Monday, May 2, 2016

Martha D. Escobar on Immigration Reform

Today the United States leads the world in incarceration rates. The country increasingly relies on the prison system as a “fix” for the regulation of societal issues. Captivity Beyond Prisons: Criminalization Experiences of Latina (Im)migrants by Martha D. Escobar is the first full-length book to explicitly link prisons and incarceration to the criminalization of Latina
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(im)migrants. Accessible to both academics and those in the justice and social service sectors, Escobar’s book pushes readers to consider how, even in radical spaces, unequal power relations can be reproduced by the very entities that attempt to undo them.

We asked Professor Escobar to give her take on the complicated problem of immigration policy, reform, and enforcement in light of the prominence of this issue during the current presidential race.

Recent Enforcement Practices Against Central American Migrants/Refugees and Limitations of Immigrant Rights Discourse
By Martha D. Escobar

Since the mid-1990s the U.S. has witnessed an intense build up of the immigration enforcement infrastructure, and along with this, an increase in the number of detained and deported migrants. Critics note that no other administration has detained and deported more migrants than President Barack Obama’s.

The current administration adopted a two-pronged approach to the issue of immigration. On the one hand, it dramatically intensified the targeting of migrants, both at the border and within the U.S. This strategy is allegedly intended to show the GOP that this administration is serious about enforcing the border and provide them with an incentive to approach the negotiation table for immigration reform, which has proven to be ineffective. On the other hand, beginning in June of 2012, the Obama administration has enacted Executive Actions on Immigration, including temporary relief from deportation for early childhood arrivals (DACA) and parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (DAPA). This is in part intended to address the concerns of migrant rights advocates and activists who argue that most undocumented migrants have established roots in the U.S. and are contributing members of society. The Executive Actions are being legally contested by the State of Texas and the Supreme Court will rule on their constitutionality by June of this year.

Although the Executive Actions on Immigration appeared to be a shift in immigration enforcement policies, the Obama administration continued to intensify policing in migrant communities, with deportations reaching the highest record in 2013. Most recently, Central American migrants/refugees, many of whom fled because of the violence and danger in their countries of origin, have been targeted for deportation. This includes many children who crossed unaccompanied during the summer of 2014. The response of the administration to critics of these actions is to argue that enforcement is focused on people who have already been given orders of removal. These practices highlight some of the challenges facing migrants and their advocates.

Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration drew from much of the dominant migrant rights discourse that maintains that the majority of undocumented migrants have established strong roots in the U.S. and are contributing members of society who are less likely to engage in criminalized activities and access social welfare. This discourse works to draw lines between migrants that deserve belonging and protection and migrants that can be policed, detained, and deported. On November 20, 2014, when he announced an expansion of DACA and implementation of DAPA, President Obama gave an address to the nation. Drawing from migrant rights discourse, Obama marked the lines between deserving and undeserving migrants. He notes that his administration’s policies are to concentrate on migrant “criminals” and maintains that the focus of immigration enforcement will be on “actual threats to our security,” “Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids.” Together, the discourse used to rationalize his Executive Actions and the requirements for DACA and DAPA work to exclude millions of migrants.

In relation to the recent enforcement mobilizations against Central American migrants, particularly migrants who arrived as unaccompanied minors in 2014, one of the requirements to qualify for DACA and DAPA is that the individual have continuous residency in the U.S. beginning January 1, 2010. This means that for the thousands of migrants and refugees that entered the U.S. after this date, Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration do not offer any relief. Instead, the main option is to apply for asylum. However, applying for asylum is an extremely complicated process. One hurdle that applicants face is that they are not guaranteed an attorney and there are not enough pro-bono lawyers that are able to represent people in these cases. This translates to increased orders of removal and deportations.

The current moment of immigration enforcement, particularly the targeting of Central Americans that entered as unaccompanied minors in 2014, provides important lessons for migrant rights activists and advocates. When advocating for policy changes, advocates have to be reflective in the discourse that is used since it can be appropriated to implement policies that result in significant disruption and violence for those that are considered less deserving. In this case, the notion that migrants who have established roots in the U.S. are more deserving than recent arrivals contributes to the Obama administration’s rationalization that the recent enforcement practices waged against Central Americans are legitimate. The logic employed is that these are not people that have established roots in the U.S. or contributed to society, and thus, merit deportation. 

Martha D. Escobar is an assistant professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at California State University, Northridge.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Call for Papers: The Velvet Light Trap

Call for Papers

The Velvet Light Trap Issue #80: “Production Cultures”

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In the introduction to their edited book on production studies, Vicki Mayer, Miranda Banks, and John T. Caldwell argue that “the off-screen production of media is itself a cultural production, mythologized and branded much like the onscreen textual culture that media industries produce.” This has never been more true than in the current moment.

