Jeanie Thompson’s The Myth of Water

After we distributed a link to our Spring 2016 catalog on Monday (click here), we received a number of comments and questions about the “buzz” around a book of poetry we’re working on by Jeanie Thompson.

There’s a lot to say about this project. Jeanie’s book is a cycle of poems written from the point of view of Helen Keller, illuminating events or insights she experienced during her extraordinary life. But it’s more than that. Jeanie paired all the poems with notes about the event or time in Keller’s life that inspired the poem. The poems are mesmerizing but just one part of the work.


Jeanie Thompson’s Myth of Water to be published in July 2016.

The Myth of Water has affected all of us who’ve had a chance to spend some time with the manuscript. As with all great works, it touches different people in personal ways. I studied Japanese and Journalism here at the Capstone and then spent most of my 20s in Osaka and Tokyo. Even as a native Alabaman, I never knew Keller had traveled to Japan. In the poem “I Promise,” we learn that Keller promised her teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy, on her deathbed that she’d travel to Japan and Korea to take their work with the deaf-blind to people there. Jeanie’s poem invokes the vivid mental pictures Keller might have imagined as she remembers Sullivan and sets foot in Japan for the first time.

For me, the poem invites recollections of the parts of my life in Japan that Helen could have experienced as well: the crispy texture of rice cracker grilled on a street corner, the supple pin-point of a pine needle in winter, the savory dry aroma of sandalwood smoke in a shrine.

By opening a door for you into Helen Keller’s lived experience, Jeanie’s poems can bring parts of your own life into more vivid focus. The Myth of Water is due out in July, and you’re going to hear a lot about it.


Exploring Sunshine Government in the Sunshine State

Florida governor Reubin Askew memorably characterized a leader as “someone who cares enough to tell the people not merely what they want to hear, but what they need to know.” It was a surprising statement for a contemporary politician to make, and, more surprising still, it worked. In The Politics of Trust: Reubin Askew and Florida in the 1970s, Gordon E. Harvey traces the life and career of the man whose public service many still recall as “the Golden Age” of Florida politics.

9780817318826Askew rose to power on a wave of “New South” leadership that hoped to advance the Democratic Party beyond the intransigent torpor of southern politics since the Civil War. He hoped to replace appeals to white supremacy with a vision of a more diverse and inclusive party. Following his election in Florida, other New South leaders such as Georgia’s Jimmy Carter, Arkansas’s Dale Bumpers, and South Carolina’s John C. West all came to power.

Audacious and gifted, Askew was one of six children raised by a single mother in Pensacola. As he worked his way up through the ranks of the state legislature, few in Florida except his constituents knew his name when he challenged Republic incumbent Claude R. Kirk Jr. on a populist platform promising higher corporate taxes. When he won, he inaugurated a series of reforms, including a new 5 percent corporate income tax; lower consumer, property, and school taxes; a review of penal statutes; environmental protections; higher welfare benefits; and workers’ compensation to previously uncovered migrant laborers.

Touting honesty, candor, and transparency, Askew dubbed his administration “government in the sunshine.” Harvey demonstrates that Askew’s success was not in spite of his penchant for bold, sometimes unpopular stances, but rather because his mix of unvarnished candor, sober ethics, and religious faith won the trust of the diverse peoples of his state.

Gordon E. Harvey is the author of A Question of Justice: New South Governors and Education, 1968-1976 and coeditor of History and Hope in the Heart of Dixie: Scholarship, Activism, and Wayne Flynt in the Modern South.

Glenn Feldman and Kari Frederickson, series editors

“An artful biography of Florida’s greatest governor, The Politics of Trust tells the story of Florida’s tumultuous transformation from a bulwark of the Old Confederacy into the large, urban, cosmopolitan state of today. Every chapter is a great case study of a major initiative during the Askew administration, with lessons in how honest, principled leadership can overcome entrenched interests while healing, or at least moderating, divisions of race and class.”
—Lance deHaven-Smith, coauthor of Government in the Sunshine State: Florida Since Statehood andFlorida’s Megatrends: Critical Issues in Florida

“The 1970s was a significant decade in Florida’s politics. Governor Reubin Askew attempted to introduce measures to cope with growth pressures, achieve more tax equity, and bring about a more ‘open government.’ Gordon E. Harvey has produced a fine analysis of Askew’s initiatives, of the politics of reform, and of the changes that impacted Florida.”
—Robert Kerstein, author of Key West on the Edge: Inventing the Conch Republic

Short Cloth
6 X 9, 256 pp
ISBN: 978-0-8173-1882-6 Cloth
ISBN: 978-0-8173-8888-1 Ebook
Price: $39.95

New UA Press Book Challenges the Commonplace Narrative of Slavery

In Bound to Respect: Antebellum Narratives of Black Imprisonment, Servitude, and Bondage, 1816-1861, Keith Michael Green examines key texts that illuminate forms of black bondage and captivity that existed within and alongside slavery. In doing so, he restores to antebellum African American autobiographical writing the fascinating heterogeneity lost if the historical experiences of African Americans are attributed to slavery alone.

9780817318833The book’s title is taken from the assertion by US Supreme Court chief justice Roger B. Taney in his 1857 Dred Scott decision that blacks had no rights that whites were “bound to respect.” This allusion highlights Green’s critical assertion that the dehumanizing absurdities to which defenders of slavery resorted to justify slavery only brought into more stark relief the humanity of African Americans.

A gifted storyteller, Green examines four forms of captivity: incarceration, enslavement to Native Americans, child indentured servitude, and maritime capture. By illuminating this dense penumbra of captivity beyond the strict definitions of slavery, he presents a fluid and holistic network of images, vocabulary, narratives, and history. By demonstrating how these additional forms of confinement flourished in the era of slavery, Green shows how they persisted beyond emancipation, in such a way that freed slaves did not in fact partake of “freedom” as white Americans understood it. This gap in understanding continues to bedevil contemporary American society, and Green deftly draws persuasive connections between past and present.

A vital and convincing offering to readers of literary criticism, African American studies, and American history, Green’s Bound to Respect brings fresh and nuanced insights to this fundamental chapter in the American story.

Winner of the Elizabeth Agee Prize in American Literature

Keith Michael Green is an associate professor of English at Rutgers University.

“This is a provocative and important book. Bound to Respect gets at the difficult history of the recognition of African American humanity and liberty by expanding our understanding of the means by which that recognition was denied or restricted. This is a study that gets at the complexity of African American identity, the overlapping levels of experience, and the nesting dolls of African American confinements that are involved in the construction of African American cultures of consciousness and understanding.”
—John Ernest, author of A Nation Within a Nation: Organizing African-American Communities before the Civil War and Liberation Historiography: African American Writers and the Challenge of History, 1794-1861

“Keith Green’s Bound to Respect will assume an important place alongside earlier studies of African and African American captivity. Green has taken to heart Roderick Ferguson’s call to rethink narrow, plot-driven analyses of black history. He instead reroutes his readings of slave narratives through the vexed terrain of black ‘respectability politics.’ This unexpected turn expands notions of bondage beyond whips, chains, and plantations into the realms of political and affective imprisonment. The results are gratifying.”
—Jennifer James, author of A Freedom Bought with Blood: African American War Literature from the Civil War to World War II

Trade Cloth
6 X 9, 232 pp
ISBN: 978-0-8173-1883-3 Cloth
ISBN: 978-0-8173-8887-4 Ebook
Price: $49.95


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