Notes from an editor: Great books aren’t written, they’re re-written

—Ilene Kalish

All editors love books. At some point in our lives we fell in love with words, sentences, and stories. It happened early for me. In elementary school I never wanted to leave the library; I hid between the stacks. If you don’t like to think about the wellchosen word or the lyrical power of language, then you probably wouldn’t make a good editor.

And that’s okay. But as a scholar looking to write a book, you should take a moment to think about the craft of writing. For here is a secret that editors know: great books aren’t written, they’re re-written. Many authors have done impressive research and spent years (even decades) interviewing, transcribing, and culling data. But if that scholarship is going to make an impact, then there is more work to do. You have to transform your findings into a well-told narrative. You have to draw your reader in.

You must be inventive, creative, and lively with your prose. Introduce us to new ideas, new phrases, new ways of thinking. This is what great writers do. This is what you, the author, must do.

Professors are expected to research, teach, and write. The writing may be last on the list, and there may not be any love for it. Great writing is hard. Great writers make reading easy. The words sing, the sentences flow, the pages turn. That’s hard work. Most great writers are talented, but the process of creating a worthwhile book is laborious. Words can be elusive, awkward, tripped over, clunky, monotonous, pedantic, and clichéd. To paraphrase, words don’t bore people, writers bore people.

Revision, editing, and re-writing must happen in order for a great book to get written. This is what editors do. We poke, we pick, we pluck. We move the words around in the sentence. We move the sentences around in the paragraph. We move the chapters around in the book. We re-phrase, we ask for more, for less, for a different direction. There is an art to editing. I like to think that as the years have passed and hundreds of manuscripts have now crossed my desk (or gone through my computer), I have gotten pretty good at editing. I have never seen a case where a manuscript has not been improved through editing—either from my comments or from the academic reviewers kind enough to take a publisher’s modest sum in exchange for their priceless feedback. A thoughtful and challenging review can transform a book.

I suppose I can be tough on authors sometimes. I still edit by hand, on paper with a pencil. I know that receiving these marked up pages with words circled, crossed out, and underlined, with the margins full of questions and comments like, “say more,” “slow down,” and “repeating,” is perhaps not always the most pleasant experience. But it does make for a better book.

Most of the authors I publish say the same thing, “I want to reach a wide audience with my book.” This is often quickly followed up by, “How can I do that?” The answer is easy: Write. Edit. Revise. Re-write.

Here are a few tips: Start with a good title. Pick one that is intriguing, short, and clear—as opposed to vague, long, and complicated. For example, “Parenting Out of Control,” instead of “The Complexities of Family Dynamics in Risk Culture.” Guess which gets a higher Amazon ranking? The same goes for your chapter titles. Always use deliberate, compelling phrasing. Avoid jargon. Accessibility is not the enemy of complexity; in fact, I would argue that easily read prose is more difficult to produce and more likely to convey meaning accurately. Next, pull your reader in from the start by using vivid chapter-openers: begin with a story, an event, a counterintuitive fact, a staggering statistic. Describe. Do not begin a chapter with, “In this chapter I will show….” Please, don’t do that. Say something new and don’t be shy about highlighting your unique perspective. Be able to answer the question, “So what?” I sometimes ask this after a scholar has spent ten uninterrupted minutes earnestly explaining her project. “So what? Why should anyone care? Why is this important?” Map out the stakes for what or how or why your research is significant. Only you can tell us—that is, after all, why you are writing the book.

Just don’t forget to re-write it, too.

Ilene Kalish is Executive Editor for the Social Sciences at NYU Press. Read her bio here.

[This article appeared in the Summer 2013 edition of Contexts, a publication of the American Sociological Association.]

The bees of NYC

—Mary Kosut and Lisa Jean Moore

New York City is a multispecies metropolis – a place where millions of humans, animals and plants co-mingle and co-exist. Although pigeons and rats are the most iconic of urban animals, New York is home to over 230 species of bees that play a vital role in the local urban ecology. Since their migration from Europe in colonial times, honeybees have always lived throughout the five boroughs with or without the aid of humans, but our insect neighbors have never really been on our radar until now.