The production process – aided by the proliferation of social media – has become increasingly visible. Long before movies, games, comic book issues, or television series are released, audiences have already been exposed to, and have opined over, casting choices, false starts, locations, script drafts, and various other aspects of the production process. Additionally, the development of cinematic universes has caused the cultures of production to become increasingly complex, resulting in productions that are both more global and transmedia-minded. This raises new questions about power and labor as new relationships are forged between production capitals, and workers who have traditionally functioned independently of each other must come together to create transmedia stories. In addition, the newly-heightened visibility of the production process, and the consolidation of the production studies field, emphasizes the need to reexamine and evaluate production cultures of the past.

This issue of The Velvet Light Trap seeks historical and contemporary studies of media production. Submissions should engage with the above issues of increased complexity, visibility, and ubiquity, in addition to new questions. We invite scholars to submit work that not only deepens our current understanding of production studies, but also challenges our assumptions about what production cultures are, and the types of questions that should be asked about them. We would also ask scholars to consider how issues of gender, race, and sexuality function beyond the screen and contextualize these issues within the production process.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Relationships between producers and consumers
  • Negotiating professional identity
  • Evolution of production
  • Production communities
  • Creative hierarchies within cinematic universes
  • Industry lore related to specific productions
  • Issues of gender, race, sexuality, and/or disability
  • Labor relations, unions, and guilds
  • Below-the-line labor
  • Failed productions/Fired producers
  • Disputes between producers and creators
  • Unpaid labor and intern culture
  • Contracts and other legal issues
  • Labor of practical effects
  • Genre-specific work identities
  • Video game production cultures
  • Stunt work
  • Production and publicity of star texts
  • Gender and exploitation in music cultures
  • Production of user-generated media
  • Cultures of documentary film production
  • Cultures of live production (sports, news, live musicals)

Submission Guidelines:

Submissions should be between 8,000 and 10,000 words, formatted in Chicago style. Please submit an electronic copy of the paper, along with a one-page abstract, both saved as a Microsoft Word file. Remove any identifying information so that the submission is suitable for anonymous review. The entire essay, including block quotations and notes, should be double-spaced. Quotations not in English should be accompanied by translations. Photocopies of illustrations are sufficient for initial review, but authors should be prepared to supply camera-ready photographs on request. Illustrations will be sized by the publisher. Permissions are the responsibility of the author. Send electronic manuscripts and/or any questions to Submissions are due August 15, 2016.

About The Velvet Light Trap: A Critical Journal of Film & Television:

The Velvet Light Trap is a scholarly, blind peer-reviewed journal of film, television, and new media studies. Graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Texas-Austin coordinate issues in alternation. Our Editorial Advisory Board includes such notable scholars as Charles Acland, Ben Aslinger, Miranda Banks, Caetlin Benson-Allot, Mark Betz, Corey Creekmur, Michael Curtin, Kay Dickinson, Bambi Haggins, Scott Higgins, Lucas Hilderbrand, Mary Kearney, Jon Kraszewski, Roberta Pearson, Nic Sammond, Jacob Smith, Jonathan Sterne, Cristina Venegas. For more information, please visit the journal’s website at

Friday, April 15, 2016

Mapping Madonnaland

Alina Simone is a singer-turned-writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, Slate, The Wall Street Journal and the Guardian Long Read. She has authored two other books: the "vibrant, taut and humorous" You Must Go and Win (Kirkus Review), and the "wisecracking, mordantly observant, wide-awake" Note to Self (O Magazine). She's the daughter of political refugees from Soviet-controlled Ukraine (her father refused recruitment into the KGB) and happens to be hilarious.

When Simone agreed to write a book about Madonna for UT Press, she thought it might provide an interesting excuse to indulge her own eighties nostalgia. Wrong. While writing Madonnaland: And Other Detours into Fame and Fandomshe discovered not only an endless torrent of information on Madonna and her own ambivalence/jealousy of the Material Girl’s overwhelming commercial success, but also some quirky detours through the backroads of celebrity and fandom in America.

We put together the infographic below to illustrate some of the strange, compelling detours Alina Simone followed on her quest to write Madonnaland. Simone wrestles with Madonna's sexual politics and the "anti-Madonna" Sinead O'Connor. She delves into another Bay City, Michigan, musical act—the all-Latino Question Mark and the Mysterians of "96 Tears" fame. She excavates a black classic rock band whose mystery and rare vinyl cred rivals that of the guys from A Band Called Death. We've also excerpted a portion of the book below and thrown in a Madonnaland-themed Spotify playlist.

