Labor Day: What is Labor Studies?

Established as a way to recognize “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,” Labor Day is a tribute to the social and economic achievements of workers across the country. Celebrated each September in the United States, this important holiday contributes to our understanding of the American worker and their contributions to the production and strength of the nation.

As an interdisciplinary field, labor studies combines the work of political science, sociology, economics, and history, in order to analyze issues of the historic and contemporary workforce. Work is a central feature of today’s lives, and labor issues have long been of significant importance. Practitioners and scholars of labor studies review historic controversies of the labor movement and its history. In addition, they analyze the strategic barriers and challenges to organizational change in place today to effectively assist workers in national and international contexts.

9781625341150_0Labor studies scholarship is an active subject heading for UMass Press, particularly for its interdisciplinary nature. Last December, we published For Jobs and Freedom, a collection of writings by the tireless civil rights activist and union leader A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979). Known for leading the struggle for black freedom and organizing the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Randolph was a key leader in the Civil Rights Movement and the American labor movement from the 1930s to 1960s. For Jobs and Freedom, edited by Andrew Kerstein and David Lucander, highlights Randolph’s essential writings over a five-decade career. Combining more than seventy published and unpublished pieces, the editors organized his writings thematically in order to situate speeches within Randolph’s major interests – dismantling workplace inequality, expanding civil rights, confronting racial segregation, and building international coalitions. John Bracey Jr., coeditor of SOS – Calling All Black People, says “this book will go a long way in making easily accessible . . . the leading figure among Blacks in the trade union movement from the 1930s until his death . . . I give it my strongest endorsement.” For more information on For Jobs and Freedom, please visit our website or view our subject heading on labor studies.

We here at UMass Press would like to wish everyone a relaxing Labor Day.


V-J Day: The End of an Era & Return to Normal

creadick_300When World War II ended in August 1945, Americans entered a period of readjustment. After decades of depression and war, the country had to cope with the emotional, physical, and economic wounds of war. As a sort of post-traumatic stress response to World War II, a political and social discourse centered on the return to “normal” swept through the American population. This idea of “normality” was a keyword in postwar American culture, to the point of near obsession. Anna Creadick’s Perfectly Average charts this pursuit of “normality” through scientific studies, literary texts, and mass media among other materials, and shows that “normal” was a standard Americans actively and impossibly pursued.

Perfectly Average focuses on the period between 1945 to 1963, when the United States struggled with the massive demobilization of troops, reintegration of veterans into the workforce, and massive reorganization of society’s ideals and values. In its analysis of the aftermath of World War II, In particular, it demonstrates the complexities and contradictions in this drive to “normality” in hopes to create uniformly average citizens. What exactly was “normality” in the postwar decades? Why did the population endlessly pursue these impossible ideals? What forces, political and otherwise, were at play in shaping the culture and behavior of the period? In Perfectly Average, Creadick analyzes the nationalistic undertones of “American exceptionalism” that infiltrated everything from postwar scholarship to middle class apparel. Normality went from being a concept to a system of organization for minds, bodies, sexualities, and communities.

A graduate of UMass Amherst, author Anna Creadick is currently an associate professor of English at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. For more information on her book or other volumes in the Culture, Politics, and Cold War series, please review our website page.




Emily Esten is an Editorial Intern at UMass Press. She is a junior History/Digital Humanities major at UMass Amherst. 

Literary Summer, Part 2: Five Poetry Books to Read

Our newly expanded Juniper Prize for Poetry and Juniper Prize for Fiction will be open for submissions August 1-September 30. Please see Juniper Literary Series for details. Who will be #JuniperPoet40?

If you read our Literary Summer post last month and already finished that list, you’re in luck! To complement your fiction reading, this month we offer you some of the highlights of our Juniper Literary Prize for Poetry. Here are five UMass Press publications for a literary summer:

Dana Roeser’s The Theme of Tonight’s Party Has Been Changed

Filled with the struggles of misfortune and the anxieties of modern life, a stand-up comic narrator takes into her world where life is spinning out of control. Roeser’s poetry is sharp, witty, and powerful as it captivates its reader in a performance of the self.

 “I//wake in the dark/trying to assemble//a lexicon,/to make a coherent//line-in the dark/I scratched//words on top of each/other on a//pad by the bed”



Brandon Dean Lamson’s Starship Tahiti

Described as a creation myth in reverse, Lamson explores cityscapes and contemporary urban culture through an object9781625340092ive lens. From Rikers Island to Grand Central Station to the Chesapeake Bay, the reader questions the communal and the personal, the secular and the sacred.  As reviewer Yusef Komunyakaa wrote, “If we’re looking for the truth, Starship Tahiti gets to the quick, but hones an edgy grace.”

