Center for Mexican American Studies hosts talk with the co-editors of “Beyond the Latino World War II Hero”

rivbeyMaggie Rivas-Rodríguez, associate professor of journalism, and Emilio Zamora, professor of history, will discuss their new anthology “Beyond the Latino World War II Hero: The Social and Political Legacy of a Generation” (University of Texas Press, 2009), at an event hosted by the Center for Mexican American Studies at 4 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 16, at El Mercado Uptown, 1702 Lavaca St.

The collection of oral histories, scribed by an array of scholars from various disciplines, adds illuminating insights into Mexican American patriotism during World War II. Addressing important issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and its effects on veterans’ families, and Chicano activism during the 1960s and 1970s, the writers contribute diverse perspectives of the Mexican American wartime experience.

Rivas-Rodríguez founded the U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project. The project has interviewed more than 650 men and women of the World War II generation and has multiple components, including a photographic exhibit, a play, three books, and educational material.

Zamora is the author of “Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas,” and “The World of the Mexican Worker in Texas.”

UT Alumna Shares the Memoirs of French Revolutionists Turned Fugitives in "Orphans on the Earth"

OLIVER_newbkcvrThe turbulent and violent period just after the onset of the French Revolution known as the Terror of 1793–1794, is the backdrop for University of Texas alumna Bette Oliver’s book “Orphans on the Earth” (Lexington Books 2009). The book tells the story of the Girondins, specifically those elected deputies who helped establish the new republic, and who would later became fugitives from their own government—hunted down by their political opponents the Jacobins.

The story draws on the memoirs of revolutionary leaders:  François Buzot, Jerome Pétion, Charles Barbaroux and Jean-Baptiste Louvet, as well as the correspondence between Buzot and Madame Roland. Hiding for several months in the home and attached stone quarry of the deputy Guadet’s relatives, four of these fugitives wrote their memoirs before their presence was discovered. It is the first book to examine the lives of these Girondin fugitives during this period, after which only Louvet remained alive.

Oliver is a specialist in 18th century France and the author of “From Royal to National: The Louvre Museum and the Bibliothèque Nationale” (2007). In addition to her work as a historian, she is the author of eight volumes of poetry, much of it about France.

She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in journalism, master’s degree in European history, and a doctorate in modern European history; all from The University of Texas at Austin. She is the sister of the late Chad Oliver, who taught and served as chair for the university’s Anthropology Department several times; he died in 1993.

UT Alumna Shares the Memoirs of French Revolutionists Turned Fugitives in “Orphans on the Earth”

OLIVER_newbkcvrThe turbulent and violent period just after the onset of the French Revolution known as the Terror of 1793–1794, is the backdrop for University of Texas alumna Bette Oliver’s book “Orphans on the Earth” (Lexington Books 2009). The book tells the story of the Girondins, specifically those elected deputies who helped establish the new republic, and who would later became fugitives from their own government—hunted down by their political opponents the Jacobins.

The story draws on the memoirs of revolutionary leaders:  François Buzot, Jerome Pétion, Charles Barbaroux and Jean-Baptiste Louvet, as well as the correspondence between Buzot and Madame Roland. Hiding for several months in the home and attached stone quarry of the deputy Guadet’s relatives, four of these fugitives wrote their memoirs before their presence was discovered. It is the first book to examine the lives of these Girondin fugitives during this period, after which only Louvet remained alive.

Oliver is a specialist in 18th century France and the author of “From Royal to National: The Louvre Museum and the Bibliothèque Nationale” (2007). In addition to her work as a historian, she is the author of eight volumes of poetry, much of it about France.

She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in journalism, master’s degree in European history, and a doctorate in modern European history; all from The University of Texas at Austin. She is the sister of the late Chad Oliver, who taught and served as chair for the university’s Anthropology Department several times; he died in 1993.

Alumna Chronicles Her South-of-the-Border Identity Quest

Travel writer Stephanie Elizondo Griest (B.A. Post-Soviet Studies/Journalism, ’97) journeys deep into Mexico as she traces her bicultural roots in “Mexican Enough: My Life Between the Borderlands” (Simon & Schuster, 2008).

She opens the memoir by describing an epiphany spurred by an encounter with a group of border crossers sprinting across Interstate 10 in the middle of a scorching desert. “As I look off into the desert hills from which they descended, a surprising thought flashes through my mind: I want to go to Mexico,” she writes.