Enter to win a copy of Madonnaland on Goodreads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Madonnaland by Alina Simone


by Alina Simone

Giveaway ends April 30, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
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The first thing you see as you enter Bay City, Michigan, heading down M-25 West, is a sign commemorating the 2008 state championship win of the All Saints High School’s bowling, baseball, and softball teams. Further down M-25, beyond a historic district lined with the nineteenth-century homes of lumber barons, a sign celebrates the sister cities of Ansbach, Germany (capital of Middle Franconia), and Goderich, Ontario (home to the world’s largest undergound salt mine). Yet a third sign, located a few blocks north, announces Bay City as the hometown of Katie Lynn Laroche, Miss Michigan 2010. None of these signs are unusual for a quiet city of thirty-five thousand tucked between the Mitten State’s thumb and forefinger, but their subject matter does tell you a few things: that Bay City isn’t above a little self-congratulation, that you don’t have to be Helen Keller or Martin Luther King to have your name immortalized in painted metal on either end of M-25, and that Bay City doesn’t necessarily have a surplus of sign-worthy things to say about itself. Insofar as the third point goes, that turns out not to be true. The top-selling female artist in history and one of the most famous women alive, Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone, was born in Bay City on August 16, 1958. A fact commemorated by the city exactly nowhere.

I’d been commissioned to write a book about Madonna, a project I’d taken on with enthusiasm, even bluster. After all, I still had my original copy of Like a Virgin on vinyl, an archive of back issues of Teen Beat magazine, and a Slinky’s worth of calcified black rubber bracelets in my parents’ closet back home. I’d spent more than half my life surfing the sine waves of Madonna’s career and could casually rattle off details both intimate and frighteningly banal about her sex life, her workout regime, her stance on the gifting of hydrangeas, and the unfortunate rodent problem she’d experienced of late at her $32 million compound on East Eighty-First Street, where a rat had been glimpsed scurrying into the bathroom while she discussed the possibility of collaborating again with Britney Spears during a video chat with the online radio show Saturday Night with Romeo.

Looking back, these qualifications were perhaps less than PhD-strength.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The story behind Joseph Skibell’s 'Six Memos from the Last Millennium'

Joseph Skibell is renowned as a critically acclaimed and prize-winning novelist, the author of such genre-defying works as A Blessing on the Moon and A Curable Romantic. Critics have called him “a major talent” (Publishers Weekly) whose “gifted, committed imagination” (New York Times) has produced works that are “always a joy to read” (Jerusalem Report). His new book is nothing short, while also a bit of a departure. Entitled Six Memos from the Last Millennium: A Novelist Reads the Talmud, it’s an elegantly written literary investigation into
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the tales of the Talmud – the great repository of ancient wisdom that is the foundation text, along with the Bible, of Rabbinic Judaism. (The Talmud’s composition dates roughly from between 200 and 500 CE.) This new work is no less genre-defying. Part fiction, part exegesis, part speculative theology, the book is, above all, a love letter to art of storytelling. And in its pages, Skibell looks at these old stories from the vantage of a modern novelist in order to find their relevance for readers today.

A Childlike Love of Stories, the Essence of Human Life

The story behind Joseph Skibell’s Six Memos from the Last Millennium: A Novelist Reads the Talmud

Can you tell us a little about the history of this project?

Well, that’s a great question. As I explain in the book’s introduction, some years ago, I was taking a Talmud class at an Orthodox synagogue. I was raised in a Reform community, so the Talmud was like a vast, unmapped world for me. About 4/5th of the Talmud is dedicated to – let’s call them – the theo-legal discussions of the Sages. Rabbinic Judaism is a religion of laws – what’s permitted, what’s forbidden – and the Talmudic Sages devote a kind of scientific rigor to deciphering the will of the Creator as it has been revealed in the pages of the Torah.

The other fifth of the Talmud, though, is the legendary parts: the stories of the Sages’ lives, tall tales, myths, legends. As a fiction writer, I was drawn to these stories, of course, but my teachers tended to skip over them or hurry past them, and they were given none of the time and attention, the almost scientific dissection, the legal parts of the Talmud were given. And so I decided to study them on my own, in a kind of openhearted, open-minded way, taking them at face value and seeing what they were really all about.

And what did you discover?