“The fragile, in between state of larvae hatching/is no less desirable that full bloom in a city of/roses, if such a city can ever be found.” – “Portland Bardo” by Brandon Dean Lamson



Robert Francis’s Collected Poems, 1936-1976

Did you know that our annual Juniper Prize is named in honor of Robert Francis? He built a small house for himself near Cushman Village here in Amherst, which he called Fort Juniper. UMass Press has published three book of Francis’s work. In this edition, we find seven previous volumes of Robert Francis poetry alongside a group of recent works. Following the journey of a modern American classic, readers can make their way through a history of poetry and of Francis himself.

 “The sky is on fire with blue/and wind keeps ringing, ringing the fire bell.”

– “Cold” by Robert Francis


Eleanor Lerman’s Come the Sweet By and By

When UMass Press launched the Juniper Prize for Poetry in 1975, we were one of the first university presses to publish contemporary poetry. Eleanor Lerman was the first recipient of the honor. The themes of love and survival emphasize an inherent question of faith: will the love that’s left be enough to get you through your last day?

“There will come gentle monsters unto your door/sick with radiation/bringing the love that is purer/with atomic cleansing/Keep them as your last children” – “There Will Come Gentle Monsters” by Eleanor Lerman




Eleanor Wilner’s maya

Long and rich with complexities, the poems of Wilner’s maya take the reader through a revision of tradition and make a statement of their own. In them, a number of women, men, and other creatures are set free from their respective myths and returned to luck. Divided into five sections, this captivating first volume truly represents the goals of the Juniper Prize.

 “It seemed so effortless in its suspense,/perfectly out of time and out of place.” – “Landing” by Eleanor Wilner


Emily Esten is an Editorial Intern at UMass Press. She is a junior History/Digital Humanities major at UMass Amherst. 

Literary Summer, Part 1: Five Fiction Books to Read

Now that summer has finally arrived, you may be looking for a good beach read, vacation favorite, or simply another title to add to your to-read list. UMass Press sponsors the Juniper Literary Prize for Fiction and Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. Here are five UMass Press publications to enjoy a literary summer:

My Escapee by Corinna Vallianatosmy escapee

Our 2012 Grace Paley Prize winner, Valliantos’s My Escapee, provides an intimate look into the lives of women: their thoughts, their hopes and dreams, and the stresses of friends and family. The characters find themselves stuck “in-between” – in between loyalties and confusing identities. This stunning debut will bring a whirlwind of emotions to the reader, from sadness to glee.

“I always thought she was beautiful. The process of her aging was better known to me than it would have been to a husband, and I was sympathetic to it.”

gunEveryone Here Has a Gun by Lucas Southworth

Anton Chekhov famously noted that if a story introduces a gun in the first act, that gun must go off by the third. However, in Southworth’s Everyone Here Has a Gun, they are rarely fired – instead, the guns serve as the catalyst for tension and extreme emotions. As the 2013 winner of the Grace Paley Prize, the intricate narratives of fantasy and reality describe our own search for comfort and stability in a world that is ultimately too violent and incomprehensible.

“The blackness is a kind of deadly mirror; it has the cleanest glass, the clearest.” 

A History of Hands by Rod Val Moorehistory of hands

The winner of 2014 Juniper Prize for Fiction, Moore’s A History of Hands is a powerful and thrilling novel that takes place in Depression-era California. Verge, an awkward young man still suffering from the effects of a childhood poisoning, finds himself paralyzed and unable to afford a doctor’s visit. As luck would have it, a mysterious physician moves in with Verge to heal him free of charge. In its exploration of the ambiguities of health and freedom, A History of Hands presents an extraordinary read

“And they appear as if in a kind of real life, larger than real life perhaps, and all of this in a blighted year, a blighted era.” 




Bewildered by Carla Panciera

Our 2014 winner of the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction, Panciera’s Bewildered  takes us through ten short stories to ask one question: can you live any way forever? While the characters vary in gender, age, marital status, and even narrative style, they all evoke the reader’s empathy as stories of unfulfilled dreams, the desire to belong, and the fear of what comes next unfold on each page.

 “This is a world of secret-sharers, a noisy world full of unimaginable silence.”




