Tag Archives: University Press

University of Wisconsin Press
Welcomes New Publicity Manager

Kaitlin Svabek.

Kaitlin Svabek.

The University of Wisconsin Press is pleased to announce that Kaitlin Svabek will join our staff as Publicity Manager, effective Tuesday, September 4.

Svabek, most recently a communications and engagement specialist with the Wisconsin Network for Research Support (WINRS), will oversee publicity efforts for the University of Wisconsin Press books division. She previously held roles with the UW–Madison iSchool Laboratory Library and SLIS Department. Svabek earned a BA in English Creative Nonfiction Writing and Psychology at Northwestern University and an MA in Management of Information Innovation and Change at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She also cofounded and served as communications and marketing coordinator for Community Read Rock County (CRRC), a community reading project that organizes events, contests, and book discussions with libraries, schools, community organizations, and local businesses in Rock County. Svabek’s publishing experience includes positions at Agate Publishing and the Daily Northwestern.

“In addition to her experience connecting authors, books, and audiences, Kaitlin also brings an impressive range of social media, marketing design, and technical skills to the press,” says sales and marketing manager Casey LaVela. “I am tremendously excited to work alongside Kaitlin as she applies her creativity and abilities to our books publicity program.”

Svabek says, “I am so delighted to have the opportunity to build new and grow existing relationships at the University of Wisconsin Press. I’m looking forward to engaging more people in the exciting work coming from UWP and collaborating with such a creative and knowledgeable team.”

About the University of Wisconsin Press
The University of Wisconsin Press, one of the research and service centers housed within the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a not-for-profit publisher of books and journals. With nearly 1,500 titles in print, its mission embodies the Wisconsin Idea by publishing work of distinction that serves the people of Wisconsin and the world.

University of Wisconsin Press Welcomes New Sales & Marketing Manager

Casey LaVela. Photo by Victor Nirapienranant.

 

The University of Wisconsin Press is pleased to announce the imminent arrival of its newest staff member: Casey LaVela will be joining the organization as interim sales and marketing manager effective June 4, 2018.

LaVela, most recently publicity director at the University of Washington Press, will oversee marketing and sales strategies for the University of Wisconsin Press books division. She previously held various publicity roles at Princeton University Press and earned her degree in English and American literature, with a minor in architectural studies, at Washington University in St. Louis.

While at the University of Washington Press, she oversaw growth in regional and national exposure for the books program and brand in publications ranging from Seattle Magazine to The New Yorker, TIME, The New York Times Book Review, and The Washington Post. “Casey is the best publicist I’ve ever worked with,” says Rachael Levay, former marketing and sales director at Washington and current acquisitions editor at Utah State University Press.

LaVela succeeds Andrea Christofferson, who is retiring from UWP on June 1, 2018. Christofferson spent 16 years in her position, following more than 18 years working in museum store and museum operations at the Wisconsin Historical Society. “Andrea’s institutional knowledge and connections across the state are unrivaled,” says Dennis Lloyd, director of the University of Wisconsin Press. “We are incredibly fortunate to have found another network builder in Casey,” he says. “Her abilities and accomplishments speak for themselves, and I am very much looking forward to her joining us, and to working alongside her.”

Adds Ryan Pingel, business and operations manager at Wisconsin, “From the moment Casey visited our offices, we could tell she was a singular talent.  It will be exciting to see how she implements her vision for our marketing and sales efforts, and as she works to extend our visibility in new directions.”

Says LaVela, “As a native Midwesterner I am thrilled by the opportunity to serve the University of Wisconsin Press’s regional, academic, and trade communities and build new ways forward in marketing with UWP’s wonderful team. The exciting shifts happening in scholarly publishing present an extraordinary chance to amplify UWP’s reach and role in connecting people and information in the Upper Midwest and the world at large, and I’m excited to collaborate with the new marketing specialist in our journals division, Claire Eder.”

