Video: Celebrating 75 Years of ‘These Are Our Lives’

'These Are Our Lives,' by Federal Writers' Project, Regional StaffIn 1935, President Roosevelt founded the Federal Writers’ Project as part of the Works Progress Administration. The FWP employed thousands of historians, teachers, writers, librarians, and other white-collar workers struggling through the Great Depression, creating jobs and enabling the artistic expression and preservation of an era. One of the publications that resulted from the FWP was These Are Our Lives, published by UNC Press in 1939. Based on interviews conducted throughout North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia, the book collects the “life histories of tenant farmers, farm owners, textile and other factory workers, persons in service occupations in towns and cities (such as bell hops, waitresses, messenger boys, clerks in five and ten cent stores, soda jerks), and persons in miscellaneous occupations such as lumbering, mining, turpentining, and fishing,” wrote UNC Press director and southeastern regional FWP director William Terry Couch.

Upon the book’s publication, Time magazine said, “It gives the South its most pungent picture of common life, the Writers’ Project its strongest claim to literary distinction.” The San Francisco Chronicle called it “praiseworthy from any point of view, whether political, social, or literary.” And the New York Times Book Review declared it “one of the most revealing books that has been written on folkways that largely make the South what it is.”

This past spring the Library of Congress sponsored a 75th anniversary event commemorating the publication of These Are Our Lives. The event featured comments from John Cole, director of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, where the FWP archives are held; historian David Taylor; journalist Ann Banks; StoryCorps recording and archive manager Virginia Millington; plus audio recordings from StoryCorps and live readings of the personal accounts found in These Are Our Lives. See video of the event embedded below.

For additional historical context: in 1939, UNC Press was breaking new ground in the publication of works written by and about African Americans, a controversial pursuit for a southern university press of that era.  Continue reading ‘Video: Celebrating 75 Years of ‘These Are Our Lives’’ »

Lisa Wilson: Cinderella and Her Still Evil Stepmother

A History of Stepfamilies in Early America, by Lisa WilsonWe welcome a guest post today from Lisa Wilson, author of A History of Stepfamilies in Early America. Stepfamilies are not a modern phenomenon, but despite this reality, the history of stepfamilies in America has yet to be fully explored. In her book, Wilson examines the stereotypes and actualities of colonial stepfamilies and reveals them to be important factors in early United States domestic history.

In today’s post, Wilson explores the history of the “evil stepmother” trope in Western history.


Why do we need to have evil stepmothers?  After two recent remakes of Snow White—Mirror, Mirror (2012) and Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)—we are now turning to Cinderella (a non-animated Disney film) due to come out in the spring of 2015. Fairy tales with evil stepmothers have become a bit of a cottage industry in the film industry as of late. Why do these stories and in particular the characters of evil stepmothers still have an audience?

Looking at the history of the evil stepmother stereotype I think explains some of the staying power of these familiar tales. Although stepmother characterizations have been negative since as far back as ancient Greece, in Western culture the need for evil stepmothers became more urgent in the United States in response to a new idea of the proper family in Enlightenment Europe. Sentimental families, as they were called, became the ideal for the rising middle class in Western Europe. A sentimental family was a child-centered one with a loving companionate couple at the helm. Mothers took on an increasingly important role in society as middle-class families found a new way to display their social status. The nineteenth century brought a new layer of similar priorities centered on a loving home and the woman who made it, as her husband toiled away outside this new domestic haven thanks to the Industrial Revolution.

So what does the cultural rise of loving mothers have to do with stepmothers? Continue reading ‘Lisa Wilson: Cinderella and Her Still Evil Stepmother’ »

Mara Casey Tieken: The Children “Left Behind”

Why Rural Schools Matter, by Mara Casey TiekenWe welcome to the blog today a guest post by Mara Casey Tieken, author of Why Rural Schools Matter. From headlines to documentaries, urban schools are at the center of current debates about education. From these accounts, one would never know that 51 million Americans live in rural communities and depend on their public schools to meet not only educational but also social and economic needs.  For many communities, these schools are the ties that bind. This book shares the untold story of rural education. Drawing upon extensive research in two southern towns, Tieken exposes the complicated ways in which schools shape the racial dynamics of their towns and sustain the communities that surround them. Vividly demonstrating the effects of constricted definitions of public education in an era of economic turmoil and widening inequality, Tieken calls for a more contextual approach to education policymaking, involving both state and community.

