Save the Date: Michener Center’s Visiting Professors Read their Works Dec. 3

Visiting professors, Jim Crace and Anthony Giardina, will be reading and discussing their literary works at a campus event hosted by the Michener Center for Writers on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Aces Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302.

 image of booksCrace’s ten books to date have received such honors as the Whitbread Novel Award and the National Book Critics’ Circle Fiction Award (Being Dead). His books Quarantine and Harvest have been shortlisted twice for the Man Booker Prize. His archive resides at the university’s Ransom Center

booksAnthony Giardina is the author of five novels, a story collection, and numerous plays, most recently City of Conversation, which has its world premier at Lincoln Center last year.

Parking is available in the nearby UT San Jacinto Garage, and the event is free and open to the public.


DDCE Researchers Expose the Myth of a Post-Racial America

RacialBattleFatigue_Lith1-400x600The notion that we live in a “colorblind society” is carefully dismantled in a new edition of Racial Battle Fatigue in Higher Education: Exposing the Myth of Post-Racial America (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Dec. 2014). Faculty from the DDCE are among several contributing authors examining an emerging body of research that suggests chronic exposure to racial discrimination can lead to a serious anxiety disorder.

In a chapter titled Exercising Agency in the Midst of Racial Battle Fatigue: A Case for Intragroup Diversity, they examine court decisions regarding diversity in higher education and point out several mitigating factors that create racial battle fatigue. As a solution, they state the case for advocating and obtaining support for diversity and inclusion efforts in colleges and schools across the nation. The chapter is co-authored by Gregory J. Vincent, vice president of diversity and community engagement; Sherri Sanders, DDCE associate vice president; and Stella Smith, DDCE postdoctoral fellow.

Save the Date! Author Naomi Klein to Discuss New Book about Capitalism, Climate Change

image of author Author Naomi Klein will give a public lecture on Nov. 11, 7-9 p.m. at the LBJ Library, Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium. The event is part of the Humanities Institute’s 2015-16 theme of Imagined Futures.

Naomi Klein Klein’s first two books, No Logo (1999) and The Shock Doctrine (2007), were international hits, with each book being translated into dozens of languages and selling over 1 million copies. The Shock Doctrine exposes the ulterior motives of the neoliberal economic paradigm—not to bring freedom and democracy to developing countries, but to exploit their labor and resources through austerity politics. Often, the imposition of this neoliberal paradigm occurs in places recently impacted by disasters, whether natural or purposely instigated. Thus, Klein’s neologism of “disaster capitalism.”

Klein’s most recent book, This Changes Everything (2014), argues that Capitalism cannot carry on with business as usual. Something beyond its power demands that be replaced with something else—Climate Change. Do not expect to find doom and gloom, however, in Klein’s book. Indeed, Climate Change is our “civilizational wake-up call.” First exposing the climate denial of the right and the ideology campaigns of wealthy, vested interests, Klein quickly moves into visiting small revolutions across the world, where people are responding to Climate Change in a way that benefits the economy, the people, and the planet. Reviewing these empowering movements, we feel compelled to answer “Yes” to Klein’s question: “History is knocking on our door; Are you ready to answer?”

Klein is the Humanity Institute’s eighth C.L. and Henriette Cline Visiting Professorship in the Humanities. Visit her website to learn more about her work.

Book on Medieval Syrian Shrines Takes Grand Prize at Hamilton Book Awards

images Stephennie Mulder, associate professor of Islamic art and architecture at The University of Texas at Austin, has been named the $10,000 grand prize winner of the 2015 University Co-op Robert W. Hamilton Book Awards for her work The Shrines of the ‘Alids in Medieval Syria: Sunnis, Shi’is, and the Architecture of Coexistence.

The Hamilton Awards are among the highest honors of literary achievement given to UT Austin authors.

The awards are named for Professor Robert W. Hamilton, the Minerva House Drysdale Regents Chair-Emeritus in Law, who served as chair of the board of the University Co-op from 1989 to 2001.