One of LaVela’s first tasks will be to hire a new publicity manager, to replace outgoing communications director Sheila Leary, who is also retiring this spring. Leary has served the press in a number of capacities, including press director, since 1990. Says Lloyd, “Sheila’s dedication to and leadership at the University of Wisconsin Press have been invaluable.  She has been a stalwart advocate for the values of university presses in general, and Wisconsin in particular, over the past three decades. We wouldn’t be where we are today without her significant efforts.”

LaVela can be reached at casey.lavela@wisc.edu.

About the University of Wisconsin Press
The University of Wisconsin Press, one of the research and service centers housed within the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a not-for-profit publisher of books and journals. With nearly 1,500 titles in print, its mission embodies the Wisconsin Idea by publishing work of distinction that serves the people of Wisconsin and the world.

Claire Eder joins UWP as Journals Marketing Specialist

Claire Eder

The University of Wisconsin Press has hired Claire Eder as its new Marketing Specialist in the Journals Division. Eder joins UWP from the literary journal Quarter After Eight, where she was editor in chief. She also has experience in scholarly publishing from a past graduate internship at the University Press of Florida.

Eder earned a PhD from Ohio University and an MFA from the University of Florida. Her poems and translations have appeared in the Cincinnati Review, PANK, Midwestern Gothic, and Guernica, among other publications.

Journals Manager Toni Gunnison notes, “Claire’s varied experience will be a great asset to UWP. We feel very fortunate to have her join our program.”

Eder states, “I’m excited to help the crucial research published in UWP journals reach a wider readership, as well as to join a friendly and skilled team. The University of Wisconsin Press is the perfect place to grow my knowledge of scholarly publishing.”

About the University of Wisconsin Press

The University of Wisconsin Press, a research center housed within the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is a nonprofit publisher of books, journals, and other works. The Press’s mission is to embody and extend the research, education, and outreach mission of the University of Wisconsin through publishing:

  • scholarship, research, and educational materials of exceptional quality and distinction valued by a worldwide academic and professional community
  • works that serve the people of Wisconsin and document our region’s heritage
  • works that sustain a literate culture and foster an informed and engaged citizenry.

 

New Books and New Paperbacks, November 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 7, 2017 NEW IN PAPERBACK

Winner, Michael J. Durkan Prize for Books on Language and Culture, American Conference for Irish Studies
PACKY JIM: Folklore and Worldview on the Irish Border
Ray Cashman

“Accessible to a broad audience. . . . A delight to read on many different levels and constitutes a valuable addition to the scholarship on the individual and tradition.”—Journal of Folklore Research

Growing up on a secluded smuggling route along the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic, Packy Jim McGrath regularly heard the news, songs, and stories of men and women who stopped to pass the time until cover of darkness. In his early years, he says, he was all ears—but now it is his turn to talk.

“Octogenarian bachelor Packy Jim McGrath of Lettercran, County Donegal, emerges here as both typical and singular, a barometer of continuity and change. 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

November 14, 2017
SIX TURKISH FILMMAKERS
Laurence Raw

“Surprising and innovative. Raw integrates historical research with literary references and personal reflections, using the work of contemporary Turkish filmmakers to discuss pressing issues of identity and transcultural understanding.”—Iain Robert Smith, King’s College London

In analysis of and personal interviews with Derviş Zaim, Zeki Demirkubuz, Semih Kaplanoğlu, Çağan Irmak, Tolga Örnek, and Palme d’Or winner Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Raw draws connections with Turkish theater, art, sculpture, literature, poetry, philosophy, and international cinema. A native of England and a twenty-five-year resident of Turkey, Raw interleaves his film discussion with thoughtful commentary on nationalism, gender, personal identity, and cultural pluralism.

Wisconsin Film Studies Series
Patrick McGilligan, Series Editor

 

November 21, 2017
SEASON OF THE SECOND THOUGHT
Lynn Powell

“Not just written, but wrought. Powell’s new poems deftly combine keen observation with perfect pitch, and their rich chiaroscuro renders them vibrant and painterly as the Dutch masters they often reference. The current running through her lines leaves me shivering with excitement and gratitude.”
—R. T. Smith, author of In the Night Orchard

Season of the Second Thought begins in a deep blue mood, longing to find words for what feels beyond saying. Lynn Powell’s poems journey through the seasons, quarreling with the muse, reckoning with loss, questioning the heart and its “pedigree of Pentecost,” and seeking out paintings in order to see inside the self. With their crisp observations and iridescent language, these poems accumulate the bounty of an examined life. These lines emerge from darkness into a shimmering equilibrium—witty, lush, and hard-won.

