My Son Wears Heels: One Mom’s Journey from Clueless to Kickass is published today by the University of Wisconsin Press. We talked with author Julie Tarney about some of her experiences raising a gender diverse child, why she wrote her memoir, and what she hopes other parents can learn from her story.
Tell us a little bit about yourself before we delve into the topics in the book. I’m a mom. I live in Brooklyn, New York. And I think I’m in a unique position. My child Harry is 26 years old now and a part of the LGBTQ community. I started this journey when he was two years old, when he told me, “Inside my head I’m a girl.” I know there are thousands of parents out there who are just beginning this journey now—right now—learning about and struggling with their child’s gender identity. I wrote this book as much to help change that experience for kids and the parents who worry about them, as to tell my own story.
What is the book about? It’s about my journey raising a gender diverse child—or gender-nonconforming, gender creative, gender expansive, gender fluid, whatever term you want to use—beginning in the early ’90s. And it’s what I learned from him along the way about gender identity, gender expression, and self-acceptance. It’s about how I grew as a parent and a person.
What did you learn from your son? I learned so much from Harry. Most important, that it’s never too late to learn! And it’s never too late to learn as much from your child as much as you learn for your child. I have lived that experience all the way through with Harry, from toddler to adulthood. And the way I learned, in many respects, was to unlearn. It’s never too late to learn or unlearn. As for specifics, I learned that gender identity is something that develops over time. I didn’t really even understand the term gender identity until Harry was in college and I heard him use it. Gender to me used to mean one of two boxes you checked on a driver’s license application. But I know now that I was confusing sex and gender to mean the same thing, which I think a lot of people still do.
How did the book come about? I was talking at dinner one night with a friend who’s a PhD in psychology and working with LGBTQ youth in Chicago. I told him how Harry had shared his gender identity with me at such an early age and some other stories about Harry’s love of Barbie, the color pink, and so-called girl clothes. That friend encouraged me to share my story. He said he thought it could help a lot of people who were experiencing the same thing now, and that I could help kids by helping parents put things in perspective. I hope it reaches a lot of people.
Transgender youth in particular are getting a lot of attention lately. What do you hope the book will do given the elevated conversation about gender identity, transgender children, and youth? I’m hopeful that it’s going to help parents understand that they’re not alone, that other people have experienced the same thing. And to help them understand what gender identity is, how we all discover ourselves, and that discovering our gender selves is part of that. My journey with Harry began at a time when there were few resources, no Internet, little knowledge, and a lot of misinformation and stereotyping. People were up against a lot then. And today there’s community, support, resources, expertise, research. I want my book to add to the growing expanse of information available today.
What did you discover about yourself, both in raising your child and as you wrote this memoir? I discovered the good and the bad. I discovered that I have a tremendous amount of love for my child. I knew I wanted him to feel that love. I wanted him to feel safe and secure, have confidence, and feel comfortable in the world. I also learned what a big worrier I was. There was so much I didn’t know, and that made me fearful. I found myself facing double standards of boy-girl stereotyping. I considered myself a very liberal, progressive person, but I found myself with the pink problem, something I had to unlearn. And I realized I cared too much during Harry’s early years about what other people thought. In the end I discovered that letting Harry just be Harry —giving him the freedom to be his true self—was what I’d always wanted for myself, too.
Are there any favorite stories in the book that you want to share? I have so many favorite stories. Harry, who today also lives in Brooklyn, is a creative director, photographer and videographer. He also performs as drag artist Amber Alert. So he’s an entertainer, and that began at a very young age. I remember taking him with me to a department store after I’d picked him up from preschool. I needed to buy some black tights to wear to a client presentation the next morning. He wanted to walk around, and I told him to stay close by. He was four. As I flipped through packages, I felt a tap at the back of my waist. When I turned around, there was Harry in a short gray wig. And in his best imitation of an elderly woman, he said, “Grandma wants to go to the park today.” I cracked up, and then he just ran off. I half-expected to be reprimanded by a sales clerk for not keeping my child in check. A few minutes later he came back with another wig and a different voice.
Can you say more about the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation? I didn’t understand the difference until Harry was grown. Gender identity is about you, who you know yourself to be in your own mind. Sexual orientation is what’s in your heart; whom you fall in love with. They run on a parallel, but they are separate paths. Harry identifies as queer. Some people are unfamiliar with that term, or think of it as a term of the past that was used as a slur and had a very derogatory meaning. But for today’s young people, it’s an all-encompassing identifier that really is a way to say, “Don’t try to put me in a box or give me a label to define me in your terms.” It speaks to the idea that I know who I am. I might be genderqueer, I might be gender fluid, I might be agender, but don’t you tell me who I am.
