Independence Day and America’s Efforts to Liberate Others

The Fourth of July is generally a time for Americans to get together, watch fireworks, and celebrate our nation’s independence.  But in the period since 1776, the United States has also repeatedly sought to help other nations achieve their own independence and liberty, sometimes through war. The recent 75th anniversary of D-Day reminded us that the United States played a key part in dismantling fascism, and over subsequent decades, helped transform nations such as Germany and Japan into free, stable democracies. The United States has certainly had some important feats over its 243-year lifespan that helped free others from oppression.

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Independence Day and America’s Efforts to Liberate Others

150 Notable Books: Getting Acquainted with Victor Turner’s The Forest of Symbols

I suspect that many avid readers have a special book that becomes inseparable from themselves, part of their existence. Without this special book, what I call a “soul book,” a fulfilling life would be difficult. There are also books that are like family or friends—dependable, loving, present when you need them, always willing to provide help and support, but not necessarily consulted regularly or assimilated into one’s existential core. And then there are books that are acquaintances, that surface periodically at points in a reader’s life, often to exert a surprising force or influence that belies the infrequency of one’s association with them. For me, Victor Turner’s The Forest of Symbols has been an acquaintance, as I have had only three interactions with the book, each separated by a number of years. With its inclusion on CUP’s anniversary list of 150 notable publications,  I have the opportunity to remember these meetings and renew my acquaintance.

Continue reading “150 Notable Books: Getting Acquainted with Victor Turner’s The Forest of Symbols”

150 Notable Books: Getting Acquainted with Victor Turner’s The Forest of Symbols

On Brand – the Fashion Choices of Hajj Amin al-Husayni

Yet again, the controversial Palestinian leader Hajj Amin al-Husayni is making headlines. In May 2019, in a Washington post op-ed, Middle East studies scholar Dr. Maha Nassar addressed recent critics of US House Representative Rashida Tlaib, saying that ‘by citing the pro-Nazi propaganda of Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husayni to claim that “Palestinian leaders at the time sided with Hitler,” they conflate the statements and actions of a single individual with those of an entire people.’[1] This conflation is indeed a problem.

Notorious for siding with the Nazis during the Second World War and for his inclusion on the UN War Crimes Commission list, Husayni’s prewar career comes into focus in Statecraft by Stealth. When writing the book, I tried to address the Mufti’s prewar career without being unduly influenced by our knowledge of his collaboration with the Nazis. In fact, I argued that he showed little interest in the Nazis before the war. It is helpful to examine the beginning of Husayni’s career in order to better understand the events which led up to his disastrous choices of the 1940s.

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On Brand – the Fashion Choices of Hajj Amin al-Husayni

Hiking Cascadilla Gorge with Ange

A few weeks ago, I received an email about the Cornell Library and Press Service and Recognition Awards. This is the first time we’ve participated in an official program like this.

A number of Cornell University Press staff nominated their colleagues. It was exciting to see staff appreciating each other in an open forum.

As we zero in on our second straight year of break-even performance, I nominate our entire staff. Their willingness to embrace change and innovation has produced outstanding results.

Everyone in Sage House has contributed to the Press’s success.

Continue reading “Hiking Cascadilla Gorge with Ange”

Hiking Cascadilla Gorge with Ange

Commuter spouses: together, apart

More and more frequently, online dating apps are becoming the answer to the question, “so, how did you two meet?” The widespread appearance of Tinder and other dating apps have changed the way people find and interact with each other, both in a positive and negative way. And just as the communication and social dynamics have changed with the creation of dating apps, so they have with the movement towards a different kind of relationship: the long-distance love.

Danielle J. Lindemann’s Commuter Spouses: New Families in a Changing World explores how married couples cope when they live apart to meet the demands of their dual professional careers. Her book gives readers almost one-hundred in-depth interviews with current or former commuter spouses that demonstrate the reflection, embodiment, and sometimes disruption of large-scale developments in the ways we think about gender and marriage, the ways we communicate, and the ways we conceptualize family.

