Still Healing After All These Years

As if Donald Trump questioning whether John McCain was a Vietnam War hero wasn’t enough of a cruel reminder of the divisions and divisiveness of that misbegotten war, there was more bad news in the latest issue of JAMA Psychiatry published last week. In an article entitled “Course of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder 40 Years After the Vietnam War: Findings from the National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study,” the authors pointed out that: “Approximately 271,000 Vietnam theater veterans have current full PTSD plus sub-threshold war-zone PTSD, one-third of whom have current major depressive disorder, 40 or more years after the war.” (Emphasis mine).

“These findings underscore the need for mental health services for many decades for veterans with PTSD symptoms,” the authors conclude, an ominous prediction for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Think about it. Half a century since the first U. S. Marines landed in Da Nang (March 1965) and more than 40 years since the last American soldiers left the battlefields of Vietnam (March 1973), nearly 300,0000 Vietnam veterans are still suffering.


Study leader Charles Marmar of NYU’s medical school, told NPR that too many Vietnam vets “still get flashbacks, they’re irritable, depressed, they can’t sleep well.”

“Many are quite alienated from family and friends, and have trouble either in the workplace or in their family environments,” added Marmar.

I’d argue that it’s not too late to finally bring these veterans home – and to help them heal. What my co-author Craig Werner and I discovered from a decade of interviews with hundreds of Vietnam vets is that music is one way to do this. Our book, We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War (to be published this fall by University of Massachusetts Press) shows how music helped Vietnam soldiers/veterans to connect to each other and to the World back home and to cope with the complexities of the war they had been sent to fight.

While it wasn’t our intention to write a theoretical or academic book, our understanding of the stories the vets shared was influenced by ongoing research into the relationships among music, memory, and trauma. A cottage industry of recent studies, sparked by Daniel Levitin’s This Is Your Brain on Music and Oliver Sacks’s Musicophilia, document how, if the circumstances are right, music can help heal psychological wounds. In fact, a good number of recent veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan afflicted with PTSD are using music as a form of therapy.

Is it too late for Vietnam veterans? We think not, and We Gotta Get Out of This Place is proof. Many of the men and women we interviewed had never talked about their Vietnam war experience, even with their spouses and family members. But they could talk about a song – “Dock of the Bay,” These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” “Purple Haze,” “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” “My Girl,” “Fortunate Son” and scores of others – and in that remembering, begin to heal from the war’s wounds.

JAMA Psychiatry link:

WGGO link:


Doug Bradley, a Vietnam veteran from Madison, Wisconsin, is co-author with Craig Werner of We Gotta Get Out of This PlacDoug Bradleye: The Soundtrack to the Vietnam War, forthcoming from University of Massachusetts Press, November 2015. He’s also the author of DEROS Vietnam: Dispatches from the Air-Conditioned Jungle.


2016 Juniper Literary Prizes

In celebration of our forty-year commitment to contemporary letters, the University of Massachusetts Press—in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Amherst MFA Program for Poets and Writers—announces an expanded Juniper Prize initiative dedicated to bringing distinct, fresh voices to a wide audience.

The Juniper Literary Series will award two prizes each for poetry and for fiction. One prize will recognize a first publication. The second will be open to previously published poets and writers as well. Each of the four recipients will be awarded $1,000 and publication.

The Juniper Literary Series takes its name from Fort Juniper, the house that the poet Robert Francis (1901–1987) built by hand in the woods in western Massachusetts. When UMass Press launched the Juniper Prize for Poetry in 1975, we were one of the first university presses to publish contemporary poetry. We introduced the Juniper Prize for Fiction in 2004 to honor outstanding literary fiction.

Our prize-winning poets include Lucille Clifton, Lynda Hull, Richard Jackson, and Arthur Vogelsang. Our prize-winning fiction writers include Rod Val Moore, Andrew Malan Milward, Dwight Yates, and Lynn Lurie.

