly for peaceful expression of dissent, are pervasive. Activists are taken from their homes by soldiers and held for periods of incommunicado detention, designed to intimidate rather than secure any kind of justice. Torture, particularly of those accused in national security cases, is common. As in earlier periods, the law is primarily a tool of repression under the NCPO, not one for challenging it.

The individual lives of those affected by dictatorship form the ongoing urgency of writing against impunity. Scholars cannot stop state violence, but we can document and write about it and ensure that it is not forgotten. This means that after basking for a moment in the glow of holding my book, I put it down, picked up my pen, and went back to work.

Tyrell Haberkorn is an associate professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of Revolution Interrupted: Farmers, Students, Law and Violence in Northern Thailand, also published by the University of Wisconsin Press.

 

Love, Love, Love

Here is just a sampling of writings on love in all its manifestations: romantic love, familial love, spiritual love, sexual love, and more.  Click on the cover images to learn more about each book below. For more writings on love, type “love” into the search box on our home page.

Given Up for You, by Erin O. WhiteGIVEN UP FOR YOU
A Memoir of Love, Belonging, and Belief
Erin O. White

At twenty-four, she fell in love—with Jesus, and with another woman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Immortality: poems by Alan FeldmanIMMORTALITY
Alan Feldman

Winner of the Four Lakes Prize in Poetry and the Massachusetts Book Award for Poetry

Feldman manifests the kind of love we rarely see in contemporary poetry, and this familial love pours into the world around him.

 

 

 

 

 

What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth, by Rigoberto GonzalezWHAT DROWNS THE FLOWERS IN YOUR MOUTH
A Memoir of Brotherhood
Rigoberto González

A bittersweet chronicle of the bond between Latino brothers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sor Juana's Love Poems

 

SOR JUANA’S LOVE POEMS
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Translated by Joan Larkin and Jaime Manrique

Written by the visionary and passionate genius of Mexican letters, the seventeenth-century nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.

 

 

 

The Offense of Love Ars Amatoria, Remedia Amoris, and Tristia 2, by OvidTHE OFFENSE OF LOVE
Ars AmatoriaRemedia Amoris, and Tristia 2
Ovid
A verse translation by Julia Dyson Hejduk, with introduction and notes

Finalist, National Translation Award for Poetry, American Literary Translators Association
Choice Outstanding Academic Book

 

 

 

 

The Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love SongsTHE SONG OF SONGS AND THE ANCIENT EGYPTIAN LOVE SONGS
Michael V. Fox

Two enduring bodies of love poetry from the ancient Near East.

 

 

 

 Intimate Creativity: Partners in Love and Art INTIMATE CREATIVITY
Partners in Love and Art
Irving and Suzanne Sarnoff

Artist-couples combine their talents to form a collective identity as a professional team.

 

A grim anniversary: the Sedition Act of 1918

Our guest blogger today is Eric B. Easton, whose book, Defending the Masses: A Progressive Lawyer’s Battles for Free Speech, has just been published.

The year 2018 marks the centenary of many important events in American history, including the horrific flu epidemic that killed millions and the armistice that ended World War I. Free speech advocates will note with sadness that 2018 is also the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Sedition Act—draconian amendments to the Espionage Act that Congress had passed the previous year. As summarized in Geoffrey Stone’s Perilous Times, the new amendments enacted on May 16, 1918, forbade anyone, during wartime, to:

  • willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the government, military, or flag of the United States; or
  • use any language intended to bring the government, military or flag of the United States into contempt, scorn, contumely, or disrepute; or
  • willfully display the flag of any foreign enemy, advocate the curtailment of war production, or advocate, teach, defend, or suggest doing any of these; or by word or act support the enemy or oppose the United States.

The Sedition Act was repealed in 1920, but it should be remembered today for the arguably honorable, if misguided, reasons why some in Congress supported enactment. Stone quotes Senator William Borah, a progressive Republican from Idaho: “I know this is a drastic law, and I would not support it . . . unless I believed it necessary to prevent things far worse.” While most legislators supported the act to put down dissent, Borah and others thought the law was needed to preempt mob violence against dissenters.

Today, the First Amendment is under stress from numerous challenges that require society to weigh conflicting interests.

Today, the First Amendment is under stress from numerous challenges that require society to weigh conflicting interests. College administrators try to balance the cherished tradition of free speech on campus against the possibilities that some kinds of speech may lead to harassment or violence, or cause members of the campus community to feel unwelcome or less safe. Social media platforms struggle to balance open access for all against the risks of cyberbullying and “fake news.” And the U.S. Supreme Court is, even now, seeking to balance the right of a gay couple to purchase a custom-designed wedding cake against the baker’s purported free-speech right to refuse to express his art in support of same-sex marriage, an institution he opposes on religious grounds.