In the wake of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) the syndrome responsible for the disappearance of 50% of the bee population in 2012, we are beginning to understand our vital connection to bees. Bees are a species we rely on; their pollination makes our contemporary diets possible, and their honey, venom and pollen are revered for holistic nutrition and alternative health treatments. They are literally a part of our bodies, and we tend to describe their behaviors in anthropocentric terms – insects that become too much like us.

Honeybees are a green mascot and a cause celebre, melding well with urban farming and green architectural initiatives. As a recent article in the New York Times reported, beehives are being cultivated on rooftops in the city’s most prestigious locales, including Bryant Park, Chelsea and the Whitney Museum of Art on the Upper East Side. Even though some people are fearful or skeptical of living near a colony, many would likely agree that these industrious insects should be protected and even welcomed to rooftops, backyards, parks and farms. The honeybee has a new cultural status – it is officially an urban animal.

In the process of conducting a three-year multispecies ethnography in New York City amidst bees and their human caretakers, we were witness to tens of thousands of bees who challenged our senses and caught our attention. They buzzed, swirled, dive-bombed and stung. Like the beekeepers we interviewed who worked closely with their hives, we were often captivated while in their space. Being in the presence of bees challenged our taken for granted assumptions about the ways in which we consider nonhuman animals, and how it is so easy to slip into descriptions that perpetuate distinctions between nature and culture.  Best intentions notwithstanding, as humans we tend to think that we can save or fix ecological problems (that we created) through technology and other interventions. This is a perfect case of human exceptionalism.

Even though it takes a great deal of human effort to establish a hive and cultivate healthy bees, we must recognize that bees are also working alongside us to create commonly shared worlds. The generative capacity of bees – they pollinate New York City – must not be eclipsed by human-centric discussions of what we as a species are making possible for them.

Mary Kosut and Lisa Jean Moore are authors of Buzz: Urban Beekeeping and the Power of the Bee (NYU Press, 2013). Kosut is a cultural sociologist and Associate Professor of Media, Society, and the Arts and Gender Studies at Purchase College, State University of New York. Moore is Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies and Coordinator of Gender Studies at Purchase College, State University of New York.

Meet the Interns: Brittany Spanos

Being an intern at NYU Press is a one-of-a-kind opportunity. Not only do our interns play a significant role in every department, but they also have the chance to work in the heart of Manhattan. Most importantly, they get a (very) hands-on introduction to life in academic publishing! As part of our Meet the Interns series, here’s a chance to get to know a few of our members, and what they’re up to at the Press, with a Q&A.

Today: Meet Brittany.

Name and role at the Press: Brittany Spanos, Front Desk Intern/Permissions & Subsidiary Rights Assistant

Education: I’m a rising senior at NYU due to graduate next May! I’m in NYU Gallatin [School of Individualized Study], studying a mix of journalism and pop culture studies that I call ‘Storytelling, or Popular Culture as a Narrative Force.’

Hobbies/interests? I’m obsessed with music. I attend a ton of concerts and festivals and love reading biographies and memoirs about musicians. I also used to collect CDs so I have close to 500 at home!

How did you hear about the internship and why did you decide to intern with NYU Press? I found the internship on Wasserman, NYU’s student career services website. I had been interested for some time in exploring publishing, and I’ve loved quite a few of the books the Press has published that my classes have utilized. It was a perfect fit!

Any previous internships you’d like to note? What’s your dream internship?
I interned at Allure magazine in the fashion closet in the Fall of 2011. September 2012, I started interning at the Village Voice in the listings department and transferred over as a music editorial intern at the publication in January, which is where I’ve continued to intern through the summer! It’s extra cool because I get to write for them every week, so that’s already fulfilling my idea of a dream internship!

Tell us about your experience thus far.
I love how friendly everyone in the office is. They don’t treat the interns like interns but just like fellow employees who offer important contributions to the Press. Plus, everyone has gone out of their way to be welcoming and learn names, which is extremely sweet. While here, I’ve learned how to balance multiple projects efficiently. I’m excited to continue helping with projects I’ve been participating in!

