APRIL 2020
A letter from the Director
“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”

— Sue Monk Kidd, Author of The Secret Life of Bees
In these trying times, the art of storytelling is more important than ever. At SUNY Press, we have had most of our daily routines uprooted, but we’re still doing everything we can to keep sharing the kinds of stories that are important to our readers. Many of our stories are fact based, the culmination of years of hard work by the researchers and scholars working in the fields for which we publish. In this issue of our newsletter, we’re highlighting one of those authors, Julie Shayne, who recently wrote a featured article for Ms. about the importance of research in the field of Women’s Studies. Check out Michael Campochiaro’s interview with Julie about her experience writing for Ms. below. And here’s the shameless plug: we are the proud publisher of Julie’s groundbreaking book Taking Risks , which narrates the stories of activist scholarship by women.

While we’re known for our scholarly publications, other stories we tell at SUNY Press are intended for a general readership. For example, our Excelsior Editions shine a light on the cultural, historical, and rich literary traditions found right here in the Empire State. We also publish a lot of amazing fiction, such as You Who Enter Here , by Erika T. Wurth, a finalist for the 2019 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award in the Multicultural Fiction category. Fanzine calls Erika’s latest novel “a striking, heartbreaking blend of romance and violence.” You can read more about the genesis of her book below.

In a previous life, I was a marketing director for Pearson/Penguin, and I had the good fortune to organize and accompany Sue Monk Kidd on a multi-campus book tour. One of the schools we visited had recently completed a “one book” program, where all the students had read The Secret Life of Bees , and the faculty had invited Sue to come to campus to meet the students and to judge a competition of essays, speeches, and poster displays that were sparked by their experience reading her book. Watching that competition and getting the chance to see the power that books have to inspire other amazing stories is a memory that I will always cherish.

We have so many amazing stories that come to us at SUNY Press that we decided to change our newsletter format so we could begin to share a few of them with you. I hope you like it, and I’d really like to encourage you to share your stories with us. If you have an idea for a book project, we have some great information on our website to get you started, and I know our editors would love to hear from you!
 
Tim Stookesberry is the new Director of SUNY Press. Prior to joining the team, Tim spent many years in higher education publishing as a salesperson, editor, and marketer, and he can be reached at tim.stookesberry@sunypress.edu.
Julie Shayne on why Women's Studies matters
SUNY Press's Michael Campochiaro recently talked with Julie Shayne, editor of Taking Risks: Feminist Activism and Research in the Americas , about her recent Ms. article on why Women's Studies programs will always be critically important.

Michael: Your UW faculty bio begins, “I knew I wanted to become a professor a couple of weeks into my first Women’s Studies class.” That intrigues me. Can you tell us what sparked your future career goals from taking that first class in Women’s Studies?

Julie: Well, I was raised by very progressive Jewish parents, including a very feminist mom. Jews are known for speaking our minds and my parents always encouraged that in me. Combine that with having a feminist role model, a lefty dad, and hippy stepdad and you have a good recipe to go in the direction I did. I started college the first time in 1984, in the middle of the wars in Central America and threw myself head first into the Salvadoran solidarity movement. (I was in southern California so there were at least a half a million Salvadoran refugees there, most of whom were being denied safe passage due to Reagan administration foreign and domestic policies.) So, I decided to drop out of college the first time and join the solidarity movement full time to denounce US intervention in El Salvador. I did that for a few years and eventually moved to San Francisco and enrolled in San Francisco State University and took all Women’s Studies   and Ethnic Studies classes. Since I came in with my feminist upbringing and on the heels of being a political organizer the classes just spoke to me. I couldn’t believe I was “required” to read books about Black women musicians and how their music was related to protest. (That was in a class with Angela Davis.) Who on earth would not enjoy something like that? Women, music, AND protest??? Three of my favorite things! When you take Women’s Studies classes you are learning about resistance by the very nature that the classes exist.

I had just spent years organizing against massive injustice so I loved being in spaces that were a continuation of resistance but from a different angle. These classes didn’t come out of nowhere. Women’s and all marginalized peoples’ histories make it into the classroom because people fought to get them there, and I think I must have been partly aware of that. And I wanted to contribute to that.

