One Day in December: Starred review in Library Journal

One Day in December casts a spotlight on the remarkable “missing actor” of the Cuban Revolution, Celia Sánchez. Based on ten years of original research, the biography draws on interviews with Sánchez’s friends, family, and comrades in the rebel army, along with countless letters and documents.

Alice Walker “loved the book;” Sapphire, author of Push, called it “a damn good read;” and most recently, the book has received a much-deserved starred review in Library Journal!

From Library Journal, May 1, 2013

Stout, Nancy. One Day in December: Celia Sanchez and the Cuban Revolution. Monthly Review. 2013. 457p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781583673171. $28.95. BIOG

The Cuban revolution so closely associated with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara also involved those such as Camilo Cienfuegos, Eloy Menoyo, Frank Pais, and Celia Sanchez, all revolutionary heroes in their own right. Sanchez was Castro’s supporter, confidante, and—depending on the source—his lover. In this impressive biography Stout (reference librarian, Fordham Univ. Libs.; Havana: La Habana) utilizes interviews, Cuban archives (to which she was granted special access by Castro himself), letters, and other documents to provide an accurate portrait of Sanchez, who ran the planning organization of the revolution after the death of Pais in 1957. Slight in stature, Sanchez saw combat and was arguably the most influential among Castro’s cadre of revolutionary leaders. Her role during and after the revolution was remarkable, and Stout’s biography tells her story as well as offering insights into other revolutionaries and their contributions. Sanchez’s death from cancer in 1980 shook Castro and all of Cuba but her legacy remains in buildings and projects that bear her name. VERDICT Highly recommended for readers and scholars of Cuban history. With a foreword by Alice Walker.—Boyd Childress, formerly, Auburn Univ. Libs., AL.

Want more? Read the introduction by Alice Walker or an excerpt from the book—and watch our exclusive interview with author Nancy Stout.

Why restrict jury duty to citizens?

—Andrew Guthrie Ferguson

[This article originally appeared in The Atlantic online. Read it here.]

A few weeks ago, the California Assembly passed legislation that for the first time would make non-citizens eligible for jury service. If passed by the State Senate, California would be the only state to decouple citizenship and jury duty.

A chorus of criticism has been raised over the proposed bill without thinking about the fundamental question it presents. Why do we limit jury service to citizens?

The answer does not lie in history. At the time of the framing of the United States Constitution, jury service was limited to property-owning white men–as, for that matter, were voting rights in most states. Recent immigrants who owned property could sit on juries, but other citizens (women and others without property) could not. Thus, as originally understood, citizenship did not define who could sit on a jury.

Nor is the answer that citizens possess some special civic knowledge. There are no educational requirements for jury service. No special “citizen training” classes. Qualification for federal jury service simply requires that the potential juror “be adequately proficient in English to satisfactorily complete the juror qualification form.” In an era where studies show that most Americans fail basic civic literacy tests (including the official government citizenship test), we can honestly wonder about this collective lack of civic knowledge. Thus, assuming that many non-citizens are equally knowledgeable (or ignorant) about American civics and law, knowledge cannot be the reason for preferring citizens.

Nor, is it about community representation. Juries, of course, have always acted as a community conscience. Community morals and judgments provide both the legitimacy for a jury verdict and a check on government power. The right to a criminal jury trial is a right to a local jury. Yet, including non-citizens on juries would not necessarily change that community dynamic. In fact, including non-citizen members of our community might provide a closer approximation of the actual community sentiment. After all, a lawful permanent resident of California (who has lived in the state for twenty years) might be much more representative of the community than a recent citizen moving from Alabama or New Hampshire.

So why has jury service been limited to citizens? Here are three good reasons.

Citizenship symbolizes and preserves self-government. In a democracy, citizens are the sovereigns and sovereigns have to govern themselves through institutions like the jury. This is a structural power – a reservation of political control to citizens. One cannot outsource the responsibility of self-government, including jury duty. Those who have been entrusted with the responsibility to govern must do the hard work of self-government.

Second, citizenship has come to define our political identity. For much of early American history, we denied full political rights to women and people of color. As a result, the battles for political equality have been framed in terms of citizenship. The Women’s Suffrage Movement explicitly linked jury service and voting in its push for political equality, knowing that just gaining the right to vote would not be enough for women to be considered full constitutional citizens. The Civil Rights Movement in the South began with a series of jury discrimination cases recognizing that jury participation symbolized a measure of constitutional equality. Those victories established that to be a full participant in the constitutional system, one had to identify as a citizen juror.

