Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts

5 Questions with Matthew H. Rafalow, author of “Digital Divisions”

August 18, 2020
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It seems that the effects of COVID-19 persist in each and every arena of our lives. With its emergence, the unjust systemic stratifications of resources, distribution, and access became more apparent than ever. One such area is education. With back to school season upon us again, we must think critically about the divides driving education and schools. In his new book, Digital Divisions: How Schools Create Inequality in the Tech Era, Matthew H. Rafalow explores how different student body demographics receive starkly contrasting responses to their interests and implementations of technology. What lead to you this subject? Were there any particular elements that you were drawn to learning more about? I have always been fascinated by how schools work. Since my parents worked in education, dinner table conversations centered on stories about students. But they were also big supporters of my interests in computers, even though a lot of my peers saw it as rather geeky. As an adult, I watched as the world adopted all sorts of new digital technologies. I wondered if kids’ experiences with technology today were similar or different from my own. I also was curious about what school would be like if everyone liked using . . .

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Scott L. Montgomery on the Importance of Communicating Science Today

August 14, 2020
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Scott L. Montgomery, author of The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science, is widely known for his writings on energy matters, intellectual history, language and translation, and history of science. In light of the disparate messaging surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we invited him to share his thoughts with us. Communicating science is more essential today than it has ever been. This means not only among scientists themselves but a range of non-scientific audiences. Such may sound like an opinion donning the mask of fact (forgive the simile). But I wager almost every scientist and a great many others agree with it.   There are several reasons for me to say this. One, of course, is the Covid-19 pandemic. In this case, communicating the science and doing so accurately counts as both an ethical and moral act, as well as a political necessity, due to the near-bacterial spread of misinformation, conspiracy ideas, and outright denials of the disease. Internet technology provides pathways for anti-science to mobilize and proliferate, and it is this same technology (social media) that needs to be employed as a counter such intellectual toxins. Thankfully, a good bit of this is happening. It needs to continue and expand in both relentless and eloquent fashion to counter and contain the appeals it . . .

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What Does Patriotism Mean in America Today?

July 2, 2020
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July 4th generally conjures images of barbeques, fireworks, and large, billowing flags. But due to large protests against police brutality, concerns of COVID, and an upcoming election that symbolizes both fear and hope for many, the holiday this year looks very different. This Independence Day, instead of a celebration of patriotism, we wanted to dedicate some time to reflecting on it. We invited three of our political science authors to answer the following questions: What does patriotism mean in America today? Given that definition, should Americans be patriotic today? Below are their thoughtful responses. LaFleur Stephens-Dougan author of Race to the Bottom: How Racial Appeals Work in American Politics Reflecting on what patriotism means to me so close to the celebration of our nation’s Independence Day is a weighty endeavor.  In my opinion, patriotism in the United States is fraught with contradiction, especially for Black Americans. Black Americans have made countless contributions to the United States, a country they love, but are still engaged in a centuries-old struggle for economic, political, and social equality.  As the child of Black immigrants, who came to this country voluntarily, I am acutely aware of the sacrifices that African Americans have made on behalf . . .

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Five Questions with Eve L. Ewing

June 15, 2020
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Five Questions with Eve L. Ewing

As a book marketer at a university press, one of the things you’re always looking for is a work of strong scholarship that also can connect with ordinary readers and issues that matter in their lives. In the past few years, one of the best examples we’ve had of that is sociologist Eve L. Ewing’s Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side. Published in 2018 to broad acclaim—Ta-Nehisi Coates called it “an important addition to any conversation about the future of public schools,” Publishers Weekly called it “essential,” NPR named it one of the best books of the year, and Diane Ravitch called it “the best book about education this year”—the book struck a chord with scholars and activists alike. Earlier this spring, it was published in paperback, and Chicago also released another project that Ewing had a hand in: a new edition of Ida B. Wells’s classic memoir, Crusade for Justice, with a foreword by Ewing. Those of you who know Ewing from her Twitter feed know, however, that no matter how many projects you name, she’s always up to something more—and that could be anything from publishing poetry to writing comic books. We . . .

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Read an Excerpt from “Plague Years: A Doctor’s Journey Through the AIDS Crisis”

June 11, 2020
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Plague Years is an unprecedented first-person account of the AIDS epidemic. Physician Ross Slotten provides an intimate yet comprehensive view of the disease’s spread alongside heartfelt portraits of his patients and his own conflicted feelings as a medical professional, drawn from more than thirty years of personal notebooks. In telling the story of someone who was as much a potential patient as a doctor, Plague Years sheds light on the darkest hours in the history of the LGBT community in ways that no previous medical memoir has. His moving memoir ensures that these dark hours will not be forgotten, and in honor of Pride Month, we’re sharing an excerpt from the opening chapter. In the beginning Tom and I weren’t the only AIDS doctors in town. There were a handful of others, like the two Davids at Illinois Masonic Hospital, Bernie B. at Rush, Tom C. at Northwestern, Michael B. at Weiss Hospital, and a few others who didn’t survive the early days of the epidemic. As gay men, we felt that it was our duty to serve the gay community, which bore the brunt—and continues to bear the brunt—of the AIDS crisis, not only in Chicago but elsewhere in the United States, . . .