Well, first of all, I discovered that there’s a genius afoot in the Talmud, a dramatist with a kind of Shakespearean scope. This, I should say, is just my way of talking about these things. Originally, the Talmud was an oral law, and one spanning many generations. So it’s the work of many tongues and many hands – you can’t literally speak of an author – but the little stories and tales in it are all, curiously enough, dramatic in form.


Meaning that, like scenes in a play, they all take place in “real time.” They’re made out of dialogue and action. With very few exceptions, there’s no interiority in these stories, so if people in these tales want to think, they have to speak aloud, just like characters in a play. The narrative descriptions are mostly simple, physical actions, not unlike a playwright’s stage direction. I started by gathering all the stories and story fragments that had to do with the same figures or constellations of figures, and what I found is that each piece sort of illuminated the other pieces, and if you brought them all together, they formed a larger narrative or a more complete drama. And then I realized that you could approach these “scenes” as an actor or a director or a writer might, asking questions like, “What’s this person’s motivation?” or “Why would he say this?” or “Why would he do this?” or “What is he thinking here?”

It’s a different way of thinking about sacred text, and in my experience, it was a very fruitful approach. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Promising Problem: Latina/o, Chicana/o Voters

In just over thirty weeks, Americans will elect the 45th President of the United States. The campaign trail is contentious and many of the issues the candidates are debating pertain to Latinas/os and Chicanas/os, a coveted demographic for both Republicans and Democrats. Against a backdrop of deportations and voter suppression targeting Latinos, a new edited volume, A Promising Problem: The New Chicana/o History, presents the optimistic voices of scholars who call for sophisticated solutions while embracing transnationalism and the reality of multiple,
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overlapping identities. 
Although the political landscape is fraught with closed-off rhetoric, A Promising Problem encourages diversity of thought and opens the possibilities of historical imagination. We asked a few contributors to the book to comment on how their research has informed their views on the 2016 presidential election, providing new perspectives on America’s culture wars.

The Chicana/o and Latina/o vote is much debated this presidential election year. Does the history you uncover point to new realities or future directions for Chicana/o or Latina/o communities that are of importance for the 2016 election cycle?


Carlos Kevin Blanton, March 7th

Having just watched one “Super” Tuesday in early March with additional such Tuesdays to go as well as some scattered “Super” Saturdays and Sundays thrown in for good measure, I am struck at what a contradictory role Chicanas/os and Latinas/os play in this 2016 presidential election. Chicanas/os and Latinas/os are simultaneously celebrated and vilified, normalized and exoticized, and reflect both “promise” and “problem.”

As I write this, Cuban Americans named Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio remain credible Republican candidates running for President; another Republican candidate, Donald Trump, has jingoistically called for harsh deportations against Mexican immigrants as well as the construction of a massive wall on the U.S.-Mexico border for which he intends to force Mexico to pay, a claim former President of Mexico Vicente Fox has pugnaciously repudiated; and two Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, are vying for the support of Latina/o voters in states all over the country as a key demographic group for the success of their party. “Problem” and “Promise,” it seems, define this 2016 election cycle for Chicana/o and Latina/o communities. 

Suffice to say, I am very appreciative that I titled this new edited collection A Promising Problem: The New Chicana/o History. The word construction of “a promising problem” in the title, while it perhaps seems overly ironic, was one of the best ways I could concisely describe the very precarious balance we practitioners of Chicana/o history feel about working in a rich, growing, diverse, and intellectually promising field that, simultaneously, is the target of very public attacks and anti-Latina/o hysteria in the political sphere. As this 2016 election cycle continues, Chicana/o and Latina/o peoples and their issues will be front and center of the public debate as desired partners in electoral and governing success and also as being perceived as problems to be solved.

The essays in A Promising Problem add new insight into the Chicana/o past, present, and future. Transnationalism, civil rights activism, inter-Latina/o relations, the role of religion, the role of place and region such as the Nuevo South and the Midwest, and the production of culture and identity, are all important to understanding Chicana/o-Latina/o communities today in a very interdisciplinary sense. The history of these topics and more are intelligently explored in this collection. While A Promising Problem may not help anyone predict the next meaningful evening of voting, it will help readers understand Chicana/o-Latina/o people at the center of this presidential election and their pasts in fresh and insightful ways.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

UT Press at the San Antonio Book Festival

On Saturday, April 2, the University of Texas Press and four of our authors will enjoy the 4th annual San Antonio Book Festival at the Central Library and environs in downtown San Antonio. We'll have a booth in the Exhibitor Tent with tons of titles for sale at a great discount. There are a lot of great authors in attendance (Jamie Brickhouse! Nathalie Dupree! Sonia Manzano!), so we’ve distilled our authors' appearances into a single UT Press schedule.