In a previous post, Tieken compared the effects of Brown v. Board of Education with recent resegregation in U.S. schools. In today’s post, Tieken evaluates the apparent failure of the No Child Left Behind Act in light of a more holistic view of education.


It’s 2014, and we failed.

This year, according to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, 100 percent of our nation’s students were to achieve proficiency in reading and math—a target that we came nowhere close to hitting. This failure has long been predicted, leading many to claim that it is NCLB that’s the real failure. And NCLB is a failed policy—but not simply for its punishing absolutism. The real failure lies in its most basic assumptions.

NCLB, passed with bi-partisan support in 2002, required states to administer standardized tests in reading and math and publicly track schools’ and districts’ achievement on these tests. Schools and districts had to make “annual yearly progress” toward this goal of 100 percent proficiency, a deadline to be reached this year.

Thousands failed well before 2014—unable to make their state’s required “adequate yearly progress”—and, with this failure, these schools faced one of the law’s increasingly severe sanctions, including state takeover and closure. But now states are in the uncomfortable position of informing parents that, because 100 percent of students are not proficient in reading and math, all of its schools are “failing.” Most avoided this fate through waivers issued by the Obama administration; these waivers offered states flexibility in meeting some of the act’s requirements, including the 2014 deadline, in exchange for adopting other policies favored by the administration, such as expanding charter schools and tying teacher evaluations to student achievement. But, waivers or not, it’s still 2014, and we are left with the wreckage of all this failure.

Much has been made of NCLB’s flaws, particularly its reliance on test scores and the severity of its sanctions. The realism of NCLB’s target is also worth questioning, especially for an educational system dependent upon a wholly inequitable funding structure. And many have questioned it, even assuming—mistakenly, it turns out—that the sheer rigidity of its goal guaranteed its repeal.

But the Act has another flaw, deeper and more consequential than its 100 percent proficiency mandate. Continue reading ‘Mara Casey Tieken: The Children “Left Behind”’ »

Enter to Win a Signed Copy of New York Times Bestseller ‘Wayfaring Strangers’


Update 12/12/2014: And our 5th and final winner is J. Ihasz in New Hampshire. Congratulations!

Update 12/11/2014: Winners have been drawn! Thanks, everyone, for signing up. We’ve got more good stuff on the way. I’m still waiting to hear back from one winner, but so far our winners include:
L. Foster in Mississippi, A. Mitchell in Maryland, C. Panke in Indiana, and T. Williams in Mississippi. Congrats, all!

Congratulations to Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr, whose book Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia is a New York Times Bestseller!!

To celebrate, the UNC Press is giving away 5 signed copies of Wayfaring Strangers to subscribers of our monthly e-newsletter. To register, just enter your email address, then choose which subject areas most interest you. We will draw 5 winners from among the names on our Music, Travel, and Appalachian Studies subscriber lists, so be sure to register for one (or more!) of those lists in order to qualify.

sign me up!

The drawing will be held Wednesday, December 10, 2014. Winners will be selected from subscribers of each of the mailing lists in the above categories and will be notified by email. We will update this post once we’ve gotten in touch with the winners. Good luck!

[Rest assured: We do not sell or share our email lists. We send e-mails to announce new books and to offer special discounts. You only get book news about subject areas that interest you.]

Stay connected by liking the Wayfaring Strangers Facebook page or following Fiona Ritchie on Twitter @fiona_ritchie.

Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia by Fiona Ritchie and Doug OrrPraise for Wayfaring Strangers:

“[Ritchie and Orr] strike all the right chords in this pleasantly tuneful survey of the history of the evolution of Scottish music in Appalachia.”—Publishers Weekly

“Non-musicians will have no trouble appreciating this work’s context, and even those well versed in the subject will find new insights here.”—Library Journal

“Filled with maps, woodcuts, paintings, and photographs of impossibly picturesque Scottish and Irish locales, the book is a treasure trove of imagery and information. Music lovers, prepare to be transported.”—BookPage

“A readable and epic tale tracing the flow of Scottish music. . . . [Ritchie and Orr] tell a story remarkable for its breadth and depth, conveying the drama of Scottish emigration via Ulster to Appalachia, by a people who clung to the music and song they held dear, and bequeathed it to America.”—Scottish Life Magazine

“Represents an extraordinary feat of research, together with copious interview material. . . . A joy to read from cover to cover, it also rewards just dipping in and out.”—fRoots

“Except for my family, there is nothing I love more than being a part of the ‘living tradition’ captured in this book.”—Rosanne Cash

This #GivingTuesday, Become a UNC Press Club Sustainer

It’s Giving Tuesday at UNC Press! To celebrate this national day of giving, UNC Press invites you to become a Sustainer of the UNC Press Club by signing up for automatic monthly giving through Network for Good on our website.