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Everybody at a Time like This Should Keep Animals: Read an Excerpt from “The Great Cat and Dog Massacre”

June 9, 2020
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During these strange quarantine months, many of us have been seeking comfort in our animal friends, who have been our companions in isolation and our sense of hope and distraction. In this excerpt from The Great Cat and Dog Massacre: The Real Story of World War II’s Unknown Tragedy, Hilda Kean looks at a time during the War when we similarly marveled at our pets’ remove from the larger events of the world. In a letter penned in March 1940, the English author, journalist, and criminologist Fryniwyd Tennyson Jesse attempted to explain the mood of wartime London to American friends by incorporating her two cats into the narrative: I watch with a sense of relaxation and pleasure because they know nothing about war. I think everybody at a time like this should keep animals, just as royalties and dictators should always keep animals. For animals know nothing of politics, nothing of royalty, nothing of war unless, poor creatures, they also, knowing not why, are wounded and killed. By situating animals as apart from (human) politics, albeit included in the suffering of war that embraced animal and human alike, Tennyson Jesse suggested that animals conveyed a particular quality needed . . .

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Close Your Eyes, Open Your Ears: Read an Excerpt from “Seeing Silence” by Mark C. Taylor

May 26, 2020
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Mark C. Taylor’s forthcoming book, Seeing Silence, offers a new philosophy of silence for our nervous, chattering age. Taylor explores the many variations of silence by considering the work of leading modern and postmodern visual artists, weaving in the insights of philosophers, theologians, writers, and composers. During times of stress and uncertainty, Taylor encourages us to turn to silence as a means to understand the world around us—to hear what is not said, and to attend to what remains unsayable. Pause to listen and read along as Taylor narrates the opening passages of Seeing Silence. Video by Oscar d’Angeac. Produced by Armand Latreille & Lucas Zabotin. Silence is no weakness of language. It is, on the contrary, its strength. It is the weakness of language not to know this. —Edmond Jabès Close your eyes, open your ears. Close your eyes, open your ears and listen. Listen attentively, listen patiently. What do you hear? Now imagine . . . try to imagine the impossibility of imagining Now. Imagine, try to imagine not being—not being here, not being now. Not being here, not being now, not being elsewhere, not being anywhere. Imagine being before being. Imagine being after being. Imagine being Not. . . .

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Poet Rachel DeWoskin Reads from Her New Collection

May 18, 2020
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UChicago Press is now on Youtube! . . .

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We Are All Fluxus Artists Now: Natilee Harren on Making the Most of Mundane Tasks

May 12, 2020
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As we continue to shelter at home and stay safe during the current pandemic, many of our days are occupied by the routines of cooking, cleaning, eating, and maintaining the household. During this time, Fluxus Forms author Natilee Harren looks to a peculiar group of artists, the Fluxus collective, to cast new light on our mundane daily tasks. Fluxus artists found creative value in a variety of surprising places, including the rituals of seemingly boring everyday tasks. Harren shows us how, even while staying safe at home, we can observe ourselves, become an object, and live some Fluxus art. Museums and moviehouses continue their closures. Countless events remain canceled. As we practice enforced or voluntary forms of social distancing, we are bombarded with appeals to satisfy our cultural appetites with virtual museum tours, Instagram conversations, live-streamed concerts, and hours of content newly liberated from paywalls. But how much time per day can we really spend with our eyes fixed on digital screens, especially when so many of our work and schooling obligations have also moved online? At the same time, stuck at home and attempting to keep a virus at bay, we find ourselves spending more time than ever before on mundane, everyday . . .

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent?: Marianne Mason, editor of “The Discourse of Police Interviews,” on the Guilt-Presumptive Nature of Interrogations

May 7, 2020
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“Step up and tell the truth.” “No more lies.” “This is your chance to tell us what really happened.” Who hasn’t rooted for a TV detective when they’ve said these lines in an interrogation or when the detective managed to convince someone not to seek counsel? While these lines and manipulations have been played off on procedural shows as fairly benign, they actually represent an interrogation method that, instead of presuming innocence like the US justice system is meant to, actually presumes guilt and focuses on soliciting a confession. In her chapter in The Discourse of Police Interviews, “The Guilt-Presumptive Nature of Custodial Interrogations in the United States,” editor Marianne Mason investigates this interrogation style’s history, techniques, and tactics as well as loopholes past the Miranda warning and suggests areas for further research. We invited her to reflect on her chapter and bring to light its key points and place it within The Discourse of Police Interviews as a whole. It is past time that police interviews undergo such analysis and scrutiny. Since the early 2000s I have been researching language and the law. I have examined language use in covertly-taped conversations of drug cartel members, such as the Cali Cartel, the bilingual . . .

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