SFSU was awesome because I really did all of my general education requirements, not including the natural sciences, in Ethnic Studies, so if I wasn’t in a Women’s Studies class I was in an Ethnic Studies one, and my Women’s Studies department was completely rooted in Black feminist and WOC theory. I just loved everything I read and wrote about in all of my classes, so I knew I wanted to stay in college forever and I knew I wanted to impart that feeling onto others. I also knew I wanted to teach at a school like SFSU, which is a public school and at least when I was there, had a lot of so-called nontraditional students, which I was, meaning “older,” and/or first-gen, more racially diverse, etc. My first job out of grad school was very much the opposite of SFSU but where I teach now is very similar but with Seattle-area demographics rather than demographics for the San Francisco Bay area.

In the article that you wrote recently for Ms. ( “The Trump Era Proves That Women’s Studies Matters” ), you mention how Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies (GWSS) are necessary for accountability. Can you elaborate?

Well, in that piece I was thinking a lot about the media and how much they have NOT covered with respect to Trump’s misogynistic behavior, political appointments, and policies. First, to be clear, I work from Professor Kate Manne’s definition of misogyny, where she argues that misogyny is not about hating women, but rather punishing and policing us when we stray from the patriarchal path to which we have been assigned. ( Manne is also a GWSS prof , at Cornell University.) So, for example, we know that at least twenty-four women have accused the sitting president of sexual assault, including rape, and we knew of almost all of those prior to the 2016 elections. How is it possible that every news story did not begin with some mention of those accusations? How did every debate moderator or one-on-one interviewer not say to Trump the candidate, “Mr. Trump, if you cannot respect the law that tells you that you cannot touch or encroach upon another woman (or any person) without her explicit consent, and you thus cannot respect the bodily integrity of potentially over half of the world’s population, why should we believe that you are capable of respecting any law and serving as the president of the United States, arguably the most powerful person in the world?” A journalist trained in GWSS knows how to ask these questions. Or they know how to write stories that show the question wasn’t asked and insert it in the text regardless. A presidential candidate accused of rape is a major deal. And now, we see he has since been impeached because he does see himself as above the law, not just with respect to women’s bodily integrity but with respect to everything. Is the connection coincidental?

If we take it to the primaries, a GWSS trained press would not have allowed the coverage of Elizabeth Warren to go as it did. Why the outpouring of love and praise for her AFTER she dropped out (or was pushed out)? Yes she deserved all the praise but did the press not see her competence until she was gone? I can’t even count the number of times I heard pundits scratching their heads saying things like “it’s so odd that she’s not doing better; her policies are so similar to Bernie Sanders'; she’s so much more articulate than Biden.” Someone trained in GWSS could offer you a gendered analysis about everything from the bar being way higher for women, and then when we meet those expectations we intimidate people, and on and on. She couldn’t show up to a debate (or everywhere) with messy hair. She couldn’t forget what office she was running for. The pundits shouldn’t have been scratching their heads; they should have been taking a class about misogyny. There are a lot of very depressed feminists right now feeling like we may never see a woman president if such a brilliant, articulate, and, yes, likable woman can’t do it, then who can?

I imagine the Trump presidency has offered plenty of discussion points in your GWSS classes these last several years. How have you approached teaching in these politically turbulent and troubling times?

Well, my students have always told me that I’m passionate, so I don’t know that much has changed beyond I don’t have to look very far for examples. It’s very easy to explain what patriarchy and misogyny are now. It’s very easy to show students things like how normalized violence against women is: whether it comes in the form of mass shootings by incels in Santa Barbara, femicide in Mexico, rape culture on their own campus, inaccessible abortion across the US, high infant mortality rates for Black women, or the unending poverty in which single mothers live. And I’ve always taught from an intersectional perspective so it’s just much easier for students to see the connections now. Every day, literally, we have a new example that they have likely heard of, they just need GWSS profs to put a name to what they are seeing.

I teach mostly about the Global South, so often students expect to feel like “I sure am glad I live here and not there …” but it doesn’t really work that way, especially now. I’ve never let students leave my classes thinking that. My classes are all about resistance, or what I call badass women. So students learn about inordinate amounts of injustice and equally intense resistance movements. They are starting to see that things are quite upside down with respect to gender equity in this country as well, something that many students didn’t realize until pretty recently.

Finally, how do you go about making the case for the importance of GWSS at a time when the term “fake news” has become normalized to such an alarming degree?