Protection of privacy, reputation, and cultural sensitivity continue to trouble free-speech advocates today.

While these problems do not raise the existential issues that dissent and reaction in wartime present, they do test the resiliency of the First Amendment in the face of conflicting values. Historically, laws against blasphemy, sedition, and obscenity have repeatedly challenged free-speech values, just as protection of privacy, reputation, and cultural sensitivity continue to trouble free-speech advocates today.

Eric Easton

Resolving these conflicts has been a tortuous process, with more than a few missteps along the way. First Amendment doctrine has largely evolved to overcome bad legislative decisions, almost always in the direction of providing more protection for speech. As we work through these contemporary problems, we would be wise to keep the Sedition Act in mind and the harm that even well-meaning advocates can do to by suppressing free speech to advance other values.

Eric Easton is a professor of law at the University of Baltimore and the director of the LL.M. program in the law of the United States. He is the editor of the Journal of Media Law & Ethics and the author of Mobilizing the Press: Defending the First Amendment in the Supreme Court.

New Books & New Paperbacks, January 2018

We’re pleased to announce the following books to be published this month.

January 9, 2018
Defending the Masses: A Progressive Lawyer’s Battles for Free Speech
Eric B. Easton

“An early twentieth-century champion of the cause of free speech for the American people, Gilbert Roe has found an ideal interpreter in Eric B. Easton, whose own legal background serves him well in analyzing Roe’s brilliantly argued wartime freedom of speech cases.”—Richard Drake,author of The Education of an Anti-Imperialist

“Gilbert Roe was a remarkable person who associated with and defended the rights of many of the most fascinating people of the Progressive Era. Easton brings all these stories to life in his wonderfully accessible biography.”—Mark Graber,author of Transforming Free Speech

 

January 9, 2018
In Plain Sight: Impunity and Human Rights in Thailand
Tyrell Haberkorn

New Perspectives in Southeast Asian Studies

“Powerfully uncovers and documents many episodes of state intimidation and violence in postwar Thailand. Haberkorn deftly probes the nature and domestic actions of the Thai state and holds it accountable for its own history.”—Ben Kiernan, author of The Pol Pot Regime and Viet Nam

“This stunning new book goes far beyond Thailand’s heartrending experience of serial dictatorship without accountability and state formation grounded on impunity for crime. Haberkorn also compellingly engages Thailand’s place in the rise of human rights movements. Her documentation of an ‘injustice cascade’ reorients the study of global history and politics.”—Samuel Moyn, author of Human Rights and the Uses of History

“Required reading for anyone who wants to understand modern Thailand. Haberkorn reveals a state where political violence is normalized as it has established and maintained a narrow royalist and elitist regime.”—Kevin Hewison, editor of Political Change in Thailand


January 9, 2018
Now in paperback
Winner of the Kulczycki Book Prize in Polish Studies
Primed for Violence: Murder, Antisemitism, and Democratic Politics in Interwar Poland
Paul Brykczynski

“An outstanding and welcome contribution to scholarship on Polish nationalism, the history of antisemitism, political violence, fascism, and democratic politics [that] will resonate with the public at large as we grapple with contemporary challenges to democracy across the globe.”Slavic Review

“This assiduously researched, impeccably argued, and well-illustrated book should be required reading for anyone interested in modern Polish history and/or the evolution of the Polish nation more broadly.”Polish Review


January 16, 2018

Tragic Rites: Narrative and Ritual in Sophoclean Drama
Adriana E. Brook

Wisconsin Studies in Classics

Presenting an innovative new reading of Sophocles’ plays, Tragic Rites analyzes the poetic and narrative function of ritual in the seven extant plays of Sophocles. Adriana Brook closely examines four of them—Ajax, Electra, Philoctetes, and Oedipus at Colonus—in the context of her wide-ranging consideration of the entire Sophoclean corpus.

“Brook throws new light on the representation of rituals in Sophoclean tragedy, especially of incomplete, incorrectly performed, or corrupted rituals that shape audiences’ and readers’ emotional, ethical, and intellectual responses to each play’s dramatic action and characterization, concern with identity and community, and ambiguous narrative and moral closure.”—Seth L. Schein, author of Sophocles’ Philoctetes


January 23, 2018
Conflicted Memory: Military Cultural Interventions and the Human Rights Era in Peru
Cynthia E. Milton

Critical Human Rights Series

“Brings to light how military ‘entrepreneurs of memory’ strategically place memory products in a memory marketplace. A major intervention in debates about Peru’s internal armed conflict of the 1980s and ’90s and its aftermath, which will interest scholars in many disciplines and regions.”—Paulo Drinot, coeditor of Peculiar Revolution

“This incisive analysis of Peruvian countermemories explores the military’s seemingly failed cultural memory production, its lack of artistry and inability to suppress evidence. Though the military is unable to fully reclaim heroic and self-sacrificing patriotism, Milton nonetheless recognizes its success in shaping memory politics and current political debates.”—Leigh Payne, author of Unsettling Accounts

“Impressively documents the military’s diverse interventions in Peru’s culture—memoirs, ‘truth’ reports, films, novels, and memorials—and its numerous attempts to censor cultural productions that challenge its preferred narrative.”—Jo-Marie Burt, author of Political Violence and the Authoritarian State in Peru

35 Years of Anthropological Controversy

Our guest blogger is Peter Hempenstall. His new book, Truth’s Fool: Derek Freeman and the War over Cultural Anthropology, is now available.