Get The SABF App For Your Smart Phone. Just go the App Store on your device, download "Eventbase Free" and click on the San Antonio Book Festival tab.

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11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Border Contraband: A History of Smuggling across the Rio Grande
Location: Auditorium, 1st floor of Library
Author: George T. Díaz

George T. Díaz is an assistant professor of history at Sam Houston State University. His award-winning book, Border Contraband: A History of Smuggling across the Rio Grande, was published with the University of Texas Press. Recently he served as the Visiting Scholar at the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston where he designed and taught a course on smuggling in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Díaz's research is informed by investigations in Mexican and U.S. archives as well as a lifetime of living on the border.

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12:15 PM - 1:15 PM
Location: Café Commerce, 1st floor of Library

Author: Clark Davis

Clark Davis is a Professor of English at the University of Denver. He is the author of It Starts with Trouble: William Goyen and the Life of WritingHawthorne’s Shyness: Ethics, Politics, and the Question of Engagement, and After the Whale: Melville in the Wake of Moby-Dick.

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1:15 PM - 2:00 PM
Location: The Studio, SW School of Art, McAllister Building
Author: DJ Stout

DJ Stout was the art director of Texas Monthly between 1987 and 1999, and he has been a partner in Pentagram’s Austin office since 2000. He is the author and designer of The Amazing Tale of Mr. Herbert and His Fabulous Alpine Cowboys Baseball Club: An Illustrated History of the Best Little Semipro Baseball Team in Texas. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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3:15 PM - 4:00 PM
A Love Letter to Texas Women
Location: West Terrace, 3rd floor of Library
Author: Sarah Bird

Sarah Bird is the author of ten novels, including Above the East China Sea and The Yokota Officers Club. She has been a colum­nist for Texas Monthly, a storyteller for NPR’s Moth Radio Hour, and a writer for the New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, Salon, and the Daily Beast, among others. A former Dobie-Paisano Fellow, a 2015 Meryl Streep Screenwriting Lab winner, and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great Writers pick, she is the 2016 recipient of the Texas Institute of Letters Lifetime Achievement Award.

Click here for more info about Sarah Bird.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Latino Comic Books Past, Present, and Future

There are no limits to the ways in which Latinos can be represented and imagined in the world of comics. However, until now this area has been relatively understudied. Graphic Borders: Latino Comic Books Past, Present, and Future presents the most thorough exploration of comics by and about Latinos currently available. This exciting graphic genre conveys the distinctive and wide-ranging experiences of Latinos in the United States, from Latino superheroes in mainstream comics to subcultures on the indie spectrum like Love & Rockets

The World Comics and Graphic Nonfiction series includes monographs and edited volumes that focus on the analysis and interpretation of comic books and graphic nonfiction from around the world. The books published in the series will bring analytical approaches from such fields as literature, art history, cultural studies, communication studies, media studies, and film studies, among others to help define the comic book studies field at a time of great vitality and growth. To celebrate Graphic Borders as the first book in the World Comics and Graphic Nonfiction series, we asked co-editors Frederick Luis Aldama and Christopher González a few questions about their new book. 

What drew you both to pursue this project?

While scholarship on comics has come into its own of late, it’s largely been focused on white (usually male) creators and creations—and this in all the different styles, from the superhero to those of the Underground and Alternative scenes. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. And, we completely understand the scholarly compulsion; this has been the reading diet of most scholars working on comics in this country. And, we understand the significance of this work: to move forcefully comic book studies into centers of Ivory Tower knowledge making.

However, there’s much more to this story. There’s much more that needs our scholarly excavation and attention. Comic books by and about Latinos is a vital living, breathing archive of extraordinary creativity in need of our careful scholarly attention. It demands this.

Today, we as Latinos in the US are the majority minority. We’re seeing more and more Latinos pushing through the gates—and this in spite of the persistence of a push-out/lock-out education system. With pencil and paper and access to comics and any other cultural art forms, Latino comic book creators have been using this format to tell our stories and histories—and also to take us to places as yet unimagined. With access to the Internet with its funding and distribution platforms, these creators have been creating comics that reach readers across the country—the planet.

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Of course, we love these Latino comics so it doesn’t take any arm-twisting to get us to put to together a volume like this; or, in the case of Aldama, to write the first book on Latino comics (Your Brain on Latino Comics) and edit one of the first volumes on multicultural comics (Multicultural Comics: From Zap to Blue Beetle); it’s why Aldama’s about to publish Latino Comic Book Storytelling: An Odyssey by Interview—a project González contributes too as well. It’s why González edited a special issue of ImageText on Los Bros Hernandez and is finishing up his book on Gilbert Hernandez.

