Poetry Editor Anne Savarese Celebrates National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month is the perfect occasion for us to celebrate the many poets we have been lucky enough to publish through the years in our two poetry series, both of which began in the early 1970s, and to spread the word about recent and forthcoming poetry collections.    

The Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets, currently edited by Susan Stewart, is dedicated to publishing the best work of today’s emerging and established poets. Originality is one of its hallmarks, and its recent titles represent a range of forms and perspectives: Austin Smith’s reflections on the rural Midwest and contemporary America in Flyover Country; Dora Malech’s innovative wordplay in Stet; Myronn Hardy’s variety of voices and locales in Radioactive Starlings; and Miller Oberman’s combination of new work and Old English translations in The Unstill Ones.

Coming soon in the series are two books from established poets: Before Our Eyes: New and Selected Poems, 1975-2017, by Eleanor Wilner, who received the Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry from the Poetry Society of America on April 18th, and The River Twice by Kathleen Graber, the first volume in nearly a decade from the author of The Eternal City (2010), a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award.

Another poetry series at the Press, the Lockert Library of Poetry in Translation, provides a forum for first-rate literary work by translators of various backgrounds, working in a variety of modes. The series is deliberately eclectic, with notable titles ranging from Edmund Keeley and Philip Sharrard’s now-classic translations of George Seferis and C. P. Cavafy, to Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts: Seventy Poems by Wisława Szymborska, translated by Magnus Krynski and Robert Maguire, to Peter Cole’s anthology The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492.

The most recent book in the series, Final Matters: Selected Poems, 2004-2010, by the late Hungarian poet Szilárd Borbély, translated by the award-winning Ottilie Mulzet, is the first selection of the three current series editors, Peter Cole, Richard Sieburth, and Rosanna Warren. This fall we will publish Selected Poems of Giovanni Pascoli, translated from the Italian by Taije Silverman with Marina Della Putta Johnston, and we look forward to new translations under way of poetry in Arabic, ancient Greek, and medieval Galician-Portuguese, among others.

We also salute the many venues that help poetry come alive on and off the page, from the Monday Night Poetry series at KGB Bar in New York’s East Village to The Slowdown podcast with Tracy K. Smith. Outstanding poets and translations await your discovery, in April and throughout the year.

 

International Sales Director Andrew Brewer: A Visit to Australia

Australia is large and a very long way away from the US and UK. These are well-known facts about the country. Less well-known, but common knowledge at the Press, is that Australia is a vibrant English-language book market, with a flourishing independent bookshop sector. Book sales are not dominated by online vendors. This is a very distinctive feature of the market there and makes it especially attractive for any English-language publisher, and especially one with global ambition.

But to return to the first point: Australia’s distance from our main centres of production means our books arrive there with a considerable freight cost applied. The result is an uncomfortable price fit with the local market. In addition the higher prices on our books actively encourage buying around, so individuals frequently take advantage of offshore online vendors, like The Book Depository in the UK (who offer free freight around the world). As a consequence, a proportion of our sales to Australia do not register in the ANZ territory at all.

Nevertheless, our sales and distribution partner in Australia – Footprint – have done a consistent job getting Princeton books into bookshops there, both chain and independent, and I travelled to Australia to judge this at first hand in February. Like the books, I also arrived with a considerable freight cost applied. It was my good fortune to be accompanied by Sarah Caro who, as well as joining me for some of my meetings, was there on the lookout for future authors among the local academic community. Sarah also found time to fulfill another of our global Princeton duties – adding to the Princeton in the World series:

 

We visited Melbourne and Sydney. There were many displays of Princeton books to be seen. Here are some highlights:

Readings Bookshop, Melbourne. This is a great bookshop, close to the university. Bright, modern, lively, with knowledgeable and engaged staff.

More from Readings. The Ancient Wisdom series was a constant bookshop companion throughout the trip, showing up in virtually every store we visited. We already know it’s a great series, but in distant locations like Australia, a series like this has great value for the way it extends the Princeton brand.      

Ai Weiwei books stacked up at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.

The HIGHLIGHTS wall at the lovely Kinokuniya store in Sydney, where we see more Ancient Wisdom on display (middle drop, third shelf down).

And here is Ai Weiwei’s Humanity (bottom l/h corner), playing its part in the Crazy Good Asian promotion at the front of the Kino store:

 

Along with our visits to accounts, we were invited to the opening of the new campus bookshop at the University of New South Wales, where author Marcus Zusak gave an entertaining speech (he’s also a very friendly guy). Another striking element of the event was hearing the vice-chancellor of the university tell the audience that books and bookshops were central to the university’s vision for their students; this is an enlightened viewpoint!

The Future:

One result of the higher prices applied to Princeton books, and the buying around among consumers to better the local price, is rather flat sales year-to-year, which do not map onto our overall international sales growth.

So what are we doing to address this? One strategy is to experiment with locally produced editions of our books specifically for the ANZ market. The first such experiment will be John Quiggin’s Economics in Two Lessons. Quiggin is at University of Queensland, and his Zombie Economics did well for us in Australia. Because the trade market there has a strong preference for new titles in paperback, we will produce our edition of Quiggin in paper, priced at the level the market expects. It will be an interesting trial run for a programme we hope we can extend steadily over time.

In the longer term, we would also like to print more of our titles closer to the ANZ market. China is the obvious location. Production in China should reduce to some extent the cost-to-market for our books. Australia represents a wonderful opportunity for our books to sell, whilst also offering significant challenges. We look forward to establishing ourselves more firmly in the bookselling world there.

 

Public Thinker: T. L. Taylor On Gamergate, Live-Streaming, and Esports

This article was originally published by Public Books and is reprinted here with permission.

The qualitative sociologist T. L. Taylor is a professor of Comparative Media Studies at MIT and cofounder and director of research for AnyKey, an organization dedicated to supporting and developing fair and inclusive esports. She explores the interrelations of culture and technology in online leisure environments, writing in a clear style and with an evocative voice about gender, inclusivity, and diversity in those virtual spaces. Around this research she has built a career that has taken her from California to North Carolina to Denmark to Cambridge, brought her in front of audiences at the White House and the International Olympic Committee, and led her to speak to the New York Times, PBS, and the BBC as a gaming expert.

She is the author of three books and the coauthor of another. Her latest, Watch Me Play: Twitch and the Rise of Game Live Streaming, was published last fall. We spoke about that work, and in particular about online gaming culture, esports, and the economies of live-streaming, and put it in conversation with the Gamergate controversy, noting how the virtual worlds shaped by broader cultural currents might build a more welcoming and accessible future.


B. R. Cohen (BRC): Your research and teaching look at online gaming, esports, the sociology of virtual spaces, and the like. But I want to start with Gamergate. I should know what it is and understand its nuances, but maybe I don’t.

T. L. Taylor (TLT): Well, it began about five years ago, and you might think of it in two ways. First, Gamergate was targeted, systematic harassment of women in gaming, including developers, academics, and game critics. Although it was cloaked in the language of concern about “ethics in gaming,” it was essentially a targeted anti-feminist movement primarily against a host of women. But there’s the second way to think about it. We’ve now seen how its shape and method were a kind of template or dress rehearsal for the alt-right movement, which has been front and center in the last couple years.

BRC: Was that apparent at the time, or has it become clearer since?

TLT: Maybe a little of both. A number of commentaries have since connected what happened in Gamergate with patterns we now see with the alt-right. The forms of harassment are similar, as are the use of various online sites like 4Chan and Reddit.

BRC: Direct connections, too?

TLT: Yeah, definitely. Milo Yiannopoulos and Breitbart played a part in Gamergate. Brett Kavanagh’s friend Mark Judge, and many alt-right guys, were involved in attacking women like Anita Sarkeesian, who is a leading voice on women and video games. She was viciously harassed. Her life was threatened, and she was doxxed. These Gamergate tactics are the bread and butter of what we see in the alt-right movement more generally. To be frank, I often say that—for good or ill—gaming is the canary in the coal mine for broader cultural, critical, and political issues. Gamergate is a profoundly unfortunate example. To call it misogyny would be an understatement.

BRC: This was in 2014?

TLT: Around then, yes. I should say, too, as someone who studies gaming culture, gender, and technology, a pattern often emerges here. You start seeing a reactionary response when you get a critical mass of women, people of color, or queer folks in a space expressing their own thoughts about their circumstances, pushing back on the culture, and not merely echoing whatever the dominant culture is saying. This is when you get people involved in things like Gamergate or the alt-right purportedly defending “ethics in games” when, in fact, they’re mostly just perpetuating hate and fear. So it was a really nasty time. The people who bore the brunt of it were developers and people like Sarkeesian.

