Bestselling Authors, UT Professors to Celebrate African American Culture at Annual Book Festival

Juneteenth marks the day when the last of the American slaves learned they were free. It commemorates June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, when a Union general landed in Galveston and announced that all slaves were free.

In honor of this significant point in U.S. history, also known as “Freedom Day,” we’re spotlighting the upcoming African American Book Festival, an annual event that brings bestselling authors, scholars and bookworms together for thoughtful discussions about race and society. The event, free and open to the public, will be held on Thursday, June 22, and Saturday, June 24, at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center.

Events listed below are just a few highlights. A full schedule can be found here.

Thursday, June 22

April Sinclair will present Coffee Will Make You Black, a humorous coming-of-age tale set in the Civil Rights Era. The novel was selected as the 1994 Young Adult Book of the Year by the American Library Association..—11 a.m.

Bestselling young adult author Angie Thomas will present her No. 1 New York Times best-selling novel The Hate U Give. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, the story follows a teen girl who is the only witness to her friend’s fatal shooting by a police officer, leading her to confront the reality of racial injustice in America and get involved in activism.—6:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 24

Educator and editor-at-large for Salon, D. Watkins will discuss his books including The Cook Up: A Crack Memoir. This inspiring true story was a New York Times bestseller and an O Magazine Best Summer Book. Watkins is also the author of The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America.—12 p.m.

Peniel E. Joseph, UT Austin history professor and founding director of the LBJ School’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, will deliver the keynote address. Joseph’s publications include Stokely: A Life, and Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama. His career focus has been on “Black Power Studies,” which encompasses interdisciplinary fields such as Africana studies and political science. Joseph is a frequent commentator on CSPAN, NPR and PBS’s NewsHour.—1:30 p.m.

UT Austin English Professor Jennifer Wilks will lead the discourse around Raoul Peck’s critically acclaimed documentary I Am Not Your Negro, based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript. The film covers race and race relations in America.—3 p.m.


Want to know more about Juneteenth happenings in Austin? Visit the Greater East Austin Youth Association website to learn more about the Annual Juneteenth Historical Parade and Festival, happening June 17, 10 a.m. at the intersection of MLK and Comal streets. You can also learn more about the recent Miss Juneteenth Scholarship Pageant, supported, in part, by the DDCE’s Community Engagement Center.

Latin American Studies Alumnus Chronicles Peace Corps Journey in ‘Different Latitudes’

image of bookAs graduation looms right around the corner, many soon-to-be UT alums will be traveling far and wide on missions to change the world. From the Peace Corps to Teach for America, our jet-setting Longhorns will be making an impact in high-need regions of the world. In a book titled “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond” (Peace Corps Writers, April 2017), Latin American Institute alumnus Mark D. Walker chronicles his Peace Corps journey in various countries beset by poverty and political corruption.

Synapsis (from the publisher): Summer, 1971. A naive young man must decide his path upon graduation from a small university in Colorado. Amidst the turmoil of the counterculture years and the looming possibility of being sent to Vietnam, he concludes that he wants to travel, serve, and, if possible, save the world. As a Peace Corps volunteer Mark embarks on a vigorous cross-cultural experience in a Caribbean and two Central American countries, with a final stop in one of the more isolated areas of the highlands of Guatemala.

Though beset with a fear of the unknown and feelings of profound isolation due to being the only volunteer in a remote village, he eventually gets to know and appreciate the people of the rural communities he is privileged to live among. After a near-death experience takes him to another part of Guatemala and eventually to a horse town, Mark meets the love of his life, Ligia, who will bear him three children and be part of a lifelong commitment to and appreciation of this beautiful and unique country. Much of the courtship process will take place on a coffee plantation owned by Ligia’s family, where Mark experiences a different side of Guatemalan society.

While Ligia selflessly abandons her own career to focus on establishing a stable bi-cultural home for their three children during the violent Guatemalan Civil War, Mark’s “wanderlust” takes him on a four month solo trek through Latin America and then a country change based on threats from a guerrilla group. Mark’s 13-year career promoting rural development through various international NGOs begins when he sets up a local development agency in Guatemala to help the poorest of the poor, whose plight is at least partially due to the policies of his own government.

Eventually family circumstances force a radical career change and a return to the United States to begin a 30-year calling. Inspired by the “extreme do-gooders” he’d met along his journey, he takes some of the wealthiest American families in the world to meet some of the world’s poorest in some of the most isolated, unstable countries. This leads to many adventures, with both wealthy and poor growing from their shared experiences.

Mark’s career comes to a sudden and unexpected turn after he is let go as the CEO of one of these international NGOs, and this frees him up to focus on his three children and  six grandchildren. This twist in the road also provides a new opportunity to reflect on what he has accomplished, where he’s failed, and where the international NGO community has come up short. Different Latitudes is more than a travel memoir. It is a tale of physical and spiritual self-discovery through Latin American, African, European, and Asian topography, cuisine, politics and history.

