Amplifying the unsung voices of South Vietnam

Soon after I joined Cornell University Press, I met with Sarah Grossman, Managing Editor of SEAP Publications, for a cup of coffee. She happened to mention a book that the Press published in 2015 – Voices from the Second Republic of South Vietnam (1967-1975), edited by K. W. Taylor. As Sarah explained, the book—a collection of essays by Vietnamese individuals who worked to build a democracy in Vietnam during the war—took on a life of its own after it came out. Mostly through word of mouth, news of its existence spread widely throughout various Vietnamese American communities, sparking conversation and remembrances, and serving as a much-needed locus for the kinds of stories about the war that are often shamefully overlooked.

voicesLearning about this book’s reception energized me instantly. As someone who works in publicity, I love the fact that the book reached the readers to whom it mattered the most. It also reminded me of why university presses are so important—we are publishing scholarship that has real impact on people around the world, both inside and out of the academy.

I was fortunate enough to be able to connect with one of the contributors, Tam Phan, to further illuminate the story behind this book, and why it has mattered so much to so many people. Our interview is below.

 

  1. This book developed from a symposium on the Second Republic of South Vietnam held at Cornell in 2012. You played an integral part in the volume’s development by providing the initial inspiration for it and contributing an essay. Why did you think it was important to publish these stories for a wider audience?

I share the feeling of the majority of the South Vietnamese community that the plight to build a free and democratic country in South Vietnam was misunderstood during the war. It was further clouded by a propaganda war that the South Vietnamese simply lost. The voices of South Vietnam have largely been absent from U.S. publications and scholarship on the war, and it felt important to have a platform for sharing another, crucial dimension of that time for the wider public. The 2012 symposium “Voices from the South” [Vietnam], organized by Professor Keith Taylor and coordinated by my son John Phan (who by that time was a PhD student at Cornell), provided us a golden opportunity to tell our stories. Professor Taylor went further and put together a volume that captured the main testimonies of eleven former South Vietnamese officials who served during the second republic. The South Vietnamese community has welcomed the book with appreciation and gratitude.

The interest in the book to this point, according to my understanding, remains chiefly among the first generation of Vietnamese Americans, as well as a very limited American public. We hope that the stories of the South Vietnamese and of their many American friends who helped them build their country be known to the younger Vietnamese American generation and the larger American public as well.

  1. The book’s publication attracted much attention within American Vietnamese communities. Why do you think it garnered such interest?

Since the publication of the book in 2015, we have made a consistent effort to protect its integrity by avoiding any attempt to “politicize” it. Despite the clear absence of large-scale publicity events, I am happy to see that the book has spread widely across Vietnamese communities in the U.S. and to some extent in France and Vietnam. I believe that this interest among Vietnamese communities stems from its healing effect. One reader—a former South Vietnamese military officer—told me during a social gathering in St. Paul, Minnesota that he found great comfort after reading the book, and I believe that this comfort stems from a feeling that a broader range of South Vietnamese experiences and perspectives have finally been represented in a publication.

  1. You decided to translate the book into Vietnamese. What motivated you to personally undertake this project? How can people get ahold of this edition?

The book has generated great interest among the first generation of Vietnamese-Americans, especially the older generation—many of whom are not proficient in English. I received several requests from a number of Vietnamese-American communities, as well as some Vietnamese-American media groups, for a Vietnamese edition of the book. I consulted Professor Taylor and Sarah Grossman and received permission to produce a translation. I contracted with a professional translator and did the editing, along with seven of the other original contributors (two of the contributors have passed away in 2017). The whole process was completed by April 2018, and under the suggestion of some of my colleagues, I had released it on April 30, 2018 in commemoration of the end of the Vietnam war. We quickly discovered a number of minor technical issues following the initial release, which were promptly corrected, and the final edition of the translation (titled Tiếng Nói từ Đệ Nhị Cộng Hòa Nam Việt Nam 1967-1975) has been available via Amazon since May of this year.


 

About the author of this blog post: Cheryl Quimba is the Publicity Manager at Cornell University Press. She truly believes that books can and do change the world (and she’ll rattle off a whole laundry list of world-changing books if you ask her!).