BRC: As a scholar studying this phenomenon, how much did you get caught up in it?

TLT: I got tagged in briefly early on, but I think in part because of my name I’m often seen as a man online, so I was not targeted in the same way.

BRC: You pointed me to the Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology (ACE) just last fall to show that this is still going on.

TLT: In fact, there was a huge controversy and protest movement that eventually led to the conference being cancelled. The ACE conference chair had invited Steve Bannon as its keynote speaker. I mean, the ACE Twitter account previously had Ada Lovelace and all these amazing women in technology in its header image, and yet two years ago the conference chair behaved appallingly on Twitter toward women, particularly junior women scholars. And then he tried to bring Bannon to a conference he was chairing. Gamergate wasn’t some isolated aberration; it was a convergence of off-line misogyny with online platforms and gaming spaces. The alt-right dovetails into that all too well.

BRC: So Gamergate is about gender and technology, certainly, but more broadly it’s about how marginalized peoples use these games to connect with each other and are re-marginalized within these online communities.

TLT: It’s this strange unfortunate double side of game culture. Gaming and geek culture have historically been places where people who felt like outsiders found connection through geeky loves and pastimes, whether they are games, anime, or comics. But as is often the case with subcultures, they also have heavily policed themselves. They police the boundaries of what they are and who is allowed in. As gaming has become mainstream, the stakes in policing those boundaries seem to have gotten even higher for many people. The question of whether you’re a “real gamer” or a “real comics fan” becomes more intense. It’s happened in a number of related subcultures. We have Gamergate, yes, but both the comics and science fiction communities, for example, have had their own version of this.

BRC: How did you come to this topic, this field? These are all social spaces that I see a sociologist would study. How do you make sense of these gaming and esports cultures in your work?

TLT: Well, I studied sociology as an undergrad at Berkeley and as a graduate student at Brandeis. From early on I was drawn to qualitative work and ethnography in particular. I’m probably not an anthropologist, though, because I’m also drawn to thinking about institutions and organizations in particular ways. Not that anthropologists don’t do that, but sociologists do something slightly different. I ended up at Brandeis, because there were only a handful of places to do qualitative sociology in the US at the time.

BRC: Where did your interest in computers and gaming come from?

TLT: I should’ve also mentioned that I was a community college student before Berkeley, and I’m a first-generation college student from a working-class family. I didn’t grow up with a computer in my home. We didn’t even have an early Atari. I played video games at the arcade but that was about it. My undergraduate thesis was on consumption practices among young Cambodian refugees in San Francisco. It had nothing to do with technology. But in 1991 I went to graduate school, moving from California to Boston, and started using the internet mostly because it was available and I wanted to stay in touch with a few friends from undergrad. I started spending a lot of time online and ended up doing my dissertation on embodiment in early virtual environments. This was before Second Life. These were text-based worlds, multiuser dungeons. Did you ever get into these things?

BRC: I didn’t. I’m not sure why. I think SimCity was the height of it for me.

TLT: You missed out on a host of early text-based games. Zork was one, in which you look around the room, go left, go right, by typing the commands. I got interested in the multiplayer ones because you’d head into online text-based worlds full of random people, bringing to mind that old New Yorker “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” cartoon. In that spirit, a good part of the conversation in the 1990s was about identity on the internet. Sherry Turkle was thinking about identity in new and important ways in Life on the Screen. I was her research assistant in the 1990s, which helped develop my thinking on it. I noticed, though, that there was a sense of a presence in these worlds, which got me thinking about embodiment in online spaces, not just about identities. That’s what I worked on.

BRC: I take it that EverQuest was an exemplar of these games?

TLT: Right, that is what’s known as an MMO or MMORPG, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. EverQuest wasn’t the only one, but in the 1990s it was one of the big ones. Unlike all those text-based worlds we’d been hanging out in, EverQuest and other MMOs brought graphics. My first book [Play between Worlds] was about MMOs.

BRC: Last fall I spoke with Siva Vaidhyanathan, whose research on social media grew along with his own biography as someone coming of academic age in the 1990s, when the internet was taking its current form. It sounds like you had a similar trajectory, but how did you come to study that game?

TLT: By the end of my dissertation I was mostly tired of it, as grad students usually are. Some of the people I met doing my dissertation research started telling me about this game, EverQuest. I thought, “Oh, that sounds like a fun distraction,” so I started playing it. Pretty quickly I realized, “Oh, no, wait, wait, there’s a lot of fascinating stuff happening here.” That’s how I got into the game as a player, and that was the hook that got me studying it as a sociologist.

BRC: When you were in those virtual worlds thinking about identity and then embodiment, did gender dynamics stand out right away?

TLT: Yes, right away. They were clear and crystalized within the game spaces in particular. In my early work on embodiment, I wrote about gender and sexuality, but because game spaces so clearly represent the gender issues visually, they’re hard to miss. Or in the case of esports, they’re so egregious; it’s stark. You asked about gender dynamics but, honestly, it wasn’t until grad school that I had any kind of serious feminist awareness. My eyes were always focused on class and socioeconomic issues when I was younger, because of my own biography coming from a working-class family. So for me, socioeconomic class issues were the early hook, while the feminist and gender questions came later.

BRC: It’s difficult in the necessary discussions of intersectionality to think of socioeconomic factors as an intersection, too. So many things can intersect.

TLT: It’s funny, I teach a games and culture class in which we do sessions on gender and race. I try to model thinking on how various aspects of our identities and biographies interact and collide. I talk about how I am a woman, but I’m also from a working-class family—and a white one at that. It’s very hard to do it all, but thinking across these areas is key. And intersectionality, as a way of thinking about interlocking systems of oppression—particularly for people of color—is such an important concept to expose students to.

BRC: How do you approach it?

TLT: I think for me it’s about the sociological imagination, something that the sociologist C. Wright Mills talked about. When I started taking sociology classes, I was like, “Holy shit.” This idea helped me take what felt deeply personal, individual, and family-based and link it to a bigger conversation. That was the first critical intellectual intervention in my life.

BRC: Your work beyond the MIT classroom is in touch with the gaming world as well. You used the phrases “gamers,” “game space,” and “gaming space.” Are those common terms? You’ve got gamers; you’ve got fans, audiences, and markets; and the rise of professionalization comes up in your books. But what is your relationship with the gaming community?

TLT: That’s a tricky question. I’m a low theory person at best, which means I don’t have typological models in my head, so I use those terms a bit colloquially. There isn’t one single game community or one kind of person who is a gamer. Each of my projects tries in some way to show the heterogeneity of the gaming space.

BRC: I don’t know much about those gamer spaces, those social worlds. That’s probably obvious by now. A few years ago, I was playing a game with my kids, Game of War, which we all joined on our devices, made our avatars, and played and chatted with people from all over the world. It didn’t take long to learn about the ways that personalities stuck out in those games, the ways people played them—aggressively, congenially, or otherwise. This was my first experience seeing that this was an entire social system worth examining. But even that felt different than the trolls on Twitter or the comment threads on Facebook. How do the social networks in these games differ from other social media, from Twitter or Facebook? Is it a whole different beast?

TLT: I would say there are many things happening. For example, much of what I talk about in my new book on live-streaming, Watch Me Play, would look familiar to people who study social networks. And some things would look familiar to people who study precarious labor and the gig economy. The stuff that’s happening in gaming is not separate from those broader cultural trends and developments. But it’s even messier, because people very regularly use a variety of other social networking sites to facilitate their game play or live-streaming.

One of the things I talk about in the book is how people are using Twitch to live broadcast their game play to each other, but they’re also using Twitter to keep in contact with fans and audience members. So one consistent thread in my various studies of online gaming is this notion of the assemblage, an assemblage of sites and practices that people rely on to make up their gaming or online experience. You can’t just take the artifact of the game—the specific software or platform—and fixate on it and think you understand something meaningful about gaming. The assemblage notion extends to different actors, stakeholders, institutions, and platforms; they all have to come together to make a particular game or cultural activity around a game happen.

BRC: You’re marking the development of the combination of so many different networks that couldn’t have happened at any other time.

TLT: Exactly. And for me it’s also a bit of a methodological intervention. If you want to understand these spaces and experiences, you have to understand that people aren’t just Twitter users, they aren’t just television watchers, and so on. We have a range of things cobbled together to make up our leisure or recreational practices.