Visit the author’s website to learn more about his good work in publishing and human rights advocacy.

UT Austin Alum Pens Essay on Diversity in Higher Ed

image of bookLast summer, a federal appeals court panel ruled that UT Austin can continue using race as a factor in undergraduate admissions as a way of promoting diversity on campus.

In the wake of the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin ruling, a group of scholars penned a series of essays examining campus diversity issues in colleges and universities across the nation. UT Austin alumnus Dr. Craig Carroll (Philosophy/Journalism, Ph.D., ’04) is among this group of distinguished authors who make the case for diversity as essential to higher education and society.

During his time at UT Austin, Craig participated in the IE Pre-Graduate School Internship, a program that connects undergraduates with faculty and graduate students to help them discover their academic interests.

Read more about the book titled Our Compelling Interests: The Value of Diversity for Democracy and a Prosperous Society (Princeton University Press, 2016). in this Inside Higher Education Q&A.

Words that Wake Us: A Guest Post by YA Author Ashley Hope Pérez

image of author Out of Darkness is set in Texas, and it takes the 1937 New London school explosion as the backdrop for a secret romance between an African American boy and a Mexican American girl. It’s a book about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people.

When I began Out of Darkness, my goal was to write a historical novel that would capture experiences largely excluded from the sanitized historical accounts in Texas history books. I wanted to approach the past in a way that would also prompt my readers to think more deeply about the present and the shape of the world around us.

Growing up in East Texas, I heard powerful stories of loss and of survival related to the natural gas explosion that killed nearly 300 students and teachers. But I was driven even more by the stories I didn’t find collected in the archival materials on the disaster. Because the New London school was intended to serve white children, historical accounts of the explosion focused on the tragedy as the white community experienced it; no one recorded how people of color in the area had responded or how they viewed the disaster.

image of book cover Gaps in the historical record catalyzed my imaginings of the two teenaged characters at the center of Out of Darkness: African American Washington Fuller and Mexican American Naomi Vargas. They meet in East Texas, where Wash is a long time native and the son of the New London Colored School’s superintendent. Naomi is a beautiful and painfully shy high school senior who has just moved to New London with her younger twin half-siblings, Beto and Cari (short for Roberto and Caridad). They’ve come to East Texas from San Antonio to live with the twins’ white stepfather so that the children can attend the New London School. The lighter-skinned twins quickly settle into their new life, but Naomi encounters hostility and racism. Wash helps her navigate the day-to-day demands of her new life, befriends the twins, and awakens Naomi to her own desire for love and freedom. Wash and Naomi’s love grows through secret meetings and stolen moments in the woods, but they know that they can’t hide forever. What they don’t know, though, is that the worst school disaster in U.S. history awaits, threatening to shatter the school, the community, and their hopes for a future where they can be together.

Because Out of Darkness is set in the South during the 1930s, color lines shape the story. In San Antonio, for example, Naomi and the twins are forced to attend “Mexican” schools with overcrowded classrooms and underqualified teachers. In East Texas, Wash attends a “colored” school with a shorter school day and year, and Naomi is sent to the back entrance of New London’s only grocery store. Although forced segregation of schools and communities may be a thing of the past, the effects—and reality—of segregation linger on. Wash experiences the heightened vulnerability that still characterizes the lives of many today, as evidenced in the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride, to cite just two examples. Racism and violence have deep roots in our history, and these roots are among the painful legacies that Out of Darkness examines.

James Baldwin once noted that, in the U.S., “words are mostly used to cover the sleeper, not wake him up.”

Reading fiction is no substitute for engagement with the world around us. I hope, nevertheless, that Out of Darkness confronts readers with words that that wake them to the human cost of racialized violence and wake them to the need for change in our communities.

About 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. Read her Q&A here.

 

A Peek Inside ‘Circuit Riders for Mental Health’

book coverIn honor of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health’s 75th anniversary, we’re shining the spotlight on a forthcoming book by Texas A&M social and cultural historian William S. Bush. In Circuit Riders for Mental Health: The Hogg Foundation and the Transformation of Mental Health in Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2016), Bush tells the story of the Hogg Foundation’s central role in transforming the way we think, talk, and make policy about mental health in Texas and the nation. It also provides portrayals of the visionary men and women who pushed relentlessly to improve mental health for the people of Texas.

A community partner of the DDCE, the Hogg Foundation has been advancing recovery and wellness in Texas and across the nation since it was established in 1940 by “The First Lady of Texas” Ima Hogg. Read more about the foundation’s early beginnings in this excerpt from the book. Visit www.hogghistory.org to read more chapters.