Finally, citizenship involves a legal and social relationship with the government – a granting of constitutional rights and an acceptance of civic responsibilities. American citizenship is a legal commitment to certain participatory values, including participation in juries. The badge of citizenship marks individuals as belonging to a national community that guarantees certain liberties and opportunity in exchange for democratic participation. As the Supreme Court stated in Powers v. Ohio, jury duty “affords ordinary citizens a valuable opportunity to participate in a process of government, an experience fostering, one hopes, a respect for law. Indeed, with the exception of voting, for most citizens the honor and privilege of jury duty is their most significant opportunity to participate in the democratic process.”

A shift to non-citizen jurors would alter this balance of sovereignty, identity, and the relationship between citizen and government. Of course, many non-citizens would make excellent jurors, just as many actual citizens make poor jurors, but the underlying legal relationships would be significantly affected. This change to non-citizens juries may come, as the history of the jury has always evolved with social norms, but such a change would restructure the current balance of rights and responsibilities in a way that Californians and others should weigh very carefully.

Most importantly, the debate over non-citizen jurors has resulted in new awareness that jury service matters. However the California legislature ultimately decides the issue, the controversy has highlighted a deep-felt sense that jury service goes to the heart of what it means to be an American citizen: It is not patriotism alone, but commitment to the participatory values of democracy. Next time you are asked to serve, wear your juror badge proudly.

Andrew Guthrie Ferguson is an assistant professor of law at the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, and author of Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Constitutional Action (NYU Press, 2013).

Marathon bombers’ refugee roots shed light on trajectories

Silvia Domínguez, author of Getting Ahead (NYU Press, 2010), recently appeared on the Huffington Post with an excellent piece on the refugee roots of the Boston Marathon bombers. An excerpt appears below.

Dzhokhar was eight years old and Tamerlan was 15 when they arrived in the U.S. Both brothers became involved in sports, attended a mosque on Prospect Street, and enrolled in Cambridge Rindge and Latin School — perhaps the most culturally accepting secondary school in the nation. In this environment, Dzhokhar thrived. Emigrating at a young age, he attended schools with the same friends he grew up with, gradually lost his accent, and became a well-liked and respected student. On the other hand, Tamerlan emigrated as a teenager, arguably the most difficult age of transition for adolescents. Although he became an excellent boxer according to his trainers in Lowell, he never lost his accent and his English was difficult to understand, opening himself up to discrimination.

Refugees are often from areas where conflict is historically embedded and marked in ideology and injustice. The Tsarnaev family emigrated from the Chechen diaspora in Kyrgzstan, a region Stalin deported the Chechens to in 1943. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991, Chechens engaged in a battle for independence from Russia that led to the Tsarnaevs’ petition for refugee status in the early 2000s. While Dzhokhar was only a child during this strife, Tamerlan experienced that civil conflict as an adolescent, shaping his identity as participant in the conflict. Once in the U.S., Tamerlan could not find kinship with American youth who are naïve about civil armed struggles. As he posted on Facebook, he did not understand Americans and had no friends. Americans often assumed that they were Russian, forcing the brothers to clarify that they were actually Chechen. Being confused with the offender, Russia, may have caused young Dzhokhar’s curiosity about his Chechen heritage, but it likely enraged Tamerlan in a cumulative alienating manner.

Read the full post here.

Words do matter in the immigration debate

Ediberto Román and Bobby Joe Bracy

[This post originally appeared on the Latinovations blog. Read it here.]

After decades of inaction, this week’s unveiling of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” immigration proposal suggests that Congress may finally be prepared to reform our immigration system. It is of no surprise that this renewed vigor comes on the heels of a presidential election where an overwhelming majority of Hispanic voters rejected the Republican solution was self-deportation. Yet, despite this crucial and potentially transformative moment, Republican leaders, such as Senator John McCain, one of the Group of Eight, has continued to use of ‘illegal immigrant’ when addressing the subjects of reform. He and many other Republicans who oppose immigration reform continue to use the more provocative yet inaccurate term–“illegal alien”(a term still used by the federal immigration agency, ICE). Conservative Senator Jeff Sessions for his part derided the Gang of Eight’s efforts as “making nearly impossible for ICE officials to distinguish between ‘illegal immigrants’ eligible for legal status and those simply asserting they are amnesty eligible.”

Notwithstanding the insistence to label human beings as “illegal” merely because they have committed what under federal law is a misdemeanor, other important avenues of communication and education are beginning to change the heretofore tone of the debate. Just over a week ago the Associated Press (AP) came to a decision that has gone virtually unnoticed in legal and political circles. Yet the decision was profound. The AP “no longer sanctions the term ‘illegal immigrant’ or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that “illegal” should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”

A week later, USA Today made a similar decision to refrain from using the term, concluding that: “the term illegal immigration is acceptable, but do not label people as illegal immigrants, except in direct quotes. Undocumented immigrant, undocumented worker and unauthorized immigrant are acceptable terms — depending on accuracy, clarity and context… Do not use illegal or illegals as a noun. It is considered pejorative by most immigrants.”