BRC: You’re being technically intersectional.

TLT: Yes, yes, I like that. I think it would be an analytic mistake to focus on individual artifacts, even if methodologically we sometimes have to home in on particular platforms. But your participants often lead you elsewhere. You miss the dynamic interplay and misunderstand a lot of the social practice if you don’t follow those other threads.

BRC: You also write about structural cultural differences across the world, so it isn’t just about the context of cross-platform gaming experiences at one point in time. It’s also about cultural differences. In preparing for this conversation I kept seeing references to South Korea as a pioneer in a lot of these areas, or to Europe and North America as different regions with similar technical things that play out differently.

TLT: That is the sociology side of me, to be honest. With esports, people will often say “Oh, if we could just be like South Korea.” I wrote about that in Raising the Stakes. At the time, South Korea had television stations broadcasting esports and esports teams and sponsors. The more I looked into it, the more I realized that we can’t be like South Korea. Their esports culture came from a set of government policies, technological infrastructure, and cultural patterns of use based on the way youth culture is organized. So if you build your model based on a particular piece of hardware, software, or infrastructure, you’ll likely miss how it’s developing in other places in completely different ways. It’s a bit “Science & Technology Studies 101” to say that cultural context shapes technologies, but with new fields arising and new social spaces like esports, I’ve found that we need to keep showing this.

BRC: There’s more to it than drag and drop. Do you still see that kind of a drag-and-drop version of technology transfer circulating in mainstream media?

TLT: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s funny because in the spaces that I study, whether it’s esports or live-streaming, people build elaborate imagined audience-use models in their heads. I think that’s a lovely model, but it depends on so many complex factors that the technological determinists fail to acknowledge. How does the harassment of women and girls or the regulation of their leisure in particular ways shape their participation in gaming? This is where the nastiness of gaming sometimes comes into play, where models circulate in game communities about what “real gaming” is and what “real gamers” look like. And those are often deeply out of touch with the complexity of context in which people game or how taste and preference develop.

BRC: How do your studies of gaming fit with media portrayals of online communities, esports, or otherwise? You just mentioned determinism, and I think there’s a tendency in the broader media to focus too much on causation and impact, which we probably see with all new technologies. They’ll say, for example, that gaming is causing a problem, gaming is causing a new market, gaming generates harassment, gaming provides new opportunities. Your research helps correct that, I think, by also talking about what leads to gaming, not just what gaming leads to. If people want to talk about how gaming is increasing cultural friction, as with the harassment or gender issues, it would seem that we should attend to its foundations beforehand and not just its outcomes.

TLT: That determinist impulse is so common. When I’m talking to press, I often get the “Where’s it going?” or “What’s next for esports?” questions. And I answer that I am not a futurologist; there’s too much contingency. For me, the most interesting parts of the story are all those contingencies. I’m drawn to skirmishes, gaps, breakdown moments, and the little stories about everything falling apart. Those help to highlight the stakes. None of that is terribly satisfying for people looking for causality models. Esports and live-streaming are closely tied to commercial interests and are in a hype bubble right now. And so I think when I get those questions these days, I just have to say that it’s tied up in pure financial speculation. It’s kind of awful what’s happening in that regard. A lot of people just want to make a lot of money by figuring out what the next thing is. I couldn’t care less about that. For me, those aren’t the most interesting questions.

BRC: Studying commercial spaces and entertainment technologies must bring its own difficulties as a scholar.

TLT: That’s true. Much of the stuff I study either has an inherent commercial element, or there’s somebody who comes along and wants to commercialize it. But I tend to focus on things that have arisen out of user desire and community practice. I think that’s what makes the hype stuff tricky. Even though we’re in an esports bubble right now, I don’t think this thing called esports will ever go away, because it comes from actual people and users building grassroots communities.

BRC: On that point, I want to get back to Twitch and the rise of game live-streaming. Twitch is one of the things that’s commercializing esports, I take it?

TLT: Absolutely. Live-streaming amplified broadcasting, which brought in a bigger audience. That, in turn, has caught the eye of commercial interests. I was just at TwitchCon. It’s now a huge convention, which I guess speaks to the growing phenomenon. It’s massive. Twitch is a video platform on which people stream and watch games. Game live-streaming on a site like Twitch taps into the long-standing pleasures people take in sharing their play with each other, whether that’s sitting on a sofa watching your friend play or making and uploading your own videos. Twitch found a way to build a platform around that user activity. They are, of course, trying to commercialize it. It comes from an authentic and true experience but is now part of a larger culture of monetization and platform economies. Those who are now trying to earn a living or make ends meet by streaming games are tied to gig economies and precarious labor.

BRC: It makes me realize that I didn’t find Dragon’s Lair in your index. That’s my go-to when you talk about spectator video games. I remember arcades in the 1980s, everybody crowded in to see. It was the only video game with a TV screen above it so others could watch. Everybody would huddle around.

TLT: Right, that old arcade game, exactly. That sense of spectating is an important part of gaming. Sure, sometimes we play alone, and nobody’s there to watch, but the pleasure of watching and being watched has always been a part of gaming. Esports and Twitch as a platform tapped into that for the digital age. I was trying to understand that space as a sociologist for this new book. I got into the project because I saw that people were trying to bring gaming to spectator audiences and doing so in all kinds of creative ways, jamming technologies together. Then Twitch came along as a platform and made it easy. Or easier, I should say. Part of this story was coming to understand the dynamics of live-streaming not necessarily as sports but as entertainment, as media entertainment.

BRC: So who is the audience for your work? You’ve published books with academic presses and written in an accessible voice about complicated social and technical issues. You also teach about these things at MIT. But you’re also working with, writing about, and writing for these dynamic communities that are still in the making.

TLT: I think the books have been picked up by nonacademics because they act as a kind of legitimizing artifact and help chronicle a history. With esports folks I think they felt like, “Oh my God, somebody is paying serious attention to us.” It was a totem of legitimation, which is gratifying. I honestly don’t expect nonacademics to read my books. I really don’t, but of course it’s rewarding when the communities I study pick them up.

BRC: You do more specific public-facing things, too, like AnyKey, which, and I’m quoting your mission statement here, aims “to help create fair and inclusive spaces” for marginalized communities online.

TLT: That’s right, AnyKey has been a more explicitly publicly engaged project. Public talks, stuff on YouTube, things like that. AnyKey is where I try to do most of the public-facing work. My work with the initiative has also involved doing shorter white papers meant to actually provide helpful guidelines or insights, because just trying to distill these complicated things is a monumental task.

BRC: What are the general basics of AnyKey?

TLT: It started a few years ago. This actually dovetails with our conversation about Gamergate. When Gamergate was happening, Intel sort of blew it on their first-pass response. They got a lot of heat at the time, but they actually learned a lesson and made a big announcement that they would be supporting a number of different diversity initiatives. They were going to start taking diversity and inclusion more seriously and dedicated a chunk of money to sponsoring various measures. Because of the esports work I had done, I knew people at the Electronic Sports League (ESL), and one of them who’d been hearing me talk about gender for many years came to me and said, “Do you think there’s something we could do? Should we try to get in on this Intel stuff?” ESL has been working with Intel for years on esports. I said “Sure, let’s try to do something.” We connected up with Morgan Romine, who has a PhD in anthropology and who I codirect AnyKey with, and pitched to Intel research-driven initiatives around diversity and inclusion in esports. It worked, and we got some sponsorship money.

BRC: What exactly do you do there?

TLT: We’ve tried to do a range of things so far. Like I said, it’s research driven so we do fieldwork studies, we do workshops in which we try to get a sense of the key issues by working with various stakeholders, and we spend a lot of time talking to lots of folks in the esports space about the challenges they are facing. I’m the director of research and Morgan, my cofounder and director of initiatives, is the one who spins up concrete projects based on our findings. It covers everything, from practical skills like how to moderate chats to more symbolic issues. As an example, one of the things we heard early on is that women who were active and thriving in the esports space all had had these formative moments in which they saw another woman doing it, being involved in esports in some way, and it gave them a sense of like, “Oh wait, I could do that.” That led us to produce a series of videos profiling women in the scene. It was a “if you could see it, you could be it” kind of thing.

BRC: A kind of social inoculation, exposing them to the possibility?

TLT: Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of amazing when you start talking to people who are really making it. I love it. I have always been very interested in the women who manage to stay in a space that is so hostile to them. I mean anywhere, in any forum, not just online. Like, how the hell are they doing that? What is going on? It was the same way with esports, leading us to think about what we can learn from the women who are there. There was this thing they had come across and someone else was doing it, playing in that space, and it became seared into their imagination that they could do it too. That doesn’t remove all of the barriers, not by a long shot, but that power of the symbolic was real. So we do studies as well as practical things.