Prompted by the experience, Griest decided to pull up stakes and move south of the border to fully immerse herself in her mother’s native country. Plagued by conflicted feelings about her mixed identity, the self-proclaimed “bad Mexican” set out on a quest to finally learn to speak Spanish and explore her ancestral roots.

Griest chronicles her pilgrimage from the border town of Nuevo Laredo to the highlands of Chiapas, detailing her myriad misadventures along the way. In the midst of the nation’s burgeoning social revolution, she rallies with rebels in Oaxaca, investigates the murder of a gay political activist and interviews family members of undocumented migrant workers.

From living in a house of gay roommates to attending a luchalibre (wrestling) match to dancing to hip-swiveling music in Mexico City’s thriving Zona Rosa district, she uses her journalist’s eye for detail to describe many bizarre, outrageous and touching experiences on her journey to self discovery.

Griest is the award-winning author of “Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing and Havana” and “100 Places Every Woman Should Go.” Listen to her read a few chapters from “Mexican Enough” on MySpace, or meet her in person at one of her spring tour dates.

Pornography: A Mirror of American Culture?

While statistics vary, watchdog organizations estimate the pornography industry generates between $10 and $15 billion a year in the United States. By comparison, the Hollywood box office generates about $10 billion a year.

For several years, Associate Professor of Journalism Robert Jensen researched the pornography industry by interviewing producers, analyzing the films they make, following the trade press and speaking with pornography consumers via formal and informal interviews. The result is “Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity” (South End Press, 2007).

In an interview with ShelfLife, Jensen discusses why the pornography industry presents a disturbing mirror of American culture, and answers crucial questions about gender, race and economics.

Q: What motivated you, a journalism professor, to write “Getting Off”?

A: My initial work on the subject 20 years ago was sparked by my interest in law and freedom of speech, but I quickly realized that pornography was a place to ask crucial questions about gender and race, about economics and culture. In the past four decades, changes in the law, technology and social norms have produced a pornography-saturated culture for which there is no historical precedent.

Q: What does pornography reveal about American culture?
A: The popularity of pornography is a reminder that, for all the progress of contemporary social movements, we still live in a world structured by patriarchy, white supremacy and a corporate capitalism that is predatory by nature. Pornography is consistently cruel and degrading to women, overtly racist and fueled by the ideology that money matters more than people.

Q: Parts of your book are quite graphic. How did you cope with immersing yourself in such a difficult subject?
A: The short answer: Not very well. It is extremely difficult and draining work, which is why I conducted analyses of films no more than once every three or four years. When watching as consumers, men focus on the sexual pleasure. When watching as a researcher, one sees clearly the cruelty and degradation, and after a while it gets overwhelming psychologically. I coped with those feelings by talking with friends and political allies in the movement who also have had to deal with that, as have researchers and activists who have confronted other issues that illustrate the human capacity to dehumanize others. But there is something particularly difficult, I think, about seeing inhumanity turned into sexual pleasure.

Q: You’ve called yourself a feminist; how did you become a feminist?
A: By reading feminist writers and getting to know feminist activists, I came to realize that feminism is not a threat to men but a gift to us. Feminism is a way of understanding how hierarchy works, which gives men a coherent way to struggle to be more fully human in a male-supremacist system that provides us with unearned privilege. Working in movements for justice for women has given me a way to combat the dominant culture’s toxic conception of masculinity, which is not only dangerous to women but also unfulfilling for most men.

Q: Do you think pornography is the most pressing issue facing feminism?

A: I don’t think there is any single issue that is most pressing. In the contemporary world we face multiple crises on all fronts—economic and ecological, political and social. We are an empire in decline and a culture in collapse. The most pressing issue for feminism, and all other social movements, is to recognize that and start to plan for the dramatic, and no doubt painful, changes ahead in the coming decades.

Q: How would you respond to a woman who says she feels empowered by her work in the porn or sex industry?
A: I don’t tell women how to think or what to do, but it’s clear that talk of empowerment in any realm has to first ask, “What kind of power?” Can working in the sexual-exploitation industries of pornography, stripping and prostitution offer real power to women—the kind of power that will help create a more just and sustainable world? We all live within systems that are structured on a domination/subordination dynamic. We try to cope the best we can with these hierarchies. There’s no one answer to the question of how best to do that, but we have to at least be honest about the nature of the systems.