What is the UNC Press Club? The Press Club is a group of book lovers who, through their membership, help the Press recruit leading authors and make their publications available in numerous formats. As a nonprofit publisher, roughly 80% of the UNC Press budget comes from the sale of books. Private gifts from corporations, foundations, and individuals like you make up over 12% of our budget.

What’s in it for you?

  • Press Club members get special invitations and access to UNC Press authors, news, and events.
  • UNC Press is a not-for-profit business, so your gift is a charitable, tax-deductible gift.
  • If you become a Sustainer before Wednesday, December 31, your name will be entered into a drawing for your choice of one of the “essential” UNC Press book sets listed below.

For what you might spend on a cup of coffee or lunch with friends, you can become a UNC Press Club Sustainer and be a part of our publishing excellence. Sign up today!

Essential UNC Press North Carolina Nature & Travel Books

Essential UNC Press Civil War Books

Essential UNC Press Religious Studies Books


Essential UNC Press African American Studies Books

african amer

Sarah Mayorga-Gallo: What We’re Missing When We Talk about Integrated Neighborhoods

mayorga-gallo_behind_PBWe welcome to the blog today a guest post by Sarah Mayorga-Gallo, author of Behind the White Picket Fence: Power and Privilege in a Multiethnic Neighborhood. The link between residential segregation and racial inequality is well established, so it would seem that greater equality would prevail in integrated neighborhoods. But as Mayorga-Gallo argues, multiethnic and mixed-income neighborhoods still harbor the signs of continued, systemic racial inequalities. Drawing on deep ethnographic and other innovative research from “Creekridge Park,” a pseudonymous urban community in Durham, North Carolina, Mayorga-Gallo demonstrates that the proximity of white, African American, and Latino neighbors does not ensure equity; rather, proximity and equity are in fact subject to structural-level processes of stratification.

In today’s post, Mayorga-Gallo examines the “white codes” present in multiethnic neighborhoods that hinder racial and residential integration.


What is the relationship between residential segregation and racial inequality? Scholars have spent decades analyzing data and arguing that residential segregation is the “linchpin” of racial inequality in the United States. The conclusion that many draw, therefore, is that residential integration is the key to reducing racial inequality. Pretty straightforward, right? Well, not quite.

In my study of Creekridge Park, a multiethnic, mixed income urban neighborhood in Durham, North Carolina, I found that racial stratification can still be reproduced even when different racial-ethnic groups live next door to each other. Creekridge Park is home to white, black, and Latino/a residents, and is “integrated” according to common social science definitions. Through a series of in-depth interviews, participant observation, and a household survey, I found that local social norms actually reinforced high interracial social distance. Contemporary understandings of diversity fuel these interactions.

Many social scientists use spatial measures, such as the dissimilarity index, to understand social processes of inequality. However, without acknowledging the structural and ideological racial context in which segregation takes place, we mistake a symptom for the cause. As a result, we may overlook the inequity of statistically integrated and multiethnic spaces—especially when they are accompanied by exaltations of diversity and progressivism. For example, residents of Creekridge Park scored more liberally than the national average on racial attitude questions, and most white residents I spoke with lauded the neighborhood’s diversity. They criticized the racially segregated “blah” suburbs and specifically sought out a “mixed-up” urban neighborhood. Based on these characteristics, one might assume Creekridge Park is the kind of place where positive interracial interactions would flourish. So how do we explain these seeming contradictions?

What I found is that codes of conduct (which I call white codes) maintain high interracial social distance between white and nonwhite residents in Creekridge Park. These codes of interracial conduct dictate appropriate neighborhood behavior between whites and residents of color and help explain why white residents had mostly white social networks despite living in a multiethnic, statistically integrated neighborhood and praising the neighborhood’s diversity. Diversity ideology, which I discuss at length in Behind the White Picket Fence, is an important part of creating these neighborhood norms.

What do white codes look like? Continue reading ‘Sarah Mayorga-Gallo: What We’re Missing When We Talk about Integrated Neighborhoods’ »

‘Tis the Season to Save

Save 40% on ALL books!