Subject area NYU Press publishes in that most interests you: Cultural and Media Studies! I also love many of the titles related to Gender Studies. Those are usually the subject areas that the classes I take center on and the Press has such a wonderful collection of titles in those areas.

Any books you’re looking forward to getting your hands on? (NYU Press or otherwise): I’ve been meaning to read all of Cruising Utopia by José Esteban Muñoz. We read an excerpt in one of my courses so I’d love to finish it. Mixed Race Hollywood is another title that I’ve been working through and obsessed with. Spectacular Girls is forthcoming from the Press but right up my alley so I’m probably going to eat it up when it comes out.

Outside of titles from NYU Press, I’m determined to read more titles from Milan Kundera outside of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I read in the spring and immediately determined is my favorite book. On the guilty pleasure side, I’ve been dying to find time to finish Mindy Kaling’s book Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me? (And Other Concerns)!

Is this your first summer in the city? Any advice for survival, or must-do recommendations? This has been my first summer in NYC! I’ve been going to so many concerts and festivals. A recommendation is to find out all the free concerts throughout the summer! There are so many fun, free or cheap events around all five boroughs and they’re definitely worth exploring.

What do you love most about working in NYC? Such a cliche to say, but everything is just chaotically busy! It’s such a motivator for me. I come from a small Midwestern suburb, so I feel like I work much harder in NYC just because the pace is so much faster.

Meet the Interns: Emma Hawkins

Being an intern at NYU Press is a one-of-a-kind opportunity. Not only do our interns play a significant role in every department, but they also have the chance to work in the heart of Manhattan. Most importantly, they get a (very) hands-on introduction to life in academic publishing! As part of our Meet the Interns series, here’s a chance to get to know a few of our members, and what they’re up to at the Press, with a Q&A.

Today: Meet Emma.

Name and role at the Press: Emma Hawkins, Accounts Payable Intern/Front Desk Receptionist

I went to NYU and just graduated in May. I double majored in English Literature and Art History.

I love to draw. And I devour art—illustration, design, contemporary art, fashion, film ad music. I also have a weird obsession with archaeology and ancient history.

How did you hear about the internship and why did you decide to intern with NYU Press? I was looking for a job through NYU for the summer. I really wanted to work in publishing because it sounded like a great combination of my interests. Luckily, NYU Press had an opening and I jumped at the chance to work here.

Any previous internships you’d like to note? What’s your dream internship? This was actually my first internship experience. I have worked a lot of customer service and retails jobs, which I have decided are not my dream jobs. It’s a little cheesy, but I have always dreamed of interning at the Metropolitan Museum. I think I would do just about anything for them to be in one of my favorite places everyday day and just getting to admire beautiful, old things.

Tell us about your experience thus far. What has surprised you most about the work environment here? Have you learned anything valuable? Or, what are you most excited about doing/learning during your summer with NYU Press? I think I was surprised how relaxed and friendly the environment is here at the press. Of course, I should have known it would be this way the moment I walked into the office for the first time to interview for my position and saw an a bunch of adorable dogs running around the office. That is my idea of a nice work environment. I have been really lucky in that I have had the opportunity to work in many NYU Press departments. It’s given me the opportunity to really get a handle on the process of getting a book published.

Subject area NYU Press publishes in that most interests you: I am definitely most interested in Cultural Studies, although I find myself increasingly intrigued by the Gender Studies titles that are being published.

Any books you’re looking forward to getting your hands on? (NYU Press or otherwise): Spectacular Girls by Sarah Projansky sounds fascinating. I have been meaning to read Single by Michael Cobb for ages, because he is opening up a whole new dialogue about what it means to be single. As for non-NYU press titles, I am dying to get my hands on anything by Chris Ware, particularly his first book Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. His latest book, Building Stories, is a visually stunning, groundbreaking book that has inspired me to go further with my own drawings and illustrations. Not to mention the fact that it is one of the most poignant stories I have read in a while.