Wisconsin Poetry Series
Ronald Wallace, Series Editor

 

November 28, 2017
THE WARS INSIDE CHILE’S BARRACKS: Remembering Military Service under Pinochet
Leith Passmore

“With crisp prose and superb scholarship, Leith Passmore provides a groundbreaking exploration of the lives and memories of military conscripts under, and after, the seventeen-year rule of General Pinochet, South America’s most famous violator of human rights in living memory.”
—Paul W. Drake, author of Between Tyranny and Anarchy

“Few books are able to capture, as this one does, the full complexity of the Pinochet dictatorship’s horror. Passmore leads us, in magisterial fashion, into one of its darkest corners: the tortured memories of thousands of former conscripts transformed simultaneously into perpetrators and victims of the dictatorial nightmare.”
—Verónica Valdivia, author of El golpe después del golpe: Leigh vs Pinochet (1960–1980)

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

UNIVERSITY PRESS WEEK 2016! THURSDAY BLOG TOUR: THROWBACK TO THE FUTURE

Throwback to the Future

On Day Four of University Press Week, visit these blog sites that highlight the past and future of university press publishing.

Yale University Press on mass media and the global village

Indiana University Press on Indiana’s Bicentennial Bookshelf

Seminary Co-op Bookstores reproduces their Fall 1983 newsletter

University of Michigan Press  introduce two major projects: a digital archaeology monograph about excavating a Roman city, built on a video game platform;  and a new digital publishing platform for information and data in multiple forms.

IPR License introduces its work as a fully transactional rights and licensing online marketplace

Columbia University Press on the South Asia Across the Disciplines series, a Mellon-funded collaborative project of Columbia University Press, the University of Chicago Press, and the University of California Press

University of Toronto Press Journals looks back and forward at online publishing platforms for journals

Also, plan to watch this event on Friday!

Scholars and Editors on Social Media
YouTube Live   Friday, November 18, 12PM ET
Communities of scholars and editors have always been essential to the work of university presses. Today these communities often form and find each other via social media. An AAUP Art of Acquisitions Hangout brings together editors and scholars to explore this. Watch the livestream >

And view an impressive gallery of university presses collaborating with partners to form communities.

 

The Art & Craft of Print

We are ce80th-logolebrating University Press Week with the theme of “community,” and from April 2016 to April 2017, we are blogging monthly about University of Wisconsin Press history to mark our eightieth year. On top of that, for this Wednesday blog tour of university presses, the theme is “university press staff spotlight.”

Terry Emmrich at the Overture Center galleries

Terry Emmrich at the Overture Center galleries in summer 2016

It is was an obvious choice, then, to shine that spotlight on Terry Emmrich, production manager in the books division of UWP. In addition to his expert knowledge of typesetting, composition, papers, offset printing, and binding (as well as digital files and production), Terry is a fine art printmaker. In that, he joins a large and historic community of Wisconsin artists.

He also has an impeccable production pedigree, hailing from Neenah in the heart of Wisconsin’s “Paper Valley.” He grew up among folks working in the paper industry, and after studying art and printmaking at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, he was a sales rep for a printing company before joining UWP in 1989.

A linoleum block relief print by Terry Emmrich

A linoleum block relief print by Terry Emmrich

 

Nine of Terry’s linoleum block relief prints were chosen for a dual exhibition in summer 2016 in the galleries of the Overture Center for the Arts, Madison’s premier visual and performing arts venue.

As UWP production manager, Terry has also taken an important role in the documentation of Wisconsin and American printmaking. He has been either the manager or assistant production manager when UWP published significant books on printmaking that required the highest production quality.

Managing the production of our titles related to printmaking has been a special treat for me as it has allowed me to apply my professional knowledge to the publication of a subject in which I have had a lifelong interest. In the case of the books on Warrington Colescott’s prints, it also gave me an opportunity to work with an international giant in the field of printmaking and an artist whom I have long admired.