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Commuter spouses: together, apart

BUNDLE WEEK: Scott Levine’s bundle on Photography (and birds!)

Since last Fall I have gotten more heavily involved in photography. It’s become my passion. I have been exploring it all, macrophotography, astrophotography, portraits, landscapes, and wildlife. Living in Upstate New York offers many opportunities to photograph birds. You’ll find countless bird boxes and feeders in our yards and an abundance of state parks, lakes, and protected lands that provide a sanctuary for more exotic species like bald eagles and great blue herons. I have really enjoyed capturing them in action and being able to show them in ways we don’t normally get to observe them.

It should be no surprise then that my bundle includes books on photography and birds. If you are curious to see more of my photos you can find them at www.scottelevine.com, but before you do, you should check out the books that I have bundled.

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BUNDLE WEEK: Scott Levine’s bundle on Photography (and birds!)

BUNDLE WEEK: Sarah Noell’s bundle of her TOP 3 #CornellPress books!

Books belong together. Whether they topically complement each other, creating a well-rounded reader, or they create a variety filled reading list that excites and challenges, you’re made up of more than just one title.

Here’s another recommendation for #BundleWeek , coming at you from the Marketing Department:

  1. America The Fair: Using Brain Science to Create a More Just Nation
  2. No Longer Newsworthy: How the Mainstream Media Abandoned the Working Class
  3. Earth Emotions: New Words for a New World

(30% off this bundle with promo code O9BUN1)

Continue reading “BUNDLE WEEK: Sarah Noell’s bundle of her TOP 3 #CornellPress books!”

BUNDLE WEEK: Sarah Noell’s bundle of her TOP 3 #CornellPress books!

The Publisher’s Publisher

On the morning after the University of Virginia basketball team won the national championship, I was on the phone with Mark Saunders, the director of UVA Press about a book that would celebrate the incomprehensible journey the Cavaliers had just completed.

We had previously agreed to table all discussions until the game was over.

“Let’s talk tomorrow so we don’t jinx anything,”  Mark said.

After the victory, Mark celebrated by leading the school’s Auld Lang Syne inspired mantra, “The Good Ole Song.”  It’s preserved here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXjTmSXL6Ik

He and I shared texts over the last two seasons wherever we happened to be watching. He might be in John Paul Jones arena when I was at a hockey tournament in Buffalo.  Weeks of silence went by and then possession by possession critiques of the team would cascade down the screen.

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The Publisher’s Publisher

BUNDLE WEEK: Ange Romeo-Hall’s inspired bundle on human life

  1. Nobody’s Home: Candid Reflections of a Nursing Home Aide
  2. To Plead Our Own Cause: Personal Stories by Today’s Slaves
  3. Stanley’s Girl: Poems
  4. A Man with No Talents: Memoirs of a Tokyo Day Laborer
  5. Missing: Persons and Politics

I’ve worked on hundreds of exceptional Cornell books over the years, but these stand out mostly for the way they have so vividly shared worlds I wouldn’t otherwise have seen.

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BUNDLE WEEK: Ange Romeo-Hall’s inspired bundle on human life

BUNDLE WEEK: Kitty Liu’s 4 nature bundles!

ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT BUNDLE

Can the efforts of local environmental stewards impact resource management, environmental governance, and even social movements? What are the impacts of citizen science? How do we build resilient communities? This bundle includes resources for a broad transdisciplinary audience of researchers, educators, and practitioners who are interested in improving existing programs or developing new ones.

  1. Citizen Science: Public Participation in Environmental Research
  2. Grassroots to Global: Broader Impacts of Civic Ecology
  3. Communicating Climate Change: A Guide for Educators
  4. Connecting the Drops: A Citizens’ Guide to Protecting Water Resources

Continue reading “BUNDLE WEEK: Kitty Liu’s 4 nature bundles!”

BUNDLE WEEK: Kitty Liu’s 4 nature bundles!

BUNDLE WEEK: Michael McGandy’s bundle on the history of United States engagement in the Pacific

For readers interested in the history of United States engagement in the Pacific, this is a good time to get caught up on the Cornell University Press backlist!