While Fox News subsequently accused the AP of trying to influence immigration debate, the fact is the AP and the USA Today decisions were sound on several fronts, not the least of which is the accurate use of the English language as well as the legal and social impact of a discrediting imprecise term such as “illegal immigrant.”

Legal scholars have long recognized the inappropriateness of the use of the term. University of California, at Davis, Dean Kevin Johnson, for instance, observes: The most damning terminology for noncitizens is “illegal alien…‘Illegal aliens’ is a pejorative term that implies criminality, thereby suggesting that the persons who fall in this category deserve punishment, not legal protection.” Johnson further notes, “The illegal alien label…suffers from inaccuracies and inadequacies at several levels. [In fact,] many nuances of immigration law make it extremely difficult to distinguish between an ‘illegal’ and a ‘legal’ alien.”

Leading linguists agree, and last year a group of 24 scholars criticized the Associated Press’ previous assertion that the term “illegal immigrant” was accurate and neutral. These experts noted: “This misleading construction of illegality is tied to the circulation of troublesome stereotypes about the migration status of different ethnoracial groups. Specifically, assessments of illegality are often associated with unreliable signs of one’s migration status, such as language, religion, and physical appearance. These presumptions lead not only to law enforcers’ regular misidentification of people’s migration status based on wrongful assumptions about ethnolinguistic markers, but also to the broader public stigmatization of those markers.”

As the leading law dictionary, Black’s makes clear, no person, including an alien, is “illegal.” The word “illegal” is an adjective, or “a word … typically serving as a modifier of a noun to denote a quality of the thing named.” Thus, no person, including an alien, is illegal. Accordingly, an alien is “a person resident in one country, but owing allegiance to another.” In other words, our laws regulate the legality of the “conduct” of persons, but do not attempt to classify human beings in such a manner. We do not, for instance, classify a seven year old that steals something as an “illegal child.” Such a label would not only be deemed absurd, but also morally bankrupt. Our laws have never gone as far as to make the persons involved “illegal.” The idea that a person might be “illegal” is thus not only inhumane; it is also grammatically inaccurate, as well as legally incoherent. There are simply no laws adequately governing the issue of “illegal personhood.” As Johnson points out, although “alien” appears repeatedly in the Immigration and Nationality Act, the term “illegal alien” is not once defined.

In sum, substances and other objects can be illegal, and conduct can be illegal—but a person cannot. As Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel aptly noted years ago, “No human being is illegal.”

The AP’s decision is couched in bedrock ethical and professional concerns about accuracy in reporting. As AP’s Kathleen Carroll explains…”Will the new guidance make it harder for writers? Perhaps just a bit at first. But while labels may be more facile, they are not accurate.”

Social justice and civil rights advocates have long fought similar battles over truth and accuracy, which is not an easy battle when facility makes ignorance so appealing. As the AP now calls for: Specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border? Overstayed a visa? What nationality?

In other words: do your homework, and describe the action or conduct that is illegal.

The decision is the only fit response to critics who dismiss this issue as “political correctness” or “censorship.” The aim evidently was not to “censor” ideas or speech, but to be critical of terms that bury a great deal of important information. In almost any context, these questions are not only significant for reporting, but legally significant. People’s rights are in the balance. As a federal court recently observed in U.S. v. Cruz-Padilla, where the court held that the defendant was entitled to a new trial because the prosecution relied on the term “illegal alien” in their closing arguments in front of a jury. Citing the Supreme Court’s earlier decisions (holding that the Constitution’s “due process” clause prohibits the use of “racially biased prosecutorial arguments”), the Cruz-Padilla Court characterized the “improper” use of the term “illegal alien” as a “foul.”

Law and psychology experts likewise have long recognized, markers or labels, especially politically loaded negative labels, have the ability to shape public policy and laws. Such labels help shape what is described as implicit bias, or mental shortcuts that allow us to make negative associations of groups that are undeserving of such negative categorizations. Stereotypes, for instance, allow society to use mental shortcuts, or schema, to associate individuals with a discrediting quality. These discrediting qualities in turn make it easier for policy makers to enact laws that seek to protect us from those with such qualities.

Sadly, history is replete with such efforts. For instance, one of the first and easiest ways for the Third Reich to enact its laws and policies was to stigmatize the Jewish community with similar discrediting qualities. These efforts paved the way to pass laws and enact horrific policies to allegedly protect society from these dangerous contagions. The use of the label illegal alien has a similar social effect. It has labeled a group of persons, who under our criminal and immigration laws have committed typically nothing more than a misdemeanor, as a group of hardened criminals that we should fear and exclude. As more and more Americans are realizing, and opinion polls reflect such realization, this label conflicts with reality.