For us, to bring together these extraordinary scholars to enrich our understanding of comics by key shapers in our planetary republic of comics is a no brainer. It’s this sense of inclusivity and attention to the verbal-visual storytelling margins that led us to undertake the herculean work to edit the 350,000 double volume, Encyclopedia of World Comics.

At one point, it was Shakespeare’s moment and at another, Gabriel García Márquez. Today, it’s our moment. It’s the moment of extraordinary creation of comics by and about Latinos—and we’re here along with our scholarly hermanos and hermanas to shout this from rooftops.

What makes Latina/o-created comics unique?

There are two levels of comics creation to keep in mind here: the content and the form. Not surprisingly, some (most) Latino comic book creators have chosen to recreate experiences, stories, histories that have otherwise been swept to the side in mainstream culture. But the shape given to this content—this very varied Latino-ness, if you will—is extraordinarily diverse. Someone like Lalo Alcaraz (the subject of Juan Poblete’s work in this volume) chooses to reproduce our experience, giving it the form of satirical political cartoon; others like Los Bros Hernandez choose to recreate our experience by fleshing out huge storyworlds overflowing with an abundance of characters from all walks of life—and each (Gilbert and Jaime) with their own unique aesthetic style. Those like Wilfred Santiago (the subject of González’s scholarship herein) gravitate toward biography: Robeto Clemente’s breaking of color and linguistic barriers as one of the first Afrolatino players to make it in baseball’s major leagues. Yet others like Javier Hernandez (El Muerto) and Rafa Navarro (Sonambulo) breath new life into Marvel/DC narrative conventions with their creation of ancestrally rooted Latino superheroes.

Clemente experiences racism in the American South,
from 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago

To put it simply, there are no limits to the imagination when it comes to Latino comic book creators and their choices in terms of content and form. What we see today is that most (and to varying degrees) tend to choose to fill out their content with ingredients that speak to the Latino identity and experience. What we see today is that most take from and make their own (and make new) all those shaping devices and styles that make up our planetary republic of comics. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New Author-Curated Playlist

From 1972 to 1976, Hollywood made an unprecedented number of films targeted at black audiences, defining an era in cinema history known as blaxploitation. Author Keith Corson looks at the films made after this period and before Spike Lee's directorial debut in 1986 in his new book Trying to Get Over: African American Directors after Blaxploitation, 1977–1986. Although these films and their directors are the primary subject of the book, the music and larger pop cultural impact of this period has proven equally groundbreaking. Prince, Michael Jackson, James Brown, Run-DMC, Chaka Khan, and more appear on film soundtracks in this overlooked era, so we asked Professor Corson (who used to work at a record store) to make a Spotify playlist and hip us to this period in pop music history. You can listen to the Spotify playlist here.
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Trying to Get Over: The Soundtrack
By Keith Corson

Books take on a life of their own between concept and realization. I started writing Trying to Get Over thinking that it was about cinema, but early on the boundaries of the project began to expand. The directors at the center of this study – Michael Schultz, Sidney Poitier, Fred Williamson, Jamaa Fanaka, Gilbert Moses, Stan Lathan, Richard Pryor, and Prince – all worked in various media outside of film, so I ended up thinking quite a bit about theater, television, literature, sports, and music as well. Popular music, and its intersections with the film work of these directors had the most resonance for me, and it became clear that in dealing with African American cinema in the years 1977–1986 I would also have to take on the changing musical landscape. Having spent years behind the counter of a record store, this wasn’t particularly bad news; I finally had a reason beyond workday banter to dig into pop music history. So, it only seems fitting that I compile a playlist for my book. The tracks below, as well as a few reflections and details that didn't make it into the final pages, provide a parallel narrative to Trying to Get Over. Enjoy!

Curtis Mayfield—“Superfly” This song was the inspiration for the title of my book. Mayfield’s soundtrack for Super Fly transformed the movie from mere Blaxploitation into something thoughtful and informed. It is the gold standard in writing songs for the cinema. 