Be jolly this holiday season with a whopping 40% off every print book at from UNC Press—no exceptions! Just enter 01HOLIDAY at checkout. And if you order $75 or more, the shipping is FREE. Below are some great gift ideas. Browse our website to find the perfect book for everyone on your holiday list.

Place your order by December 7th for guaranteed delivery by December 24th.

But there’s more! Get 40% off any Spring 2015 book in our new catalog when you preorder using 01HOLIDAY at checkout.

Note: Forthcoming books will be shipped as soon as they are published. 

Alcohol: A History, by Rod Phillips The Edible South: The Power of Food and the Making of an American Region, by Marcie Cohen Ferris moose_southern Finding Your Roots: The Official Companion to the PBS Series, by Henry Louis Gates Jr. Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, by William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh A Field Guide to Gettysburg: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and People by Carol Reardon and Tom Vossler summers_ordeal What Is Veiling?, by Sahar Amer The Gift of the Face: Portraiture and Time in Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian, by Shamoon Zamir brownell_showbiz wolfram_talkin Exploring Southern Appalachian Forests: An Ecological Guide to 30 Great Hikes in the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia, by Stephanie B. Jeffries and Thomas R. Wentworth Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia by Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr The Storied South by William Ferris

Debbie Moose: Thanksgiving Relish Tray

moose_southernWe welcome to the blog today a guest post by Debbie Moose, author of Southern Holidays: a Savor the South® cookbook, a cook’s celebration of the richly diverse holiday traditions of today’s South. Covering big traditional holidays such as Christmas and Mardi Gras, this must-have addition to the Savor the South® cookbook collection also branches out into regional and cultural holidays that honor newer southern traditions, including recipes from real cooks hailing from a range of ethnic traditions and histories. The cooks’ stories accompanying the recipes show how holiday foods not only hold cherished personal family memories but also often have roots in a common past that ties families together in a shared southern history.

In today’s post, Moose shares her favorite family Thanksgiving tradition, and its evolution over the years.


Everyone has favorite holiday traditions—especially, it seems, at Thanksgiving. Unlike the Christmas season, which runs on seemingly for half a year, Thanksgiving is focused on merely one day. And that day is all about the food.

Grandma’s giblet gravy. Auntie’s corn pudding. Sister’s sweet potato casserole. Each of us cherishes that one special dish which, if it were absent from the overflowing bounty, would lead us to declare “it isn’t Thanksgiving.” And it doesn’t matter if there are so many other dishes that you can’t see the tablecloth and those who don’t share the same attachment look at you a little oddly.

My Thanksgiving gotta-have-it: The relish tray.

Even if no one else spears a single item from it, it just has to be there.

My attachment to the Thanksgiving relish tray began with my grandmother, whose tray contained her homemade pickled peaches, homemade bread-and-butter pickles, homemade watermelon rind pickles—and store-bought, bright red, spiced apple rings. The rings sort of came out of left field and I don’t know the story behind them, but as a kid I loved their sweet, Technicolor addition. Continue reading ‘Debbie Moose: Thanksgiving Relish Tray’ »

George W. Houston: From a Trash Heap: The Mind of an Ancient Book Collector

houston_insideWe welcome to the blog today a guest post by George W. Houston, author of Inside Roman Libraries: Book Collections and Their Management in Antiquity. Libraries of the ancient world have long held a place in the public imagination. Even in antiquity, the library at Alexandria was nearly legendary. Until now there has been relatively little research to discover what was inside these libraries, how the collections came into being and evolved, and who selected and maintained the holdings. In this engaging and meticulously researched study, Houston examines a dozen specific book collections of Roman date in the first comprehensive attempt to answer these questions.

In today’s post, Houston relates the literary discoveries made by a twentieth-century archaeological team excavating a third-century dump in Egypt.


Amid lengthening shadows late in the afternoon of January 13, 1906, two young British scholars, who with their teams of workers were excavating ancient dusty mounds in Egypt, made a startling discovery. The scholars were Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt, both of Queen’s College, Oxford. The site was the ancient town of Oxyrhynchus (the modern Bahnasa), about a hundred miles south of Cairo and west of the Nile. The mounds were the remains of the ancient town dump, vast piles of trash thrown out by the inhabitants of the town over a period of six hundred years or more. Grenfell directed the Egyptian workers, who were divided into teams of four to seven men. The workers searched carefully through the ancient dump, looking for pieces of papyrus, the ancient equivalent of paper; when they found bits of papyrus, they put them in baskets, and Hunt then sorted through the fragments and organized them for future study.