The Juniper Literary Series is open for submissions annually from August 1 through September 30. Poetry winners are selected by James Haug, James Tate, and Dara Wier.  Fiction submissions are juried by alternating UMass Amherst MFA professors.

The prizes will open for submissions August 1 to September 30, 2015. For submission information, please visit our website.

The sky is on fire with blue
And wind keeps ringing, ringing the fire bell.
—from “Cold” by Robert Francis

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. 

Looking at Atticus Finch through an Educator’s Eyes

The provocation of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman demands that scholars, readers, and fans reconsider Atticus Finch.

Amherst College professor Austin Sarat, editor of Reimagining To Kill a Mockingbird: Family, Community, and the Possibility of Equal Justice under Law, said he welcomes the new Atticus as “a kind of wake-up call that the struggle for rights is two steps forward, one step back. And it’s a struggle that requires collective action, not just individual, idealized heroes.”

In the collection Reimagining To Kill a Mockingbird,  Sarat and co-editor Martha Umphrey, also an Amherst College professor, gather essays that explore Lee’s classic through the interdisciplinary prism of law and humanities scholarship. Using both the film and novel, they see Atticus’s defense of Tom Robinson as a linchpin moment in the nation’s narrative of racial progress. They see the story as profoundly pedagogical, one that strives to teach us ways of overcoming prejudice and to live with one another in a better and more just world.

Anticipating the contradictions and complications made evident in Go Set a Watchman, the essays in Reimagining To Kill a Mockingbird trouble the mythology of the story and its hero. They pose provocative contemporary theoretical and interpretive questions: How does one come to belong to, even to be recognized as “human,” within this community? How should we understand the sacrifices characters make and are asked to make in the name of justice and comprehend their failures in achieving it?

Please see our website for more information on the book:



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. 

Thrift: A Post-Partisan Philosophy for Our Times

By Andrew L. Yarrow, author of Thrift: A History of an American Cultural Movement

As the new, 114th Congress arrives in Washington, is there any hope for greater bipartisanship and accomplishment than the recent, toxic, do-nothing Congresses? While most would grimly conclude that the United States faces another two years of bitter, partisan gridlock, what could spur Congress to improve on its performance during the last session, when fewer pieces of substantive legislation were passed than at any time in history.

It’s not that there aren’t issues on which broad majorities of the American people agree and want their lawmakers to take action: debt reduction, tax reform, immigration reform, gun control, investing more in scientific research and infrastructure, making higher education more affordable, a clean environment, and improving the fortunes of the middle-class and lower-income Americans.

However, rather than frame these issues in the same old ways—inviting the same old partisan rancor that has earned Congress its well-deserved single-digit approval ratings—there are ways to frame issues differently that could appeal to those on the left, right, and center. One such approach is to turn to older, broadly accepted American values and give them new meaning for the 21st century.

One such value is thrift. Thrift may seem like a dowdy, outdated idea connoting miserly penny-pinching in a society that relentlessly calls for us to spend. Although Benjamin Franklin and other Founders preached thrift, in a little-known chapter of American history, millions of Americans embraced an active thrift movement in the 1910s and 1920s, and many of their ideas remain strikingly relevant.

Today, about 140 million Americans—44 percent of the nation’s people—are either in debt or have only enough money saved to pay for up to three months of modest expenses, 31 percent of adults say they have no savings or pensions to afford to retire, and this lack of national savings limits the available capital for business investment to grow our economy.

During the early 20th century, civic, business, labor, religious, and political leaders of both parties came together under the banner of “thrift” to confront such disparate problems as Americans’ lack of savings, debt, and resulting economic insecurity; the destruction and waste of natural resources; the crassness of an emerging consumer society; the need for greater generosity; and business inefficiencies.

Issues not too different from today’s.

Aspects of thrift may be uncomfortable for some on both the left and the right, but it also can be a uniting, “common sense” philosophy, as Teddy Roosevelt said. Thrift combines strong individualism and a belief in personal responsibility with an equally strong belief in looking out for the community’s welfare.