Is this your first summer in the city? If yes, what are you looking forward to the most (events, activities, whatever)? If no, any advice for survival, or must-do recommendations?  This is my second summer in the city. My advice: get an air conditioner because it means you will actually be able to sleep. Other than that, the summer is a great time to be in the city. I spent most of my first summer here on the Coney Island beach and in my neighborhood parks (Tompkins, Washington Square), and it was pretty wonderful.

What do you love most about working in NYC?  My days here are never dull. I am bound to end up seeing something strange walking around this strange city, which I absolutely love!

Meet the Interns: Kerrigan Dougherty

We’re so excited to have a wonderful group of interns with us this summer (once again)! Sure, our interns gain invaluable experience supporting every team, from editorial to production to marketing—but they’re also kind of incredible to start. Here’s a chance to get to know a few of them, and what they’re up to at the Press, with a Q&A.

First up: Meet Kerrigan. (Note: We encouraged a goofy picture from her. It’s safe to say she delivered, yes?)

Name and role at the Press:
Kerrigan Dougherty, Intern in Sales and Marketing

St. John’s College, Annapolis, MD, Class of 2016

Cake baking and decorating, tasting coffee, making budgets and schedules

How did you hear about the internship and why did you decide to intern with NYU Press?
Through a string of connections: Smelling of pepperoni after a shift at my pizza store, I arrived at a neighbor’s boxing day party. In truth, I was hoping to find some free dinner  and bounce right out of there. I was starting to think about summer plans, though, and knew that adult friends of the family would have good advice or contacts. Someone there sent my name along to a few professional friends. Through one of these folks, I got into contact with Mary Beth Jarrad.

I love the books that NYU Press works with. History is not my thing, but contemporary books on race, class, gender, history of food and fair trade are.

Any previous internships you’d like to note? What’s your dream internship?
I worked for State Senator Leanna Brown as a senior in high school. She and I drafted my first serious resume and discussed the value of networking and forming meaningful, professional relationships. Also, I had the pleasure of organizing materials from her many years in office. There is a great deal to be learned from reading materials like this; each document contained interesting information. This internship with Senator Brown was supremely educational and has set me up with good skills and a good outlook!

My dream is to work in coffee. I love the process from tree to cup. I love how many people are involved getting the precious fruit from its equatorial origin across the world. Once it is roasted, the longest part of the journey has passed. However, a bag of nicely roasted beans does not have a sealed fate. These “beans”, actually seeds of a coffee fruit, have so much potential! Hot or iced. Espresso, French press, pour over. Single origin for a distinct flavor or a blend for a well-rounded feel. Brewed cold or brewed hot. Perhaps the addition of milk, if artfully steamed. I am so excited by it all and my dream internship would bring me from farm to cup.

Tell us about your experience thus far. What has surprised you most about the work environment here? Have you learned anything valuable?
As a fan of organizing and extensive cleaning up, I have cleaned the storage room and alphabetized a few shelves in the office. Our display books needed some dusting. I would not have guessed that book dusting would be a part of my work here! This crowd has been incredibly warm and leaves me excited to enter the real world when my college days come to an end.

I have learned something about this office, perhaps about offices in general: a certain amount of tasks and projects will come my way. I can stick to those, have a mellow day and make good progress. I can also keep my ears and eyes open to things that could be done or improved and ask if I can be of help. This satisfying and a great way to get to know people!

Any books you’re looking forward to getting your hands on?
I spent all year reading original texts, mostly from the Greeks. All of the work at school is reading the originals and analyzing for myself. After a year of that, I am delighted to have someone else make connections for me. It is a great way to take a break and ramp back up for another year of classics and oldies. I love picking up one of our books, finding and reading the most interesting chapter, reshelving the book, and starting the process again. This gets me learning about a number of things very quickly.

What do you love most about working in NYC? Have you found a good smoothie spot yet?
I love the commute on most of my days. I was wiped out in my first few weeks. Now, I am trying to stay out and enjoy New York after work. I have taken it upon myself to seize all of the coffee opportunities around me.