What would you say to a parent whose 3- or 4-year-old child is telling them they’re a girl on the inside or a boy on the inside? Or expressing themselves in ways outside gender expectations? I would tell that parent to love and support their child with all their heart. I would say listen to your child, and keep listening. Your child will tell you who they are. Learn as much as you possibly can. And seek out support. PFLAG is a wonderful nonprofit parenting support organization with hundreds of local chapters across the country.
Your memoir focuses on your experience as a mom, but what are some of the concerns of dads? When I was worrying and projecting a horrible future for Harry, it was Harry’s dad, Ken, who was calmer and said, “He’s only two. He’s just a kid.” But as Harry grew older, I knew his dad wanted to protect him, too. Ken worried that maybe he wasn’t being a “guy enough” as a dad. He thought that maybe because Harry identified more with toys and activities that were/are considered to be feminine, or stereotyped as feminine, that maybe he was being an inadequate father in some way. But I think, at the end of the day, you look at your kid, and you realize this is a little person. You have to listen to them and understand that they’re not here to live up to your expectations of them. They’re here to be who they are. Ideally as parents you default to unconditional love. You ask yourself, “Do I love this kid enough to let them be who they are?” I hope that the questioning and self-doubts I share in the book will encourage other parents to learn more and seek support.
TheParentsProject.com and the True Colors Fund’s Give a Damn Campaign. She volunteers for the PFLAG Safe Schools Program. A longtime resident of Milwaukee, she now lives in New York City. Visit her own blog here.is now a board member for the It Gets Better Project, blogs for the Huffington Post’s “Queer Voices” pages, and is a contributing writer for
Early reviews for My Son Wears Heels:
“Tarney does an exceptional job of tracing the zigzagging line of Harry’s self-identity and recalling the inevitable questions asked along the way.”—New York Times Book Review
“A memorable account of one young person’s journey toward self-identity and a valuable parenting guide for a new era of gender awareness and acceptance.”—Foreword Reviews
“Not only does the book chronicle an especially memorable mother-son relationship, it also suggests that the best parenting is the kind that does not forcibly mold a child into what he/she ‘should’ be but lovingly allows him/her the freedom to follow his/her own special path. A fearlessly open and frank memoir.”—Kirkus Reviews
We are pleased to announce these three new books arriving in September.
Publication date: September 6
MY SON WEARS HEELS
One Mom’s Journey from Clueless to Kickass
“A memorable account of one young person’s journey toward self-identity and a valuable parenting guide for a new era of gender awareness and acceptance.”—Foreword
“Not only does the book chronicle an especially memorable mother-son relationship, it also suggests that the best parenting is the kind that does not forcibly mold a child into what he/she ‘should’ be but lovingly allows him/her the freedom to follow his/her own special path. A fearlessly open and frank memoir.”—Kirkus Reviews
Publication date: September 13
A Memoir of Mania
As featured on This American Life
“A young man grapples with bipolar ‘voices’ via religion, hedonism, activism, and Lithium. In his debut, Monroe-Kane, a Peabody Award–winning public radio producer, brings a fresh perspective to familiar memoir territory. . . . [A] compelling account of wrestling with inner turmoil against gritty, dramatic international settings.”—Kirkus Reviews
“This humble, funny, raw (yes, sex) book is a pell-mell kaleidoscope of faith, drugs, bawdy behavior, and mental illness that resolves not in soft focus or shattered glass but in the sweet important idea that there are many ways to be born again.”—Michael Perry, author of The Jesus Cow
Publication date: September 27
Tales from My Natural, Wild Life
“Smith, a successful comedian and author of both nonfiction and fiction, has lived with Lou Gehrig’s disease [ALS], and even though he now communicates through his iPad, his wit is as sharp as ever. . . . Never moving too far from his comedic nature, Smith delivers one-liners throughout, and nothing is off-limits. A truth-telling tour conducted by an agile guide.”—Kirkus Reviews
“To say that Bob Smith can make a hilarious one-liner out of everything from imminent ecological catastrophe to his own struggles with ALS is to emphasize only one aspect of the beautiful and devastating Treehab. This is a profound meditation on the fragility of life and the enduring power of tolerance, love, and the many ways of creating families. A smart, funny, inspiring guide.”—Stephen McCauley, author of The Object of My Affection
Packy Jim: Folklore and Worldview on the Irish Border has just been published. Folklorist Ray Cashman recounts both his experience of meeting Packy Jim McGrath and how folklore can be used to critique today’s society.