This was not the first time Grenfell and Hunt had searched for papyrus in Egypt—they had begun exploring various sites in 1897—but the discoveries they made at Oxyrhynchus in the winter of 1905–1906 produced astonishingly rich assortments of materials. The bits of papyrus had been preserved by the ultra-dry sands of Egypt, but they were not in good shape. They were trash, after all, and some of them may have been thrown out because they were damaged or torn. Many were bent or crushed or faded. Most survived as small fragments, containing just a few letters or lines of text; some preserved several columns of writing; and a few still contained the equivalent of several pages of continuous text. Most of the papyri that have been found in Egypt have turned out to be documents that, when studied, provide invaluable and fascinating details on ancient daily life; but what Grenfell and Hunt were seeking was potentially more precious still: remains of ancient works of literature. And that is what they found in the afternoon of January 13.

Even a quick look at the fragments revealed the potential value of the papyri in this find, and Grenfell excitedly wrote a friend a few days later: “On Jan. 13 . . . we were fortunate enough to make incomparably the biggest and most important find of classical pieces that we have ever made.” Continue reading ‘George W. Houston: From a Trash Heap: The Mind of an Ancient Book Collector’ »

Christopher C. Sellers: Beyond Environmentalism: Marching toward Climatism

Crabgrass Crucible: Suburban Nature and the Rise of Environmentalism in Twentieth-Century America, by Christopher SellersWe welcome to the blog today a guest post by Christopher C. Sellers, author of Crabgrass Crucible: Suburban Nature and the Rise of Environmentalism in Twentieth-Century America, which will be available in paperback in February 2015. Although suburb-building created major environmental problems, Sellers demonstrates that the environmental movement originated within suburbs—not just in response to unchecked urban sprawl. Drawn to the countryside as early as the late 19th century, new suburbanites turned to taming the wildness of their surroundings. They cultivated a fondness for the natural world around them, and in the decades that followed, they became sensitized to potential threats. Sellers shows how the philosophy, science, and emotions that catalyzed the environmental movement sprang directly from suburbanites’ lives and their ideas about nature, as well as the unique ecology of the neighborhoods in which they dwelt.

In the following post, Sellers reports on the September 21 People’s Climate March event in New York, where he witnessed a new multiracial generation of activists mobilized for justice.

[This article originally appeared at]


Over a month out from the People’s Climate March, while many dwell on what it did not or will not do, let me venture a hopeful prediction, from the longer vantage point of the historian. With a size of surprising, historic proportion, it showed climate activism may well have broken out of the mold of its “environmental” predecessors, established half a century ago. That’s a good thing, not least for those who think of themselves as “environmentalists.”

As has been noted, the closest things we’ve seen in recent decades to the as many as 400,000 drawn to New York City on September 21 were the rally against the Iraq War not long after 9/11, the Million Men and Women marches of the 1990s following in the tradition of civil rights, and a 1982 gathering in Central Park to protest Reagan’s nuclear build-up. Thematically, however, a better historical touchstone is the first Earth Day in 1970, still in many respects the high-water mark for popular demonstrations on behalf of the environment in this country.

Unaided by the organizing facility of modern social media, and without a United Nations summit to target, Earth Day 1970 centered much less on New York City than did the Climate March. A Union Square event, while its single biggest, drew only 20,000 people at its peak moment. And the first Earth Day happened almost entirely inside the United States, compared to the 162 countries that reportedly hosted events this September 21.

Inside America, however, the first Earth Day mobilized far more people—some 20 million according the organizers—across a vaster array of places, not just cities but suburbs too. Through a host of smaller changes, but nowhere more so than through this event, the much older cause of “conservation” cracked apart, revealing a newer and stronger movement,  more massive and popular, just then becoming known as “environmentalism.” Though convened by a senator (Gaylord Nelson, D-Wisc) and led by a national organizing group (Environmental Action), Earth Day seemed to nearly “organize itself” (Nelson’s words), especially around the largest and most sprawling of cities. First and foremost of its achievements was to confirm just how widespread and active was the constituency for what was then a newly woven tapestry of concerns, “the environment.”