I have been to quite a few shops, taking my coffee journal along to record descriptions of distinctive drinks and doing my best to articulate what my coffee tastes like. Easier said than done, describing coffee.

Tell us about your favorite summer vacation.
I hope to spend next summer in Antigua, Guatemala. Antigua coffee has, what I think, is a balanced flavor. Someone recently said that if he had to have one coffee for the rest of his life, it would be a Guatemalan. I agree! My love of the drink and the process originates in visiting beautiful Antigua, a city in Guatemala, and seeing where it all begins. I hope to set myself up in a Spanish school in the city, volunteer with From Houses to Homes (a sweet organization which I love dearly), live with a host family, and get to as many coffee farms as I can.

Meet the staff: Tom Sullivan

Last month, the marketing team at NYU Press bid farewell to an adored colleague and friend, Bernadette Blanco, who left to join the world of trade publishing. Luckily, we were able to snag a familiar face to take her place: Tom Sullivan (hitherto, and likely always to be, known to us as Intern T). Here’s a quick Q&A to introduce you to Tom, the newest member of NYU Press!

Can you tell us a little about your role at NYU Press and how you got here?
As the Marketing Associate/Exhibits Coordinator, I make sure that NYU has a strong presence at all of our annual conferences, that awards are sent out, and that our marketing materials are as up to date as possible. I was originally an intern at NYU Press for two years—followed by one year at Oxford University Press—and now I’m back!

Why did you decide to pursue a career in (academic) publishing?
My first foray into publishing was kind of spontaneous. I needed a work study job while studying journalism at NYU, and I applied for a job as a Marketing Intern here at NYUP. I ended up enjoying it so much, that I decided to pursue a career in publishing after I graduated.

What are you reading right now?
I just finished an edited collection called Against Equality: Don’t Ask to Fight Their Wars, which contains various radical queer critiques of the LGBTQ community’s obsession with repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. A lot of the viewpoints were very controversial, so naturally I enjoyed every moment of it. I enjoy a good queer studies book that pushes your buttons and makes you think. GRR, rage, argument!

Good ol’ fashioned print or fancy schmancy e-book?
Print all the way. When I started at OUP, I purchased a Kindle so I could carry around Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 without my arm dislocating and falling off, and I haven’t touched it since. I can see the appeal, but for me there’s nothing like holding a book in your hand. Also, you can’t browse the shelves of a bookstore with a Kindle. Gross.

What are some of your hobbies?
In my spare time, I aspire to watch lots of movies and try new kinds of food, but I mostly sit in my room eating Chinese food and browsing Tumblr. Just kidding, sort of. Now that it’s getting warmer here in New York, I love exploring new neighborhoods, going to museums for free, and reading in the park by my apartment. Basically movies, books, food, and “cul-chah.”

You’ve lived in New York for awhile. Any insider tips to navigating this crazy city?
For the love of God, please move away from the subway doors so people can get off the train. Also, explore as much as possible. There’s so much to see and do outside of Manhattan below 96th Street.

We know you’re kind of a foodie. Got any favorites you’d like to share?
I could go on and on (and nobody wants that), so here’s a few neighborhoods: Flushing for Korean, East Harlem for Mexican, Jackson Heights for Columbian and Indian, and Parkchester for Bangladeshi.

We *also* know that you’re pretty media savvy. What’s your social media network of choice, and what are you #obsessed with right now?
Have I mentioned that I’m addicted to Tumblr? I don’t post as much as I used to, but I can browse it for hours. I think it’s the combination of cats, pretty photos of food, .gifs, and unhinged social justice crazy that draws me in. Please send help.

Check out Broadist, an amazing body positive fashion blog, and Bon Iver Erotic Stories, which is not really sexual as opposed to ridiculous. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go pick apples with my beard-y future husband.

What are you most looking forward to this summer?
I have a ton of day trips planned. I love getting out of the city when it’s warm out, sometimes the heat and the crowds are just too much. Also ice cream. Eating all of the ice cream.

Marjorie Heins wins 2013 Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award!