In 1998 I was a novice fieldworker conducting ethnographic research in Aghyaran, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland. I arrived in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement followed by the bombing of Omagh, a time of new hope tempered by familiar tragedy. What drew my attention was stories people told about themselves at wakes and ceilis (nighttime social visits), the kind of stories that appeal to a sense of shared local identity and history that undermines the divisive claims of sectarian affiliation. My preoccupations with politics and community aligned with many in Aghyaran who used storytelling to cope and comprehend after three decades of violence. But of course this was only one meaningful strand, only one perspective on the interestingly complicated borderlands between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
While conducting that research, having claimed to be a folklorist, I was continually told to visit one elderly or gregarious person after another. One in particular was recommended time and again: “You want real folklore? Packy Jim is your man.” My charge was never to turn down a lead, to cast my nets widely, so eventually I crossed the border and trekked into the mountains of Co. Donegal in search of Packy Jim.
The man I found was much as he had been described, living alone and self-sufficient in a rustic stone house without benefit of electricity, running water, or near neighbors. He reminded me powerfully of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden persona; his surroundings put one in mind of W. B. Yeats’s “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” Whatever one’s reaction to introspective iconoclasts in bee-loud glades might be, Packy Jim undeniably has a quick wit, a formidable way with words, and an unmatched talent for glossing almost any thread of conversation with an appropriate story, song, or recitation. His store of memory is vast. Having grown up on a secluded smuggling route, he had heard the news, songs, and stories of several generations of men and women who stopped to pass the time until cover of darkness allowed the border’s unofficial economy to resume. Packy Jim says that in these early years he was all ears, but now it is his turn to talk.
It is exhilarating to find someone who embellishes everyday conversation with stories of ghosts and fairies, heroic outlaws, and hateful landlords—the stuff folklorists traditionally seek. And yet, although an older model of folklore collecting had brought me to him, over the years my interest in Packy Jim has matured through greater familiarity and friendship to focus less on the stuff, the lore, and more on the uses to which he puts it.
Over the years my interest in Packy Jim has matured through greater familiarity and friendship to focus less on the stuff, the lore, and more on the uses to which he puts it.
That is, I have come to better appreciate that—when conversation is two-way and free-flowing—Packy Jim uses narratives from a range of traditional genres to comprehend and critique his own society, while at the same time presenting a coherent moral self. Packy Jim is as much a storyteller working within a vernacular tradition of Irish narrative that we may wish to appreciate in its own right, as he is an individual using available narratives to compose a song of the self.
As Mikhail Bakhtin tells us, our mouths are full of the words of others, but such a formulation should not challenge our faith in individual agency or indeed genius: which words, and how spoken, matter. Packy Jim’s talent and dexterity with the inexhaustible potential of narrative guarantees that he is no more contained between his hat and boots than was Walt Whitman. Neither is Packy Jim shackled by tradition when he trades in handed-down words, images, and stories to order his complicated world of deep-seated mentalities and provocative change. To use Claude Levi-Strauss’s memorable term, Packy Jim is a bricoleur, a crafty recycler who constructs new possibilities out of available handed-down raw materials, meeting present needs.
Listen to Packy Jim recount the origin of the fairies in the following video. It’s a good story well told. It establishes a vision of the cosmos, how it came into being, what roles humans and spiritual beings are meant to play, and how it will all come to an end.
Cosmology, ontology, teleology, and eschatology are weighty matters perhaps best articulated and comprehended through narrative. But consider also that this story serves Packy Jim as a springboard for social commentary and as an index of his personal orientations. Packy Jim as bricoleur masters this story because he needs this story. The slings and arrows of this world—from fairy mischief to difficult neighbors—have a primal sacred origin. Tradition provides Packy Jim both an explanation for hardship and a charter for his own moral behavior, helping him comprehend injustice and have faith that, in the end, the deserving will triumph. You would not be able to adduce much of that from the text of this story alone. Understanding the broader significance of this story—and all the stories in his repertoire—requires paying attention to how Packy Jim uses stories, parable-like, as glosses in longer conversations. It requires appreciating how he tells one story to amplify another, how stories build contexts of meaning for each other. Such contextualization—paying attention to the interplay of text and context—requires patience, and it reveals a worldview that is both idiosyncratic and shared—a testament to individual intelligence and talent, and a window into Irish vernacular culture.
is an associate professor of folklore at Indiana University. He is the author of Storytelling on the Northern Irish Border, which won both the Chicago Folklore Prize of the American Folklore Society and the Donald Murphy Prize of the American Conference for Irish Studies. He is a coeditor of The Individual and Tradition: Folkloristic Perspectives.