A similar transformation may be happening right now. Continue reading ‘Christopher C. Sellers: Beyond Environmentalism: Marching toward Climatism’ »

Doug Orr: The Profound African American Influence on Appalachian Music

Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia by Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr

We welcome to the blog today a guest post by Doug Orr, coauthor of the book Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia with Fiona Ritchie. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a steady stream of Scots migrated to Ulster and eventually onward across the Atlantic to resettle in the United States. Many of these Scots-Irish immigrants made their way into the mountains of the southern Appalachian region. They brought with them a wealth of traditional ballads and tunes from the British Isles and Ireland, a carrying stream that merged with sounds and songs of English, German, Welsh, African American, French, and Cherokee origin. Their enduring legacy of music flows today from Appalachia back to Ireland and Scotland and around the globe. Ritchie and Orr guide readers on a musical voyage across oceans, linking people and songs through centuries of adaptation and change.

Ritchie and Orr have four upcoming events in North Carolina this fall, beginning Thursday, November 13, in Charlotte. For more information about upcoming author events and appearances, all featuring live music, check out their author page on the UNC Press website.

In a previous post, Ritchie shares some of her travels over the years that contributed to Wayfaring Strangers. In today’s post, Orr traces the historical influence that African American music and culture had on the development of Appalachian music.


The music of the Appalachians draws its sources from a meandering stream of influences over centuries and distant lands. A substantial Scots-Irish immigration of the eighteenth century, generally through Pennsylvania and down the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road into the southern Appalachians, represented the initial and primary source. But over subsequent years and cultural encounters a variety of influences entered the mix: German, English, French, Welsh, Cherokee and African American—what Fiona Ritchie and I refer to as a “musical tapestry” in our book Wayfaring  Strangers. Perhaps none of these influences has been more misunderstood and underestimated than that of African American music and culture.

It is generally known that the American banjo’s origins trace back to West Africa and a gourd-like instrument, the “ngoni,” among other names. However, the plantations were something of an incubator for music of the African American slaves in a variety of forms: the fiddle, learned at the plantation house; the call-and-response work songs from the toil of the plantation fields; spirituals stemming from church worship—often clandestine services or camp meetings with hidden messages of freedom’s call; and the hush lullabies sung by mammies to their babies, and sung with irony to the children of the plantation overlords.

A reciprocal “short loop” saw influences evolve in both directions between blacks and whites. For example, the slaves would hear white fiddlers play at the plantation house, emulate what they heard on their own instruments, and thereafter return the tunes with added interpretations that included more syncopated, improvisational, bluesy, and rhythmic styles, with ultimately a lasting impact on Appalachian fiddle playing, as the music drifted west from the plantations and into the mountains. It has been estimated that at the time of the Revolutionary War over half of the fiddle players in the South were African American. Continue reading ‘Doug Orr: The Profound African American Influence on Appalachian Music’ »

Sneak Peek: Great Reads for Spring 2015

Freshen up your reading list in time for spring with new books from UNC Press. Our Spring 2015 catalog is now live! We have wonderful new books for general readers and the scholarly community. To find out more, search through the interactive catalog above for descriptions or visit our website to see what’s new in subject areas that interest you. All spring books are now available for pre-order. Most books will be available as e-books, too, as soon as the printed copies arrive. If you want to stay on top of what’s new each month in your favorite subject area, sign up for our monthly eNews announcements.

Plus! Our holiday sale is now underway. You can save 40% on ALL our books. Just use discount code 01HOLIDAY at checkout on our website. Plus, spend $75 or more, and shipping is FREE. Start your holiday shopping now!

Some extra good news? Even though our Spring 2015 books haven’t been published yet, you can pre-order them at the sale price now, and we’ll ship the books as soon as they become available. What’s coming along this spring? We’ve got a handful featured below. Browse the interactive catalog above to see the full list.

'The Life of William Apess, Pequot,' by Philip F. Gura'Shrimp,' a Savor the South® cookbook by Jay Pierce'Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South,' by Charles L. Hughes'What Is a Madrasa?' by Ebrahim Moosa'Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women,' edited by Mia E. Bay, Farah J. Griffin, Martha S. Jones, and Barbara D. Savage'The Battle of Ezra Church and the Struggle for Atlanta,' by Earl J. Hess'Hotel Life: The Story of a Place Where Anything Can Happen,' by Caroline Field Levander and Matthew Pratt Guterl'Waterfalls and Wildflowers in the Southern Appalachians: Thirty Great Hikes,' by Timothy P. Spira

Interview: Rod Phillips and the world history of alcohol

Rod Phillips, author of Alcohol: A History, talks with Gina Mahalek about beer vs. wine, alcohol vs. water, and the (possible) dawn of a “post-alcohol era.”