G. C. Cameron—“It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye” Boyz II Men’s version is what comes to mind for most people, but the song originally appeared sixteen years earlier in Michael Schultz’s Cooley High. This was one of the only songs written for the film; most of the music used in Cooley High came from the Motown catalog through a bargain licensing deal that would be unheard of today. Cameron’s vocal and the gospel arrangement give the song a sense of despair and personal loss wholly absent in the melismatic excess of the Boyz II Men version. However, the kids from Philly paid their respects by naming their debut album Cooleyhighharmony

Rose Royce—“I Wanna Get Next to You” The title track to Car Wash is great, as is every track Norman Whitfield composed for the film, but it is so omnipresent that I decided to choose something else for the playlist. “I Wanna Get Next to You” is at the center of one of the best scenes in the film and is the kind of song that makes you actually feel the longing expressed in the lyrics. 

The Beatles—“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” The biggest downside to writing about the 1978 film Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is that, in my head, I hear a broad swath of Beatles songs as they are performed in the movie. In the spirit of good will, I’m commemorating Michael Schultz’s film by choosing the actual Fab Four for this playlist, not Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees. And don’t get me started on the ragtag chorus that sings the song at the end of the film. Ever wonder what Leif Garrett, Carol Channing, Wolfman Jack, Hank Williams Jr., Helen Reddy, and the members of Sha Na Na would sound like singing together? Me neither. 

Dwight David—“The Last Dragon” DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night” was the big single from The Last Dragon, but I’ve always been partial to soundtrack songs that explicitly reference a film’s plot (often against my better judgment, e.g. Patti LaBelle’s “Just the Facts” from Dragnet). This song plays during the climactic showdown between Leroy and Sho-Nuff. A whole generation of kids had this song playing in their heads as they rushed outside after the movie and practiced their kung fu kicks in hopes that they could attain “The Glow.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Announcing new memoir by former Go-Go Kathy Valentine

UT Press is excited to announce that musician, songwriter, and former Go-Go Kathy Valentine has signed an agreement to write her first book – a memoir.

Beauty and the Beat
(The Go-Go's)
Formed in 1978 in Los Angeles, the Go-Go's made music history as the first all-female group to perform, write and release a number one album in the U.S. Valentine joined the band in 1980, switching from her Texas guitar roots to play bass for the band. She was also one of the group's three primary composers, and co-wrote three of the band's hit singles from 1980-1985. Hugely influential and popular, the Go-Go's released four albums while together, and remained a popular touring entity for decades.

Valentine’s memoir will be a coming-of-age story about a girl finding her way in the world through music. Valentine did more than find her way, however, she became part of one of the most successful all-female bands in history and experienced all of the thrills and dangerous temptations of a rock star.

Kathy Valentine
Photo by Arnold Niemanis


Kathy Valentine’s book will join recent UT Press music books written by or about female musicians including: Kristin Hersh’s Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt, her memoir about the late singer songwriter, named one of the best books of 2015 by NPR; Real Love, No Drama: The Music of Mary J. Blige, the first serious look at Blige’s entire musical career by Danny Alexander; and Madonnaland: And Other Detours into Fame and Fandom, a light-hearted exploration of celebrity and fandom, by Alina Simone.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

J.P. Morgan, The Pujo Committee, and the “Money Trust”

Like it or not, the broad influence of our best-known capitalists makes America unique (Donald Trump might say great). With the very real possibility of a billion dollar businessman landing in the Oval Office next year, we asked Professor Emeritus and biographer Charles Molesworth to reflect on a very different kind of powerful capitalist in
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American history, one who avoided public statements and hated publicity.

Sure, J.P. Morgan exploited a pre-regulation American economy, but he was also an avid art collector and played a major role in establishing the preeminence of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Charles Molesworth's new book The Capitalist and the Critic offers the first in-depth look at how Morgan and the headstrong English art history expert Roger Fry helped to mold the cultural legacy of the “encyclopedic” museum. In this blog post, Molesworth expands on his examination of J.P. Morgan, reflecting on issues that reverberate today: buying influence in a presidential race, breaking up too-powerful bank trusts, pushing Progressive Era initiatives to eliminate obscure and unfair trading practices, and the problem of "large sums of money resting in the hands of a few men."

Look for Charles Molesworth's piece in the New York Post this weekend.

J.P. Morgan, The Pujo Committee, and the “Money Trust”
By Charles Molesworth

In the last three decades of his life, J. Pierpont Morgan enjoyed unique pre-eminence as the nation’s most famous banker and its most demanding art collector. The latter distinction was burnished by his position as president of the Board of Trustees at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The influence he exercised over the growth of the museum outstripped that of any other individual. Yet many of his artistic treasures resided elsewhere than the Met. His personal collections were housed in London and his other homes in England, and most impressively in his imposing self-named Library on Madison Avenue in New York, which was completed in 1906. The building served as the final testament to the fortune he had spent on paintings, sculpture, decorative objects-d’art, and rare books. His life as a banker, however, was not adorned with such a monument. His fame as a finance capitalist of international power and renown was instead to be spotlighted by a Congressional Committee which brought his banking style and practices briefly into the open.