In recent months, I have signed a tide of wonderful—deeply researched, fluidly written, smartly argued—new books on U.S. foreign policy and military engagement in East Asia and Southeast Asia in the post-World War II era. New books are coming in fall 2019 and spring 2020 from Oliver Charbonneau, Sangjoon Lee, Katherine Moran, Thomas K. Robb and David James Gill, Nancy Shoemaker, and Colleen Woods. Their work will change how we look at the U.S. role as a Pacific power in the 19th and 20th centuries and so got me to thinking about trends in our historical analysis of events like World War II, Bandung Conference, and the Vietnam War. The bundle of backlist books I have selected is a wonderful mix of histories of U.S. strategy, foreign policy, civilian engagement, and military action in the Pacific.  These are the books which the new wave of works if carrying forward, and so are necessary reading for everyone who follows the influence of the U.S. in the broad Pacific region.

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BUNDLE WEEK: Michael McGandy’s bundle on the history of United States engagement in the Pacific

BUNDLE WEEK: Fran Benson’s bundles of ILR books!

Fran Benson’s bundles of ILR books:

 

The World through the Lens of Class

  1. No Longer Newsworthy: How the Mainstream Media Abandoned the Working Class
  2. Class Lives: Stories from across Our Economic Divide
  3. Missing Class: Strengthening Social Movement Groups by Seeing Class Cultures
  4. Reading Classes: On Culture and Classism in America
  5. The Working Class Majority: America’s Best Kept Secret
  6. What’s Class Got to Do with It: American Society in the Twenty-first Century
  7. Class and Campus Life: Managing and Experiencing Inequality at an Elite College
  8. New Working Class Studies

Continue reading “BUNDLE WEEK: Fran Benson’s bundles of ILR books!”

BUNDLE WEEK: Fran Benson’s bundles of ILR books!

BUNDLE WEEK: Roger Haydon’s bundle on nationalism and ethnic studies

Acquisitions editors generally bring in books one by one, looking for the smartest, best, most interesting books we can find.  We see the links among them, eventually, but sometimes an outside body provides that recognition.

Each year the Association for the Study of Nationalities gives an award for the year’s outstanding book on Russia, eastern Europe, or Eurasia “in which substantial attention is paid to questions of ethnicity and/or nationalism.”  Since 2011 Cornell books have won five times and received four honorable mentions.  These nine titles explore nationalism and ethnicity in different ways, different locations.

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BUNDLE WEEK: Roger Haydon’s bundle on nationalism and ethnic studies

A Tank in Prague

Monuments have recently become focal points for debates about history, politics, and social justice. In the United States, protestors have called for the removal of statutes of Confederate leaders. In South Africa, students advocating for the “decolonization of education” have succeeded in having a statute of Cecil Rhodes removed from the University of Cape Town. In Ukraine, a law about communist monuments has led to what Ukrainians dub “Leninopad”—the “Lenin fall”— most of the statutes of the Soviet leader have now been dismantled.

empire of friendsMy new book, Empire of Friends: Soviet Power and Socialist Internationalism in Cold War Czechoslovakia, begins and ends with a monument in Prague. The monument was a Soviet tank: it was erected in July 1945 by Soviet and Czechoslovak leaders to honor the Soviet army’s liberation of Prague from German occupation in World War II.

A tank on the streets of a Central European city is the paradigmatic symbol of the Soviet Union’s oppression of its Eastern bloc satellites during the Cold War. A Soviet tank in Prague on a summer’s day remains an especially indelible image of the USSR’s violent efforts to maintain control over its socialist empire in Europe. It calls to mind the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, which crushed the country’s experiment in reform communism, known as the Prague Spring. In this familiar narrative of the superpower’s use of force against its satellite states, the 1945 monument to the Soviet Tank Crews in Prague is the foundation of Soviet hegemony in Czechoslovakia and the rest of Eastern Europe.