9781625341372Desert Sonorous by Sean Bernard

As the newly proclaimed “bard of the desert,” Sean Bernard takes us on a journey through the American Southwest in the Juniper Prize winning Desert Sonorous. Set in his hometown of Tucson, Bernard blends realism and experimentation for a portrait of the modern era. These vivid characters, from undercover aliens to cross-country athletes, handle contemporary issues as part of a quest for life’s deeper meanings.

 “I am from a place that is dry, he thought, and there is so little you take what you can and make it matter.”



Emily Esten is an Editorial Intern at UMass Press. She is a junior History/Digital Humanities major at UMass Amherst. 

National Bike Week & Boston’s Cycling Craze

The Bike Week movement, which is recognized each May in the U.S. as part of National Bike Month, advocates the importance of cycling as a means of transportation and recreation. Massachusetts is the only state in the nation with a truly statewide bike week, from May 9th to May 17th. National Bike to Work day, encouraging commuters to take to the road through active transportation, is May 15. In the Boston area, cyclists are encouraged to ride with one of ten convoys to City Hall Plaza for a breakfast party and commuter celebration.

Boston has long been the center of cycling enthusiasm – the Boston Bicycle Club, founded in 1878, was the first in the nation, and formed the nucleus of the national organization, the League of American Wheelmen. Cycling was a hotbed for clashes about race, gender, class, ethnicity – even religion. One of a small group of black women cyclists, Kittie Knox of the Riverside Cycle Club attracted much attention as a prominent activist and cyclist. Her insistences on riding a two-wheeled man’s bike and her personally-fashioned knickerbockers were frowned upon by many in the cycling society. But her most important contribution to the cycling craze was her appearance at the 1895 League of American Wheelman meet. The recent institution of a “color bar” prevented her attendance at the meet – however, members of the Massachusetts delegation of the league supported her despite the tension she raised. Her courage and pluck encouraged discussion of diversity in cycling clubs, something the modern community continues to face.  Knox’s image is feature on the cover of Finison’s Boston’s Cycling Craze, and has been discussed extensively in Finison’s interview at the Museum of African American History.

bostonNamed one of New England’s Best Books of 2014 by the Boston Globe, Larry Finison’s Boston’s Cycling Craze, 1880 – 1900 tells a story of race, sport, and society. In addition to being a UMass Press author, Finison is a founding member of Cycling Through History and has presented several papers at the International Cycling History conference in recent years. Thomas Whalen, author of Dynasty’s End, wrote that Boston’s Cycling Craze  “not only is . . . an informative history, but a compelling morality tale that meditates on the important intersection of sport, race, and gender in the broader spectrum of American culture.” For more information on his book, please visit our website. You can follow Finison on twitter at @ljfinison.



Emily Esten is an Editorial Intern at UMass Press. She is a junior History/Digital Humanities major at UMass Amherst. 

Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month, a time during which we recognize and pay tribute to the generations of women whose efforts have truly impacted today’s society. We would like to recognize some of our recent titles celebrating women’s history and feminism in national and transnational contexts.

In recent years, scholars from a variety of disciplines have turned their attention to food to gain a better understanding of history, culture, economics and society. This stimulating collection, From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies, contributes to the emerging genre by investigating the important connections between food studies and women’s studies. In particular, contributors note the ways in which gender, race, ethnicity, class, colonialism, and capitalism have both shaped and been shaped by the production of food. One section explores how women have held families together by keeping them nourished, from the routines of an early nineteenth-century New Englander to the plight of women who endured the siege of Leningrad. Another section documents acts of female resistance within the contexts of national or ethnic oppression, and how food has served as a means to assert independence and personal identity.

As first complete modern edition of “The Female Marine” and Related Works, retells a fictional cross-dressing trilogy originally published between 1815 and 1818. An enormously popular narrative for New England readers, the story recounts the adventures of a young woman from rural Massachusetts who is seduced by a false-hearted lover, flees to Boston, and is entrapped in a brothel. She eventually escapes by disguising herself as a man and serves with distinction on board the U.S. frigate Constitution during the War of 1812. Cohen situates the famous story in literary and historical contexts, providing a unique portrayal of prostitution and interracial city life in early nineteenth-century America.

In One Colonial Woman’s World, Michelle Marchetti Coughlin reconstructs the life of Mehetabel Chandler Coit (1673-1758), the author of the earliest surviving diary by an American woman. A native of Roxbury Massachusetts, who later moved to Connecticut, Coit began her diary at the age of fifteen and kept it intermittently until she was well into her seventies. Coit’s long life covered an eventful period in American history, and this book explores the numerous – and sometimes surprising – ways in which her personal history was linked to broader social and political developments. It also provides insight into the lives of countless other colonial American women whose history remains largely untold.