The Shrines of the ‘Alids in Medieval Syria: Sunnis, Shi’is, and the Architecture of Coexistence (published by Edinburgh University Press) is the first illustrated, architectural history of these shrines, increasingly endangered by the conflict in Syria. Mulder, a specialist in Islamic architectural history and archaeology, spent years in the field in Syria and throughout the Middle East. She works on the conservation of antiquities and cultural heritage sites endangered by war and illegal trafficking, and is a founder of UT Antiquities Action, a group dedicated to raising awareness of the loss of cultural heritage.

Three other UT Austin professors received $3,000 runner-up prizes:

  • Donna Kornhaber, Department of English, for Charlie Chaplin, Director(Northwestern University Press)
  • Fernando L. Lara, Department of Architecture, for Modern Architecture in Latin America: Art, Technology, and Utopia, co-authored with Luis E. Carranza (University of Texas Press)
  • Kelly McDonough, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, for The Learned Ones: Nahua Intellectuals in Postconquest Mexico (University of Arizona Press)

The University Co-operative Society also announced winners for its research awards Monday. Go to this website for more information.


Former UT Austin English Professor Releases New Historical Novel

authorpicbookFormer UT Austin creative writing professor Elizabeth Harris recently released Mayhem: Three Lives of a Woman (October, Gival Press), a novel that follows the causes and consequences of an unusual crime.

Two stock farmers in Central Texas (circa 1936) are accused of castrating a neighbor under circumstances deriving from standard gender and social relations. The daughter of prominent landowners, regarded as the cause of this crime, is outcast from home and family, rescued by clergy in the role of plot angels, and becomes a paid laborer in other people’s homes, where she undergoes a muted, nearly 20-year recovery from trauma. 

As to what makes a historical novel, Harris replies, “Some definitions say a detailed, realistic, historical setting, which I tried to give Mayhem, and a fidelity to the culture and society of the period, which, as imagined in Mayhem, shape the action.”

The setting of Harris’ novel is a synthesis of rural places in Central Texas, 1917-1954. 

“Other definitions want the historical novel to be about a historical event or person, like Gerald Duff’s new novel about Custer’s Last Stand, or Charles Frazier’s novel Cold Mountain, about a wounded Confederate deserter making his way homeward in the North Carolina mountains,” says Harris.

But in Mayhem the characters and events are fictional, although some details of the crime and its consequences are based on one that occurred in Texas at a different period. 

Harris attributes her interest in historical settings to her Texas family’s closeness to the past.

“My father’s father—the only one of my grandparents not born in Texas—was born in 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War. He had an Alabama childhood memory from the end of the War.”

“Alternating between delighting you with pastoral descriptions of the Hill Country, lulling you with sepia-tones portraits of the good ol’ days, and smacking you in the face with the gender, race, and class conventions. . .of the period, Mayhem is a surprising blend of plot-driven crime story, character study, and social critique.. . .When you decide you know where this is going, Evelyn hijacks the plot. It’s not what you think it is—it’s better.” – Michelle Newsby, Lone Star Literary Life

Visit the author’s website to learn more and view the book trailer. .


Award-Winning Guatemalan Novelist David Unger to Read from his Works

image of book coverGuatemalan novelist and translator David Unger will discuss his works today from 4 to 6 p.m. in Benedict Hall, room 2.104.

Unger won the 2014 Premio Nacional de Literatura Miguel Angel Asturias, the highest award for a Guatemalan writer. He is the international Representative for the Guadalajara International Book Fair and teaches at the City College of New York. His new novel, El manipulador (The Manipulator), has just appeared in both Spanish and English editions.

The event is hosted by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies. Co-Sponsored by LLILAS Benson.

Faculty Authors Showcase their Works at the 20th Annual Texas Book Festival

image of logoBookworms, foodies, artists and scholars will partake in an annual rite of fall here in Austin: The Texas Book Festival! This Texas-size literary event will take place in and around the State Capitol and nearby venues on Oct. 17-18.