Yet long before the tank monument became a quintessential symbol of Soviet hard power in Czechoslovakia and the rest of the Eastern bloc, it was part of an audacious but less well-known experiment in power of a different kind: the attempt by Soviet and Eastern European officials to use transnational “friendship” to create a cohesive “socialist world.” This experiment, which involved cultural diplomacy, interpersonal contacts, and the trade of consumer goods across national borders behind the Iron Curtain, linked citizens of the superpower and its satellites in an “empire of friends” that lasted until the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Empire of Friends tells the story of the rise and fall of this friendship project between the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. The book’s central argument is that Soviet power in Czechoslovakia and the other Eastern bloc countries constituted a new type of empire—an empire of friends. I use this term to highlight the paradoxes of the relationship: between high politics and the realm of everyday life, amity and violence, cultural exchange and authoritarianism, and hard and soft power. The Monument to the Soviet Tank Crews in Prague illustrates this paradox. The monument employed a tank—a symbol of military force—to connote Soviet liberation and friendship. Over the course of the following four and a half decades, the tank monument became the most iconic symbol of friendship between the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia.

Following the Soviet invasion in 1968, many Czechoslovaks came to see this symbol of soft power as a painful reminder of Soviet hard power. In the spring of 1991, in the aftermath of the Velvet Revolution, which brought an end to communism in Czechoslovakia, and not long before the collapse of the Soviet Union, a young Czech artist named David Černý undertook an act of political protest art. He painted the tank pink and stuck a giant model of a paper mache middle finger at its center. Protests that followed led the Czechoslovak government to move the offending monument to a military museum, where it remains today.


 

Rachel Applebaum is a historian of the Soviet Union, communist Eastern Europe, and the global Cold War. Her first book, Empire of Friends: Soviet Power and Socialist Internationalism in Cold War Czechoslovakia, is available for purchase, here

A Tank in Prague

BUNDLE WEEK: Books Belong Together!

Cornell University Press is excited to bring books together with Bundle Week! We know that our readers live with a perpetual stack of books on their bedside tables, and it’s our job to help that pile grow. So May 20th through May 24th, bundle as many in-stock #CornellPress books as you want, and be rewarded for reading more.

Bundling 3 books gets you 30% off. Buy 4 books and you get 40% off, pick 5 or 6 books and the discount is now 50%. Need more books? No problem! Buy 7 to 9 books to get a 60% off discount, or go big and make it 10+ books, for a 70% off your total purchase.

Need ideas? Throughout this week, we’ll be sharing some suggestions of books to bundle direct from Cornell University Press’s staff. From new-this-season recommendations to all-time favorites, our staff will be sure to pick a diverse range of titles. With a backlist of over 12,000 books to choose from (remember we’ve been doing this for 150 years), the opportunities are endless! Read up on foreign policy this summer or explore the outdoors with our field guides. Tackle military history with the experts or investigate industrial labor relations while lounging by the pool.

Love to share? Tell us what books made your bundle, tagging @CornellPress and using the hashtag #BundleWeek on social, and we might just share them to inspire others.

Happy #BundleWeek!

Frames4-with codes

*Promo valid in the U.S. only


 

Sarah Noell is a Marketing Assistant at the Cornell University Press. 

BUNDLE WEEK: Books Belong Together!

What the Mainstream Media Overlooks in the “Sunny” New Employment Figures

“The lowest unemployment rate in a half century,” an AP story in the New York Times announced on May 3, after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly jobs report.

“I’ll be running on the economy,” said President Donald Trump, regarding his plans for the 2020 presidential campaign. “And why wouldn’t he?” the AP story replied. The report argued the “sunny employment figures offered fresh evidence of a strong national economy.”

It was the same story across the rest of the mainstream media. For example, ABC News heralded a “booming jobs market,” CNN said “this is as good as it gets in the labor market,” USA Today concluded “it would be hard to ask for a more favorable report.” and NBC stated “for graduating [college] seniors, the timing could not be better.”

Yet, can anyone really say that this is a shining economy when nearly 80 percent of workers live paycheck-to-paycheck and that 4 in 10 workers don’t have the funds to cover a $400 emergency expense? (The mainstream media gave us those two stories as well, but they fail to connect the dots when reporting on the larger economy.)