BRC: Like the chat moderation guides?

TLT: Right, yes, and we put out other guidelines like that. We have one on gender-inclusive tournaments, for example. We often support women’s tournaments, but we want those tournaments to be trans inclusive. So we did a whole …

BRC: That’s a thing, gender-defined tournaments?

TLT: Yeah, yeah, and women’s tournaments in esports are tricky because I think most of us who support them see them as a stopgap. Ultimately, we don’t want a world in which men and women are playing on separate teams. There’s no good reason for that. But the harassment of women in this space is so strong that we tend to feel that if you don’t give them opportunities in women-only tournaments, they won’t get the experience. So we see women’s tournaments as necessary for now while working toward gender inclusivity more broadly in esports.</

But even then, we were seeing tournaments happen that were women-only, but the language around them was not trans inclusive. That led us to put out a white paper covering a variety of issues like, for example, how to be gender inclusive when taking photos for your event, making sure that all the photos aren’t just of men. Even that degree of guidance was necessary. But also explaining to people how pronouns work and how to think about having trans inclusivity based on a “you are who you say you are” rule. It’s all in the research section of the AnyKey website.

One of the things we do with those best practices is simply to try to help people who want to make this space better and to give them language and frameworks. We just released another set of guidelines maybe a month ago on how to moderate your chat if you are streaming your esports tournament. Because the chat can be really awful if left unmoderated. And, again, a lot of people want it to be better but they don’t know where to start. So we put out these guidelines to help people.

BRC: Is this extracurricular for you? Or is it part of your job description?

TLT: Yeah, I don’t get paid for it. It’s extra. [Laughs] Public-facing work is such an interesting challenge, and this work with AnyKey has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. We’re trying to take critical or feminist frameworks and interventions and make them accessible, spread them widely, and get them out of the classroom. It’s hard. I find a lot of people want things to be better, they want to do better, but they don’t have the tools or alternative language to get there. Once you give them that, they’re like, “Oh, okay, yeah, I can do that.”

T.L. Taylor Watch Me Play book cover

 

This article was commissioned by B. R. Cohen.

Featured image: T. L. Taylor. Photograph by Bryce Vickmark

PUP Volunteerism Highlight: The Oxford Hot Water Bottle Project

Many of us in the #ReadUP world are inspired by the university press mission to contribute to society in the form of knowledge and ideas. But the ethos is not bound to the pages of a book; many of our staff and peers are also invested in community development and engagement. To support these commitments, and encourage community building within and far beyond our publishing house, we have formed a Community Building Committee, which includes as one of its pillars a volunteer committee. Over the last year, PUP staff have convened colleagues across departments and the globe to help serve meals at community kitchens, collect donations for many local organizations, rebuild trails in local preserves, send books to incarcerated readers, rebuild a library collection destroyed by fire in Rio, and as this blog post by senior publicist Katie Lewis shares, reached out to the homeless population in Oxford. The enthusiasms we bring to all of our collaborations, from books to community building events, enliven every chapter of our collective publishing narrative.

–Christie Henry, Director

Oxford is one of the UK’s most affluent cities, and the least affordable.

Oxford, the closest city to Princeton University Press’s European office, is a beautiful, historic centre of academia, culture, architecture and history. One cannot help marvelling at its beauty and noticing the affluence of the university colleges, which make up a large part of the town centre. But there is another side to Oxford that is just as visible, even if it does not make it into the guide books.  

Homelessness is a global problem, but it is particularly acute in Oxford. According to Homeless Oxfordshire, a charity that provides shelter, safety, hot meals and basic facilities for about 550 homeless people in the city and surrounding areas, the number of rough sleepers in Oxford has increased by 175% since 2012. There has also been a spike in deaths among homeless people in Oxford this winter, as reported by The Guardian.

The high numbers of rough sleepers in Oxford may be due the affluence of the city and the fact that many of its inhabitants, students and tourists can spare a little change. Rough sleepers from other parts of the country are known to make their way to Oxford in the hope of receiving more casual financial help (change on the streets) than they might in their home towns.

Oxford is also one of the most economically uneven cities in the UK: an area called Blackbird Leys is one of the most socioeconomically deprived areas in the country, despite being only a couple of miles from the grandeur of the world-class university. The economic situation there may go some way to explaining why Oxford’s homelessness problem is so severe.

Homelessness is also perhaps particularly prevalent in Oxford due to the high cost of housing – Oxford has been widely held as the UK’s least affordable city since at least 2014. According to Homeless Oxfordshire, the average Oxford house price of £491,900 is around 16 times the average yearly household income of £29,400, and the rental market reflects this, with many rented rooms just as expensive as those in London, without the artificially boosted salaries enjoyed in the capital.  

I started handing out hot water bottles to Oxford’s rough sleepers in January 2018 when it occurred to me how horrible it would be to be out in the snow without the cosy hot water bottle that I enjoy on my lap in the Princeton office during the colder months. I started a JustGiving page and with the help of a friend, handed out 50 hot water bottles over the next couple of weeks.

Handing out hot water bottles in the snow.

This year, I was thrilled when Princeton University Press decided to make the “Oxford Hot Water Bottle Project” one of the beneficiaries of its volunteering programme. PUP kindly funded the purchase of 360 hot water bottles, and my colleague Keira Andrews and I have been handing out freshly-filled hot water bottles to chilly Oxford citizens on particularly icy evenings this winter.

Whenever the temperature reaches freezing or below, the council actions its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP), meaning that shelters open their doors to anybody, not just those with a link to Oxford. The shelters’ aim during this time is to get as many people out of the cold as possible. However, there are lots of people who, for various reasons, prefer not to go to shelters even in sub-zero temperatures, and those are the people that we aim to help.

Rough sleepers can refill their hot water bottles at The Handle Bar, a wonderful bicycle-themed café on St Michael’s Street in Oxford. As well as serving utterly fantastic food in a lovely environment, they have also gracefully put up with filling dozens of hot water bottles for us so far, and have agreed to refill bottles for anyone who asks. The Handle Bar and its staff are an invaluable resource to us, and we are very grateful.

It is always very moving and humbling to spend a few hours connecting with people on the streets and trying to fathom what it must be like to feel cold for weeks and weeks on end. Hopefully, Princeton University Press’s partnership with The Handle Bar will bring relief and the promise of slightly more comfortable nights out in the cold to growing numbers of people.

–Katie Lewis, Senior Publicist, European Office

 

 

I Hear My People Singing: Voices of African American Princeton

I Hear My People Singing by Kathryn Watterson shines a light on a small but historic black neighborhood at the heart of one of the most elite and world-renowned Ivy-League towns—Princeton, New Jersey. The vivid first-person accounts of more than fifty black residents detail aspects of their lives throughout the twentieth century. Their stories show that the roots of Princeton’s African American community are as deeply intertwined with the town and university as they are with the history of the United States, the legacies of slavery, and the nation’s current conversations on race.

In the summer of 1999, Kathryn Watterson spoke with residents from the Witherspoon neighborhood in Princeton to talk about volunteer opportunities for students in one of her writing seminars. One of the men, Henry “Hank” Pannell, said, “Your poverty course sounds wonderful, but what we really want is an oral history of our community before it’s too late.” Below is an excerpt from one of Watterson’s interviews with Pannell in 2000.

(p. 67 – 70)

I guess everybody my age remembers Einstein from when we were kids. He used to give us nickels. And he used to talk to everybody in our community. I didn’t know as a kid that he was Einstein. Who, Einstein? But I realize now that he came in that community just to get away and to talk to people who would treat him as a regular guy. . . .

You know, there were such great people. We all grew up together. And it wasn’t just all black kids. There was the Servis family, the Cavanaugh family, the Toto family—we were all family. They were part of our crew, our little gang, our club. We used to all be together. They used to come to my house. We were at their houses. I remember my mother or grandmother got sick, their parents were right there. The same thing when Mrs. Cavanaugh got sick—my mother and grandmother were right there.

I wouldn’t trade one second of my childhood. I have so many fond memories of growing up here. . . . I really didn’t know anything about racism. I knew that we couldn’t go into like the Balt, the big cafeteria up on Nassau Street right where Hinkson’s and Burger King are, and Veidt’s, and places like that, you couldn’t go in. But we didn’t want to go no way. We had to go upstairs in the Garden Theatre, but we liked it upstairs. On Nassau Street, there was a little store called Cleve’s, and we used to go there, but we were treated like—you know. We knew we weren’t welcome in that store. I remember several incidents—one where he said, “You niggers, get out of here.”  So we bought our candy at a little store right around the corner—at Mr. Ball’s.