As in the 1920s, thrift embraces the trinity of industry, frugality, and stewardship: Work diligently and productively; use financial, material, and natural resources with care for the future; and recognize that what we have is not ours alone, but for us to hold in trust for future generations.

Framed in these terms, there is something that most Republicans and Democrats could agree upon. Of course, broad philosophical agreement may be one thing, but a cynic might say: How can these ideas be translated into bipartisan initiatives that actually can be passed as legislation?

There are many ideas to increase individual savings and economic security that enjoy across-the-aisle support.

One proposal, for an automatic IRA, would serve small-business employees, who would contribute to private mutual funds contracted by the government, with the government subsidizing the plans’ administrative costs. This would benefit 80 million workers who don’t have workplace-based pension plans.

Individual development accounts (IDAs) have been proposed to help build adults’ savings through financial education and matching funds provided by government. These would be geared to low-income adults, and participants would receive up to a three-to-one match if they saved for an approved purpose such as a down payment on a house, paying college tuition, or starting a business. A pilot program run by the nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development helped spur the creation of some 20,000 such local initiatives.

A third bipartisan proposal is to expand the government’s Saver Credit, which provides a tax credit for moderate-income Americans’ contributions to an IRA or 401(k). Another idea is to create children’s savings accounts (CSA), which would be seeded by an initial $500 investment by government for each baby born into low- and middle-income families, with additional amounts added later during childhood. San Francisco has piloted a Kindergarten to College CSA, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, approved a similar plan in 2013, and bipartisan federal legislation, the American Dream Accounts Act, has been introduced by Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Increasing saving benefits all Americans and makes our country stronger. Democrats and Republicans both know this and if they want “new” language to forge agreement, why not turn to that tried-and-true American value, thrift?


Andrew L. Yarrow, senior research advisor at Oxfam America, a historian who specializes in 20th-century America, former New York Times reporter, and author of
Forgive Us Our Debts: The Intergenerational Dangers of Fiscal Irresponsibility, has just published a new book, Thrift: The History of an American Cultural Movement through UMass Press. For more information, click here.  To read more op-eds by Andrew Yarrow, check out his Twitter feed at @ALYarrow.



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. 

Alewives, a Sure Sign of Spring

By Barbara Brennessel, author of The Alewives’ Tale: The Life History and Ecology of River Herring in the Northeast

In New England, the arrival of river herring is a sure sign of spring.  But spring has been slow to arrive this year.  Even though snow was still on the ground, volunteer herring counters were getting ready. In Wellfleet, our herring count workshop on March 19 drew a good crowd; most were seasoned herring counters but we were lucky to recruit some new volunteers. We reviewed the protocols and volunteers signed up for various time slots. There was considerable excitement among audience members as we reviewed the results of the last six years of volunteer counts and discussed our plans for a major restoration project.  Derrick Alcott, a graduate student from the University of Massachusetts explained his PhD project in which he would be tracking the movements of herring through the Chequessett Neck Dike and into our Herring River.  This Dike, which prevents tidal flow, and may act as an impediment to river herring, is the focus of the restoration project.

At the end of April, our local herring warden, Ethan Estey, led a group of AmeriCorps volunteers down the Herring River.  Wearing waders and winter gear, they walked down the river to clear any debris that blocked water flow.  The river itself was not easily accessible for our volunteers because snow drifts, up to four feet in some places, lined the banks. We were fortunate that Derrick had to install tracking equipment at various locations along the river before the herring arrived, so he shoveled a path to our counting site. The snow removal revealed vegetation, mostly briars and vines, remnants of last summer, all along the path.  My husband Nick and I used hand tools to clear the underbrush, forming a narrow path that would allow access for the volunteers who were scheduled to count fish. We were all ready for the herring to arrive.

But in Wellfleet, and other locations in Massachusetts, volunteer herring counters spent many days staring at the water without seeing a single fish.  Finally, a few sightings put everyone on alert.  Even though the call, “The herring are running,” was a week or two later than usual in some locations, the fish arrived at last.