1In the wave of stories on the recent jobs report, much of the mainstream media, with its institutional eye on upscale readers and viewers, has again miserably failed to account for the condition of America’s vast working class majority. As I explain in my new book, No Longer Newsworthy: How the Mainstream Media Abandoned the Working Class, since the late 1960s and early 1970s the mainstream news media have been targeting an upscale audience, essentially redlining off the working-class news audience. This might have made business sense to executives running increasingly consolidated news corporations traded on Wall Street – let’s go for the upscale demographics! – but in the long term it put blinders on the editorial eyes of much of the country’s journalism organizations.

Case in point: the New York Times. An analysis of the jobs report by one of its economics writers began by noting “For years it was the central question in an otherwise impressive recovery by the American job market: Why aren’t wages rising faster?”

The article said that “Economists proposed all sorts of theories to explain the mystery” of stagnant worker pay, and among the grab bag of theories is “falling rates of unionization.” But that was not the answer in this story, despite substantial evidence.

Instead, he concluded, the reason for the long recovery in wages is that the official government unemployment rate doesn’t account for other potential workers on the sidelines who might be willing to get back into the economy. Thus, wages can only go up when unemployment is extremely low and demand for workers puts upward pressure on wages. This is finally happening, the author said, almost 10 years after the recession. (Hooray for workers! And take note: these economic rules don’t seem to apply to executive-level compensation.)

Of course, in this view, workers have no agency. They are merely captives of the “natural” laws of economics. Never mind that the past four decades of low wages has been made possible by a concerted effort to put private and public labor unions asunder, cripple fair enforcement of labor law, deprive workers of earned overtime wages, push medical care expenses onto workers or eliminate medical insurance all together, and enable corporations to raid pension funds – all while Wall Street and corporate profits achieved ever-higher records.

More than four decades ago, the mainstream news media began to transform its audience and its stories. Labor unions and the working class shifted from normal, respected subjects in journalism’s coverage to abnormal, misunderstood, and mostly invisible subjects. This shift resulted in our current media landscape: labor reporters are nearly gone, economic reporters hail the record-breaking economy, and political reporters wonder why the working class seems so angry.


 

Christopher R. Martin is Professor of Digital Journalism at the University of Northern Iowa. He is also author of an award-winning book on how labor unions are covered in the news media, Framed! Labor and the Corporate Media (Cornell University Press).


Also of interest:

Listen to Jonathan Hall, in an interview with Professor Christopher R. Martin, here.

What the Mainstream Media Overlooks in the “Sunny” New Employment Figures

Se souvenir des morts (Remembering the dead)

Last May, my parents and I visited the Catacombs of Paris, one of the most famous ossuaries of France. For two hours we traveled underground through long, damp hallways full of the bones of more than six million Parisians. Many of the younger tourists took selfies next to bones arranged in sculptures or historical plaques. When I took my phone out to take pictures, my father warned me not to. “It’s bad ju-ju to take pictures of the dead,” he told me. “You need to show respect.

It’s been a year now since my visit. Soon it will be Memorial Day, the day in the US where we remember and respect those who have died in military service. France has a similar day in November known as Remembrance Day, celebrated on the 11th. The rest of Europe also celebrates this day as Victory Day, when the First World War ended.

Two hundred years before the First World War, Parisians’ treatment of their dead underwent a huge transformation after the Reign of Terror. Before the Terror, Paris’ burial sites were mass graves and small, overcrowded churchyard cemeteries. Afterwards, they became individual graves, ossuaries, and attractive graveyards with trees and flowers. The citizens’ dead became an anchor to their country instead of a reason to flee.

making spaceIn her new book, Making Space for the Dead, Erin-Marie Legacey discusses the forces of why this change of heart and practice happened within just fifty years: “As this book articulates, the new spaces that appeared in Paris in the first decade of the nineteenth century gave shape to a new burial culture that was both a product of, and a reaction against, the experience of revolution.”