NYU Press is proud to announce that Marjorie Heins has been chosen to receive the 2013 Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in book publishing. She is being honored for her book, Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge, a chronicle of the history, law and personal stories behind the struggle to recognize academic freedom as “a special concern of the First Amendment.”

Christie Hefner established the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards in 1979 “to honor individuals who have made significant contributions in the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for Americans,” in the fields of journalism, government, book publishing and education. Find the full list of this year’s winners here.

A press reception with the winners, judges and special presenters will be held on May 22, 2013 at the Playboy Mansion where winners will receive a cash award of $5,000 and a commemorative plaque. (Awesome—way to go, Marjorie!)

Notes from Betsy…on Spring books

Greetings from NYU Press Publicity! My Instagram account is flooded with images of cherry blossoms, dogs rolling in grass, and ballpark festivities. SPRING HAS SPRUNG! To celebrate the spring season, I thought it would be fun to catch up on a few of the big media hits so far. Some of the tantalizing bits of knowledge you will take away include: can jury duty really be enjoyable?; how does media spread?; why this country needs two presidents; what if the United Nations was based in Detroit?; living in New York City through one reporter’s eyes; is the United States really post-racial?; and exciting titles to look out for.


Author Andrew Guthrie Ferguson is on a quest to convince us that jury duty is fun, and at the very least, our most important civic duty apart from voting. Listen to his convincing interviews on WAMU’s “The Kojo Nmadi Show”; KPCC’s “Airtalk” and WYPR’s “Mid-Day.” The Baltimore Sun makes mention—and Greta Van Susteren knows a good thing when she sees one. Also, May is Juror Appreciation Month! See Andrew’s piece on The Atlantic’s website.


The name Henry Jenkins will stop any media junkie, cos-play boy or girl, and Comi-con regular in their tracks. Find out what all the hype is about: Jenkins and co-author, Sam Ford, on KBOO-FM; Sam Ford’s article on’s “Speakeasy;” an interview with the authors on New Books in Journalism; and a shout-out on Mediabistro’s journalism & tech blog, 10,000 Words. Jenkins and his co-authors also made an appearance at SXSW!


Two heads are better than one; good things come in pairs; and according to our author, two presidents would be better than one. Need some convincing? No problem! See author David Orentlicher’s interview with the Chicago Tribune; his appearance on C-SPAN’s “Book TV”; and his radio interviews with KPCC’s “Airtalk” and Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Joy Cardin Show.”


Probably the coolest coverage so far for Capital of the World was the essay Foreign Policy commissioned from author Charlene Mires—they asked her to imagine if Detroit had won the bid to become the home of the United Nations, and how that would have affected the future of the city. Other coverage included a review in the Wall Street Journal; an interview on C-SPAN’s “Book TV”; a feature in PRI’s “The World” ; a spot in the New York Times‘ Bookshelf; and an hour with KERA’s “Think.”


New Yorkers are obsessed with where other New Yorkers live. In Habitats, New York Times writer, Constance Rosenblum gives readers that fly-on-the-wall experience in some of the most fabulous, wild, and unbelievable homes across the 5 boroughs. The New Republic reviewed the book and our sadistic history of real estate voyeurism, while NY1 raved about the collection here. And if you’re in Manhattan next Tuesday, 5/14, stop by the 92Y Tribeca at noon to hear Connie read from some of her favorite sections!


Electing an African American president had many declaring that the United States had finally moved beyond race. F. Michael Higginbotham argues we still have a long way to go in his new book, Ghosts of Jim Crow. You can hear more of what he has to say in interviews with Oregon Public Radio; Dallas Public Radio; and Balitmore Public Radio.

Look out for the next round-up coming soon!  We have some exciting titles pubbing in the next few months including We Will Shoot Back, A Death at Crooked Creek, and Rebels at the Bar, so more fantastic coverage is surely on the way.

Capital of the (Cyber)world

The scope of Charlene Mires’s Capital of the World is huge. In tracking the race to find a home for the United Nations, the book travels across the United States, covering the major hometown boosters while also making unexpected (and often amusing) detours.