Q: How has writing this book informed your opinion on the state of masculinity?
A: In the dominant culture, masculinity is marked by control, conquest and domination. I used to think we needed to find a more humane concept of masculinity, but after this research I’ve concluded that we need to eliminate the idea altogether. By that, I mean we need to reject the belief that, beyond basic biological differences, there are clear sex-specific traits in regard to our intellectual, psychological or moral development. The basic physical differences between female and male humans may well give rise to some other inherent differences between men and women, but in obsessing over those differences we usually miss the ways in which we are similar. I don’t want to reform masculinity but rather abolish it. Instead of searching for masculine and feminine norms, I think we should focus on human norms.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
A: Paradoxical as it may seem, I want people to face the depth of the inhumanity of this culture and, at the same time, renew their commitment to political activism and struggle. Pornography is a reflection of the culture, and we can learn from it. What we learn is not pretty but is necessary to confront. From there, we can imagine the kind of radical political activity that is necessary and start to rebuild movements of all kinds—around issues of gender and racial justice, economic and international cooperation, and ecological sustainability.

Jensen teaches courses in media law, ethics and politics. His research draws upon a variety of critical approaches to media and power. His other books include “The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege,” “Citizens of Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity” and “Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream.”

Alum’s Book Parodies Pregnancy Guide

In a spoof on the pregnancy self-help book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” Mary K. Moore (BJ ’96) spotlights the absurd moments of pregnancy and shakes the sugar-coating off symptoms.

Sure to brighten the day of any woman, “preggars” or not, Moore’s book delivers tongue-in-cheek advice on everything from how to know when baby prepping reaches a level of paranoia to picking a name to the do the dos and don’ts of “postpartum partying.”

A former New York editor for publications like Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan, Moore admits she’s not a guru, doctor, or parenting expert but has fallen in love with being a mother to her 3-year-old daughter, Scarlett.

The sassy mother-daughter duo lives with husband/dad T.J. in Austin.

The Unexpected When You’re Expecting: A Parody” was published by Sourcebooks last September.

Reprinted with permission from the Nov./Dec. 2008 issue of The Alcalde. For further reading, check out the Austin American-Statesman’s Nov. 4 story about Moore’s work, “She’s expecting a book.”

Alum's Book Parodies Pregnancy Guide

In a spoof on the pregnancy self-help book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” Mary K. Moore (BJ ’96) spotlights the absurd moments of pregnancy and shakes the sugar-coating off symptoms.

Sure to brighten the day of any woman, “preggars” or not, Moore’s book delivers tongue-in-cheek advice on everything from how to know when baby prepping reaches a level of paranoia to picking a name to the do the dos and don’ts of “postpartum partying.”

A former New York editor for publications like Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan, Moore admits she’s not a guru, doctor, or parenting expert but has fallen in love with being a mother to her 3-year-old daughter, Scarlett.

The sassy mother-daughter duo lives with husband/dad T.J. in Austin.

The Unexpected When You’re Expecting: A Parody” was published by Sourcebooks last September.

Reprinted with permission from the Nov./Dec. 2008 issue of The Alcalde. For further reading, check out the Austin American-Statesman’s Nov. 4 story about Moore’s work, “She’s expecting a book.”

Alum’s Science Fiction Book Tackles Dangers of Global Warming

Imagine a world where ungodly temperatures create a hell on Earth for mankind. This heat leads to a frightening evolution of living things.

Animals grow at astronomical rates; monstrous creatures roam the Earth. The power of photosynthesis rises to new heights. Giant plant-life towers to the skies and challenges the agricultural industry. The city of Dallas becomes so polluted that humans must live underground where they can escape the mighty beasts.

This is the scenario in University of Texas at Austin alumna Perla Sarabia Johnson’s (BJ ’83) first book, the science fiction thriller “Global WarNing” (PublishAmerica, 2008). Against this dire backdrop, protagonist Dustin Jones works valiantly to protect mankind from Mother Nature’s revenge when he finds comfort in Heidi Hendricks, an attractive woman with a mysterious past.

Sarabia Johnson will be in Round Rock this Saturday, Nov. 22, for a book signing from noon to 2 p.m. at the Hastings Books & Music Video (2200 South I-35, behind Walgreen’s).

While conducting research for the book, she interviewed several experts in their field including Fabien JG Laurier, program officer for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program; Dan Ton, grid integration team leader of the Solar Energy Technologies Program; Samuel Ariaratnam, professor of construction management at Arizona State University; Stephen King, associate professor in the Department of Horticultural Sciences of the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center at Texas A&M University; and Matthew Carrano, curator of dinosaurs at the Smithsonian Institution.

Erica Yeager, publisher of Richardson Living Magazine, says “Perla Sarabia Johnson tackles an important issue in a creative and imaginative way.”