With the recent announcements by the AP and the USA Today, we hopefully begin a path of engaging in narratives based on accurate depictions, and not stigmatizing labels. No longer is it ethical or responsible to use the discrediting marker “an illegal human being”—if indeed it ever was.

Ediberto Román is a nationally-acclaimed scholar and an award-winning educator with broad teaching interests and an extensive scholarship portfolio. He is the author of several books, including Citizenship and Its Exclusions: Classical, Constitutional, and Critical Race Perspectives (NYU Press, 2010) and Those Damn Immigrants: America’s Hysteria Over Immigration (NYU Press, 2013).

Bobby Joe Bracy is a law student at Florida International University and an immigrant rights advocate. He is currently a research assistant for Ediberto Román, and the President of the National Lawyers Guild at FIU Law.

NYU Press award-winning book designs!

We are so excited to announce that the NYU Press has won three design awards in the 2013 New York Book Show!

Sponsored by the Bookbinders’ Guild of New York, the New York Book Show celebrates excellence in book design and production. The event is a North American competition, with only five awards given per entry category. Thus, we have some prestigious company, including Alfred A. Knopf, McGraw Hill, Oxford University Press, Penguin, Princeton University Press, Random House, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Congratulations to our design team! Here are the winning book designs:

Winner in Scholarly/Professional Book Design
Designer: (our very own) Adam Bohannon

Winner in Scholarly/Professional Cover Design
Designer: Charles B. Hames (also from NYU Press)

Winner in Scholarly/Professional Book Set Design
Designer: Kathleen Szawiola

Soft soil, black grapes—and choice holiday wines

—Simone Cinotto

My book, Soft Soil, Black Grapes: The Birth of Italian Winemaking in California began while I was researching for another project on the foodways of Italian immigrants in New York, 1900-1940 (The Italian American Table: Food, Family, and Community in New York City, forthcoming next fall).

During my research, I began to notice that almost all of the wine and wine grapes Italian New Yorkers consumed during the early 1900s were produced and shipped through the North American continent by other Italian immigrants in California. I thus set out to discover the dynamics of this vast ethnic market. The first step was to deconstruct the popular myth—as widespread in my native Piemonte (Italy) as it was in existing scholarship—that California functioned as the ideal environment to where Northern Italian immigrants could easily transplant their traditional winemaking skills. Actually, none of these pioneers had any prior training in the business, and, lacking any significant capital, had to work their way up by transforming cheap patches of land into vineyard (this made possible by the intensive labor of their fellow contadino immigrants).

It wasn’t the “soft soil” that provided Northern Italian immigrant winemakers with a decisive edge over competitors—but instead their ability to navigate the complex racial scenario of turn-of-the-twentieth-century California. The presence of disenfranchised Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican grape workers, coupled with the discrimination Italian laborers faced at the hands of Anglo winemakers, helped these immigrant wine entrepreneurs secure a skilled and loyal labor force with low social conflict. Northern Italian immigrant winemakers were then able to present themselves in the eyes of the white elites of San Francisco and Los Angeles as the last offspring of a classic culture of wine, reliable ethnic leaders, and enthusiastic believers in the gospel of American capitalism.

Perhaps because of my difficulty in reconciling with my own past, it was only at the end of my work that I realized how autobiographical my story was. My father grew up in a small village in the Alps, not far from the French border—a place where almost all working-age men, and some women, had left in search of jobs in the coal mines of Southern Illinois, Colorado, Nevada, and California. Many had later sent for their spouses or families; some had managed to raise their own farm, cultivate grapes, and make their beloved wine in their new land.

My father was born later, in 1938. In the 1950s, he immigrated to Turin, which at the time was experiencing a population boom—mostly the influx of “dark” Southern Italians—because of the expanding auto industry. As he was educated and well read despite his social extraction, he soon landed a white-collar job with the Italian National Railroads. Yet he remained a wine drinker of the working-class kind. He bought his wine in bulk from a producer in the Monferrato region who shipped to Turin. Since he wanted to have hands-on knowledge of what he drank (decades before this became fashionable) he asked his purveyor to work for him in the picking, and the first phases of winemaking, every vintage for a few years. This meant, beginning one September when I was eight or nine, he would drag me to his friend’s place in Calosso d’Asti to  accompany him as he worked in the vineyards and cellar. Against my will, for weekends after that, I kept him company in the dark, small basement of our apartment house in Turin as he transferred the wine from the demijohns into bottles—just as thousands of the immigrant consumers I describe in my book did. I dreaded the experience, which I recall also because it was down there that I got sickly drunk for the first (and perhaps the last) time, furtively tasting the bubbling purple liquid that ran through that funny plastic hose.