I think there are some people who will never, ever believe that GWSS is real. Those people are unreachable. Some would say they are the ones that need to take our classes the most. True, but it’s up to them to find them; our classes typically fill so it’s not like we have to recruit students. GWSS classes do usually meet what’s called “diversity requirements” or other types of GEs, so you always get students who take them because they have to, not because they want to, and you’ll always get students who are totally wowed at how much they learned and will admit that they expected it to be fluff and it was so much harder etc., etc., etc. But there are some people who will believe until they die that gender is biologically determined and if you are unwilling to accept the decades of social and physical science that has categorically and repeatedly proved that that is not the case, it is very hard to get anywhere in GWSS. Students and nonstudents alike who believe “that’s just the way it is; women are the weaker sex, they’re the caretakers, etc,” are therefore saying that patriarchy is biologically determined, so they are unreachable. And I have had students drop classes after the first day when I explain gender is socially constructed because it was obvious to them that that wouldn’t match the rest of their life’s narrative.

We just have to accept that we can’t reach everyone and that is fine. And when we do teach and write we always, always have to have evidence based on solid research and credible sources to back up whatever we present. I teach my students to research in a lot of my classes and we spend a lot of time talking about credible sources and evidence. We talk about the difference between opinion and analysis. My students know my opinion on pretty much everything. And I tell them they don’t have to agree with any of it but what I assign is not opinion, it’s analysis, scholarly analysis based on credible research and evidence. Some people won’t consider a lot of types of evidence GWSS scholars consider credible to actually be credible and I can’t change that. I personally think that is their loss and they are shutting themselves out from a lot of very interesting histories and stories by refusing to accept that evidence comes in many different shapes.

Julie Shayne is a Principal Lecturer in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences and the co-Faculty Coordinator of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington Bothell. She is author/editor of three books, including one with SUNY, Taking Risks: Feminist Activism and Research in the Americas. She is currently working on an open access zine to celebrate 50 years of GWSS, which includes contributions from faculty and students representing twenty different GWSS programs across the Americas and Africa. 
Erika Wurth's journey to writing You Who Enter Here
Kirkus Reviews described Erika T. Wurth's novel, You Who Enter Here , as "A dark story of crime, addiction, and homelessness among young Native Americans whose only escape is by way of the grave … The book is spattered with violence and its aftereffects, but not a bit seems out of place. Expertly told; a well-crafted portrait of lives lived without hope in the shadow of death.”

Below, and in her own words, Erika tells the story behind the book, which she notes was "rejected by every single big five, big, and strong indie press generally for being too dark. Or too vulgar. Or not Indian enough." Her journey towards writing the book, like the book itself, makes the personal feel universal.
It took me over a decade to finish, and then publish, my first novel, Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend , a coming-of-age story about a Native American girl living in a small town forty-five minutes from Denver, Colorado. Part of that was because, well, I didn’t know what I was doing. The other part, after I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote countless times, was that when I finally ended up with an agent one that was far more high-powered than I understood at the time it was rejected by every single big five, big, and strong indie press generally for being too dark. Or too vulgar. Or not Indian enough (which, man, what does that even mean?). When it was finally accepted by an up-and-coming indie, the reviews were similar when it was published: too dark, too vulgar, and not Indian enough.

The book did okay though, but I had to eventually accept that although Americans love poverty porn, they don’t like realistic portrayals of Indians that organically tell a story, ones that don’t overexplain Indian-ness, whether it’s set on a reservation, or in an urban setting. I just had to accept that I was the writer that I was, an Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee woman with a white dad, who’d grown up in between two small towns outside of Denver. And that I’d been trained to write about my own world, imaginatively and poetically, and that if that wasn’t enough, fine.

But I’d started another novel, after finishing the first version of Crazy Horse , years and years before the publication of Crazy Horse . And I had to keep putting it down, again and again, to rewrite the first. It was about a young man named Matthew who’d grown up in a small, New Mexico town, Cortez, whose mother drank, whose father had abandoned him, and who was pulled into a gang, like so many Natives are, and who ended up paying for it mightily. It was a sad novel. A dark novel. Apparently I hadn’t learned my lesson the first time. But once the first novel was out into the world, I focused on finishing the second, with the idea that I would be happy to give it to the indie that had published my first novel. But there was an agent that I’d talked to about the first novel who had given me some helpful advice. I wanted to thank him. He told me he’d love to see the novel I was working on when I was done. We signed. And off to the big presses it went, though I told him, they are going to find this too dark. They did. I tried to get him to send it to more indies, but he wasn’t interested. And the press I’d published with the first time had a new acquisitions editor, and her tastes were far, far more delicate than the first editor’s. I nearly gave up, whining on social media, when the new editor of fiction at SUNY emailed me. SUNY took my book, and one other.