Gina Mahalek: This is the first cultural history of alcohol. What was your biggest challenge in writing it?

Rod Phillips author pageRod Phillips: One of the big challenges I had was to create the periods of the history of alcohol because there was no model. To some extent I followed conventional periods, like Classical and Medieval, but more recent periods were trickier. And because this is a global history, I faced the same problems as world historians: periods in Africa and South America don’t align with periods in Europe and North America. So I ended up with a mix of chronological and thematic divisions. I think it works.

GM: What role did the church play in extending wine production up to and beyond the end of the first Christian millennium?

RP: The church was very important in promoting wine production throughout Europe and the wider world. Wine was central to Christian rituals and symbolism and it was needed for communion, so priests needed access to wine wherever they were. But they didn’t need very much because from the Middle Ages to the 1960s, only the priest sipped wine; the congregation took only bread. This means that almost all the wine produced on church lands (including monasteries) was consumed by the clergy as a secular drink or sold on the open market. Monasteries also produced beer and, later, distilled spirits. But it’s possible that the church’s role in alcohol production has been exaggerated because monastic and other church records have been conserved well, while we might have lost the records of much of the alcohol production by other vineyard and brewery owners.

GM: What was the first known instance of prohibition?

RP: When anyone mentions Prohibition, most people think immediately of Prohibition in the United States. But as I hope I show in my chapter on “Prohibitions,” other countries (like Russia, Sweden, and Norway) adopted prohibition policies around the same time as the United States. As for earlier examples of prohibition, the best known and most effective example is Islam. Since the seventh century, Islam has forbidden the consumption of alcohol, and although some Muslims drink, the great majority of Muslims do not. It’s the most successful and enduring example of prohibition in history. Before Muhammad forbade alcohol, a few small Christian and Jewish sects also did so, but they were hardly significant or mainstream.

GM: What is one misconception about alcohol that you hope to dispel?

RP: People are often surprised to learn that alcohol was so widely consumed in the past as an item of diet, rather than as an optional beverage as it is now. There really has been a sea change in the cultural meaning of alcohol as it is now discretionary and consumed for pleasure. On the other hand, it was consumed for centuries because it was nutritious, healthy, and a safe way of hydrating the body.

GM: Why has wine enjoyed more cultural cachet than beer?

RP: It’s true that over the long term, and even today, beer has been thought of as a culturally inferior drink—although today, craft brewers are making beer that they believe is every bit as complex and serious as wine, and terms that have been associated with wine are now being used to describe beer. Originally, it was probably the relative scarcity of wine that gave it cultural value. Wine could be made only once a year, at grape harvest, unlike beer, which could be made year-round from stored grain. Wine was also made in smaller volumes than beer. Relative scarcity made it more expensive and therefore within reach only of the elites. In ancient societies, the elites drank wine and beer, but the masses only drank beer. As the elites monopolized wine, they also associated it with divinity, which reinforced the sense that the rich and powerful were closer to the gods. Continue reading ‘Interview: Rod Phillips and the world history of alcohol’ »

Michael Barkun: Reverse Transparency in Post-9/11 America

Barkun - Chasing PhantomsWe welcome a guest post today from Michael Barkun, author of Chasing Phantoms: Reality, Imagination, and Homeland Security Since 9/11, which will be available in paperback next month. In the book, Barkun identifies a gap between the realities of terrorism—“violence without a return address”—and the everyday discourse about it among government officials and the general public. Demonstrating that U.S. homeland security policy reflects significant nonrational thinking, Barkun offers new recommendations for effective—and rational—policymaking.

In the following post, Barkun addresses new revelations about government surveillance that have come to light since the original publication of the book in 2011.


I wrote Chasing Phantoms: Reality, Imagination, and Homeland Security Since 9/11 before Edward Snowden released his massive accumulation of National Security Agency documents. Like most Americans, I was stunned by the extent to which the NSA had penetrated domestic as well as foreign communications. While my book did not anticipate the Snowden disclosures, what we now know about government surveillance is consistent with an argument I made in Chasing Phantoms.

That argument appeared in a chapter I called “Making the Invisible Visible: Reverse Transparency and Privacy.” One of the immediate post–9/11 fears was that terrorists and their weapons of mass destruction would be able to move about indistinguishable from the general population and ordinary articles of commerce. As a result, much of the early emphasis of homeland security was on making these putatively invisible entities visible and thus separate them from the surrounding environment. If this could be done, it would result in a distinction of the dangerous from the harmless. Although many of these ventures turned out to be unsuccessful for technical reasons, the emphasis on bringing supposedly invisible dangers to visibility necessitated infringements upon privacy.