A son of Wisconsin pioneers, University of Wisconsin student, inventor, naturalist, and prolific writer—John Muir is one of the most fascinating figures in American history and the nation’s most celebrated advocate for land preservation and national parks. Muir’s writings convinced the U.S. government to create the first national parks at Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, and Mt. Rainier. An NPS biographical note states, “Muir’s great contribution to wilderness preservation was to successfully promote the idea that wilderness had spiritual as well as economic value. This revolutionary idea was possible only because Muir was able to publish everything he wrote in the . . . principal monthly magazines read by the American middle class in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”
The University of Wisconsin Press has been publishing books by and about John Muir for at least 50 years. In 1965, we reissued Muir’s autobiography, The Story of My Boyhood and Youth. (It was first published before he died in 1914.) Muir recounts in vivid detail his early life: his first eleven years in Scotland; the years 1849–1860 in the central Wisconsin wilderness; and two-and-a-half inventive years in Madison as a student at the recently established University of Wisconsin.
We have also published four different biographies of John Muir. Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir by Linnie Marsh Wolfe won the 1946 Pulitzer Prize for biography. UWP obtained rights to it, issuing an edition in 1978 and an expanded edition in 2003. Based in large part on personal interviews with people who knew Muir, it follows Muir his life from Scotland through his teens in rural Marquette County, Wisconsin, to his history-making pilgrimage to California.
The Pathless Way: John Muir and American Wilderness, by scholar Michael P. Cohen, tracks the change in Muir’s aims from personal enlightenment to public advocacy, as he promoted the ecological education of the American public, governmental protection of natural resources, the establishment of the National Parks, and the encouragement of tourism.
The American Conservation Movement: John Muir and His Legacy by Stephen Fox is both a biography—the first to make unrestricted use of all of Muir’s manuscripts and personal papers—and a history of a century of environmental activism. Fox traces the conservation movement from Muir’s successful campaign to establish Yosemite National Park in 1890 to the 1980s concerns of nuclear waste and acid rain.
The Young John Muir: An Environmental Biography by Steven J. Holmes, published in 1999, offered a dramatically new interpretation of Muir’s formative years. Holmes uses rich archival material to show how the natural world confronted the young Muir with practical, emotional, and religious conflicts. Only with the help of his family, his religion, and the extraordinary power of nature itself could Muir in his late twenties find a welcoming vision of nature as home—a vision that would shape his lifelong environmental experience, most immediately in his transformative travels through the South and to the Yosemite Valley.
In the 1970s through the 1990s, UWP was very active in publishing both new collections and reissues of Muir’s writings about his wilderness travels. Some of these are now out of print, but his impassioned work of promotion, Our National Parks, remains a steady seller. Originally published in 1901, its goals were to entice people to visit the newly established parks and to encourage public support for conservation. The book treats Yellowstone, Sequoia, General Grant, and other national parks of the Western U.S., but especially Yosemite.
Articles that Muir wrote for the San Francisco Evening Bulletin in 1874 and 1875 comprise John Muir Summering in the Sierra, edited by Robert E. Engberg. In the course of the articles, Muir grows from a student of the wilderness to its professor and protector.
John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, first published by Knopf in 1938, was reissued by UWP in 1979. John Muir: To Yosemite and Beyond, collected writings from the period 1863 to 1875, was published in 1980. Muir’s book The Yosemite was reissued in 1987, and Letters from Alaska appeared in 1993. All are now out of print with UWP.
In 1998, UWP published Tom and Geraldine Vale’s retracing of Muir’s steps, Walking with Muir across Yosemite, based upon Muir’s journals from his first summer in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. From the foothills through Yosemite Valley and up to the Tuolumne Meadows, the Vales follow the present roads and trails that crossed Muir’s route, imagining his reaction to the landscape while reflecting on the natural world in both his time and our own.
We look forward to publishing a selection of Muir’s writing in A Driftless Area Reader edited by Curt Meine and Keefe Keeley, forthcoming sometime in 2017.
Subscribe to our blog (at right) to read more UWP history throughout the coming year.
Read past 80th anniversary blog posts here.
We are pleased to announce two new books arriving in late August.
HOW RUSSIA LEARNED TO WRITE
Literature and the Imperial Table of Ranks
“Compelling, clever, and persuasive. Examining many Russian writers’ self-fashioning as members of the nobility and their careers in public service, Reyfman admirably shows that the understanding of rank should inflect all our arguments and histories of the writing profession in Russia.”