You Who Enter Here is a sad book. But who else will write about the Matthews in this country? The sweet, vulnerable boys and girls who are suffering in their homes, and just need a place to feel safe, a place where they can feel they belong, a place where they are given father or mother figures for the first time in their lives? Matthew lives to drink. That is darkness. And it touches on stereotype, something I worried deeply about. But I worried more about not talking about the fact that gangs are a part of Indian country, on the rez, in the cities, in the small towns, where no one seems to understand we exist. I wanted to show Matthew’s tenderness, his love for his sister, his quiet ways, his multi-tribal background something that is also lost, and that matters, in the current age of Native letters. Matthew reads, and he loves to read Dante especially, and he decided long ago that his life was not worth living. I know this darkness. Not as well as Matthew does, but I know it. And so many in Indian country know it, and deserve to see some kind of realistic, complex portrayal of that darkness, that pain, that tenderness. And we all need to see that Matthew deserves to live. He deserves a better life. That he is more than that man on the street to be feared, that he is as human and frail as the rest of us, our own daughters and sons. That the men we see in gangs, or who are homeless were once someone’s child. We need to see that when someone like Matthew finally understands that he was not born to die, that this is exactly when America exacts its price.

Right now, we are watching people wake up to the fact that a virus is about to devastate the entire planet it won’t eradicate us, but it will change us, it will scar us. And we are already seeing such terrible acts of selfishness. But we’re seeing love too. And as the darkness falls, I hope that there will be more love, more tenderness for each other, and especially for the Matthews in this world. They are the most vulnerable, and have been for a long, long time. I hope we will read. And that we will allow for darkness in the light. Because when the light comes again, we are going to need to remember. 

Erika T. Wurth  is Professor of Creative Writing at Western Illinois University. She is the author of one previous novel,  Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend ; two collections of poetry,  Indian Trains  and  A Thousand Horses Out to Sea ; and a collection of short stories,  Buckskin Cocaine . She is Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee and was raised outside of Denver.
Award Nominees and Winners
Several SUNY Press books have recently won or been named as nominees for awards. Here's a rundown of these books, and to each author or editor involved we say, "Congratulations!"
Childhood beyond Pathology: A Psychoanalytic Study of Development and Diagnosis by Lisa Farley is the winner of the 2020 Outstanding Book Award, presented by Division B (Curriculum Studies) of the American Educational Research Association. The award committee were particularly struck not only by Farley’s command of psychoanalytic traditions and their long connections to curriculum studies as a field but also the deft ways that she brought those understandings into critical examinations of fields often overlooked in psychoanalytic approaches: critical Black feminisms, critical Indigenous studies, and critical dis/abilities studies, for example. Were this not enough, the committee found her approach to be at once clear and incisive, a book as at home in a doctoral course as in an undergraduate teacher preparation program where complicating notions of childhood and schooling are much needed.
(Taken from the email from the committee to the author)
You Who Enter Here by Erika T. Wurth is a finalist for the 2020 Colorado Book Award in the Literary Fiction category, presented by the Colorado Center for the Book and a 2019 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award in the Multicultural Fiction category. You Who Enter Here was also selected for the ITM Top Ten and Fiction Recommendation List for 2020.
In addition to Erika’s book, we have three other titles that are finalists for the 2019 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards. More than 2,000 entries spread across 55 genres were submitted for consideration. The   list of finalists   was determined by  Foreword ’s editorial team. Winners are now being decided by teams of librarian and bookseller judges from across the country.

Trans People in Higher Education edited by Genny Beemyn, in the LGBTQ category.
Winners in each genre—along with Editor’s Choice Prize winners and Foreword ’s Independent Publisher of the Year— will be announced June 17, 2020 .
Writing in Witness: A Holocaust Reader by Eric J. Sundquist was a finalist for the 2019 National Jewish Book Award in the Anthologies and Collections Category, presented by the Jewish Book Council. The Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards were estab­lished by the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil in 1950 in order to rec­og­nize out­stand­ing works of Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture. It is the longest-run­ning awards pro­gram of its kind.
An Archive of the Catastrophe: The Unused Footage of Claude Lanzmann's Shoah by Jennifer Cazenave is an Honorable Mention for the 2020 Best First Book Award, presented by the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. Since 1971, SCMS has annually honored the year’s best in cinema and media studies scholarship, teaching, and professional service. We are currently offering a 30% discount with coupon code ZSCM20 through May 5, 2020.