Appropriately, the book’s tour on the web has also been expansive: over the past month, bloggers across the net have been exploring the campaign with Mires, and have written about their experiences with the work. We’ve listed the writers who wrote about the book below. Check them out, and follow along the tour!

Monday, March 4, 2013 — A Bookish Affair (with an author guest post)
Tuesday, March 5, 2013 — Padre Steve
Tuesday, March 12, 2013 — Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, March 14, 2013 — Man of La Book
Monday, March 18, 2013 — BookNAround
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 — Suko’s Notebook
Friday, March 22, 2013 — Sophisticated Dorkiness
Monday, March 25, 2013 — Knowing the Difference
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 — Fifty Books Project
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 — The Relentless Reader
Thursday, March 28, 2013 — West Metro Mommy
Monday, April 1, 2013 — The Future American
Wednesday, April 3, 2013 — Lisa’s Yarns

Let us know your thoughts on the blog tour—or the book—in the comments section. We’d be delighted to hear them!

California, here they came

At the end of WWII, the United Nations needed a headquarters… And so began the race to host the United Nations, with over 200 American cities and towns fighting to become the UN’s new home, or the “capital of the world.” 

In Capital of the World (NYU Press, 2013),  award-winning historian and journalist Charlene Mires uncovers this fascinating history of hometown promoters in hot pursuit. We invited Mires to share a few of these stories with us on our blog. Our final entry in the series moves to the West Coast, starting with a telegram that would propel San Francisco into a global competition. (For more stories like this one, visit the author’s blog!)

In the last months of World War II, an unexpected telegram arrived in San Francisco from around the world. “California, here we come,” the Secretary of State, Edward Stettinius, wired from Moscow to San Francisco Mayor Roger Lapham, who up to that moment was enjoying a peaceful lunch at his usual club on Nob Hill. Thus began San Francisco’s moment on the world stage as the United Nations’ first Capital of the World – the site of the conference to draft the United Nations Charter – and the quest of San Francisco and other California cities and towns to keep the honor.

Would San Francisco and other world capital hopefuls in the American West benefit from the feeling that the postwar world would be centered more on the Pacific region than the traditional centers for diplomacy in Europe? Or would they lose to perceptions that they were too distant from European capitals?

At a time when prospects for commercial aviation were changing ideas of time and distance, anything seemed possible. Placing the United Nations in New York was far from certain, and San Francisco competed prominently and vigorously among nearly 250 American cities and towns seeking the honor of becoming the Capital of the World. While many Californians aligned with San Francisco’s bid, offers also reached the UN from more than a dozen other California contenders. From the West also came invitations from Denver and Salt Lake City, and suggestions of Grand Coulee, Washington, and the Grand Canyon.

Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations follows the San Francisco boosters and other world capital hopefuls as they competed for the UN’s attention at the end of the Second World War. Reaching across the nation and around the world, from boardrooms to the halls of diplomacy, the book relates the surprising and often comic story of American determination at a pivotal moment in world history. Any town could have dreamt of becoming the Capital of the World, and readers will wonder: what if their dreams had come true?

Charlene Mires is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University-Camden. She is also the author of Independence Hall in American Memory and a co-recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in journalism.

Center of the nation, center of the world

At the end of WWII, the United Nations needed a headquarters… And so began the race to host the United Nations, with over 200 American cities and towns fighting to become the UN’s new home, or the “capital of the world.” 

In Capital of the World (NYU Press, 2013),  award-winning historian and journalist Charlene Mires uncovers this fascinating history of hometown promoters in hot pursuit. We invited Mires to share a few stories with us on our blog leading up to the book’s publication. Focusing on Chicago and the Midwest, this entry is the third in our series.

Chicago had much to boast about by the end of the Second World War. Less than 75 years after the Great Fire, the city had rebounded into a metropolis. Think of it: Host city to two world’s fairs, in 1893 and 1933. The crossroads of the nation’s railroads, moving people and commerce from East to West. A city of skyscrapers, and a destination for immigrants. During the war, it was even called one of the nation’s “arsenals of democracy.”

What more could one desire in a potential Capital of the World?