—Luba Golburt, University of California, Berkeley
“Indispensable reading for all who study Russian literature of the Imperial period. Reyfman adds nuance and necessary reevaluation to our understanding of how literary careers and literary biography evolved in Russia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.”
—Andrew Kahn, University of Oxford
Publications of the Wisconsin Center for Pushkin Studies David M. Bethea, Series Editor
August 30, 2016
Folklore and Worldview on the Irish Border
“A brilliant testament to the ethnographer’s art, the deeply rooted wisdom of an ‘ordinary’ person, and the complex ways in which folklore figures in everyday life along the Irish border.”
—James P. Leary, author of Folksongs of Another America
“Octogenarian bachelor Packy Jim McGrath of Lettercran, County Donegal, emerges here as both typical and singular, a barometer of continuity and change. McGrath’s resilience, dignity, and strong sense of self manifest clearly in his stories, which locate him both in the technological consumerist future and in the primordial self-sufficient past. Ray Cashman’s sharp and sympathetic observation delivers a classic ethnography that stakes a major claim for folkloristic studies as cutting-edge humanities research.”
—Lillis Ó Laoire, author of On a Rock in the Middle of the Ocean: Songs and Singers in Tory Island
Variation within repetition is common in Latin epics, but Ovid is the undisputed champion of its usage.
Laurel Fulkerson and Tim Stover conversed recently about how the genre of Latin epic poetry lends itself to repetition. They explore a distinct form of repetition in Ovid’s Metamorphoses in the new UWP book they’ve edited. Repeat Performances: Ovidian Repetition and the Metamorphoses is published in the longstanding University of Wisconsin Press series Wisconsin Studies in Classics.
Tim Repetition is certainly a feature of later epic as well, so we wondered if there was a kind of repetition that was particularly Ovidian. We wanted some of our contributors to identify and elucidate the Ovidianism of post-Augustan epic’s repetitious gestures. A systematic study of Ovid’s influence on Flavian epic and beyond is a critical desideratum for our field. One of the exciting things about this book is that several of its papers demonstrate how deeply Ovid influenced later writers of epic, while also pointing to new avenues for research on the reception of Ovidian repetition specifically. Perhaps the most salient example of the latter is the use by Neil Bernstein of Tesserae, a web-based interface for exploring intertextual parallels in Latin literature. It’s a strength of this volume that it brings together more traditional approaches to Ovidian repetition and newer cutting-edge technology on intertextuality.
Laurel And, of course, epic itself is a repetitive genre. We say in the introduction that we think it’s more repetitive than many other genres. All of literature is necessarily repetitive, but the body of epic material becomes codified so early on; the whole Homeric cycle is predicated upon the notion that everyone already sort of knows these stories.
Tim Precisely. The point of the cycle seems to be in telling the same stories in a different way, so that what is deemed “innovative” in any new version is not the basic plot of a given story, but rather what kinds of material will differentiate it from its predecessors at a microcosmic or atomic level. This practice is foundational for later poetry, but is most pronounced in epic and tragedy, two genres that over time cross-fertilize each other in complex ways. That’s another angle explored in our book. Variation within repetition is a key factor of all of Latin epic, but Ovid is the undisputed champion of its usage, as the contributors to this volume reveal. Ovid’s example then sets repetition on a new and exciting path, which is discernible in the specifically Ovidian nature of the repetitiveness of post-Ovidian epic.
Laurel Or so we think; you’ll have to read the book to make up your own mind.
Today is the publication date of American Surveillance: Intelligence, Privacy, and the Fourth Amendment. Its author, Anthony Gregory, offers a history of surveillance efforts that transcend party divides, urging us to look deeper into foreign policy. He is our guest blogger for this post.
Whatever else it might be, November’s election won’t be a referendum on surveillance and privacy. Hillary Rodham Clinton voted as Senator for the Patriot Act in 2001 and 2006, and Donald Trump has approved its renewal, saying he tends to “err on the side of security.” In the Democratic debates, Clinton harshly criticized NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, insisting, probably wrongly, that he “could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistleblower” and “raised all the issues” without breaking the law. Trump has called Snowden a traitor, promised to get Russian president Vladimir Putin to hand him over, and in the past even suggested him worthy of execution. Both candidates want to expand foreign intelligence. Clinton recently told Fox television host Bill O’Reilly that among her “priorities is to launch an intelligence surge” and more information-sharing to combat terror. Trump told CBS journalist Leslie Stahl that, to defeat ISIS, “we’re going to have unbelievable intelligence, which we need [and] right now, we don’t have.”