Amplifying the unsung voices of South Vietnam

Welcome to the Craziness that is Publishing

As we celebrate another new year at the press, we’re excited to introduce our three newest team members: Carmen Torrado Gonzalez, Jennifer Savran Kelly, and Ellen Murphy. To kick off your 2018 reading list, we asked each of them to share the top book or books that influenced their desire to enter the publishing field. Continue reading “Welcome to the Craziness that is Publishing”

Welcome to the Craziness that is Publishing

Why Indonesia’s Muslim preachers are doing so well

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Cornell University Press has just published Hearing Allah’s Call: Preaching and performance in Indonesian Islam. Anthropologist Birgit Braeuchler interviewed the author, Julian Millie, of Monash University, about his new book.

Birgit Braeuchler: Your preparation for this book included fourteen months listening to Islamic sermons in West Java. I imagine there must be many preachers there, simply because there are so many Muslims in that part of Indonesia—about forty million in a province not much bigger than the island of Hawaii. But let me ask . . . the title of your book emphasizes performance. Why is that concept such a big part of this project?

Julian Millie: I work with colleagues at the State Islamic University in Bandung. A couple of years ago, students in the Islamic predication program helped us do a survey about the features that made preaching successful amongst West Javanese audiences. They went to their home villages, and came back with their reports. According to almost all of these surveys, a sermon was successful if the preacher was able to hold the audience’s attention for its duration . . . In other words, the students regarded a captivating sermon as a successful one. Continue reading “Why Indonesia’s Muslim preachers are doing so well”

Why Indonesia’s Muslim preachers are doing so well

Doctors at War – A Modern Nonfiction Update to M*A*S*H

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Cambridge Professor Embedded in Afghanistan Military Hospital
Explores the Courage, Compassion, and Comic Tragedy of Modern War

“There is a massive propaganda industry, embraced by all institutions from schools to the press and churches, that seeks to deny the stark facts de Rond chronicles. This is why the British Ministry of Defense did not want the book published. De Rond shines a light on a reality we are not supposed to see. It is a reality, especially in an age of endless techno war, we must confront if we are to recover the human.”
—Chris Hedges, author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

We weren’t supposed to read Mark de Rond’s new book Doctors at War.

A high-ranking medical officer in the British Ministry of Defense insisted de Rond write this book, and do so without fear of censorship. However, upon its completion, the ministry told de Rond it would oppose the book due to his exceptionally candid and true-to-life account of a trauma surgical team at work in the “world’s bloodiest” field hospital, Camp Bastion, in Afghanistan. Despite such pressure, Mark de Rond has chosen to publish the book.

Doctors at War tells of the highs and lows of surgical life in hard-hitting detail, bringing to life a morally ambiguous world in which good people face impossible choices, and in which routines designed to normalize experience have the unintended effect of highlighting war’s absurdity. Mark de Rond, a professor of organizational ethnography at Cambridge University, lifts the cover on a world rarely ever seen, let alone written about, and helps rebalance popular and overly heroic, adrenaline packed tales of what it is like to go to war. Here the crude and visceral coexist with the tender and affectionate, as do pleasure and guilt, kindness and cruelty, courage and cowardice, and the profound and pointless. In sum, it provides a unique insight into the lived experience of war from the point of view of good people forced to make difficult choices in an absurd environment.

Purchase Doctors at War today on our website and receive a special 30% discount. Use promo code 09CAU6.

For more information please contact Jonathan Hall: jlh98@cornell.edu

Interview with Mark de Rond:
Continue reading “Doctors at War – A Modern Nonfiction Update to M*A*S*H”

Doctors at War – A Modern Nonfiction Update to M*A*S*H

It Takes a Village: Eight Tips for Surviving in the Age of Amazon

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Buffalo Street Books: saving the world, one bookstore at a time.

It’s University Press Week at AAUP, and we’re excited to participate in the annual UP Week Blog Tour. This year’s theme is “community,” and today’s posts focus on IndieBound, the community of independent bookstores. Find more great reads at our partner presses: University of Texas PressUniversity of Calgary Press, University Press of ColoradoSeminary Co-op BookstoresMcGill-Queen’s University PressDuke University PressNYU PressUniversity Press of Kentucky, and University Press of Kansas.