After the Terror, French national identity was shaken to its core. To promote patriotism (as well as solve several public health concerns), politicians began to push new Republican ideals of equality and virtuosity into burial practices. By doing this, they hoped to create “. . . a powerful but untapped fount for public instruction and social cohesion: the dead could provide models of civic virtue and act as a bridge uniting past and present.”

Shedding light on evolution of Parisian burial culture, Legacey shows us through engaging anecdotes and macabre illustrations from the period her aim to “ . . . tell the story of how and why Paris’s new culture of the dead developed as it did between 1780 and 1830.”

Overall, Legacey’s book shows that building proper burial sites for the dead after the Reign of Terror wasn’t a sign of defeat for France, but a sign of hope. Cemeteries were the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel that signaled not only a future for France as a country, but also for the continued unity of its people. “Ultimately, restoring order to the dead in the city gave Parisians the opportunity to begin the difficult work of rebuilding their social world after the Revolution.”

Granted, unlike with my end of my tour of the Catacombs, their light at the end of the tunnel probably wasn’t the gift shop.

To find out more information about the author or to purchase Making Space for the Dead, please click here.


Christine Gaba is a senior writing major at Ithaca College with a minor in English. When she is not reading or writing you can find her playing her clarinet, in the kitchen baking, or at a coffee shop with friends.

Se souvenir des morts (Remembering the dead)

What makes Pete Buttigieg such an effective communicator?

The biggest surprise of the 2020 presidential campaign so far has been the rise of South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg from relative unknown to contender. People who hear him speak tend to come away impressed, and there are many possible reasons for this, including the fact that he just seems like a decent human being, which offers a refreshing contrast to the current president.

Mayor Pete also seems to have an intuitive grasp of effective framing, which means that he is good at describing ideas in a way that makes listeners agree with him. I am a cognitive scientist who studies the importance of framing in political discourse. In my new book, America the Fair: Using Brain Science to Create a More Just Nation, I discuss framing techniques that liberal politicians could use to make their policy proposals more palatable to conservative voters.

The first technique was pioneered by George Lakoff, a cognitive linguist at UC Berkeley who has published several excellent books arguing that the language used by politicians and pundits to describe policies plays a fundamental role in determining how those policies are perceived by people—because of the way that language activates the mind.

In other words, the way in which a policy is framed could induce agreeable or disagreeable mind states.

Lakoff believes that the popularity of the conservative worldview in contemporary America is due to the fact that conservatives are better framers than liberals. He believes that many people have biconceptual minds, meaning that they are capable of understanding both liberal and conservative value systems. However, the inner liberals of many biconceptual citizens have gone dormant and need to be reawakened—by consistent and persistent use of liberal frames by liberal politicians.

In America the Fair, I express skepticism about Lakoff’s technique and suggest that liberal frames do not work well on conservative minds. A more promising approach, pioneered by Matthew Feinberg of the University of Toronto and Robb Willer of Stanford University, recognizes that conservative minds are much more likely to be persuaded by arguments that are consistent with conservative morality. For example, environmental protections can be framed to conservatives as maintaining purity, and to liberals as protecting the defenseless.

This brings us back to Mayor Pete, who seems to understand conservative morality way better than most liberals. More impressively, he talks about liberal ideals using conservative language.

MEEGANThe most newsworthy example is the way he talks about his experience as a gay man. To conservative Christians who think that homosexuality is a choice, he challenges them using their language: “If you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.” About his marriage to his husband, Chasten, he says it has moved him “closer to God.”

Some of Buttigieg’s competitors for the Democratic nomination have proposed that college should be free to anyone who wants it. When he was asked recently about free college, he replied, “Americans who have a college degree earn more than Americans who don’t. As a progressive, I have a hard time getting my head around the idea a majority who earn less because they didn’t go to college subsidize a minority who earn more because they did.”

Notice how clever this is? He identifies himself as a progressive while using language that is reassuring to conservatives. When Mayor Pete talks about liberal ideas using conservative language, it rubs people the right way.