Without hesitation, in 1945 Chicago leapt into the spontaneous and spirited competition among American cities and towns to become the headquarters location for the new United Nations. Despite tendencies toward isolationism still embraced by the Chicago Tribune, Chicago and other Midwest contenders entered the fray among more than 250 cities and towns making pitches to become the Capital of the World.  How about one of the state parks in Indiana? Or Chicago’s rival in railroads and commerce, St. Louis? Why not the Black Hills of South Dakota? Or the “Queen City,” Cincinnati? These were among the world capital hopefuls who pursued the prize with such gusto that they sent teams of boosters to London – uninvited – to make personal pitches to the UN.

The UN’s choice of New York was far from certain, and all options seemed open as the world transitioned from war to peace. Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations tells the surprising, entertaining, and revealing stories of Americans who were determined to make a new place for themselves on the map of the postwar world.

Charlene Mires is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University-Camden. She is also the author of Independence Hall in American Memory and a co-recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in journalism.

Meet our new intern, Connor!

Name and role at the Press: Connor Spencer, Social Media Marketing Intern

Major/minor/year at NYU: English and American Literature Major, minors in French and Gender and Sexuality Studies, Class of 2014

Any previous internships you’d like to note?: Prior to coming to NYU Press, I worked in the non-profit arena at The Door, a comprehensive youth development agency in downtown Manhattan. I worked in their college advising office, and mostly conducted tutoring and student outreach. I would venture to say that it was something of a formative experience for me, and I continue to work with NYU organizations in the fields of service and social advocacy. Civic engagement is really important to me—I want to feel as much a part of the city as I am a student within it!

Why did you decide to intern with NYU Press?: Once of the major draws of NYU for me was that its location would give me easy access to the publishing industry, justifying my questionable choice to pursue a humanities degree (kidding!). Research in my classes has led me to thumb through a number of university press texts, and some of my professors even utilized books that were published by NYU Press itself, so I guess you could say that academic publishing was always on my mind. I felt like this internship would be a great way to not only get my feet wet in publishing, but to also have the opportunity to work with a lot of tremendously cool books along the way. It’s basically a nerd’s paradise over here.

Subject area NYU Press publishes in that most interests youThis is a tricky one—everything looks so good! Whenever I edit the website or otherwise work with any of our books, I often find myself making a note to myself to check them out at a later date. Overall, though, I’d say I’m probably most interested in works in Cultural Studies, Queer Studies, and History, fields which, coincidentally, happen to frequently intersect with each other.

Any NYU Press books you’re looking forward to getting your hands on?: I’m sort of obsessed with the Cold War and the history of higher education, so I think that Marjorie Heins’s Priests of Our Democracy looks particularly fascinating. Given that the book is something of an intersection between these two subjects, I’m looking forward to giving it a read sometime! In terms of older releases, I’ve also wanted to read José Muñoz’s Cruising Utopia for a while now. The book caused some big waves in the queer studies community when it was published, and I see Muñoz’s name constantly appear in anything I read that was released since its publication. Coincidentally, Muñoz is also a professor at NYU, so it feels like he’s sort of an icon within the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis—everyone wants to talk about his work! It’s definitely on my “To Read” list for whenever I get a chance.

What’s your most preferred way of reading these days? Good ol’ book or fancy schmancy e-reader?: I’m old-fashioned and prefer physical books for the most part. My (somewhat alarming) tendencies as a hoarder aside, I like to write in my books and make notes in them and generally subject them to all kinds of abuse, which is an experience that I haven’t been able to replicate with e-books so far. Plus, paper smells good. Like, really good.

What are some of your hobbies?: Uh, this might be embarrassing, but I like to make zines. I’ve always appreciated the DIY aspects of punk culture, and I think that zines are pretty interesting as multimedia literary objects. Although I wouldn’t say that I’m part of any “scene,” there are definitely a few serial zines that I like and continue to support. I’m also a fan of video games, even if I usually don’t have time to play them. I mostly enjoy the retro stuff, but I’ve been hungrily eyeing Dark Souls since it was released. Hard games have a special place in my heart.