Mrs. Doris Burrell, who opened a hair salon in Princeton in 1944, spoke with Watterson’s student, Lauren Miller, in October 2000. Excerpts from that interview appear below.

(p. 266 – 267)

The fireworks started when it was time for our first child, Sondra, to start school in September of 1946. My husband went to segregated schools here [in Princeton], but I didn’t. So we talked it over, and I said, “No. This is ridiculous. . . . What right do they have that they can ask us to send our tax money up there? We live in Princeton, we’re paying taxes for our child’s education, and they’re supposed to educate her.” We decided she wasn’t going to school up on Quarry Street. I had nothing against the principal there or against blacks. It wasn’t that. It was just morally wrong. That’s all. So, we decided we were going to enroll our child at Valley Road School, where she was supposed to go. And that’s what we did. I went down, and . . . the principal was wonderful. It was almost like she was glad to see us. I thought that she was going to give us trouble, but she didn’t. She registered our daughter and made sure I had everything right. She had a little smile on her face like she was happy. And, so that was all done. . . .

There was a black woman who came to see me who worked as a maid at this very, very wealthy white woman’s house—one of the wealthiest white families in town. So she came and said, “Doris, I want to tell you . . . I think you’re making a mistake in sending your child down here to school. Because the woman I work for, she had a dinner party last night and they talked about this situation. [They said,] ‘Who does she think she is sending her child down to the Valley Road School? She thinks her daughter is going to go there, but she’s not.’  And she told her maid, because she knew she came to my hair salon, to tell me the same thing. So her maid said, ‘I don’t think you better let your child go to that school because you really don’t know what they’ll do to you.’”

I said, “You just go back and you tell them that I said, ‘Come hell or high water, our child is going to that school. I don’t care what it costs. We will take them to court for the rest of my life.’”  . . . Everybody was upset . . . I began to wonder about our human race. God makes birds of all kinds and animals and they all live their lives together.

Joseph Moore became Assistant Dean of Students at Princeton University in 1968, as part of President Robert Goheen’s attempts to diversify the campus. At the time Goheen reached out to him, Moore was leading an intensive program for black students in Trenton. His memories of that program appear below.

(p. 280)

Actually, when I graduated from Central State, I went to work for the Job Corps. I recognized it was a time that I had really seriously made my own decision—I couldn’t continue to live my mother’s dream. That was Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society Program. And we were taking kids from all over the country. It was in Edison, New Jersey, in the old Camp Kilmer. It was a military base that was built for returning GIs coming home from the Second World War, which they turned into a Job Corps center, where they gave kids vocational training experiences, all kinds of stuff—carpentry, plumbing, electrical stuff, construction, engineering types of things—as a way to put them back in the workforce and make them, I guess, dues-paying members of society. I was a group leader. I had sixty kids from all over the country. So, anyway, I did that for about a year and a half. From there, I went to Central High in Trenton and was recruited to create a school within a school using Outward Bound techniques.

Essentially what I did was create a program that went seven days a week, twenty-four-seven. We were not only in class seven days a week, but we were out every weekend, whether it be mountain climbing, canoeing, hiking, spelunking—you name it—all the kinds of stuff that Outward Bound was created for. It was an attempt to urbanize the Outward Bound concept. And so, I brought that concept to Trenton High. I had a staff of teachers who taught, and it also required the teachers to go out on weekends with us. And basically it was designed as another alternative to traditional education that was being offered in the urban setting.

We got raving reviews for our work and the program. We had kids who went on to college. I was pretty adamant about the fact that it wasn’t going to become a generalist program. If you climb a mountain, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be successful in urban life. But it does mean that it may give you enough character and enough strength to make some things not happen that would ordinarily happen.

Kathryn Watterson is a writer whose award-winning books include Women in Prison (Doubleday) and Not by the Sword (Simon & Schuster). She’s written for magazines, literary journals, and newspapers, including the New York Times and International Herald Tribune. She teaches creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, where she lives and drums. 

Carolyn Dever: Birth of a Queer Parent

This article was originally published by Public Books and is reprinted here with permission.

By virtue of their youth, trans and queer kids offer something new. Coming out today is less exclusively a narrative of young adulthood or middle age, and increasingly an experience of childhood or early adolescence. When kids embrace models of social identity newly available to their generation, the parents who love and care for them confront new forms of obligation, and even new forms of agency: with every queer child is born a queer parent.

But queer parenting doesn’t exist on its own. Queer parenting also means precarity parenting, as families face down a fragmented and insufficient system of supports while they attempt to optimize the conditions for their kids’ success. Queer identity and economic precarity have rewritten the conventional scripts of parenthood together.

Parents hold in their hands the capacity to reshape core concepts of social identity, a fact that runs directly counter to the understanding of the family as inherently conservative. In fact, parents make choices every day about how to raise their kids. Those choices are sensitive to the social and economic incentives that translate into opportunities for children to survive and thrive. Because their LGBTQ kids have changed the narrative of childhood gender and sexuality, parents find themselves at the live edge of social transformation.

Today, queer children and teenagers can be out and proud from a very early age. According to sociologist Mary Robertson, queerness offers kids the chance to express a range of nonnormative ways of being: capturing a rich mix of gender identity and sexuality, race and class, ability, and educational and work opportunities.[1.Mary Robertson, Growing Up Queer: Kids and the Remaking of LGBTQ Identity (NYU Press, 2018), pp. 5–6.] That fact is transformative to their families of origin, and from there outward to the conceptual contours of normative identity. One by one, and collectively, queer families demonstrate the futility of any effort to “erase” trans and queer identities.

Queer Parents and Social Agency

“It is rare to have an opportunity to watch an emergent social category in formation,” writes sociologist Tey Meadow in the landmark study Trans Kids: Being Gendered in the Twenty-First Century. Only in the last decade or so has gender nonconformity emerged as a serious challenge to the normative bureaucratic institutions that form children’s identities: doctor’s offices, schools, and social services; shops, dressing rooms, and bathrooms; proms and playing fields.

This represents the dramatic reorientation of gender identity from a fact of anatomy—it’s a girl!—to a private psychic expression particular to an individual, evolving uniquely over time within the life of each person. In Meadow’s eyes, this marks not a post-gender moment, when gender no longer matters, but gender’s proliferation: not the failure of a child to conform with one of two categories of gender identity, but the failure of categories themselves to capture the full diversity of gender expressions.

If gender nonconformity emerges not as the failure of gender but as its form, the parents of queer little kids become agents poised to dismantle the traditional sex/gender system. Meadow writes: “Parents are becoming ever more likely to fight for a child’s chosen identity, to contest the labeling practices of others, to engage in more directed interpersonal work to assist children in further articulating a discrete identity, to purchase clothing and toys that reinforce that identity, and to enlist social institutions in identity creation and maintenance.” Families operate alongside courts, schools, and the medical establishment as institutions that regulate normative categories of gender and sexuality in kids.

But in the past decade, administrative processes within such institutions have begun to adapt. Social shifts in understanding gender as psychological rather than anatomical have enabled parents to adopt modes of agency and advocacy on behalf of their kids. For many families this agency emerges in the context of vulnerability to state interventions that both reflect and exacerbate inequality.

The state is an active participant in the work of gendering, in both positive and negative ways: “On the one hand, the state confers recognition, in the form of legal name changes and gender changes, antidiscrimination protections, and disability rights paradigms (which can be particularly useful in schools). In this way, we can see gender as a resource distributed by the state. On the other hand, the state also both regulates and punishes deviance.”

At the same time as families are learning to manage state interventions in their kids’ gender nonconformity, they are increasingly exposed to the economic precarity that is in part a function of post-recession instabilities. On both fronts, the cold jaws of social and economic inequality loom, threatening to snap down and trap young kids for life.

Precarity and Parental Agency

When inequality is high, helicopter parents launch. When families are vulnerable to discrimination or poverty, ferocious parental ingenuity kicks in. And when social gains are available to a select few, parents will do whatever they can to ensure that their kids are prepared to benefit. Families and parenting are changing in more ways than one.

Parents parent differently in response to incentives and opportunities. In those areas of the globe that have witnessed the rise of income inequality over the last half century, parenting strategies have changed dramatically. Parents adapt their styles and strategies in order to optimize their kids’ opportunities—for survival, for success, for happiness—on a ladder of achievement that is increasingly perilous.