Thousands of the silvery fish were the main attraction at the second annual River Herring Festival in Middleborough on April 11.  Children lined up along the banks of the Nemasket River at Oliver Mills Park.   The braver ones attempted to catch the fish with their bare hands…the children that were successful squealed in delight as the fish squirmed out of their small hands and dove back into the river.

Last week, river herring were spotted in Wellfleet’s Herring River. The water is starting to warm up. On April 19, I saw my first fish in Wellfleet.  We should continue to see river herring (alewives and bluebacks) in Wellfleet, on a regular basis until late in May.  So, until Memorial Day, I will be watching the river with other dedicated volunteer herring counters to see how our river herring are f9781625341051aring.

New Books: May 2015

This month, UMass Press releases titles in American Studies and British/European Studies.

9781625341440On the Cusp by Daniel Horowitz: Part personal memoir, part collective biography, and part cultural history, Horowitz’s newest book reconstructs the undergraduate career of Yale College’s class of 1960 and follows them into the next decade. He begins by looking at curricular and extracurricular life on the all-male campus, then ranges beyond the confines of Yale to larger contexts, including the local drama      urban renewal, the lingering shadow of McCarthyism, and decolonization movements around the world. He ponders the role of the university in protecting the prerogatives of class while fostering social mobility, and examines the growing significance of race and gender in American politics and culture, spurred by a convergence of the personal and the political. Consistent with much of Horowitz’s previously published scholarship on postwar America, this work further exposes the undercurrent of discontent and dissent that ran just beneath the surface of the so-called Cold War consensus.

On the Cusp is a book of many pleasures. Horowitz writes about his college years with both the memoirist’s attention to color and detail, and the historian’s attention to scale . . . a valuable retrospective and reappraisal for those who remember these years; it will be an education in itself to those who do not.” – Matthew Frye Jacobson, William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies and history, Yale University

For more information on the works of Daniel Horowitz, click here

9781625341662Forms of Association by Paul Yachnin and Marlene Eberhart: In today’s connected and interactive world, it is hard to imagine a time when cultural and intellectual interests did not lead people to associate with others who shared similar views and preoccupations. In this volume of essays, fifteen scholars explore how these kinds of relationships began to transform early modern European culture. Forms of Association grows out of the “Making Publics: Media, Markets, and Association in Early Modern Europe” (MaPs) project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This scholarly initiative convened an interdisciplinary research team to consider how “publics” developed in Europe from 1500 to 1700. This collaborative study provided a dynamic way of understanding the political dimensions of artistic and intellectual works and open the way toward a new history of early modernity. This collection represents the issues and questions coming out of the MaPs project, and how Renaissance scholarship could be advanced by projects like this one.

“With the overall high quality of the essays, the significant voices that are addressing the issues, and the direction forward that it suggests for work in the early modern period, this is an excellent collection and a valuable publication for scholars.” – Shannon Miller, San Jose State University

For more titles on British and European history, please visit our subject listings.

9781625341433Storytelling and Science by David K. Hecht: No single figure embodies Cold War science more than renowned physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. The “Father of the Atomic Bomb” has drawn Americans to the story of the Manhattan Project he helped lead, and the riveting McCarthy politics that caught him in its crosshairs. Journalists and politicians, writers and artists have told Oppenheimer’s story in many different ways since he first gained notoriety in 1945. In Storytelling and Science, Hecht examines why they did so, and what they hoped to achieve through their stories. In these different renditions, Oppenheimer was alternately portrayed as hero and villain. Yet beneath the varying details of these stories, Hecht discerns important patterns in the ways that scientists shape popular understandings – and misunderstandings – of science.

“An original contribution to its field that opens the way to similar studies of the public images of other scientists and their science.” – David C. Cassidy, author of J. Robert Oppenheimer and the American Century

For more titles in American Studies, review this list.