When I tell people the title of my book, half of them (those who are not anthropologists or historians of the Pacific region) puzzle over the name: who on earth was Derek Freeman? If I mention Margaret Mead, some suddenly nod vigorously. Wasn’t there some controversy thirty years ago when Mead’s iconic status was suddenly thrown into dispute? Yes, I say, that’s where Derek Freeman comes in.

Freeman in his later years

In January 1983 Harvard University Press published a book which sparked the longest, most acrimonious controversy in the history of cultural anthropology during the twentieth century. The book was Derek Freeman’s Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth, which was a refutation of Margaret Mead’s little study from the 1920s, Coming of Age in Samoa. Mead’s book had exercised a powerful, energizing influence on American social sciences and culture with its message of how the cultural environment shaped the way humans developed through adolescence. Freeman’s book, and his subsequent battles to defend a portrait of Samoa that was diametrically opposed to Mead’s, provoked tremors across anthropology, particularly in the United States, where Freeman was vilified and dismissed as a dangerous heretic.

Freeman in 1951 standing on an Iban longhouse platform in Borneo

The disruptive figure of Derek Freeman is the subject of Truth’s Fool. Freeman was a New Zealand anthropologist, a mountaineer, who had worked among the head hunting Iban of Borneo, had spent years among Samoans studying their culture, was given a respected chiefly title in that hierarchical society, and spoke fluent Samoan. The repudiation of Mead’s arguments, and the statements that Freeman made in support of a new kind of anthropology that took biological drivers seriously in the evolution of human cultures, threw up dangerous questions about the nature of human being. For American scholars in the Reagan years, Freeman seemed to invoke the threat of racial theories once more invading the social sciences.

Freeman working at home in a woolly hat, the figure of eccentricity

The last two decades of the twentieth century were full of rancorous dispute that had the character of rolling warfare between Freeman and American cultural anthropologists. Freeman spent the last thirty years of his life, until his death in 2001, defending his arguments in a vain attempt to convince his adversaries about Mead and to herald a new anthropology. Echoes of the confrontations find their way into the literature today, and Freeman’s name still has the power to arouse emotion.

The Mead debates and their fallout are at the center of Truth’s Fool. It lays out the labyrinthine twists and turns of arguments that raged from the 1980s into the new century. But it also deals with the second part of Freeman’s Mead campaign, his arguments about the evolution of humans as higher primates, and the relation between their genetically predisposed behavior and the creation of their cultures. Freeman’s refutation of Mead was originally intended as the prelude to a future anthropology, in which his colleagues would learn from neuroscientists’ discoveries about brain functions and apply them to the study of behavior in culture.

And then there is the biography of Freeman himself, which I argue cannot be ignored or underplayed in understanding this alleged antipodean “monster.” Freeman’s reputation is that of a brilliantly cantankerous man, unforgiving in debate, and carrying a career-long vendetta against Margaret Mead. Truth’s Fool examines these claims closely and seeks to peel back the gargoyle features with which he has been endowed by his adversaries. Who was Derek Freeman as a person? How is he to be defined beyond the cult of hostility and the regular ritual denunciations that seem to have grown around him? And what does all this say about anthropology itself and its manner of dealing with dissenters in its midst? I hope Truth’s Fool enlarges the narrow world in which anthropologists have confined Freeman and introduces a three dimensional historical figure of significance, rather than the cartoon-cutout figure he has become for many.

Peter Hempenstall is an emeritus professor of history at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and a conjoint professor of history at the University of Newcastle in Australia. His many books include Pacific Islanders under German Rule and the biographies The Meddlesome Priest and The Lost Man: Wilhelm Solf in German History (coauthored with Paula Tanaka Mochida).

Publishers’s note: The University of Wisconsin Press has published many books on the history of anthropology, including another book on the Mead-Freeman controversy, The Trashing of Margaret Mead. You can also browse our 12-volume History of Anthropology series.