Next door to Greenstar, Ithaca’s cooperative natural foods market, and down the hall from the legendary Moosewood Restaurant, you’ll find Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca’s cooperatively owned bookstore. In these hard times for the publishing industry, our conspicuously literate college town of 30,000 (50,000 when you include Cornell and Ithaca College’s student bodies) has but four brick and mortar stand-alone bookstores left within its city limits, each staking out its territory: used and rare, science fiction and fantasy, big box, and independent new. Continue reading “It Takes a Village: Eight Tips for Surviving in the Age of Amazon”

It Takes a Village: Eight Tips for Surviving in the Age of Amazon

The Work of Writing: Contextual Economies from Petrarch to Shakespeare

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Part two of our interview with William J. Kennedy, author of Petrarchism at Work: Contextual Economies in the Age of Shakespeare. Read part one here.

Sage House: When you first talked to us about the economic perspective of your book, you mentioned your children, who are young adults making their way in the world, as an inspiration. Can you talk more about that?

William Kennedy: Going back to my adult offspring, our son was trying to mount a career as a musician [in the late 2000s]. Concurrently, our daughter had finished her law degree and was working in the not-for-profit sector [when the Great Recession of 2008–2009 hit]. It was an education for both of them to try to get themselves on their feet. So the experience of our adult children, and certainly the wider experience of economic crisis, got me thinking about these economic questions.


Just wage and inequality, distributive justice, commutative justice: these are all key tenets of moral philosophy in the late middle ages and early modern period.


SH: So you kind of experienced the recession most vividly through your children’s hardship, and these issues came to the fore of your mind at that time. Was this book inspired directly by that?

WK: That’s why I’m calling it a contextual economy. Medieval economics is not systematic economics as we know it now. It’s really a branch of moral philosophy. Continue reading “The Work of Writing: Contextual Economies from Petrarch to Shakespeare”

The Work of Writing: Contextual Economies from Petrarch to Shakespeare

Petrarchism at Work: A Two-part Interview with William J. Kennedy

WJK3-final.pngWilliam J. Kennedy is Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities in the Department of Comparative Literature at Cornell University. His most recent book, Petrarchism at Work: Contextual Economies in the Age of Shakespeare, is newly published by Cornell University Press. In part one of the interview, we discuss the role of revision in the work of Petrarch and Ronsard and its contrality to Kennedy’s study of “contextual economies.”

80140100363330LSage House: You argue that print technology was a game-changing innovation in the European Renaissance. If print was the disruptive technology of the time, how did poets such as Shakespeare and Ronsard deploy it to disrupt the system?

William Kennedy: People didn’t know what to do with print—the emerging technology of the time—just as I don’t know what to do with Twitter! It wasn’t at all intuitive for a sixteenth-century poet to want to get his poems into print. Poetry was regarded as live entertainment; poets would read their work aloud, sometimes people would copy it down, and sometimes poets would distribute their manuscripts to others to copy and pass on, but without any thought of print publication. Print as a technology was seen as having technical usages in disseminating information. Early printed books tended to favor self-help topics: “how-to” agricultural handbooks, merchant handbooks. Continue reading “Petrarchism at Work: A Two-part Interview with William J. Kennedy”

Petrarchism at Work: A Two-part Interview with William J. Kennedy

Cornell Series on Land: An Interview with Wendy Wolford

Cornell University Press is pleased to introduce a new series, “On Land: New Perspectives in Territory, Development, and Environment,” edited by Wendy Wolford (Cornell University), Nancy Lee Peluso (University of California, Berkeley), and Michael Goldman (University of Minnesota). We recently invited Wendy to sit down with Sage House News to discuss what inspired the editors to embark on this project and to detail their areas of interest.

All three editors, as well as CUP Senior Acquiring Editor Jim Lance, will be available to field inquiries at the American Association of Geographers annual meeting, March 29–April 2, in San Francisco.

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L to R: Series editors Wendy Wolford, Nancy Peluso, Michael Goldman

Sage House: Can you tell us about the manifesto you’ve been working on?

Wendy Wolford: The three coeditors for the series—Nancy, Michael, and I—wanted to write something that would outline in very general terms how we situate the series within a longer tradition of work. We also wanted to delineate some of the areas that we’re most interested in. The three of us are all pretty closely aligned in the way we think of the broader trajectory of work around land—land-related politics, land development studies, political and moral economy—and yet we work in very different areas.

The manifesto is also an attempt to explain why a series on land makes so much sense right now. Not that it’s an ephemeral interest! But in the current moment there is a heightened awareness of the struggle over land resources, urban and rural, even extending to the politics of marine management. Continue reading “Cornell Series on Land: An Interview with Wendy Wolford”

Cornell Series on Land: An Interview with Wendy Wolford