A record 300 authors are coming to the festival—the largest number in its 20-year history.  Here are just few highlights featuring education outreach events and top faculty authors from colleges and schools throughout the Forty Acres. Dates, times and locations will be available on the Texas Book Festival website later this month. Use this hashtag to join the conversation: #TXBookFest

Special Events

image of book and authorThe Wind in the Reeds: A Storm, A Play, and the City That Would Not Be Broken Wendell Pierce, Actor and Tony Award-Winning Producer
Moderated by Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement

On the morning of August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina barreled into New Orleans, devastating many of the city’s neighborhoods, including Pontchartrain Park, the home of Wendell Pierce’s family and the first African American middle-class subdivision in New Orleans. Pierce and his family were some of the lucky ones: They survived and were able to ride out the storm at a relative’s house 70 miles away. Read more here…

About the author: Wendell Pierce was born in New Orleans and is an actor and Tony Award-winning producer. He starred in all five seasons of the acclaimed HBO drama The Wire and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for the role. He also starred in the HBO series Treme and has appeared in many feature films including Selma, Ray, Waiting to Exhale, and Hackers. Since Hurricane Katrina, Pierce has been helping to rebuild the flood-ravaged Pontchartrain Park neighborhood in New Orleans.

15th Annual Youth Fiction Writing Contest
Co-hosted by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement

writingcontestThe Fiction Writing Contest encourages and rewards creative writing in Texas schools. Junior and high school Texas students are invited to submit a piece of original fiction, no more than 2,000 words in length. The submissions are judged by Texas Book Festival authors, local educators, and leaders in the publishing industry. Read more here…

Place and Race, a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Leonard Moore, senior associate vice president, DDCE 

image of authorsAuthors Wendy S. Walters and Jason Sokol discuss the dynamic and complicated course of civil rights over the past several decades in America. Racism emerges in unexpected locations, and the ways in which people resist, cope, and consent are not predictable.

Margo Jefferson
Moderated by Shirley Thompson, Departments of Anthropology and Africa and African Diaspora

image of author Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and memoirist Margo Jefferson recounts growing up in a small region of African-American upper class families in Chicago during the civil rights movement and the genesis of feminism. With this point of view, Jefferson discusses race, identity, and American culture, through her own lens. Read more here…


Author Appearances

image of book and author Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City
Javier Auyero, Department of Sociology

Austin, Texas, is renowned as a high-tech, fast-growing city for the young and creative, a cool place to live, and the scene of internationally famous events such as SXSW and Formula 1. But as in many American cities, poverty and penury are booming along with wealth and material abundance in contemporary Austin. Rich and poor residents lead increasingly separate lives as growing socioeconomic inequality underscores residential, class, racial, and ethnic segregation. Read more here…

Reagan: The Life
H.W. Brands, Professor, Department of History

Image of author and bookRonald Reagan today is a conservative icon, celebrated for transforming the American domestic agenda and playing a crucial part in ending communism in the Soviet Union. In his masterful new biography, H. W. Brands argues that Reagan, along with FDR, was the most consequential president of the twentieth century. Reagan took office at a time when the public sector, after a half century of New Deal liberalism, was widely perceived as bloated and inefficient, an impediment to personal liberty. Reagan sought to restore democracy by bolstering capitalism. In Brands’s telling, how Reagan, who voted four times for FDR, engineered a conservative transformation of American politics is both a riveting personal journey and the story of America in the modern era. Read more here…

Destiny of Democracy: The Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library Mark K. Updegrove, Director, LBJ Presidential Library and Museum

image of book and authorPresident Lyndon B. Johnson played a monumental role in America’s quest for civil rights. The legacy of those efforts reached a crescendo from April 8 through 10, 2014, as the LBJ Presidential Library hosted a historic Civil Rights Summit to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. A host of luminaries—including President Barack Obama, the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office, and former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter—came to the LBJ Library to recognize the progress made in the country’s long, often troubled, journey toward civil rights. Read more here…


Q&A with Samuel Garcia, Author of ‘How Goats Can Fight Poverty’

image of book coverSamuel Garcia, a business honors senior at UT Austin, has “a goat idea” for fighting poverty. No, that’s not a typo; goats are a big part of his plan to help farmers break out of the vicious cycle with nothing more than some goats, some plants and some cooperation. Read on to learn more about his plan—and how it could potentially alter the fate of the many families that are struggling to survive in a poverty-stricken Colonias just outside the Rio Grande Valley.

A quarter of the proceeds from the sale of his book will go toward the Knapp Community Care Foundation and another quarter will go to LUPE, an outreach program in the Rio Grande Valley.

Why are you passionate about fighting poverty?

author pic

Samuel Garcia is a senior in the McCombs School of Business, and a participant in the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Program.