Both major political parties have nominated surveillance hawks for the highest office in 2016, but we could excuse the public for discerning partisan differences. In recent years, both sides have postured as disagreeing fundamentally. Barack Obama ran for president echoing fellow Democrats’ condemnation of President George W. Bush’s attempts to immunize telecoms implicated in NSA warrantless wiretapping. Under Obama’s presidency, the Republican National Committee denounced the NSA’s “dragnet program” as likely “the largest surveillance effort ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens” and its mass data collection as “contrary to the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment.” Inconsistent politicians have mirrored a shift among constituents. The Pew Research Center in 2006 found that 37% of Democrats and 75% of Republicans considered Bush’s surveillance program acceptable. In 2013, 64% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans approved NSA surveillance under Obama.
As far back as we can trace the American surveillance state, its defenders and detractors have transcended any consistent partisan divide. Republican president Theodore Roosevelt created what became the Federal Bureau of Investigation, against warnings from both parties. Democrat Woodrow Wilson oversaw a massive expansion of foreign and domestic intelligence during World War I. For forty-eight years, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI conducted spying on behalf of both parties’ presidents, who were often eager for his assistance targeting political enemies. Both Republicans and Democrats targeted foreigners, allies, the far right, and the radical left.
Those seeking to understand surveillance must look beyond politics and into policy. Foreign policy in particular has a profound if fraught relationship to surveillance abroad and at home. A bipartisan foreign intelligence posture has tended to bleed into the domestic sphere. From the Progressive Era through the Cold War, fears of a fifth column under foreign influence, and tactics first used in foreign occupations, inspired application of surveillance techniques within the United States. More pedestrian policy goals, such as wars on crime, drugs, and poverty, have also fueled violations of privacy.
Even as policy dynamics transcend partisanship, the legal principles at stake are frustratingly complex. Both principled and partisan critics accuse their opponents in power of unambiguously violating the Constitution, whereas both Bush and Obama claimed their surveillance program passed the Fourth Amendment test. Civil libertarians find such defenses absurd, but the Fourth Amendment is no privacy panacea. It always accommodated vast search powers. Wiretapping wasn’t even covered until 1967, when the Court found a Constitutional “right to privacy” beyond a physical property right. Conservatives long skeptical of such a “right to privacy” lack an originalist argument for why NSA surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment. Generally speaking, modern technology and the terror war’s global battleground have revealed the limits of simple legal arguments.
If there is no consistent Fourth Amendment principle against the surveillance state, how could we expect a consistently pro–Fourth Amendment political party? Granted, third parties, like the Libertarians and Greens, have more relentlessly criticized surveillance powers and are much more favorable toward Snowden. It is also outside mainstream electoral politics that we find any fundamental rethinking of the policy priorities that drive the surveillance state at home. This might discourage those who want Fourth Amendment restoration in the next election. But to understand the deeper issues requires more than partisan grandstanding. Politics cannot begin to touch a surveillance power so entrenched and a privacy right so elusive. Privacy advocates must look to policy prescriptions, foreign policy history, and broader cultural values.
The Power of Habeas Corpus in America: From the King’s Prerogative to the War on Terror, winner of the PROSE Book Award for legal studies. He is a fellow of the Independent Institute in Oakland, California.is the author of
Examines the presidency’s ever-changing place in the American imagination, from the plays and polemics of the eighteenth century—when the new office was born in what Alexander Hamilton called “the regions of fiction”—to the digital products of the twenty-first century. A colorful, indispensable guide to the many surprising ways Americans have been “representing” presidents even as those presidents have represented them.
In this anniversary edition, the late Sacvan Bercovitch revisits his classic study of the role of the American political sermon, or jeremiad, from a contemporary perspective, assessing developments in the the culture at large. The American Jeremiad demonstrates how fully our national identity has been forged from conflicted narratives of self-examination and redemption.
A Black Gambler’s World of Liquor, Vice, and Presidential Politics: William Thomas Scott of Illinois, 1839–1917
William Thomas Scott (1839–1917) was an Illinois entrepreneur and political activist who in 1904 briefly became the first African American nominated by a national party for president of the United States before his scandalous past forced him to step aside. Scott helped build the National Negro Liberty Party to forward economic, political, and legal rights for his race. But the underworld hustling that had brought him business success proved his undoing as a national political figure. He was the NNLP’s initial presidential nominee, only to be quickly replaced by a better-educated and more socially acceptable candidate, George Edwin Taylor.