The most notable of the UWP publications on printmaking are these.

1943A Century of American Printmaking, 1880–1980 by James Watrous
In this sumptuously illustrated history, James Watrous captures the vast panorama of American printmaking in the past century. As he traces the roots and evolution of the art, the story becomes one of prints, people, and events—from the printmakers, their artistic conceptions, and works, to the curators, dealers. collectors, critics, printers, workshops, and exhibitions that played crucial supporting roles. The result is both a compelling cultural history and a seminal survey of a major American art form.
0377

The Print in the Western World: An Introductory History by Linda C. Hults
A history of  500 years of the fine-art print, including detailed treatment of the work of five master printmakers—Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso, and Jasper Johns. More than 700 illustrations, forty-nine of them in color, show the evolution of the relief, intaglio, planographic, and stencil processes through the centuries.

0485Progressive Printmakers: Wisconsin Artists and the Print Renaissance by Warrington Colescott and Arthur O. Hove
Printmaking exploded on the American art scene after World War II, rapidly expanding from New York to the Midwest and beyond. Central to this movement and its development was the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where a group of talented young artists was making prints and developing a print curriculum. Progressive Printmakers documents, in words and stunning pictures, the breakthrough aesthetics and technical innovations that made the Madison printmakers a force in the art world.

4558

The Prints of Warrington Colescott: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1948–2008 by Mary Weaver Chapin
A satirist in the tradition of William Hogarth, Francisco Goya, Honoré Daumier, and George Grosz, Warrington Colescott interprets contemporary and historical events, from the personal to the public, the local to the international. He is noted for his exceptional command of complex printmaking techniques and for his innovative approach to intaglio printing. This book is the first fully illustrated catalogue of Colescott’s extensive and varied graphic career and accompanied a major retrospective exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum.  Colescott, also a UWP author as the co-writer of Progressive Printmakers, is still making art today at age 95.

To read more 80th Anniversary posts about publishing history at the University of Wisconsin Press, click here.

To read more “staff spotlights” from other university presses, visit here. 

Livia Appel, the University of Wisconsin Press’s first editor

80th-logoLivia Appel was appointed the first managing editor (essentially, the first director) of the University of Wisconsin Press in 1937. University Press Committee records from the time indicate that she was hired because she thoroughly understood academic publishing operations and could be employed for much less pay than a man.

Livia Appel. Photo by Arthur M. Vinje, collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society, #43412

Livia Appel. Photo by Arthur M. Vinje, collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society, #43412

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1893, Appel became a school teacher and then a research and editorial assistant at the Minnesota Historical Society. Her work as an assistant was apparently impressive enough that she was credited as coauthor of a MHS book: Minnesota in the War with Germany by Franklin F. Holbrook and Livia Appel.

Very little about Appel’s work at UWP has been researched, but her tenure included the difficult years of the Great Depression and World War II. We know that the first book published at the Press was Reactions of Hydrogen with Organic Compounds over Copper-Chromium Oxide and Nickel Catalysts by Homer Adkins. Appel also authored a small book herself—Bibliographical Citation in the Social Sciences and the Humanities: A Handbook of Style for Authors, Editors, and Students, published by UWP in 1940.

A few of the more notable books published between Appel’s arrival in 1937 and departure in 1948 include:

  • The Early Writings of Frederick Jackson Turner Edited by Everett E. Edwards (1938)
    A Regional Approach to the Conservation of Natural Resources
    by V. C. Finch and J. R. Whitaker (1938)
    The Leguminous Plants of Wisconsin by Norman C. Fassett (1939)
    The Wars of the Iroquois: A Study in Intertribal Trade Relations by George T. Hunt (1940)
    The Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774–1781 by Merrill Jensen (1940)
    Lincoln and the Radicals by T. Harry Williams (1941)
    De Rerum Natura: The Latin Text of Lucretius Edited by William Ellery Leonard and Stanley Barney Smith (1942)
    Japan: A Physical, Cultural, and Regional Geography by Glenn T. Trewartha (1945)
    The Wisconsin Prisoner: Studies in Crimogenesis by John L. Gillin (1946)
    Hermes the Thief: The Evolution of a Myth by Norman O. Brown (1947)

What we do know about Appel as an editor and as a person comes mainly from her later work elsewhere. In 1948, she was hired by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin as editor for their publications. Distinguished historian Francis Paul Prucha, whose work Appel edited for SHSW, wrote a lengthy tribute to her in the summer 1996 issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History on the occasion of the society’s sesquicentennial.