Morgan was possibly the least well-known of America’s most famous men. Amassing an untold fortune – he was routinely referred to as the country’s wealthiest man – and redrawing the foundations of America’s industrial and financial workings somehow did not interfere with his inordinate desire for complete privacy. This desire was implemented not only by the power of his wealth, but because he wrote very little, and seldom made public statements. No one doubted the sway he exercised with stern willfulness, but many disputed whether or not he was a force for good. But on one dramatic and well-reported occasion, the public, and the prying eyes of reporters, caught more than a glimpse of what Morgan had adamantly tried to conceal. It would show what he thought of himself and his role in the system he built.

“The Pied Piper” cartoon expressed what Morgan’s detractors felt about his unchecked influence in the industrial and financial markets. Those “magnetized” by Morgan’s influence also included people from all sectors of society.
As he reached his seventieth birthday, Morgan had begun to spend more of his furious energy on the Metropolitan Museum, in part because his life as a financier was drawing to a close. Still, the final chapter was not to be finished until the pivotal event known as the Panic of 1907, when with immense leverage he called together the various bankers whose credit crisis was threatening everyone’s fortune. The rather lurid story of Morgan locking them all in his study (while he went off to play one of his countless games of solitaire) until they could agree on the necessary fiscal and monetary arrangements contained enough truth to be widely accepted. In fact it only added to his near-mythic identity. For some time Morgan himself had been acting like a Federal Reserve Bank, controlling the loans and liens that occurred between banks as part of the country’s economic system.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

When Women Ruled Hollywood

Actress Patricia Arquette has said that her mother served as inspiration for her Oscar-winning role in Boyhood. In an essay for Boyhood: Twelve Years on FilmArquette pays beautiful homage to how hard her mother worked for the chance to do meaningful work. (You can read an excerpt of Arquette's essay on our website.) When she addressed the gender wage gap in her Academy Award acceptance speech in 2014, Arquette fueled conversation about female power in Hollywood. We asked Emily Carman to comment on how Hollywood could return to producing films for women and crafted by women who are properly compensated. 
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Carman will be doing a book signing April 16th and 17th at UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater, as part of the film series Independent Stardom running April 16 to May 26. She will introduce many of the films screened in the series.

When Women Ruled Hollywood
By Emily Carman

2015 has been a landmark year for the plethora of strong female performances in film, ranging from respected acting veterans such as Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years and Cate Blanchett in Carol to Charlize Theron re-branding herself as an action star in Mad Max: Fury Road, to newcomers Brie Larson and Saoirse Ronan delivering stand-out performances in the independent films Room and Brooklyn. The previous year also garnered headlines condemning Hollywood sexism in the film industry, with an increasing number of actresses speaking out, including Geena Davis’s criticism of the disparity between female and male lead characters in Hollywood films while thirty-something actresses Anne Hathaway and Maggie Gyllenhaal decried ageism in the business. The Sony Hack revealed how Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence earned considerably less than costars Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper for American Hustle. Likewise, actress Patricia Arquette highlighted wage equality for women (in the film business and beyond) in her 2014 Oscar win acceptance speech.

One might assume that this grim scenario has always been the case. However, when looking back on the classic Hollywood era, a very different picture emerges that challenges the current status quo. Yes, the industry was still dominated by men, but the male studio chiefs and producers adhered to a common formula: to be profitable, Hollywood films needed to appeal to women. That meant developing and marketing films to and for women audiences that in turn were headlined by female stars.

From the 1920s through the 1940s, women ruled Hollywood on and off-screen, when the star system privileged women as its most important currency (in stark contrast to the contemporary film industry). Mary Pickford emerged as Hollywood’s most important international star by the end of the 1910s, commanding a million dollar salary, earning a percentage of her film’s profits, and co-founding United Artists in 1919, which became a haven for artistically-minded talent and independent producers. With the arrival of sound cinema, new female stars emerged in the 1930s and they commanded high salaries as well as creative provisions that rival those of top stars today. Take Ruth Chatterton. Wooed to Hollywood from Broadway, the actress earned a salary of $975,000 (approximately $13 million in today’s dollars) for three films in one year that included costar, director, and story approval. Chatterton also defied Hollywood ageism and played romantic leads well into her forties. And she was not alone—Ann Harding, Irene Dunne, and Miriam Hopkins all migrated to the screen from the stage and maintained vibrant careers as leading ladies well into their thirties.