For Labor, Race, and Liberty: George Edwin Taylor, His Historic Run for the White House, and the Making of Independent Black Politics
Bruce L. Mouser
More than one hundred years before Barack Obama, George Edwin Taylor made presidential history. Born in the antebellum South to a slave and a freed woman, raised and educated in Wisconsin, Taylor became the first African American ticketed as a political party’s nominee for president of the United States, running against Theodore Roosevelt in 1904. At a time when many African Americans felt allegiance to the Republican Party for its support of abolition, Taylor’s sympathy with the labor cause drew him first to the national Democratic Party and then to an African American party, the newly formed National Negro Liberty Party, which named him its presidential candidate.
In 1914, a brilliant young political journalist published a book arguing that the United States had entered a period of “drift”—a lack of control over rapidly changing forces in society. He highlighted the tensions between expansion and consolidation, traditionalism and progressivism, and emotion and rationality. Mastery over drift is attainable, Walter Lippmann argued, through diligent attention to facts and making active choices. Lippman’s Drift and Mastery became one of the most important and influential documents of the Progressive Movement. This centennial edition remains invaluable as a window to the political thought of early twentieth-century America and as a lucid exploration of timeless themes in American government and politics.
Autobiography is both a memoir and a history of the Progressive cause in the United States, charting La Follette’s formative years in politics, his attempts to abolish entrenched state and corporate influences, and his embattled efforts to advance Progressive policies. This centennial edition includes a foreword by Matthew Rothschild, former editor of The Progressive—the magazine that La Follette himself founded. (1855–1925) was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, governor of Wisconsin, U.S. senator, and the U.S. Progressive Party’s presidential candidate in 1924, winning one-sixth of the total national vote. His
“No one who cares about liberty will read Mr. Bayley’s masterful study without a shudder about the journalistic cop-outs that contributed to making the nightmare called McCarthyism. This book reminds us that it could happen here, but perhaps will make it harder to happen next time.”—Daniel Schorr
“Thorough, incisive and fascinating, this is the best account we have of the strange relationship between Joe McCarthy and the American press.”—Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
U. S. House Representative Henry S. Reuss (D-Wisconsin, 1955–83) believed there was indeed a time when government worked—the “Golden Age” of 1948–68. The economy was functioning, the long overdue civil rights movement had begun to blossom, and the government had integrity. In his memoir, When Government Was Good, he blasts the political forces that he believed led to the disintegration of that Golden Age: economic and racial inequality and excessive militarism.
In 1968, at the peak of the Vietnam War, centrist Congressman Melvin Laird (R-WI) agreed to serve as Richard Nixon’s secretary of defense. It was not, Laird knew, a move likely to endear him to the American public—but as he later said, “Nixon couldn’t find anybody else who wanted the damn job.” This biography illuminates Laird’s behind-the-scenes sparring with Henry Kissinger over policy, his decisions to ignore Nixon’s wilder directives, his formative impact on arms control and health care, his key role in the selection of Ford for vice president, his frustration with the country’s abandonment of Vietnamization, and, in later years, his unheeded warning to Donald Rumsfeld that “it’s a helluva lot easier to get into a war than to get out of one.”
The life of Gaylord Nelson, a small-town Wisconsin boy who learned his values and political principles at an early age, is woven through the political history of the twentieth century. His story intersects at times with Fighting Bob La Follette, Joe McCarthy, and Bill Proxmire in Wisconsin, and with George McGovern, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Russell Long, Walter Mondale, John F. Kennedy, and others on the national scene. His founding of Earth Day in 1970 permanently changed national and global politics; more than one billion people worldwide now participate in annual Earth Day activities.
David R. Obey (D-Wausau) served in the U.S. House of Representatives longer than anyone in Wisconsin history, culminating in the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee. After forty years in Congress, Obey looks back on his journey in politics beginning with his early years in the Wisconsin Legislature, when Wisconsin moved through eras of shifting balance between Republicans and Democrats. On a national level Obey traces, as few others have done, the dramatic changes in the workings of the U.S. Congress since his first election to the House in 1969. He discusses his own central role in the evolution of Congress, ethics reforms, and crucial chapters in our democracy.
Defining the scope and limits of emergency presidential power might seem easy—just turn to Article II of the Constitution. But as Chris Edelson shows, the reality is complicated. In times of crisis, presidents have frequently staked out claims to broad national security power. Drawing on excerpts from the U.S. Constitution, Supreme Court opinions, Department of Justice memos, and other primary documents, Edelson weighs the various arguments that presidents have used to justify the expansive use of executive power.