“The story often told about financial success in America is that slow and steady saving over a lifetime, combined with consistent hard work and a little luck, will ensure financial security, a comfortable retirement, and better opportunities for one’s children,” write Jonathan Morduch and Rachel Schneider in The Financial Diaries: How American Families Cope in a World of Uncertainty. Yet the lived experiences of families shred this myth, revealing instead an often silent precarity that Morduch and Schneider describe as “America’s hidden inequality.”

For generations, most families have not seen themselves reflected in the mirror of America’s dream. Surely “American’s hidden inequality” was not so very hidden to families of color, nor to queer or single-parent or poor households, nor to anyone outside the great mythology of aspiration. Indeed, the mechanics of parental aspiration in the US today are an outcome of decades and centuries of resourcefulness from families “other” to the normative middle-class ideal.

What has changed? Precarity is now a daily feature of the white, middle-class experience. Developments in technology and human capital distribution since the 1970s have extended financial fragility, and all its social implications, even more broadly. As Morduch and Schneider tell the story, the “Great Job Shift” of the last half century transferred risk from employers to workers, and power from workers to employers. Today, many workers lack a paycheck that is steady, predictable, and sufficient to meet basic needs—a development extended to US federal employees and contractors during the “Trump shutdown.”

Poor families earn less. But they are also subject to brutal income volatility, to unpredictable cycles of earning and expenses. Such vulnerability is increasingly common in the context of rising informality of working arrangements—unpredictable shift work, freelancers replacing full-timers, gig workers patching together a quilt of sidelines—that preserve all flexibility for the employer at the expense of the employed. Income volatility in turn produces extreme vulnerability to the cyclical needs of kids, such as childcare, school supplies, medicine, new shoes … college.

Critical events such as car or health problems are then devastating—though in many cases, vulnerability results in great creativity: “The families we met had developed a range of strategies for managing their cash-flow challenges, as well as for balancing their longer-term goals with their immediate and near-term financial needs … The strategies were often thoughtful and creative, helping families preserve their resources for their highest priorities.” Absent a social safety net, ingenuity makes a virtue of necessity.

It’s about cash-flow management. Programs that rethink the temporality of savings—emphasizing needs emerging sooner rather than later—can help families manage the peaks and valleys of unpredictable income. Strategies of borrowing and sharing among broader communities can insulate individual households from vulnerability, and also create a network of affective bonds: “Social meanings matter to households’ long-term financial decisions and even their day-to-day cash flows. Money is more than a symbol of financial worth, and people rarely make financial decisions based purely on math. Instead, money can be a way that people structure their choices and express their values.”

With ingenuity comes a rewriting of the rigid conventions of social identity associated with the “American dream.” At stake is survival in an inhospitable social field, rather than loyalty to a status quo that has come to strip most people of the capacity to thrive. Inequality, suggest Matthias Doepke and Fabrizio Zilibotti in Love, Money, and Parenting: How Economics Explains the Way We Raise Our Kids, has a powerful shaping force on the choices parents make, and how parents interact with their kids. Developmental psychologists generally understand three distinct approaches to parenting style: authoritarian, or strict and controlling; permissive, or oriented toward children’s independence; and a more hybrid approach, authoritative, based in reason and the development of values.[2.Doepke and Zilibotti adopt this framework from the developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind.]

Doepke and Zilibotti’s study asks why parents adopt a particular parenting strategy. What are the sensitivities that shape parental agency? And what strategies are most effective given the constraints and opportunities facing a family?

When inequality is high, intensive parenting styles—think helicopter parents or stereotypical Asian American tiger moms who take the authoritarian approach—undergird aspirations for upward mobility. In cultures with a flatter social terrain, greater equity among schools and universities, and a reliable social safety net, more permissive or laissez-faire parenting styles prevail. “When it comes to parenting,” write Doepke and Zilibotti, “incentives matter big time.” In a country like the United States, which has witnessed dramatic increases in inequality over the past 30 years, parenting has changed dramatically in turn: “Tiger and helicopter parenting grew increasingly popular just when inequality rose sharply.”

Based on those incentives, parents exercise extraordinary agency in the choices they make for their children. There is a direct correlation, Doepke and Zilibotti demonstrate, between prosperity and access to the full repertoire of choices available to parents, and between the stress of precarity or poverty and the social limits of parenting. All well-meaning parents “attempt to do what it takes to get their children to succeed, given the economic conditions in play.” Yet, in the authors’ words, the “parenting gap” in resources can turn into a “parenting trap” in outcomes, requiring ever more ingenuity and assertive action.

Economic conditions of the 21st century have rewritten the conventional scripts of parenthood and introduced new roadblocks on the way to security and prosperity for children. The social constraints of parental identity evolve in turn as parents invent and use new tools in their aspirational pursuits.

Queer Parenting, Precarity Parenting

What does it mean for kids to not just survive but thrive? To what social conventions are parents beholden when they act on behalf of their children’s futures?

In light of dramatic changes in social conventions of gender and sexuality, what it means to set a kid up for happiness looks different than it used to. Parents make choices on behalf of the well-being of their children every day, choices that are often creative or unconventional, and that are almost always deeply personal. Parents emerge as gender warriors when social possibilities of gendered identity begin to expand, and the health and prosperity of their trans kids depends on finding a place to thrive within that world.

Yet for those gender warriors, it’s early days. Within the ethnographic study that produced Trans Kids, Meadow’s own gender nonconformity and the identities of the study’s subjects remained a persistent topic of negotiation and scrutiny. Meadow describes “a peculiar kind of carnal sociology,” with the investigator’s identity clearly also in the mix. “Others’ reactions to my gender,” Meadow writes, “their assumptions, discomforts, and interests became an embodied ethnographic project. It was in these self-conscious moments that I believe I came closest to knowing the gender nonconforming child, by which I mean living the experience of having one’s body and identity be the object of a particular type of searching gaze, one tinged with worry, fear, expectation, sometimes hope.”

Subject to hyper-scrutiny, trans kids embody a charged form of epistemological uncertainty. It’s up to their parents to translate such a perceived instability at the core of a child’s self into a successful form of social identity—and by doing so, to support that child’s capacity to survive and thrive.

Parents, writes Meadow, “became ‘radical translators’ of the gender order; they leveraged gender expertise gleaned from the fields of education, psychology, medicine, and politics to convert their child’s subjective self-understandings into socially sanctioned forms of identity and personhood. At the same time, they engaged in tremendous emotional labor to present themselves, the primary conduits of expert knowledge, in ways that were culturally assimilable to the people who ran institutions.” Meadow maps various models of parent activism, including work to gain institutional access for children who transition from one category to another, and more radical work to expand the “constellation of options for childhood gender overall.”

If parents are the radical translators of the gender order, they are also the translators of the economic order: queer parenting and precarity parenting both recognize the prescriptive social order even as they work to loosen or undo its shaping power over children’s lives. Activist parents share a need to mitigate emotional and material risks, remaining inside normative social identities even as they attempt to change them: “From engaging in the gathering and tracking of evidentiary support for their parenting practices, to developing nuanced vocabularies for communicating with children and other adults, to the monitoring of their child’s expressive conduct in public, assessing and responding to uncertainty became an automatic feature of how they parented.”

There are few role models for trans kids’ adult identities: “Older transgender people,” writes Meadow, “did not have the same kinds of transitions as contemporary trans youth,” because social discourses of gender (non)conformity have gradually moved backward into childhood. It’s a moon shot for parents fighting for a future for their gender-nonconforming kids, creating social space and personhood in a way that has never before existed. The social category of trans youth is truly new to this generation. It has emerged against the backdrop of a modern economic order in which the stakes of inequality are sharper every year.

“These families are dismantling the sex/gender system as we know it,” writes Meadow. Theirs is a 21st-century story of modernity, told against the backdrop of inequality and uncertainty. It is also a story of agency, with a child’s future happiness and prosperity at stake. Moved by social and economic incentives, parents who were once gatekeepers of the status quo have stepped forward as agents of its potential transformation.

Featured image: Mother and Child (2018). Photograph by Bruno Nascimento / Unsplash. 

  1. Mary Robertson, Growing Up Queer: Kids and the Remaking of LGBTQ Identity(NYU Press, 2018), pp. 5–6.
  2. Doepke and Zilibotti adopt this framework from the developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind. 

This article was commissioned by Caitlin Zaloom.