As you see, I am not that nostalgic for those times. Yet to this day, the wines that my father bottled during those weekends in the early 1970s (Barbera and Dolcetto) are among my favorites, and I cannot think of wines that are more representative of the story of the people who travelled half the world to recreate their wine culture in California. The wines made from Barbera and Dolcetto grapes are the most rooted in the traditional everyday cooking of the Piemonte region (much more so than the famed, complex, and sophisticated wines of the Nebbiolo family: Barolo, Barbaresco, and Gattinara). Both Barbera and Dolcetto are wines of important character, whose flavors span from chestnuts to berries, and unique tastes reflect the different terroirs of Southern Piemonte. In fact, these grapes are truly manifestoes of the cultural and biodiversity of the region. There are important differences between the two: Dolcetto tends to be more fruity and acidic; Barbera is more tannic, ranging from sparkling light to seasoned and strong. Yet again, both wines are great with homemade egg pasta or risotto and meats—from stewed and roasted beef to pork, from frog to rabbit or snails.

I hope you might consider spending some time this holiday season reading my book and tasting some nice Barbera and Dolcetto; the two will make for an interesting and pleasurable combination. I truly wish you all fantastic holidays and much happiness.

Simone Cinotto teaches History at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy. He also taught at NYU as “Tiro a Segno” Visiting Professor in Italian American Studies.

Why “deferred action” isn’t enough

—Michael A. Olivas

Tens of thousands of undocumented students are making their way through college without federal financial support and with little state financial aid available—only to find that they cannot accept employment or enter the professions for which they have trained. Cases of undocumented law-school graduates who have passed the bar are surfacing in California, Florida, and New York, and more will soon surface in other fields, too, as unauthorized students graduate from college. Seeing this brick wall, a number of immigration law professors wrote a letter to the president, urging him to use the administrative discretion available to him, to help undocumented college students who find themselves in the worst of all possible worlds. It appears this call was heard when, in June 2012, President Obama announced an expansive Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which is still in the implementation first phases.

Unfortunately, despite the excitement (and outrage from President Obama’s Republican opponents), this policy is not the stalled DREAM Act, which would have created a path to citizenship for some immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. The President’s courageous decision could not have accorded any more than he did, as any true reform will have to come from Congress, which has been reluctant to take up even the modest DREAM Act, much less the more comprehensive immigration reform so needed.

Gov. Mitt Romney has indicated his determination to veto any version of the DREAM Act, and the 2012 GOP platform urges deportation of these students. In reality, the President’s adoption of a “deferred action” policy is, to a great extent, old wine in a new wineskin. The policy does not grant legal-residency status, as the DREAM Act would, but only defers deportation for a renewable two-year period. Announcing the policy shows new political will, but it does not change existing law or create additional discretion.

Forms of prosecutorial discretion, including deferred action, have been available for many years (originating in the John Lennon deportation case, in the early 1970s). Nothing substantive has been added to existing authority. Indeed, in June 2011, the government announced that it would focus on deporting known criminals (the “gangbangers” as President Obama referred to them in a recent debate)—and urged prosecutors to use their discretion in considering the cases of students who would qualify for the DREAM Act. DACA has made regular provisions for these students to receive work authorization. Bear in mind, too, that this administration removed and deported nearly 400,000 unauthorized immigrants in the previous year. Even with those metrics, and the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, those who would further restrict immigration are not convinced that there has been enough enforcement—and see deferred action as a threat to the present situation. In August 2012, CIS employees filed suit to end DACA. There is a new application procedure, a good thing, and many details yet to be determined.

Deferred action is a vague and confusing process—and it will probably lead to unscrupulous notarios entering the picture. Under current regulations, individuals whose case has been deferred are eligible to receive employment authorization, provided he or she can demonstrate “an economic necessity for employment.” Deferred action can be terminated or renewed at any time at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security. Many potential DREAMers will be hesitant to apply and “out” themselves to authorities, even in exchange for employment authorization, if the President is not re-elected. The delays occasioned by schools being overwhelmed with transcript requests make it clear that this has been a complicated and expensive process, one with uncertain contours. History may be on the side of the DREAMers, but they still find themselves in a cruel limbo not of their making, and with no clear way out of the thicket. This is a movement forward, and the program will transform many of the students’ lives for the better. But only the adults in Congress taking up immigration reform will truly serve their interests, and that of society.