In Prucha’s article titled, “Livia Appel and the Art of Copywriting: A Personal Memoir,” he noted, “In her years at the [University of Wisconsin] Press, she gained a reputation as a perfectionist.” Prucha describes in detail how Appel worked painstakingly and authoritatively with him to transform his dissertation into a successful book. “My encounter with Livia Appel at the beginning of my career as a historian was a never to be forgotten experience. . . . It is remarkable how far I have been carried by the principles of good writing and the practical skills she taught me.” He mentions that he discovered after his book was published that Appel was not only the editor, but the book designer, for SHSW’s publications.

Prucha also briefly describes meeting Appel: ” I met Livia Appel personally only once, at the end of June 1956, when I was able to spend a short time in Wisconsin. My memory of that meeting after so many years is now dim. I do not remember just what my expectations had been in regard to Appel’s personality and appearance—after all, our long correspondence had been very professional and all business. What I found was a woman less precise in dress and demeanor, more  informal and friendly, than I would have imagined. The one clear picture that I have retained is that she perpetually had a cigarette hanging from the corner of her mouth. But I also remember that she made me feel that we were kindred souls in discussing at length the problems we had solved together in revising my dissertation.”

In 1956, Prucha reports, Appel moved to New York City, where she apparently did freelance editing until 1962. She died in New York in January 1973.

Bascom planted seeds of the “Wisconsin Idea” in the 1870s

A guest post by J. David Hoeveler. His new book, John Bascom and the Origins of the Wisconsin Idea, has just been published by the University of Wisconsin Press.

Bascom Hall, c. 1870

Bascom Hall, c. 1870

Hoeveler-John-Bascom-and-the-Origins-of-the-Wisconsin-Idea-cThe majestic building that sits atop the University of Wisconsin in Madison bears the name Bascom Hall. Thousands of people pass by the building every day, and some may wonder who “Bascom” was. “The guiding spirit of my time,” was what what famed Wisconsin senator Robert La Follette called John Bascom. La Follette felt that Bascom was the real inspiration for what we now call the Wisconsin Idea.

John Bascom served the University of Wisconsin as its president from 1874 to 1887. He came from upstate New York, born in Genoa in 1827, and graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts. He then attended two theological seminaries. Bascom taught at his alma mater for two decades before coming to Madison. He was a prolific scholar and wrote books and essays on theology, philosophy, sociology, and economics. But he did more than that as UW president. He committed himself to social reforms and, in fact, became as outspoken on these matters as any major figure in American higher education at the time.

Bascom’s political philosophy grew out of his liberal Christianity and his understanding of evolution. The latter concept gave Bascom his notion of society as a complex organism, all of whose parts must work in integration with the whole and in cooperation with each other. So believing, Bascom set a higher priority for the collective good, the public interest.

An iconic "W" banner hangs between the columns of Bascom Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Nov. 10, 2007. ©UW-Madison University Communications 608/262-0067 Photo by: Bryce Richter Date: 11/07 File#: D200 digital camera frame 6778

Today’s Bascom Hall

Three causes especially gained Bascom’s commitment. First, he advocated for temperance and even voted for the Prohibition party. That cause may suggest to some a moralistic, puritanical strain in Bascom, but it had its progressive side. Some labor leaders and almost all women’s rights leaders of the day supported the campaign against alcohol.