Competing understandings of womanhood have led to two schools of thought in modern feminism: one of male-female equality that strives for rights in social and political spheres, and one of gender difference that analyzes and reevaluates solely the concept of womanhood. What are the sociocultural foundations of these seemingly opposing gender constructs and why has the American feminist movement failed to articulate an ideology that encompasses both? Debra Gold Hansen’s Strained Sisterhood explores the origins of the equality-versus-difference debate by examining the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society, which disbanded in 1840 over this very issue. Through her findings, she concludes that many of the issues that estranged female abolitionists in antebellum Boston continue to divide women today, testifying not the strength of the bonds between women but to the fragility of those ties.

In From the Dance Hall to Facebook, author Shayla Thiel-Stern takes a close look at several historical snapshots, including working-class girls in dance halls of the early 1900s; girls’ track and field teams in the 1920s to 1940s; Elvis Presley fans in the mid-1950s; punk rockers in the late 1970s and early 1980s; and girls using the Internet in the early twenty-first century. In each case, issues of gender, socioeconomic status, and race are explored within their historical context. the book argues that by marginalizing and stereotyping teen girls over the past century, mass media have perpetuated a pattern of gendered crisis that ultimately limits the cultural and political power of the young women it covers.


And coming out in July 2015, Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies recognizes the influential and insightful activist’s impact beyond the United States. Most scholars have situated Lorde’s work within the context of the women’s, gay and lesbian, and black civil rights movements within the United States. However, Lorde forged coalitions with women in Europe, the Caribbean, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa, and twenty years after her passing, these alliances remain largely undocumented and unexplored. This book, edited by Stella Bolaki and Sabine Broeck, is the first to thoroughly investigate Lorde’s influence beyond the United States. The volume brings together scholarly essays, interviews, unpublished speeches, and personal reflections of key figures to assess the reception, translation, and circulation of Lorde’s writing and activism within different communities, audiences, and circles.

For more books on women’s studies, review the subject heading on our website.


Emily Esten is an editorial Intern at UMass Press. She is a junior History/Digital Humanities major at UMass Amherst. 

Throwback Look: Culture, Politics and the Cold War Series

One of the best-known series produced by the University of Massachusetts Press, Culture, Politics, and the Cold War reexamines the Cold War as a distinct historical epoch, considering culture as inherently political and political struggles as culturally constructed. Established in 1998 with series editor Christian G. Appy and joined by Edwin A. Martini as co-editor in 2014, UMass Press showcases the emerging scholarship regarding the political and cultural discussions of this fascinating period in U.S. history.

In proposing this series to UMass Press, series editor Christian G. Appy recognized a growing trend of among Cold War historians. Looking beyond the traditional diplomatic and military interpretations, cultural historians had begun a rich exploration of the political and historical significance of particular cultural forms and expressions. Early publications in this series, such as James T. Fisher’s Dr. America and Christian G. Appy’s Cold War Constructions expand the definition of culture for the series by  incorporating “ways of life.” In Dr. America (1998)Fisher presents the biography of “jungle doctor” Tom Dooley, the famous physician during Vietnam,  in context with the broad range of developments in postwar U.S. culture – from the “Americanization” of Catholicism to the rise of mass media. In Cold War Constructions (2000), Appy’s collection of essays highlights the shaping of Cold War policy and policymakers by cultural values and assumptions. Stepping away from the idea of studying politics and culture, this volume was distinctly an investigation of political culture.

As the series evolved, several authors took an interest into the Cold War’s transformation of individual and collective identities. In particular, Tony Shaw’s Hollywood’s Cold War  (2007) looks at America’s self-image through the Hollywood’s role as a propaganda machine. In his analysis of declassified government documents, studio archives, and filmmakers’ private papers, Shaw reveals the criticual dual role of Hollwood: portraying communism as the greatest threat the country had ever faced, and selling the liberal-capitalist ideas of America. The book argues that movies were at the center of the Cold War’s battle for hearts and minds, and in doing so, created an entirely new understanding of American film.