New Books, December 2017

December 12, 2017
Prisoner of Pinochet: My Year in a Chilean Concentration Camp
Sergio Bitar

“A compelling account, a best seller in Chile … and an important contribution to the country’s understanding of itself.”
Foreign Affairs

“Democracy is fragile, and only fully appreciated when it is lost. Sergio Bitar, now one of the most prominent political leaders in Chile, recounts the story of the 1973 military coup and his imprisonment in a direct, unsentimental style that sharply highlights the dramatic events he narrates.”
—Isabel Allende Llona

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

 

December 19, 2017
Truth’s Fool: Derek Freeman and the War over Cultural Anthropology
Peter Hempenstall

Truth’s Fool documents an intellectual journey that was much larger and more encompassing than Freeman’s criticism of Mead’s work. It peels back the prickly layers to reveal the man in all his complexity. Framing this story within anthropology’s development in Britain and America, Peter Hempenstall recounts Freeman’s mission to turn the discipline from its cultural-determinist leanings toward a view of human culture underpinned by biological and behavioral drivers. Truth’s Foolengages the intellectual questions at the center of the Mead–Freeman debate and illuminates the dark spaces of personal, professional, and even national rivalries.

“A perceptive intellectual biography of Freeman’s evolving character, enthusiasms, and academic career that led to his fateful pursuit of Margaret Mead.”
—Lamont Lindstrom,author of Knowledge and Power in a South Pacific Society

 

AIDS Readings

December 1 is World AIDS Day. HIV/AIDS has wrought enormous suffering worldwide and caused more than 35 million deaths. The nine books that follow are testimony to that devastation.

Anne-christine d’Adesky
A personal history of the turbulent 1990s in New York City and Paris by a pioneering American AIDS journalist, lesbian activist, and daughter of French-Haitian elites. Anne-christine d’Adesky remembers “the poxed generation” of AIDS—their lives, their battles, and their determination to find love and make art in the heartbreaking years before lifesaving protease drugs arrived.
“Never far from the mad joy of writing, loving, and being alive, even as it investigates our horribly mundane capacity for horror, this book is a masterpiece.” —Michelle Tea, author of Black Wave
Kenny Fries
Kenny Fries embarks on a journey of profound self-discovery as a disabled foreigner in Japan, a society historically hostile to difference. When he is diagnosed as HIV positive, all his assumptions about Japan, the body, and mortality are shaken, and he must find a way to reenter life on new terms.
“Fries writes out of the pure hot emergency of a mortal being trying to keep himself alive. So much is at stake here—health, affection, culture, trauma, language—but its greatest surprise is what thrives in the midst of suffering. A beautiful book.”—Paul Lisicky, author of The Narrow Door
David Caron
The deluge of metaphors triggered in 1981 in France by the first public reports of what would turn out to be the AIDS epidemic spread with far greater speed and efficiency than the virus itself.
“Literary and cultural analysis come together here as Caron casts brilliant light on the disastrously inadequate public response to the AIDS pandemic in France. . . . He shows how literature supplied the communitarian voice that would otherwise have been lacking.”—Ross Chambers, author of Facing It: AIDS Diaries and the Death of the Author
David Gere
“Anyone interested in dance or in gay culture or in art and politics should, as I did, find this a fascinating book, impossible to put down.”—Sally Banes, editor of Reinventing Dance in the 1960s
Edited by Edmund White
In Cooperation with the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS
“A poignant reminder of the devastating impact of the AIDS epidemic on the arts.”—Library Journal
“A searing, and often bitingly funny collection of personal essays by almost two dozen writers—John Berendt, Brad Gooch, Allan Gurganus, and Sarah Schulman among them—Loss within Loss remembers over twenty creative artists lost to AIDS.”— The Advocate
Severino J. Albuquerque
Co-winner of the 2004 Roberto Reis BRASA Book Award
 “Albuquerque’s work . . . provides an archaeology of theatrical representations of homosexuality in Brazil, an alternative history of Brazilian theater from the margins, a critical analysis of canonical and non-canonical plays infused with the insights of feminist and queer theory, as well as a history of the representation of AIDS in Brazilian culture.”—Fernando Arenas, University of Minnesota
Michael Schiavi
The biography of gay-rights giant Vito Russo, the man who wrote The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies, commonly regarded as the foundational text of gay and lesbian film studies. A founding member of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and cofounder of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), Russo lived at the center of the most important gay cultural turning points in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
G. Thomas Couser    Foreword by Nancy Mairs
A provocative look at writing by and about people with illness or disability—in particular HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, deafness, and paralysis—who challenge the stigmas attached to their conditions by telling their lives in their own ways and on their own terms.
Lesléa Newman
“Although pain plays a part in this volume, many of the tales celebrate with warmth and good humor the courageous maintenance of the Jewish tradition in radical relationships. . . . Contemporary characters confront both timely issues, like AIDS, and eternal ones, such as a lovers’ quarrel or a mother-daughter misunderstanding.”—Publishers Weekly