9781625341358Dickens and Massachusetts by Diana C. Archibald and Joel J. Brattin: Charles Dickens traveled to North America twice, in 1842 and twenty-five years later in 1867-68, and on both trips Massachusetts was part of his itinerary. Massachusetts was the one state that met and even exceeded Dickens’s expectations for “the republic of [his] imagination.” This volume provides insight from leading scholars who have begun to reassess the significance of Massachusetts in the author’s life and work. The collection begins with a broad biographical and historical overview, enhanced by images to tell the story of Dickens’s relationship with the vibrant cultural and intellectual life of Massachusetts. The second section includes essays that consider the importance of Dickens’s many connections to the commonwealth.

“This book fills an important gap in our understanding of Dickens’s first trip to America. Authored by some of the most highly respected scholars in Dickens studies and including thorough and authoritative research, this volume makes a timely and original contribution.” – Nancy Aycock Metz, author of The Companion to Martin Chuzzlewit

For more titles on British and European Literature, review this subject list.

9781625341570Making the Desert Modern by Chad H. Parker: In 1933, American oilmen, representing what later became the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco), signed a concession agreement with the Saudi Arabian king granting the company sole proprietorship over the oil reserves in the country’s largest province. Aramco built the infrastructure necessary to extract oil and also carved an American suburb out of the Arabian desert, with all the air-conditioned comforts of Western modern life. At the same time, executives cultivated powerful relationships with Saudi government officials and, to the annoyance of U.S. officials, even served the monarchy in diplomatic disputes. Before long, the company became the principal American diplomatic, political, and cultural agent in the country, a role it would continue to play until 1973, when the Saudi government took over its operations. In this book, Chad H. Parker tells Aramco’s story, showing how an American company seeking resources and profits not only contributed to Saudi “nation building” but helped define U.S. foreign policy during the early Cold War.

“A valuable case study of ‘private diplomacy,’ Making the Desert Modern will serve as a model for a growing number of scholars in diplomatic history who are turning their attention to the roots of economic globalization and the interplay between corporations and states in an international context.” – Christian G. Appy, author of American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity

For more books in the Culture, Politics and the Cold War series, visit our website.

2015 Juniper Prize Winners


The University of Massachusetts Press, in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Amherst MFA Program for Poets and Writers, is pleased to announce this year’s Juniper Prize winners. For detailed information, view this press release.

Hasanthika Sirisena is the winner of the 2015 Juniper Prize for Fiction with her short story collection The Other One, to be published by UMass Press in 2016. Her stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, Epoch, Story Quarterly, Narrative, and other magazines. Her work has been anthologized in Best New American Voices and Best American Short Stories (2011, 2012). Sirisena has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo, and, in 2008, received a Rona Jaffe Writers Award. She is currently an associate fiction editor for West Branch literary magazine and teaches creative writing at the City College of New York.

Mark Wagenaar is winner of the 2015 Juniper Prize for Poetry with his collection The Body Distances (A Hundred Blackbirds Rising), to be published by UMass Press in 2016. He is also the 2014 winner of the Pinch Poetry Award, the New Letters Poetry Prize, and the Mary C. Mohr Poetry Prize, as well as the 2013 winner of the James Wright Poetry Prize, the Poetry International Prize, and the Yellowwood Poetry Prize. Wagenaar recently served as the University of Mississippi’s 2014 Summer Poet in Residence. His debut manuscript, Voodoo Inverso, was the 2012 winner of the Felix Pollak Prize from the University of Wisconsin Press. His poems have been accepted or published by the New Yorker, 32 Poems, Field, Image, Subtropics, Ninth Letter, Washington Square, Shenandoah, and the Missouri Review. He and his wife, the poet Chelsea Wagenaar, are doctoral fellows at the University of North Texas in Denton, and are expecting their first child, Eloise Virginia, in July.

We wish to express our thanks to all of the writers who participated in this year’s Juniper Prize competition.