Thirty years after the Supreme Court told us that undocumented immigrants deserve an education (Plyler v. Doe, 1982), we have yet to resolve this impasse. Deferred action is a step in the right direction, but until more cases are cleared and these students can take up work, it will be a program fraught with potential. While these students’ chances of being deported may be reduced, without employment authorization and a reasonable opportunity to regularize their status, they will still live in the shadows—with limited hope.

Michael A. Olivas is Professor of Law, University of Houston, and the author of No Undocumented Child Left Behind (NYU Press, 2102).

Reflections on NYU Press book banned in Arizona

—Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

The rapid growth of populations of color, especially relatively young groups like Latinos, has created a number of conflicts over schools and schooling. In Arizona, a successful program of Mexican American Studies in the Tucson school system drew the ire of state authorities who deemed it un-American and biased. Its defenders countered that it greatly boosted attendance, engagement, and graduation rates for hundreds of Latino schoolchildren who made up over fifty percent of the student bodies in many schools in Arizona, and was not at all unpatriotic or divisive.

The Tucson program had increased graduation rates from below half to over ninety percent, with many of the students, most from poor families, going on to college.  Taught by charismatic young instructors, many with degrees in Ethnic Studies from the University of Arizona, the program featured Latino history and culture, including works by well known author such as Rodolfo Acuna, Sandra Cisneros, Paulo Freire, Howard Zinn, and William Shakespeare. Students studied the great empires of Mesoamerica, the War with Mexico, and the colonization of Puerto Rico. They studied the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and the role of leaders such as Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and Denver-based Corky Gonzales. They learned to play mariachi music, dance Mexican dances, and create poetry.

When Arizona authorities banned the program under a new bill (H.B. 2281) forbidding the teaching of ethnically divisive material and removed the offending textbooks to a distant book depository in front of crying students, the local Latino community exploded in indignation. A Texas community college professor organized a caravan of “libro-traficantes” (book traffickers) to smuggle “wet books” into Tucson, where they gave them away to bystanders from a taco truck borrowed for the occasion. Librarians and publishing houses across the nation donated copies of the banned books. Sympathetic Anglos wrote columns or spoke at teach-ins supporting the program.

Teachers who were fired or transferred brought a number of legal actions challenging the bill or book ban, which included works by each of the authors mentioned above, as well as our book, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (NYU Press). This straightforward exposition of critical race thought had been in use in a number of the Tucson classes to explain racial dynamics in the United States. NYU proudly issued a new edition of this best-selling book in 2012 and was happy to donate copies to the beleaguered children of Tucson.

Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic are Professors of Law at Seattle University and have collaborated on four previous books, including The Latino Condition, Second Edition (NYU Press, 2010), The Derrick Bell Reader (NYU Press, 2005), How Lawyers Lose Their Way: A Profession Fails Its Creative Minds, and Understanding Words That Wound.

☞ Also, a special congratulations to @writerswriting, winner of our book giveaway of Critical Race Theory during last week’s Banned Books Week!

Celebrate Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week kicked off yesterday, marking 30 years of “celebrating the freedom to read.” The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association (ALA) will be commemorating the 30th anniversary with their “50 State Salute to Banned Books Week“ and a “Virtual Read-Out,” which encourages readers to share videos of themselves reading excerpts from their favorite banned book.

The cause is especially close to our hearts this year at NYU Press, as one of our books made the banned book list, just as it was being released in its second edition!

Following the Tucson Unified School District’s decision to entirely dissolve its Mexican-American Studies program, several books that had been part of its curriculum were banned. Books that made this list included Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, Chicano!: The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales, and NYU Press’s own Critical Race Theory by scholars Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic.

We’d like to take part in the celebration this week and show our support in the fight against censorship! To start, we’re sharing this video reading below, uploaded by Colorado College Feminist and Gender Studies professor Heidi Lewis.

Do you have a favorite banned or challenged book? Let us know in the comments section!

Six NYU Press titles named AAUP Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries

We are thrilled to announce that six NYU Press books have been named 2012 AAUP  University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries!

Reviewed and selected by members of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and a committee of Public Library Reviewers (PLR), the books in this annual collection have been recommended for use in both school and public libraries. Browse the entire 2012 listing here.