Daniel Meegan is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Guelph, and the author of America the Fair: Using Brain Science to Create a More Just Nation. 
You can view and purchase his book, here.

UPCOMING EVENTS

May 1st, 2019 at 7pm: Book Launch with Daniel Meegan: America the Fair

 

What makes Pete Buttigieg such an effective communicator?

Mastering Natural History

One of my former Baja students wrote, just last week, with two exciting bits of news. First, now that she finally has a real job, she is buying a house in Billings, Montana.  Second, she is pursuing certification as a master naturalist. I wrote her back immediately.

Although it’s always exciting to learn that former students are acquiring mortgages and the other accoutrements of adulthood, I was intrigued by the news that she planned to become a master naturalist.

I must confess that, despite having taught natural history courses at the university level for a dozen years, I had no idea what qualifies one as a master naturalist. I got on the internet and searched for master naturalist programs, pleased to discover not only that such things exist, but that there is a fledgling organization, the  Alliance of Natural Resource Outreach and Service Programs, ANROSP, that networks naturalist and/or master naturalist training programs in 29 states.

In the days of yore my mother earned a bachelor’s degree in interpreting natural history at the University of Colorado. Does that sound a bit old school? These days, one interested in such things might pursue a course of studies in environmental education, and I know of at least one master’s program in that subject offered by Western Washington University. But even there, the question might be asked what qualifies one as a master naturalist.

In my recent book, Coves of Departure: Field Notes from the Sea of Cortez, I mention that Harvard’s E. O. Wilson, one of the foremost naturalists at work today, writes of having once been instructed that he couldn’t call himself a naturalist until he had identified ten thousand species. Yikes. But even if Wilson’s counsel had been offered tongue-in-cheek, it dabbles with a real question of whether one can actually master natural history.

Experts could argue that the master would need such breadth of knowledge that it would take a lifetime to achieve sufficient depth to achieve mastery.

coves
In my next book, Nature Beyond Solitude: Notes from the Field, I make the case that we are just now entering into the golden age of natural history. Many will argue otherwise, however, because less and less natural history is being taught at the university level. This is especially true in biology departments, where expertise in organismal biology is being replaced by interests in molecular & cellular biology. At the same time, citizen science is producing a wealth of data related to natural history that could never have been collected, let alone processed, as recently as when I earned my bachelor’s degree. And now we have programs like the Montana Master Naturalist Program!

Even if I’m wrong about a forthcoming golden age of natural history—you’ll have to read the book to decide on that—it must be stipulated that natural history is occupying vibrant new niches everywhere one looks.

Here in Seattle, just a few days ago, more than 5,000 Amazon employees signed off on an open letter to the company’s board of directors that identified climate change as an existential threat. I doubt that many of the signatories of this letter would identify themselves as naturalists, let alone master naturalists, and yet the letter itself, which can be read HERE, is informed by a sophisticated understanding of ecology and natural history. I am encouraged by the shared belief, articulated in this letter, that “climate impact must be a top consideration in everything we do.”

Natural history relates directly and unambiguously to climate change. Indeed, the American Museum of Natural History recently opened a permanent display on climate change. The exhibit covers everything from corals to glaciers, forests to polar ice caps, and that’s a lot of natural history. And now what we need are a few more master naturalists to help us understand where we’re going with nature.


 

John Seibert Farnsworth, who recently moved to the Pacific Northwest, is fast becoming a serial author with Comstock Publishing Associates. His first book, Coves of Departure: Field Notes from the Sea of Cortez, was released this past November. His second, Nature Beyond Solitude: Notes from the Field, will be published on March 15.

Mastering Natural History

A Rare Maverick in the House

Author Thomas W. Jones stopped by Sage House a few weeks ago to sign copies of From Willard Straight to Wall Street—purchasing more than 500 books for friends and colleagues.  He inscribed a personal note in each book and paid to have them mailed.

This is who Tom Jones is. He diligently worked for eight hours to make sure his positive message for our country and the world would get to the people that mattered most to him. As he has done throughout his life, he was embracing the importance of the moment and his place in it.