A similar discussion takes place in Lee Bernstein’s The Greatest Menace: Organized Crime in Cold War America (2009). In its reinterpretation of citizenship and “Americanism,” The Greatest Menace points to the forging of a Cold War consensus that allowed the popular image of the sinister gangster to persist. His broad range of evidence, from government records to pulp novels, takes note of the deep social and political anxieties that plagued the American people across shifting lines of race, class, and ethnicity.

To date, the series is composed over thirty volumes, with at least one addition coming out this year. Chad Parker’s upcoming Making the Desert Modern: Americans, Arabs, and Oil on the Saudi Frontier, 1933-1973 (May 2015) tells the story of the Arabian American Oil Company’s contribution to defining U.S. foreign policy during the early Cold War. The emergence of the term “modernization” was a key component of post-World War II American foreign policy, and the company quickly became the principal American diplomatic agent in Saudi Arabia for four decades. As a valuable case study of ‘private diplomacy,’ series editor Christian G. Appy commented that Making the Desert Modern “will serve as a model for … scholars in diplomatic history who are turning their attention to … economic globalization and the interplay between corporations and states in an international context.”

We know that the Culture, Politics, and the Cold War series will continue to be one of the key components of the UMass Press catalog.


 Emily Esten is an editorial intern at UMass Press. She is a junior History/Digital Humanities major at UMass Amherst. 


Black History Month: Celebration of the Black Arts Movement

Calling all black people

Calling all black people, man woman child

Wherever you are, calling you, urgent, come in

Black people, come in, wherever you are, urgent, calling you, calling all black people

Calling all black people, come in, black people, come on in.

– SOS, Amiri Baraka

As we reflect upon African-American history and culture during Black History Month, we turn our attention this year to the Black Arts Movement (BAM). The “sister” or aesthetic counterpart of the Black Power Movement, BAM prioritized the need for personal and social transformation of their voices through political, cultural and artistic expression.  Fueled by the explicit critiques of Western inequality made by Malcolm X and John Coltrane’s dismantling of Western music, artists and activists came forth to create politically engaged work that rejected traditional endeavors and explored the African-American experience.

During the 1960s and 70s, BAM’s widespread influence served as a powerful force in supporting the Black Power and Black Liberation Movements.  Though broad in scope, the basic credo of BAM was 1) to create a true “Afro American Art,” 2) to create a mass art, and 3) to create a revolutionary art. As writer and influential leader in the movement Amiri Baraka described, “it was clear there was a torrent of inspiration that lifted the Black artist communities across the country.” Formally beginning with the creation of the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School (BARTS) in New York City, artists and intellectuals met to teach and present their work.  While the theater lasted for only a year, similar organizations and theatres formed across the country in a revolutionary fashion, all calling for a cultural nationalism. This new form of Black empowerment graced the stage in forms of dance troupes and performance art; it called out for writers and spurred the growth of magazine and journal publications such as Ebony and Jet; it thrived on college campuses among Black intellectuals. This was a revolutionary display of expression that united the consciousness of African-Americans, recognizing and celebrating Black voices.

Because of its grassroots outreach to a massive audience, many scholars regard the legacy of BAM to be one of the most influential arts movements in the country’s history. It dramatically altered public funding for arts programs, challenged boundaries of “high art” and pop culture, and served as a catalyst for similar movements in Asian-American and Native American communities. And as BAM is crucial to understanding modern African-American and American literary history, many works by today’s artists and performers – including Toni Morrison, Samuel L. Jackson, and August Wilson – are influenced by the ideas of BAM.

9781625340306SOS – Calling All Black People: a Black Arts Movement Reader, edited by UMass professors John H. Bracey, Jr. and James Smethurst and poet/professor emeritus of Temple University Sonia Sanchez, is a collection of key writings from the Black Arts Movement. With over fifty contributors in five genres, this anthology includes works of fiction, poetry, and drama in addition to critical writings on issues of politics, aesthetics, and gender. Topics range from the legacy of Malcolm X and the impact of John Coltrane’s jazz to the tenets of the Black Panther Party and the music of Motown. Essence Magazine’s Patrick Henry Bass called it a “tour-de-force collection of the greatest writers and thinkers . . . during one of the most electrifying periods in American arts and letters.” For more information on the book, please visit our website.

In March, UMass Press will be hosting two events related to the publication of SOS – Calling All Black People:

March 2, 2015: Presentation at the Augusta Savage Gallery

March 30, 2015: Reading by the editors at 4 P.M., Bernie Dallas Room, Goodell Building


Emily Esten is an editorial Intern at UMass Press. She is a junior History/Digital Humanities major at UMass Amherst.