  1. The Maid’s Daughter: Living Inside and Outside the American Dream
    Mary Romero
    “Sociologist Mary Romero documents the story of ‘Olivia,’ the daughter of a live-in maid who grew up in the wealthy Los Angeles home where her mother Carmen worked. Romero traces Olivia’s life from her childhood beginnings in Mexico, through her conflicted adolescence, and into adulthood where she forges her own identity. The challenges faced by Olivia and her mother as they negotiate dual cultures and economies make for compelling reading.”—Virginia L. Stone (AASL)
  2. Black in Latin America
    Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
    “Well-written and truly eye-opening account of the experience of African slaves and their descendants in the New World outside of the United States. Of about 11 million Africans brought as slaves to the Western Hemisphere, less than 500 thousand came to the U.S. The rest were taken to the Caribbean and Latin America. A companion volume to the PBS series.”—Steve Norman (PLR)
  3. Best of Times, Worst of Times: Contemporary American Short Stories from the New Gilded Age
    Wendy Martin and Cecelia Tichi (Editors)
  4. The Tender Cut: Inside the Hidden World of Self-Injury
    Patricia A. Adler and Peter Adler
  5. Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys
    Victor M. Rios
  6. Highway under the Hudson: A History of the Holland Tunnel
    Robert W. Jackson

Additionally, The Maid’s Daughter and Black in Latin America have also been selected as Outstanding titles. According to the AAUP, titles with this rating “are considered exceptional by the reviewer.” For more information, visit the University Press Books for Public and Secondary Schools Libraries online.

Beyond El Barrio: A student’s response

Alyshia Gálvez, Assistant Professor of Latin American and Puerto Rican Studies at Lehman College, wrote to us recently to share a fascinating essay written by one of her students during her summer course, “Latinos in the US.” After assigning the edited volume Beyond El Barrio: Everyday Life in Latina/o America, Professor Gálvez received an extraordinary response to the fourth chapter from student, Ivan Waldo, who agreed to let us share it on our blog…

“Becoming Suspect in Usual Places: Latinos, Baseball, 81 and Belonging in El Barrio del Bronx” by Adrian Burgos, Jr. and Frank A. Guridy asserts a position that racial perceptions of a little league baseball team comprised of Latino players ultimately fueled the backlash and investigation into their pasts, that surrounded the team. Burgos, Jr. and Guridy also assert that the racial historical context of the New York Yankees from the Bronx, where the little league team was also based from, are connected. Their work is littered with “examples” of supporting “evidence”. I disagree with certain assertions made by the two authors, and of the overall assertion of their paper.

I was raised in a family culture of Yankee fanatics, my paternal and maternal grandmothers, mother, various aunts and uncles all were lifelong die-hard Yankee fans, to the degree that my mother won a tri-state Daily News contest for the biggest die-hard Yankee fan, and was awarded tickets to the 2003 World Series between the Yankees and the Florida Marlins for her real life tale of how she was 9 months pregnant (with me), and going into labor, but refused to leave her seat at Yankee Stadium until the final out. I knew the Yankees’ roster like I knew my name. It was only natural that I pursue playing baseball, playing in little leagues until my parents couldn’t afford to keep up with equipment costs and registration fees. To satisfy my yearning for baseball, I became a little league coach, and taught youngsters everything I had learned, and learned the administrative, and political, aspects of little league baseball. Using my experiences and knowledge for a frame of reference, I can not conclude that racial perceptions of the little league team comprised of Latinos fueled the resentment directed at them.

“Such narratives gloss over the Yankees organization’s long history of racial exclusion, not just African American players but also Latinos… Latino and African American Yankees have either been completely excluded from histories of the Bronx Bombers or have been relegated to the background…(pg 87).” “It was not until… the 1990’s that the Bronx Bombers faithful fully embraced a Puerto Rican or Latino star.” This is untrue. There are several players of color that have long been celebrated by Yankee faithful and their on the field achievements acknowledged by the organization, such as Chris Chambliss in the 1976 ALCS, Reggie Jackson (too many achievements to recount here) had his own candy bar and a Reggie Bar day, Willie Randolph 6 time All Star and Yankee captain, Luis Tiant a Cuban born player and centerpiece of the film “The Lost Son of Havana”, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson, Ken Griffey… There were a number of notable players of color who were warmly embraced by the Yankee faithful. It is unfortunate that their embracement did not coincide with winning seasons, the Yankees languished at the bottom of their division for the 1980’s and half of the 1990’s. Their inability to win did not detract the fans from their support of their players, including those of color. The absence of recognition of their achievements coincides with their losing seasons, players on major sport teams are recognized for winning championships, something that escaped the Yankees during that period, and escaped Burgos and Guridy’s research.

“Investigative searches to establish Danny Almonte’s ‘official’ age retraced the transnational paths that tens of thousands of Dominicans and Puerto Ricans travel annually.” This is irresponsible journalism. There is a distinct difference between the governmental records and their recognition of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico’s administrative records comply with U.S. Congress’ bureaucratic oversight, which essentially is an extension of U.S. government. The Dominican Republic operates outside of U.S. governmental jurisdiction, therefore requiring confirmation from the Republic’s governmental administrators. By including Puerto Ricans in their statement, they are attempting to widen the scope of any launched investigations to verify information outside the availability of little league officials’ verification methods, and to blur the scope of the Latino image by making it inclusive of other Latinos. It is notable that that statement is the only mention of Puerto Ricans and investigations in their work, they are never mentioned again.