Fifty years ago, Tom and a group of African-American students occupied Cornell University’s Willard Straight Hall with a cache of weapons. It was 1969 and one year and days after the assassination of Martin Luther King. A cross had been burned on campus (or near campus). African-Americans were dying in Vietnam. Cornell’s black studies curriculum wasn’t moving fast enough and the atrocities of slavery were being omitted from the classroom. These students felt intellectual oppression. During the days of the standoff on a radio show, Tom told the university, “Cornell has three hours to live.”

***

IMG_0161I first met Tom in September of 2015 at the Statler Hotel on Cornell’s campus. His manuscript had arrived at the Press from former Cornell President Hunter R. Rawlings via our editor-in-chief Peter Potter. He was attending a meeting of the Cornell Board of Trustees.

The manuscript needed work but I couldn’t get the story out of my head—the shear humanity of it. This was a story only a university press could tell.

With a rifle on his shoulder, he was prepared to die for the idea of black history and culture finding its rightful place in the curriculum. He had wished his ancestors had made more progress in the fight against slavery.

“Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person…The wheel of history…had turned; my generation were to be tasked with the obligation and destiny to finally draw the line and end our oppression in America.”

Those lines stuck with me. Tom had led an armed occupation of Willard Straight Hall in 1969 and had gone on to a successful career on Wall Street—where he rose to power and was exonerated twice from SEC investigations.

He watched the planes hit the buildings on September 11th and walked uptown out of the rubble, turning back to see a gaping hole of evil in the North Tower. He had no idea that those buildings were metaphor as he bore witness to the collapse of the banking industry at Citicorp eight years later.

“Every day something was happening in the late sixties—the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Robert F. Kennedy, the riots at the Democratic National Convention and Vietnam raging,” said Tom. “It was the same thing on Wall Street. Every day another scandal broke. In both cases, America was coming apart at the seams.”

Tom Jones is an American-made success story—he believes in education and hard work. His story transcends race and cliché. He enrolled in Cornell at sixteen and was elected freshman class president. He had joined ROTC also in his first year but quit because of the number of black men dying in Vietnam. The Straight occupation arose from a number of factors but at its core was an intellectual argument for dignity and respect in the academy.

He became the first black CEO and President of TIAA-CREFF and was handling the pensions of the professors he challenged. He was unceremoniously walked out of Citicorp just before its demise and hit rock bottom. The spiritual foundation cultivated throughout his life saved him.

***

I struggled to find the right methodology to provide feedback during that first meeting. Like the former revolutionary I was facing, I made a short list of demands for the manuscript. I went in with guns blazing as an editor and an author.

We had a title we both liked—”Rare Maverick”—but not much else. The financial story was largely told through press releases. That moniker was coined by a reporter.

Three full edits and two years later, I told Tom that we couldn’t move forward—that he wouldn’t want his story to be told this way. We suggested that a ghostwriter could do this.

Then Tom hired a miracle worker—Emily Sanders Hopkins. She was a friend of our managing editor Ange Romeo Hall. She became the medium between publisher and author—channeling the best parts of the story into an entertaining structure.

Emily filled in the manuscript with detail and atmosphere. Working with Emily changed Tom. The stories became so powerful in her hands that he now freely lets the emotions wash over him when recounting them.

The story for me became more about Tom’s transformation and his journey. From Willard Straight to Wall Street is the new title because it gives a sense of his life’s expansiveness—the skills he learned on the steps of the Straight prepared him for the trials of the financial industry. He was chosen to witness, to fight for his beliefs and to prevail.

This journey also turned Thomas W. Jones into a fine writer.

jones cover


Dean Smith is the Director of Cornell University Press.


Upcoming events

 

April 16, 2019 at 6pm: Conversation with the Author: Thomas W. Jones ’69

April 24, 2019 at 8pm: From Willard Straight to Wall Street and Back: An Evening with Tom Jones ’69


You can find more information on the 50th Anniversary of the Willard Straight Hall Occupation of 1969, here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Rare Maverick in the House