UW women's basketball team, 1897

UW women’s basketball team, 1897

Second, Bascom spoke out strongly for co-education and women’s rights. At the time, respected medical literature often warned against the toll of mental labor on the female body. Bascom ridiculed such notions. He spoke not only for co-education but insisted that the UW abandon the separate curriculums that then existed for men and women students. Bascom defended some policies that leading feminists themselves did not always support. He advocated for woman’s suffrage. He would allow divorce. He even criticized the styles of dress imposed on women—the corsets and bustles popular in the Gilded Age. They conspired, he said, against females’ full and active participation in American public life.

And third, Bascom championed the rights of labor. Here especially he feared the deprivation of a class of people, the workers, and their alienation from the large social organism. Bascom defended the right of labor to organize unions and he justified the right to strike. He also denounced the excessive power of money in America. Who else, among American university leaders of this era, would dare condemn by name the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers? Bascom, though, strongly opposed socialism. He admired business enterprise, and he thrilled to the marvels of technological creativity so visible in the United States. These activities, too, he believed, create the expanded social interconnections that grow and advance human society.

collage-2016-04-25 (2)

Robert La Follette and Charles Van Hise

Robert La Follette graduated from the UW in 1879. So did his classmate and friend Charles Van Hise. La Follette became Wisconsin governor in 1901, and Van Hise was inaugurated UW president in 1904. The first graduates of the UW to hold these positions, both La Follette and Van Hise had been students of Bascom. And both drew inspiration from Bascom’s urgent advocacy for the good uses of the state and the ideal of public service. Together, they put the Wisconsin Idea into place.

Fola La Follette, daughter of Robert and Belle Case La Follette, later wrote: “Two students of the class of 1879, Bob La Follette and Charles Van Hise, profoundly influenced in youth by a great teacher, were now, as mature men, collaborating to sustain former President Bascom’s ideal of the relation of a state university to the State.”

So, as discussion about the Wisconsin Idea again rises among us, we might gain in historical perspective and in contemporary understanding if we remember John Bascom, the intellectual source of this “idea.” John Bascom: philosopher, humanist, and a man of religious faith.


Hoeveler-David-2016-c

J. David Hoeveler

J. David Hoeveler holds a Distinguished Professorship in History at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. He is the author of seven books, including Creating the American Mind, The Evolutionists, and Watch on the Right.

New Books for May 2016

We are pleased to announce these five books debuting in May.

Brykczynski-Primed-for-Violence-cMay 11
Primed for Violence
Murder, Antisemitism, and Democratic Politics in Interwar Poland

Paul Brykczynski

The assassination that changed a nation

“The interwar period was an often violent time in which the demons of the twentieth century increasingly had their way. Brykczynski places the assassination of President Gabriel Narutowicz in the context of growing antisemitism and the emerging challenge to democracy in the recently independent Polish nation. An important story, thoroughly researched and compellingly told.”
—John Merriman, Yale University

Reitzammer-The-Athenian-Adonia-in-Context-cMay 11
The Athenian Adonia in Context
The Adonis Festival as Cultural Practice

Laurialan Reitzammer

Wisconsin Studies in Classics

Rediscovers the influence of women’s rituals on Lysistrata, Plato, and diverse Athenian works

“Persuasively reinterprets the Adonia as a ritual that brought Athenian women’s dissenting voices into the public arena to critique male social institutions and values. This innovative work draws on an immense range of ancient sources—literary, documentary, artistic, and material.”
—Laura McClure, series editor

Wong-Contemporary-Directions-in-Asian-American-Dance-cMay 11
Contemporary Directions in Asian American Dance

Edited by Yutian Wong

Studies in Dance History

An essential guide and model for current studies of Asian American dance

“A methodologically diverse and eclectic approach to Asian American dance studies, where dance is both method and content. These essays illuminate the ways that dance shapes, troubles, and pushes against the contours of what counts as Asian American cultural production.”
—Priya Srinivasan, author of Sweating Saris

Gluck-The-Invisible-Jewish-Budapest-cMay 25
The Invisible Jewish Budapest
Metropolitan Culture at the Fin de Siècle

Mary Gluck

A groundbreaking, brilliant urban history of a Central European metropolis in the decades before World War I