“Well-trained and well-equipped teams should not suffer defeat at the hands of inner city teams comprising Dominican and Puerto Rican boys from working-class and impoverished backgrounds. This is what was partly at stake in the matchups between the Paulino All Stars and suburban teams-the ability of social class privilege to translate into competitive advantage and success.” The authors are over extending their perceived racial perceptions with that statement. The competitive advantage being sought was by the Paulino All Stars and their usage of ineligible overage players. As a player and a coach, certain players exhibited attributes and mannerisms of a person above a certain age bracket. The Little League World Series is limited to the 11 – 12-year-old age bracket. Danny Almonte stood at 5’8” during the tournament, an extraordinary height for someone of that age. He also exhibited skills above that age bracket, an indicator he may be overage. There were his interactions with his teammates and fans that should a maturity level beyond that of a 12-year-old, flirting and taking pictures with female fans. As an opposing coach, I would have immediately called for Little League officials to verify his pedigree information, not once considering what his background may be. Many teams seek competitive advantages due to the economic benefits that come with the exposure and invitation to the Little League World Series, and using overage players is a common one. In my opinion, opposing teams’ scrutinizing of Danny Almonte, and subsequently possibly other teammates, wasn’t necessarily rooted in racism.

“The signing bonuses paid to players selected through the amateur draft and Latinos signed as undrafted amateur free agents are telling.” The authors proceed to recount 1975 draft averages of $60,000 for players selected in the amateur draft and $5,000 for Latinos signed as undrafted free agents. “The inequity created by the process of initial inclusion unveils an economic toll that foreign-born Latinos pay for their foreigness.” Here is another example of irresponsible journalism combined with an all inclusive statement regarding Latinos. In 1975, Major League Baseball teams had not yet expanded to other countries, and set up workshops and camps to train potential ball players. There was no way of accurately assessing a players talent level because there wasn’t a standard of competition established by which to judge them by. Conversely, collegiate athletes had, and have, an established competition level from which to gain a perspective on a prospects potential. This accounts for the larger investment in state bound collegiate athletes as opposed to foreign players who may not possess the skill level to compete in the Major Leagues and won’t be able to prove themselves until they actually compete at a higher established level. The authors also imply that Latinos were being persecuted by Major League Baseball’s policy when in fact the initial pay disparity was for all foreign born players, not just Latinos.

There are other instances where the evidence presented is spun to conveniently accommodate the authors conclusions, however the facts surrounding their presented “evidence” simply does not support their conclusions and perspectives regarding the racially motivated actions of opposing teams. One instance where they were correct was the chanting of “U.S.A., U.S.A.” to an American team to deliberately highlight their differences and allegiances to their countries of origin. Outside of that, I fail to see the racial implications implied by the authors. Are there underlying motivations for the opposing teams actions that I am unaware, or oblivious of?

Obituary Bias

José Ramón Sánchez , author of Boricua Power, wrote a great article a couple weeks ago about the NYTimes ignoring Latinos in its year-end round up of deaths. Read the full article at his blog.

When does one dead Hollywood actor trump another? When does one fierce dead organizer against social injustices trump another? In fact, when does a dead chimp responsible for a hideous attack catapult himself above the life of a dead Mexican anthropologist with over 150 books and articles filled with archaeological and cultural studies about Mayan civilization? For the New York Times, the answer seems to be whenever the second option is a Latino.

Travis the chimp was one of the few fortunate deceased to get star billing in the New York Times 2009 annual issue devoted to the passing of important people. Travis, you may remember, was the Connecticut chimpanzee, raised by a woman in Stamford, who was killed after he mauled the face off of his caretaker’s friend. This annual Times compilation included twenty-three essays on this year’s deceased. Like in most years, not one single Latino made it onto this lamentable list of the departed famous and not so famous.

Many Latinos died this year, arguably many of them having led interesting and notable lives. They were not interesting enough for the New York Times. This newspaper highlighted the death of Karl Malden but not Ricardo Montalban. The latter was the debonair Mexican movie and television star best known for his roles on the Star Trek series and his commercials for promoting the “soft, Corinthian leather” in Chrysler Motors car seats.

The Times also wrote about the death of Crystal Lee Sutton, a fierce labor organizer in the South. But it ignored the death of Esther Chavez, a Mexican accountant who was one of the first to discover a pattern of murders in the 1990s against Mexican women working in U.S.-owned factories in border cities. Chavez helped to draw public attention and government prosecution against men who kidnapped young Mexican women off the streets, raped and killed them with impunity. Her advocacy led the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to rule that Mexico had violated the human rights of women.