The Rise of the Audiobook

PUP AudioOnce considered a format predominantly for the visually impaired, audiobooks have become increasingly popular in recent years.  According to Publishing Perspectives, “a six-year trend of double-digit growth in audiobook sales continues in the US [and] … audiobook sales [in 2017] totaled more than $2.5 billion”. In the UK, “audiobook sales are continuing to rocket, with a number of the biggest publishers in the space confirming they are still experiencing “strong double-digit growth” year on year” according to The Bookseller.

In addition to being a publicist in PUP’s European office, I am also a passionate consumer of audiobooks. This has let me to wonder: what has wrought this relatively sudden increase in what many had written off as a dying format, gathering dust in the form of bulky CD box sets? Well, put simply; the smartphone. After Apple released the iPhone, it was possible to have a library of fiction and factual knowledge in your pocket.

The audio industry has kept pace with others when it comes to digitizing content, and a vast array of titles can be downloaded when out and about in a matter of seconds. Most audio consumption is now done through apps, either by a subscription model where you get a certain number of credits per month (from companies such as Audible – Amazon’s audio platform and the biggest in the field – and Libro.fm), from public libraries where you can listen for free but may have to wait for a book (such as Hoopla and OverDrive’s Libby) or on an all-you-can-eat monthly subscription model such as Scribd and Hibooks.

Audiobooks are popular for several reasons: many people find it easier to ingest information aurally rather than visually; you can make your way through the complete works of Dickens whilst doing your weekly housework or other chores; audiobooks are great for driving, exercising and other tasks that couldn’t be done whilst reading a book. There is evidence that some people use the companionship of an audiobook to combat loneliness. I personally find that familiar audiobooks can be very comforting when travelling abroad alone, and can even calm my nerves whilst sitting in the dentist’s chair!                          

Under the leadership of our Digital and Audio Publisher, Kimberley Williams, Princeton University Press embarked on a new audiobook program in 2018, releasing our first in-house audiobook, On the Future: Prospects for Humanity by UK Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and narrated by Samuel West in October. This was followed by Michael Rosen’s edited collection of Workers’ Tales: Socialist Fairy Tales, Fables, and Allegories from Great Britain and a handful of other great titles. One of the joys of audio is finding the right narrator for each book, and we had great fun with Workers’ Tales, casting a wonderful group of narrators, including Samuel West, the inimitable Miriam Margolyes, and Michael Rosen himself.

In December 2018, I was thrilled to travel to Bath to the recording studios of PUP’s audio partner, Sound Understanding. I was there to witness Juliet Stevenson, star of stage and screen and one of the UK’s most beloved audiobook narrators, recording her first audiobook for us, Why Nationalism by Yael Tamir. I was interested to find out how audiobooks are recorded, how a narrator prepares for recording, and whether some books lend themselves to audio more so than others.

I visited the studio on the third day of recording, just as Juliet was finishing up her narration and recording some of the retakes, which allowed her the time to speak with me about the recording process. Juliet explained that these days, they record using the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” method, which means that if you “fluff” your words, you simply start again from the beginning of that sentence or paragraph, and the producer will cut the fluffed line out later on. (This explains the many times I have heard repeated sentences in audiobooks over the years – clearly missed by less vigilant producers!)

As for preparation, Juliet admitted that she doesn’t always finish the book before starting to record, but she always reads the section she is recording beforehand, in order to prepare the tone and rhythm as intended by the author. Then, she says, you have to prepare the characters: “In my head I often cast them . . . I might think of an actor, or I might think of . . . the lollipop lady on the street outside my kids’ school, I might think of a school mum . . . and then I cast him or her in my head, and then it’s a very quick jump” from character to character in a big scene.

Juliet’s main advice to an author writing a book with a view to it being recorded as an audiobook was to “Think about the rhythm of the spoken word . . . maybe when you’re writing, occasionally pick a random paragraph or two or three, and read them out loud and see how the rhythms are working when they’re read out loud . . . think musically”. However, she did not feel entitled to give too much direction to authors as she firmly believes that the role of the narrator is “not to get in the way of the writer . . . not [to] impose your own response to the story in between the writer and the listener . . . You’re delivering it up for the listener. The listener and the writer are the two most important people”.

My visit to the Sound Understanding studios showed how much work goes into making an audiobook; from finding the right narrator in the casting process, to the narrator’s careful preparation and casting of voices for characters, to the careful editing after recording, and much more.

Princeton University Press’s audiobook program is off to a strong start, and we have a great list of titles lined up for audio next season. Kimberley intends to grow PUP’s audiobook publishing year on year, through publishing and licensing, with the aim of making at least 65 books available each year in audio. As a passionate audiobook listener, I am excited about this new chapter in PUP’s publishing, and look forward to consuming many more PUP books in this wonderful format.

The full interview with Juliet Stevenson will be available shortly

–Katie Lewis, Senior Publicist, UK

 

Rebecca Bengoechea on the Guadalajara Book Fair

Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico: the home of mariachi, tequila, and since 1987, the Feria del Libros Internacional (FIL), Latin America’s premier bookfair. This year, PUP’s Rights team were delighted to visit for the first time.

The fair boasts publishers from over 44 countries, from the bigger markets of Argentina, Brazil and of course Mexico, all the way down to Panama, Costa Rica and Uruguay. There were stands converted into bookshops, from the colossal stands of publishers such as Planeta or Fondo de Cultura, to the tiny used and antique English-language book shop. The Guest of Honour this year was Portugal, and we were thrilled to see that there were a number of Portuguese publishers who made the trip. The fair’s professional days of Monday-Wednesday are book-ended by the fair being open to the public, and this dynamic really lent a special atmosphere to the events, with children and enthusiastic students reminding us why we are all in the book business!

Following a visit to Spain back in May where I was able to explore the Spanish market, I was very eager to broaden my scope further to Latin America and the Spanish speaking market. As with PUP’s recent attentions in China, any chance to increase our presence in Latin America goes a long way to making PUP a truly global press.

We were guided by PUP’s new Director for Rights, Contracts, and Permissions, Ines ter Horst, who had attended the fair before and who has extensive contacts in the different markets. We were based in the Rights Centre, but also took meetings on various publisher’s stands, attended some very important wine & empanada (Argentina) and rum & chocolate (Venezuelan/Chilean) networking events, and the wonderful reception at the biggest bookshop in Guadalajara, the Libreria de Carlos Fuentes.

It was an immersive experience; a whirlwind of meetings, receptions, a fantastic programme of talks, food, not to mention the all-important salsa music that lent the fair a truly Latin flavour. Unlike other book fairs such as Frankfurt where our intensive schedules are usually fully-booked months in advance, Guadalajara’s charm was a more relaxed atmosphere that allowed us to capitalise on spontaneous opportunities and meet with people we would otherwise not have encountered. Our days were still filled, but with more in-depth discussions, market research, and crucially invaluable networking that we hope will bear fruit in the years to come.  

The Rights team were there, as with the other annual book fairs we attend, primarily with the aim of meeting with publishers from various countries, promoting our books, and discussing the possibilities for translation licenses. We were also able to wear various other hats during the fair; embracing discussions about the sales and distribution of our English language books, the developments in Print On Demand schemes in Latin America, and listening to news of Spanish language projects that our editors might want to acquire and publish with PUP.

The fair was full of energy, optimism, fun, and the spirit of collaboration. It provided wonderful insights into a vast and vibrant Spanish-speaking ecosystem, perhaps too often neglected by the Anglophone world. The enthusiasm was infectious and we came away filled with excitement, already frantically planning our return next year where we hope to make an even bigger splash.

Larks at Birdfair

As I write, it’s Monday morning after the glorious Birdfair 2018 weekend. I am propping my eyes open with matchsticks and trying to fit back in to the normality of my office job, after a fabulous weekend with the Princeton WILDGuides team, along with thousands of other nature lovers.

In case anyone reading this is not already fully aware of Birdfair, it is the British Birdwatching Fair – the Birdwatching Glastonbury – an annual event for birdwatchers and nature lovers. Set on the nature reserve at Rutland Water, UK, Birdfair offers a packed programme of lectures, events, and talks, and of course hundreds of stands selling the latest products for wildlife enthusiasts: everything from scopes to sculptures, binoculars to bird food, eGuides to eco-holidays.

So, what did we get up to?

As publishers of some of the very best natural history books and field guides of course PUP were there in our usual stand in marquee 5. This year the team were sporting new green T-shirts promoting both the WILDGuides imprint and the newly published How to be an Urban Birder.