My father loved the people of the Rio Grande Valley and throughout his life fought to make conditions better for those that live there. When he passed, I decided that I wanted to carry on his legacy of helping people in the Valley, and I thought the best way to do that would be through coming up with a way to face the problem of poverty in the Valley.

How did your study abroad experience in Argentina inspire you to write this book?

Well the Argentines had a peculiar way of dealing with the issue of razor-thin margins on their crops. Small farmers knew that it was possible for them to make a living off of farming, but did not have a line of credit available to them (that had feasible interest rates) to make the initial investment. So small farmers banded together in order to split large costs and have the ability to fill out large contracts. This then became the foundation for my idea.

What is “a goat idea?” Could you give an example?

Well absolutely! Simply put, I want to give 30-40 families goats so that they can become a cooperative that makes cheese in the same way a real goat dairy would.

What message do you hope readers will take away from this book?

I want people to start thinking that complex problems like poverty do not always need complex solutions. My solution involves nothing more than some goats, some plants and some cooperation.

Do you have plans for a second book?

As of right now, I am contemplating whether to release a second book that explains the plan, obstacles and solutions in painstaking detail. I was not afforded the luxury of doing that in the first book because people would stop reading after the first page, so it had to be somewhat interesting. The next one would be a lot more like a manual rather than a short story.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to thank a few people and programs for helping me to get to this point. First, the IE program helped me to realize that undergraduates could actually write about research and ideas that change the world! I saw a lot of kids actually help with groundbreaking research and that helped to inspire me to try my hand at writing. I would also like to thank my family and friends especially my mother for always being so supportive.

Save the Date! “Invisible Austin” Launch Party and Panel Discussion is this Friday at BookPeople

image of bookYou’re invited to a book launch of Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City this Friday, Sept. 4, 7 p.m. at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.

In Invisible in Austin, the award-winning UT Austin sociologist Javier Auyero and a team of graduate students explore the lives of those working at the bottom of the social order: house cleaners, office-machine repairers, cab drivers, restaurant cooks and dishwashers, exotic dancers, musicians, and roofers, among others.

Recounting their subjects’ life stories with empathy and sociological insight, the authors show us how these lives are driven by a complex mix of individual and social forces. These poignant stories compel us to see how poor people who provide indispensable services for all city residents struggle daily with substandard housing, inadequate public services and schools, and environmental risks. Timely and essential reading, Invisible in Austin makes visible the growing gap between rich and poor that is reconfiguring the cityscape of one of America’s most dynamic places, as low-wage workers are forced to the social and symbolic margins.

Want to know more about the research that went into this sociological portrait of Austin’s rapidly gentrifying landscape? Check out this Q&A with three sociology graduate students who co-authored the book. For more about the book, visit this website:

A Q&A with English Alumna Ashley Hope Pérez, Author of ‘Out of Darkness’

ashleypicIn March 1937 a gas leak caused a massive explosion that killed almost 300 children and teachers at a school in New London, Texas. Amidst the backdrop of this catastrophic event, a Mexican-American girl falls in love with a Black boy in a segregated oil town.

In a town where store signs mandate “No Negroes, Mexicans, or dogs,” Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know not to cross the deeply entrenched color lines. Yet the heart wants what it wants and societal barriers are no match for young love.

Like a ticking time bomb, the tension builds as their love blossoms. And when tragedy strikes, the young lovers struggle to find a shred of light amidst the shroud of darkness. Will they overcome the forces of hate and intolerance that loom over their town, their school—even their own homes? You’ll have to read the book to find out! Out of Darkness hits shelves Sept. 1, 2015.

The author Ashley Hope Pérez—who just so happens to be a proud Longhorn—was kind enough to share some insight into this multifaceted tale of love, loss, family and the ugly forces that drive people apart. Read on to learn more about the book—and how many of the themes touch on issues we face today in American society.

What made you decide to write a story about the 1937 New London school explosion? 

I grew up about 20 minutes from New London. The explosion—which happened at 3:17 on March 18, 1937—was always a kind of shadowy event that I’d hear whispered about from time to time but rarely discussed openly. At one point, I remember driving by the site of the disaster with my father and him telling me the story of a little girl who could only be identified because she had colored her toenails with a crayon. I didn’t know many specifics of the explosion, only that it had killed hundreds of children. When I returned to the event as a novelist, I was interested in more than the explosion itself: I wanted to examine how this kind of tragedy might ripple through a community, bringing out the best in some and the worst in others and catalyzing more loss. 