As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama criticized the George W. Bush administration for its unrestrained actions in matters of national security. In a thorough comparison of the Bush and Obama administrations’ national security policies, Chris Edelson demonstrates that President Obama and his officials have used softer rhetoric and toned-down legal arguments, but in key areas—military action, surveillance, and state secrets—they have simply found new ways to assert power without meaningful constitutional or statutory constraints. Edelson contends that this legacy of the two immediately post-9/11 presidencies raises crucial questions for future presidents, Congress, the courts, and American citizens.
This history of voting in Wisconsin from statehood in 1848 to 2008 both tracks voting in key elections across the years and investigates electoral trends and patterns over the course of Wisconsin’s history. Fowler explores the ways that ethnic and religious groups in the state have voted historically, discusses the great struggle for women’s suffrage, and reminds us of many Wisconsin third parties—Socialists, Progressives, the Prohibition Party, and others. Here, too, are the famous politicians in Wisconsin history, including the La Follette family, William Proxmire, and Tommy Thompson.
In postdictatorship Argentina, insight into what remains unspoken
Trauma, Taboo, and Truth-Telling: Listening to Silences in Postdictatorship Argentina, recently published by the University of Wisconsin Press.is an associate professor of Spanish at Luther College. She is the cotranslator of Violet Island and Other Poems by Reina María Rodríguez, and author of
How did you become interested in the topic of silences and taboos in postdictatorship Argentina?
I was reading a lot of novels and plays written after the return to democracy, and I kept noticing the prominent role of silence: characters who would or could not speak, unspecified yet sinister horrors, and a fragmented or indirect language that called attention to the difficulty of expressing crimes against humanity. While existing scholarship alluded to the importance of silence, few critics had attempted to unpack its meaning. At the same time, the rhetoric of human rights was often couched in terms of speech versus silence: one must break oppressive silences in order to voice the crimes of the past. Yet it seemed to me that the myriad silences in cultural production were more than simply negative states to be broken. The strong silence of fictional torture victims who refuse to offer information to their captors, for example, belies any interpretation of silence as unequivocally negative. The more I began to explore fictional and testimonial narrative with an ear to silences and taboos, the more I realized that understanding the interplay between silence and speech (in particular, paying attention to which stories are not being told) was critical to understanding the complex postdictatorship period itself. I also discovered that taboos do not pertain solely to the realm of the military and its apologists; the rhetoric of human rights organizations also perpetuates certain taboos regarding the portrayal of victims and perpetrators.
It sounds like a sensitive topic to study.
It certainly is. This came out particularly in the review period of the manuscript. One chapter in the book analyzes stories of babies born in captivity and appropriated by families sympathetic to the military regime.
Many of these individuals have grown to adulthood with no knowledge of their biological origins or the crime committed against them during their infancy. The chapter explores which aspects of the complicated questions of identity that surround these youngest victims of the dictatorship come to the fore and which remain taboo. Of all the chapters, this one generated the most commentary from UW Press’s peer reviewers, due to its discussion of the rhetoric employed by the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a prominent human rights organization that has been searching for these missing children for decades. Given the delicate nature of identity restitution, the readers’ responses did not surprise me, but it was a constant reminder of the way in which as a researcher I needed to be sensitive to the admirable work of human rights organizations yet unafraid to signal the limits that seem to govern the tales of the postdictatorship. In many representations of the trauma of torture or appropriation, unpalatable truths regarding victims and perpetrators remain consigned to the shadows, but a more complete picture of the legacies of the dictatorship only emerges when one examines both the stories that are being told and also those that remain taboo.
Listening to silences offers unexpected insight regarding postdictatorship Argentina, for even stories that struggle against forgetting may conceal as much as they reveal.
Any final thoughts?
Listening to silences offers unexpected insight regarding postdictatorship Argentina, for even stories that struggle against forgetting may conceal as much as they reveal. The overt silences of the military (such as the refusal to account for the fate of missing victims) are complemented by more covert silences in tales of victims of human rights violations (such as questions of complicity or betrayal in the torture chamber). Although the insights gained by exploring silences may prove troubling, identifying and unpacking the lingering taboos can help articulate the depth and breadth of the painful legacies of the dictatorship.
Trauma, Taboo, and Truth-Telling: Listening to Silences in Postdictatorship Argentina is published in the University of Wisconsin Press book series Critical Human Rights, edited by Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus. Find all of the books published in the series to date here.