“A magnificently consequential book. Gluck examines the vibrant modernist culture created largely by secular Jews in Budapest, in counterpoint to a backward-looking, nationalistic Hungarian establishment and a conservative Jewish religious elite.”—Scott Spector, author of Violent Sensations

Strang-Worse-than-the-Devil-rev-ed-cAvailable now
Worse than the Devil
Anarchists, Clarence Darrow, and Justice in a Time of Terror
Revised Edition

Dean A. Strang

An unjust trial, as patriotism, nativism, and fear swept the nation

“A riveting account of a miscarriage of justice relevant to our times, when fear of radicals of a different stripe may infect our system of justice.”Booklist

A Polish American recalls war, exile, and Stalin’s gulag

Urbikas-Donna-2016-c

Donna Solecka Urbikas is the author of My Sister’s Mother: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Stalin’s Siberia, published by the University of Wisconsin Press. We talked with her about some of the personal details of her family, childhood, writing process, and experiences as a mother that relate to her memoir.

What inspired you to write this story?

I grew up with these stories because my mother, Janina, never stopped talking about what had happened to her and my sister, Mira, during World War II. They were taken by Soviet secret police from their farm in Poland and sent to Siberia to be forced laborers. Their eventual escape to freedom was a terrible ordeal as well. I had some friends in Chicago with similar backgrounds, but their parents did not dwell on their war experiences. My mother’s intense recollections frightened me as a young child, then annoyed me as a teenager. As a young adult, I became more engaged with my mother’s stories and realized that these war experiences were something people in America knew very little about. It wasn’t until I became a mother myself that my mother finally agreed to let me write about all that had happened to her. I think then she trusted that I would understand her journey.

When did you decide these stories should become a book?

Back in 1985, I started writing only about the war experience—Urbikas-MySister'sMother-cmy mother’s and sister’s deportation from eastern Poland in 1940 to a labor camp in Siberia, and my father Wawrzyniec’s capture and imprisonment in a Soviet prisoner-of-war camp. He was a Polish Army officer who had barely escaped being among the 22,000 Poles murdered by the Soviets in the Katyń Forest massacres in 1940. I felt it was important to tell the Polish war story, because in the 1980s Poland was struggling to regain its independence from Soviet control. I had family members in Poland dealing with all that, so I was well acquainted with the struggle, and it seemed like a painful reminder of what my parents had gone through. But I couldn’t finish writing the story until about ten years later.

How much older is your sister?

Mira was five years old when she was deported with my mother in 1940. I was born several years after the war, so there is a fifteen-year difference between us.

janina-and-mira-india

Janina and Mira in India

What does the title of your book mean?

My sister knew our mother before all the horrible things happened to them during the war, whereas I knew only a woman who was haunted after the war. My mother saved Mira many times from starvation and disease. It was really a miracle that my sister survived at all, as most children under the age of five died in those harsh circumstances. My mother used to say that she took her (my sister) in her teeth and saved her. Mira grew up in what was eastern Poland, then in the forced labor camps in Siberia and Russia, and then in resettlement camps in Iran and India. I grew up in the comfort of 1950s America, far from any direct experience with war. Thus, the title, My Sister’s Mother.

How did your family happen to come to America?

My parents had met amidst all the turmoil in Russia after Germany attacked Russia in 1941, and Russia became an ally with Britain and France. With the Polish government in exile in England, there was pressure on Russia to release labor camp deportees and army prisoners. Of course, the Soviets didn’t want to release those workers because they were needed for their hard labor on a very small salary, so my mother and sister escaped. They tried to find the Polish Army, which was re-forming from all the prisoners like my father. They initially met the man who would become my father in the first army camp in Tatishchevo near Saratov. Later they met again in Uzbekistan, where my mother and sister were trying to find their way out of the Soviet Union. My father helped them during a very critical time when they were completely destitute, since the Polish soldiers donated portions of their rations and money to the civilians who were following them. After that, my father went on to fight the Germans with General Władysław Anders in the Middle East and Italy, while my mother and sister ended up in Tehran at a temporary resettlement camp. The British had been helping the Polish Army and Polish refugees. Later, Janina and Mira went to India, where my mother worked as a Red Cross nurse, and my sister attended a convent school. After the war, neither my mother nor my father wanted to return to Communist Poland, so as it turned out they each went to England, and there they met again and married.  I was born in England, in Coventry. The conditions in England were abysmal, though, because the British were struggling to recover from the war. So, my parents, sister, and I immigrated to America in 1952.