We supported our various authors who gave talks in the Author Forum (sponsored jointly by Princeton WILDGuides,

Katrina van Grouw on the lecture stage.

WildSounds bookseller, and Bloomsbury), followed by book signings.

  • David Lindo (How to be an Urban Birder), a charismatic speaker, charmed the audience with tales of urban birding from his childhood to today: watching peregrine falcons over London, eagles flying over Edinburgh, and Bearded Tits in Kensington Gardens.
  • Michael Brooke’s (Far from Land) talk about what seabirds get up to when far from land was riveting and occasionally astonishing – not least when Michael treated us to a bit of a rap about Ross’s Gulls (written by Mark Maftei on a forlorn Arctic island).
  • Katrina van Grouw (Unnatural Selection), always a fascinating speaker, talked to us about evolution, most particularly at the hand of man, accompanied by slides showing her exquisite artwork.

Our Natural History Editor Robert Kirk and our WILDGuides editors Andy Swash and Rob Still (Britain’s Birds) had copious meetings to discuss books – at various stages of gestation. And I managed to meet up with lots of my contacts in the world of wildlife magazines.

Visual proof that we like to start our birdwatchers young!

We also celebrated both the publication of How to be an Urban Birder and our presence at Birdfair with a reception. It was a happy and relaxed gathering of supporters – authors, colleagues, and friends.

As our contribution to the Birdfair raffle we donated a full set of the Britain’s WILDGuides series. This year Birdfair was raising money for the Flamingo Protection programme for Mar Chiquita in Argentina – supporting the creation of Argentina’s largest national park, in the process providing a refuge for nearly a million flamingos and shorebirds.

The marquees are now struck, the WILDGuides team (and the thousands of nature lovers) have dispersed to our various homes happy to know that lots of books were sold (How to be an Urban Birder more or less sold out across the site), old friends were embraced, a lot of contacts were renewed, new contacts were made, plans for new books were hatched, and Princeton University Press’s place in the natural history world remains firmly fixed.

SUMIT 2018: A math collaboration

by C. Kenneth Fan
President and Founder of Girls’ Angle, an organization that connects mentors with girls who love math

For decades, math extracurricular activity in the United States has been dominated by the math competition. I, myself, participated in and enjoyed math competitions when I was growing up. Many school math clubs are centered on math contest prep. Today, there are dozens upon dozens of math competitions. While many students gain much from math competitions, many others, for a variety of good reasons, do not find inspiration in math competitions to do more math, and the best way to learn math is to do math.

When I founded Girls’ Angle over ten years ago, a main task was to create new, non-competitive, mathematically compelling avenues into math that appeal to those who, for whatever reason, may not be so inspired by math competitions. To celebrate the end of our first year, we baked a brownie for the girls, but it wasn’t a rectangular brownie—it was a trapezoid, and nobody could have any brownie until members figured out how to split the brownie into equal pieces for all. We were counting on them to succeed because we wanted brownie!

It became a Girls’ Angle tradition to celebrate the conclusion of every semester with a collaborative math Single Digitspuzzle, and every semester the puzzle has grown more elaborate. It finally dawned on me that these collaborative end-of-session math puzzles could well serve as robust, mathematically-intense, but fully collaborative alternatives to the math competition. To directly contrast the concept with that of the math competition, we called these events “math collaborations.” On January 21, 2012, after 4 years of in-house development, we took the concept out of Girls’ Angle with SUMIT 2012, which took place at MIT in conjunction with MIT’s Undergraduate Society of Women in Mathematics. Then, on March 7, 2012, the Buckingham, Browne, and Nichols Middle School became the first school to host a math collaboration. The success of these events led to annual math collaborations at Buckingham, Browne, and Nichols, and, to date, over 100 other math collaborations at schools, libraries, and other venues, such as Girl Scout troops.

The upcoming SUMIT 2018 is going to be our biggest and best math collaboration ever. For girls in grades 6-10, participants will be put in a predicament from which they must extricate themselves using the currency of the world they’ll find themselves immersed in: mathematics! They must self-organize and communicate well as there will be no one to help them but themselves. It’ll be an epic journey where participants must become the heroines of their own saga.

Should they succeed, they’ll be rewarded with the knowledge of genuine accomplishment—and gifts, such as Marc Chamberland’s captivating book, Single Digits: In Praise of Small Numbers courtesy of long-time SUMIT sponsor Princeton University Press.

The best way to learn math is to do math, and what better way to do math than to do it while laughing out loud and making new friends?

There are a limited number of spots still available for 9th and 10th graders. Register today!

Paul Strode: Teaching The Serengeti Rules

CarrollIn January of 2016 I was asked by Laura Bonetta at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to write a teacher’s guide for the short film Some Animals Are More Equal than Others: Keystone Species and Trophic Cascades. At the same time, Molecular Biologist Sean B. Carroll, the HHMI Vice President of Science Education, was putting the finishing touches on his new book, The Serengeti Rules. To help expedite my research for writing the teacher’s guide for the short film, Laura sent me a pre-pub copy of the book and suggested I read Chapter Six: “Some Animals Are More Equal than Others.”

Instead of going straight to Chapter Six, I started reading from the beginning.

Before I was even halfway through the first chapter, I thought to myself, this book is going to change the way I teach. At the core of Carroll’s storytelling is the observation that everything is regulated, from molecules to megafauna. Indeed, for most of my career teaching biology I have kept my focus on Theodosius Dobzhansky’s argument that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” But Carroll has now made it clear that nothing in biology also makes sense except in the light of regulation.

To make a long story short, I wrote the short film teachers guide with the help of Chapter Six in The Serengeti Rules and immediately followed that task by reviewing the book for The American Biology Teacher so that other teachers might benefit from reading the book. In my review, I argued that The Serengeti Rules “should be required reading for students in all fields of science, but especially those pursuing careers in biology education.” My review caught the attention of Carroll’s editor at Princeton University Press, Alison Kalett. Alison was curious to know if teachers like me that planned to use Carroll’s book to enhance their biology courses would find it useful if educational supplementary materials were made available… for free. Alison and I came up with a plan and I began to write.

The Serengeti Rules came out in March of 2016 and one of Carroll’s first public discussions about the book was at the annual Professional Development Conference of the National Association of Biology Teachers in Providence, Rhode Island. Several hundred teachers showed up to hear from Dr. Carroll and it was standing room only. As word got out that supplementary materials were being prepared for Carroll’s book, inquiries began to pop up on social media.

Carroll

The Educational Supplement was released in May and is a document that a teacher can use immediately in the classroom.

Carroll

The questions come in various styles and are designed to invoke classroom discussion, require students to synthesize and connect various biological concepts, get students to engage with ecological data from the published journal articles, and have students analyze and graph data that relate to what they are reading in The Serengeti Rules. For example, the question below relates to Chapter Four of The Serengeti Rules, “Fat, Feedback, and a Miracle Fungus.” The question can be used as a formative assessment question that marries real data with the nature of science and covers several components of the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate biology course content.

Carroll

Teachers have already begun planning to use The Serengeti Rules to enhance their courses and since the release of the supplement have expressed their gratitude that it is available and free!

Carroll

And of course, I have assigned The Serengeti Rules as summer reading for my 65 AP/IB biology students and I am looking forward to using the questions in the fall to incite discussion and enhance learning and understanding.

Thank you, Sean B. Carroll, for giving us The Serengeti Rules!

Happy birthday to Anni Albers

Today is Anni Albers’s birthday! Born in Berlin in 1899, she began her studies at the Bauhaus in Weimar when she was 22 years old. Here in the weaving workshop she first began working on the loom and learning her way with threads. Over the course of her 60-year career she would become one of the most innovative and influential textile artists of the 20th century, creating subtle abstract works of art, bold wall hangings, and sophisticated architectural fabrics, in addition to experimental jewelry and prints all tied together in her highly original voice. Albers became an expert on the history of weaving as well as an influential advocate for its future and the potential of new materials. She gathered her findings in her pivotal 1965 book On Weaving. On the occasion of her 118th birthday we’re thrilled to announce a new, expanded, full-color edition of On Weaving, out this September from Princeton University Press and available now by pre-order. Happiest birthday Anni!
 
 

Images: (1) Anni Albers, Europe, 1930-33, photograph by Josef Albers. (2) Cover of the new edition of Anni Albers’s “On Weaving” (3) Anni Albers, Display material sample, 1949, cotton, silk, lurex, and metallic foil. Collection Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2017 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/ARS, NY