On the evening of Wednesday, February 12, 1941, Homer Rainey, the president of The University of Texas, took the stage of the university’s Hogg Auditorium. He was there for the formal inauguration ceremony of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Hygiene.

In the audience were university faculty members, elected and appointed state officials, members of the news media, prominent Texas philanthropists, and nationally recognized experts in the emerging field of mental health.

As a privately endowed philanthropy housed within a public university, the Hogg Foundation was structurally unique. It also stood out as the only organization of its kind in the nation to be devoted solely to mental health.

Rainey told the audience that they were present for “some real history in the making” that night. The new foundation, he explained, “is going to play the most important role in the redirection of education for the next 20 years – mental health for the normal man.”

Rainey was hardly alone in holding this seemingly grandiose view. Public anticipation of the foundation’s inauguration had been building for nearly two years, ever since the announcement in July 1939 that the Hogg family had made a $2.5 million bequest to establish a “mental health program” at the state’s flagship university.

During the year prior to the inaugural ceremony, Rainey fielded a steady stream of inquiries from across Texas and other parts of the country. The writers were graduate students, university professors, doctors, psychiatrists, social workers, community groups in Texas, researchers in Chicago, professionals in Los Angeles and Boston, and private citizens from across Texas.

Clearly, the coming of the Hogg Foundation had tapped into a wellspring of excitement, as expressed in one handwritten letter: “I almost can’t believe this wonderful news. I am only twenty-three years old, a recent college graduate – but I know the need and value of such a program. I just thrill to think that Texas will enjoy the privileges of this work. I want to have a part in it. I want to work – and I have long yearned, really, to be allowed to enter this type of work. I know that I haven’t the necessary specialized training and experience for the technical, scientific side of the work, but isn’t there something I could do?”

The ceremony thus held different meanings for its varied participants. For its hosts at The University of Texas, it announced a new financial endowment from a prominent Texas family. Other observers looked to the new foundation as a source of support for social reform, not only for its stated purpose to promote “mental hygiene for the people of Texas” but for its association with the Hogg family, which had built a reputation for deploying its wealth for the public good.

For Robert Lee Sutherland, the inaugural director of the Hogg Foundation, it was the beginning of what would prove his life’s great mission: to use the foundation as a vehicle for improving mental health not only for the people of Texas, but for the nation.

For Ima Hogg, it was a memorial for her beloved brother Will, who had died while on a trip with her to Europe, and whose estate provided the money for the foundation.

It was also, for “Miss Ima,” a statement of the kind of future she hoped the foundation would help bring into existence.

It was a future in which people with mental health challenges would be treated with respect and dignity, and mental health would be seen as indivisible from all other aspects of a flourishing and healthy life. Over the decades Texas has come some distance toward realizing that vision, in no small part thanks to the work the Hogg Foundation and its allies have done.

There remains a great deal to be done, however, and the foundation is as engaged in the hard work of realizing Miss Ima’s vision as it has ever been. Under the leadership of psychiatrist Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., the foundation’s fifth executive director, it is deeply involved in reforming and improving mental health practices and policies in Texas at every level of the system.

 

Hogg Foundation Staff Member to Read and Sign ‘Exit Right’ at BookPeople

Daniel Oppenheimer web squareDaniel Oppenheimer, director of strategic communications at the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, will read and sign his new book Exit Right on Friday, Feb. 12, 7 p.m. at BookPeople.  A new voice in political history, Oppenheimer tells the stories of six major political figures whose journeys away from the left reshaped the contours of American politics in the 20th century.

“[Exit Right] is flawed in the particular way that only great books can be. It fails to fully answer the impossibly ambitious questions it lays out, but its insights are so absorbing that it doesn’t matter [and] the prose is so perfect. … This book proves so satisfying precisely because it leaves you wanting much more. … Oppenheimer began with a book about the origins of political beliefs and ended with one about the literary force of political misgivings. They’re both worth reading.”
—The Washington Post

“Call it natural evolution or ideological midlife crisis, but the figures profiled here … all turned away from the political left, either incrementally or in revelatory bursts. … Brilliant yet fallible, these apostates deserve our attention, Oppenheimer believes. Right or wrong, they ‘reckoned with themselves at the most terrifyingly fundamental level.’”
—The New York Times Book Review

“[A] confident debut. … [Oppenheimer] excels in portraying the personal torments and costs to his subjects in their transitional struggles…. The interplay between large historical movements and personal anguish is well-balanced and skillfully handled throughout. Whether his subjects are viewed as champions or apostates, Oppenheimer’s insightful narrative should inspire some soul-searching among political believers of every stripe.”
—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

More about the Author: Daniel Oppenheimer is a writer and filmmaker whose articles and videos have been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Tablet Magazine and Salon.com. He has an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University.