How can readers relate to the characters in your book?

Okay, first some quick introductions. Four characters are at the heart of the story in Out of Darkness. There’s Wash Fuller.The teenage son of the New London Colored School’s principal, Wash has always lived in East Texas and prides himself on knowing his way around both the woods and the prettiest girls from Egypt Town, where most of the Black community lives. Wash’s days as a womanizer come to an end when he meets Naomi Vargas, a beautiful and painfully shy girl from San Antonio who has just moved to New London with her younger twin half-siblings, Beto and Cari (short for Roberto and Caridad). The three of them have been brought to East Texas by Naomi’s white stepfather after he has a conversion experience and decides he ought to bring his family back together.

Wash is easy for readers to relate to; he’s funny, loyal and passionate. Naomi is a quieter character, but readers quickly identify with her determination to protect the twins and her ability to persevere in spite of considerable hardship in the present and secrets from her past. Once Wash and Naomi fall in love, it would be impossible not to want them to have a future together. Romantic love intertwines with the love both Naomi and Wash feel for the twins, who also play an important part in the story. Some of the most beautiful parts of the book are when the four of them are together in the woods of East Texas.

What do you hope readers will take away from Out of Darkness?

I hope that readers will admire Naomi and Wash for their efforts to seize some joy for themselves at a time when the happiness and well-being of brown people was of little importance to most of American society. I hope that the barriers and flat-out cruelty that Naomi and Wash encounter in the world of 1937 may galvanize readers’ commitment to supporting people’s right to love whomever they love and build families around that love. That’s what Naomi and Wash try to do for the twins—make a family together in the secret still places along the Sabine River. 

Are there any themes in Out of Darkness that are relevant to current issues in our society? 

One of the most problematic views of racism is that it is “a thing of the past.” Out of Darkness shows racism and prejudice in the past, but it also creates opportunities to recognize the distressing continuities between our history and the present. We continue to see racialized violence in the news, both hate crimes like the church shooting in Charleston and acts of brutality by police and others that underscore disparities in how different members of our community are treated. This injustice and the distrust it breeds have deep roots. Out of Darkness asks readers to reckon with some of those roots as they existed here in Texas.

Beyond the blatant discrimination and violent expressions of white supremacy that unfold in the characters’ experiences, the novel offers glimpses of systematic discrimination, as in the tripartite segregation of schools into white, “colored,” and “Mexican” in cities like San Antonio. I taught for three years in an inner-city school in Houston, and I can tell you that the consequences of that segregation and the disenfranchisement it produced are still being felt in African American and Latino communities. 

What are you working on now?

A new novel, this time exploring Latino experiences in the Midwest. (Although born a Texan, I’ve been in the Midwest for nearly a decade, and apparently that’s about how long it takes for a new place to show up in my fiction.) The new book also involves family and tragedy, but that’s about all I can say about it at this point because I’m wildly superstitious about discussing details of work in progress. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

Just that I hope Texans will not be scared off by some of the difficult issues in the novel and that they will instead embrace the chance to dive into our history in the company of characters worthy of their love and attention. Some people have suggested that Out of Darkness is a “brave” book, but I think it’s equally important to acknowledge that reading about painful features of our past takes courage.

And, of course, a big thank you for the chance to share a bit about Out of Darkness with Longhorn readers. Many of my formative reading and writing experiences took place right on the UT campus between the wonderfully deteriorated walls of Parlin Hall. So… Hook ‘em!

Want a sneak peek into the book? Visit the Texas Observer to read an excerpt!

banner imageAbout the author: In addition to Out of Darkness, Ashley Hope Pérez is the author of the YA novels The Knife and the Butterfly, and What Can’t Wait. She grew up in Texas and taught high school in Houston before pursuing a Ph.D. in comparative literature. She is now a visiting assistant professor of comparative studies at The Ohio State University and spends most of her time reading, writing and teaching on topics from global youth narratives to Latin American and Latina/o fiction. She lives in Ohio with her husband, Arnulfo, and their son, Liam Miguel.