That history is not well known in the United States. How did you feel about it when you were growing up?

polish-soldiers-in-tatishchevo

The Polish Army forming in Tatishchevo in 1941, after release from prisoner-of-war camps in Russia and Siberia

As a child, I assumed that everyone had gone through these things, so it surprised me when I encountered American friends who were totally unaware of Poland’s history. It was not history taught during our American education. I only learned about it at home and at Saturday Polish school and Polish scout meetings. Polish history is very complicated, and even today many people do not know that Soviet Russia had attacked Poland only two weeks after Germany attacked on September 1, 1939, starting World War II. When I first began writing the book, people thought I was writing about the Holocaust and Germany’s attack. They were totally unaware that Russia had invaded Poland as well, or that hundreds of thousands civilians like my mother had been deported from what was then eastern Poland to Siberia, for essentially slave labor. My mother had to work in timber operations in the middle of harsh Siberian winters while my sister had to be left alone in the labor camp to fend for herself getting food. Mira’s father had been imprisoned and was not with them.

This story is a romance, too, amidst the terrors of war.

Yes, it is a romance—that two people thrown together in the midst of horrible circumstances would somehow find each other after the war and have another child. They hoped to regain at least some of what had been lost to them in Poland.

Poland did not exist as an independent country during its partitions by Germany, Austria, and Russia for 123 years before World War I. After World War I, Poland regained its freedom. My parents’ generation who grew up between the World Wars was uniquely, stubbornly patriotic and always longed for the Poland that was no more. After World War II, Poland had become the spoils of victory for Soviet Russia in the rush to end the war. It became a completely different country, one in which my parents would not be welcome. My mother’s farm was no longer part of Poland, but was now in Belarus. She had lost all her documents during the turmoil of her escape from the Soviet Union during the war. My father, as a former Polish Army officer, would have likely been deported back to Siberia, where some of his officer friends ended up.

It would be only in 1989 with the fall of Communism in Poland that things changed again, and Poland emerged as an independent country. Though my book is a memoir, readers will learn much Polish and World War II history.

In writing the book as a memoir, you had to face some of your own challenges as well. What were they?

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Mira and Janina in Tehran

I really didn’t want to write about myself at all, but the teachers at the University of Chicago classes convinced me that I could not write my mother’s memoir, that it would make a much more interesting story if I included myself. By then my parents had passed away and my children were almost grown, so I began to reflect on how these war events and my mother’s constant reminders of them had affected me. I began to see parallel stories from my own life. My teenage son’s battle with cancer reminded me of how my mother had tried to save Mira so many times throughout the war, and later when Mira suffered from mental illness. The conflicts I had with my mother as I was growing up began to make sense, as I began to understand her from the perspective of being a mother myself. I began to appreciate my parents’ longing for a simple farm life away from the intrusions of city life and their wish to find a connection with life in Poland before the war. I began to understand my internal conflicts with religion, and what it meant to be an immigrant in America, the tug of culture and identity that was being lost in my own life as well as in the lives of my children. I began to forgive my mother for all her craziness, to appreciate what she had gone through. In the end, it was a catharsis for me, as it was for her, to know her story would be told.

What would you like readers to take away from your story?

Certainly, I would like them to know and appreciate the struggles that Poland has had to endure over the course of time and how people like my parents emerged from the turmoil of World War II. It is a struggle that continues, a lesson still to be learned: the effects of war do not end, often affecting subsequent generations in ways that are not easily recognized until it is too late.


Donna (Danuta) Solecka Urbikas was born in Coventry, England, and immigrated with her parents and sister to Chicago in 1952. After careers as a high school science teacher and environmental engineer, she is now a writer, realtor, and community volunteer. She lives in Chicago with her husband. You can visit her website at http://danutaurbikas.com/