Save the Date! English Alumna to Read and Sign ‘Out of Darkness’ at BookPeople Jan. 8

image of bookYA Novelist Ashley Hope Pérez will stop by BookPeople to read and sign her new book Out of Darkness (Carolrhoda Books, 2015) on Friday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m.

In Out of Darkness. Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion—the worst school disaster in American history—as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people. Read her Q&A for more about the book.

“[This] layered tale of color lines, love and struggle in an East Texas oil town is a pit-in-the-stomach family drama… A tragedy, real and racial, swallows us whole, and lingers.” – The New York Times Book Review

“The work resonates with fear, hope, love, and the importance of memory…. Pérez …gives voice to many long-omitted facets of U.S. history.” – starred, School Library Journal

image of authorIn 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.

Before the BookPeople event, she be at the SCBWI Austin lunch with a fellow YA author Cynthia Leitich-Smith on Friday, Jan. 8, 12 p.m. (SCBWI membership required to register). She will also be at a writing workshop at The Writing Barn from 4-6 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 10. In Houston, she’ll be signing at Brazos Books on Saturday, Jan. 9, 7 p.m.

Visit these Facebook events to join in on the online conversation.
Austin-BookPeople:  https://www.facebook.com/events/852434314876257/

Houston-Brazos Books: https://www.facebook.com/events/1649418651976776/

 

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.

History Professor Wins Prestigious Book Award for ‘In Search of the Amazon’

This post, authored by Susanna Sharpe, first appeared on the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS) website.  

garfieldHistory Professor Seth Garfiel received the prestigious Bolton-Johnson Prize Honorable Mention Award for his book In Search of the Amazon: Brazil, the United States, and the Nature of a Region (Duke, 2013).

The award was announced earlier this month at the annual conference of the American Historical Association in New York City. According to the website of the Conference on Latin American History, the Bolton-Johnson Prize is given to the best book in English on Latin American history published in the previous year, with honorable mention given to “an additional distinguished work deemed worthy” by the prize committee.

Criteria for the award include “sound scholarship, grace of style, and importance of the 978-0-8223-5585-4_prscholarly contribution.” The citation read at the awards ceremony praises Garfield’s work on a complex and often misunderstood topic: “Seth Garfield brings the best methodologies of social and political history into dialogue with new debates over environmental and transnational history. Examining the impact of World War II and the United States’ need for rubber on Brazilian policy in the Amazon, Garfield underscores the role of labor migration from the drought-stricken Northeast and competing efforts by military, medical, religious, and industrial leaders to forge a rational male workforce. The book traces transformations in ideas about race, gender, and family as central components in capitalist exploitation as well as in conceptualizations of ‘nature’ and ‘national resources.’ If contemporary environmental movements portray the Amazon as a pristine forest inhabited by traditional people, Garfield’s book lays bare the heavy presence of people and policy that continually made the Tropics.”

In Search of the Amazon was also selected by Knowledge Unlatched for a pilot open-access program for scholarly books. According to the organization’s website, through this pilot project, Knowledge Unlatched is seeking “a financially sustainable route to Open Access for large numbers of scholarly books.”

Garfield is director of the Institute for Historical Studies in the Department of History, and the LLILAS undergraduate faculty adviser. This semester, he will teach the graduate seminar Postcolonial Brazil.

Humanities Texas Holiday Book Fair on Dec. 6

Humanities Texas will host its sixth annual Holiday Book Fair at the historic Byrne-Reed House on the corner of 15th and Rio Grande Streets in downtown Austin on Saturday, December 6, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Flyer_full

 A number of noteworthy authors, including Lawrence Wright, Sarah Bird, James Magnuson, Elizabeth Crook, S. C. Gwynne, Naomi Shihab Nye, Bill Wittliff, Carrie Fountain, M. M. McAllen, Jacqueline Jones, Richard Parker, Margaret Lewis Furse, John Taliaferro, Wayne Thorburn, Emilio Zamora, Chris Tomlinson, James E. Bruseth, Tracy Dahlby, and Steve Wilson, will visit with the public and sign copies of their latest books, which Humanities Texas will offer for purchase at a discounted price. Available titles include works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry with selections for both adult and youth audiences.

Humanities Texas will have books available for purchase at a discounted price, with all proceeds benefiting Texas libraries. Free parking will be available in the St. Martin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church lot on the northwest corner of 15th and Rio Grande Streets.

Coffee will be available alongside a sale of homemade and donated pastries and baked goods. All of the proceeds from the bake sale will also benefit Texas libraries.

“Join us for a good read and a good cause,” said Michael L. Gillette, executive director of Humanities Texas.

Please see www.humanitiestexas.org for more details about the event, including a full description of titles and authors.

If you’d like more information about this event, please contact Liz James, coordinator of educational programs at Humanities Texas, at 512.440.1991 ext. 123 or ljames@humanitiestexas.org