Unlike the covert electronic infringements by the NSA, some other infringements are open and obvious—for example, security check-points at airports and government buildings, or surveillance cameras covering public spaces. These are examples of what I term “reverse transparency.” Continue reading ‘Michael Barkun: Reverse Transparency in Post-9/11 America’ »

Announcing a new book series: Studies in United States Culture

We have exciting news to share as editors Mark Simpson-Vos and Brandon Proia depart for this week’s annual meeting of the American Studies Association (follow #2014ASA on Twitter). UNC Press is proud to announce the creation of a new book series, Studies in United States Culture.

This series will be edited by Grace Elizabeth Hale, Commonwealth Chair of American Studies, Professor of History, and Director of the American Studies Program at the University of Virginia. Hale is author of Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940 (Pantheon 1998) and A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle-Class Fell in Love with Rebellion in Postwar America (Oxford 2011). Her next book, tentatively entitled “Cool Town: Athens, Georgia, and the Promise of Alternative Culture in Reagan’s America,” will be published by UNC Press.

Studies in United States Culture will publish provocative books that explore United States culture in its many forms and spheres of influence. Under the series umbrella, UNC Press seeks interdisciplinary work characterized by big ideas, brisk prose, bold storytelling, and methodological sophistication.

This new publishing initiative builds on the intellectual origins and historical development of American Studies as a field. Continue reading ‘Announcing a new book series: Studies in United States Culture’ »

Excerpt: Behind the White Picket Fence, by Sarah Mayorga-Gallo

Behind the White Picket Fence: Power and Privilege in a Multiethnic Neighborhood, by Sarah Mayorga-GalloBehind the White Picket Fence: Power and Privilege in a Multiethnic Neighborhood is the study of a multiethnic and mixed-income urban neighborhood in Durham, North Carolina. In this book, I discuss diversity ideology, which captures the contemporary ways that whites reconcile a national emphasis on egalitarianism with pervasive racial inequality. I argue that diversity ideology focuses on an individual’s intentions; being in favor of diversity aligns one with the humanist principles of equity and justice. Diversity ideology maintains that as long as one is interested in inclusion, s/he is inclusive; no specific actions or outcomes are otherwise demanded. I contend, however, that focusing on good intentions can obscure issues of inequality. If we are interested in equity, we must also focus on inequitable outcomes—even if they are the product of well-intentioned actions. In Chapter 2 of Behind the White Picket Fence, I identify the five ways that Creekridge Park residents define diversity and discuss how these uses, by failing to acknowledge power differentials and focus on outcomes, reinforce the race and class privilege of White homeowners. In this excerpt (pp. 45-48), I discuss how the commodification of Black and Latino/a residents in Creekridge Park is a product of diversity ideology.

A note on terminology: I use the capitalized term “White” to refer to individuals who are White and non-Hispanic. I use the lowercase term “white” to refer to a set of power relations that systemically (i.e., socially, politically, and historically) privilege European descendants and disadvantage racial others. I discuss this distinction a bit more in Chapter 1 of Behind the White Picket Fence. Throughout the book I also use three terms to designate how long residents have lived in the neighborhood: newcomer—less than five years; established resident—more than five and less than fifteen years; and longtime resident—fifteen or more years. For ease of reading, I have omitted identifying each resident quoted in this excerpt as a White homeowner. Unless otherwise noted, the reader may assume each individual discussed below is a White homeowner.

—Sarah Mayorga-Gallo


Diversity as Commodity

In Creekridge Park, White residents also perceived diversity as a commodity. In this white, urban, middle-class habitus, one of the normative responses to non-White bodies was a commodification of their otherness. By commodification I mean that non-Whites are treated as objects rather than people and are used by Whites for their own benefit and satisfaction. In Creekridge Park, what was most often commodified was the presence of non-Whites. The presence of Blacks and Latino/as in Creekridge Park is attractive to some White homeowners because it facilitates the definition of this multiethnic space as desirable. Philosopher Shannon Sullivan’s work on whiteness identifies similar patterns. She writes, “Forbidden longings for contact with the non-white other that are generated out of habits of white domination paradoxically receive an expression that renders them invisible because they are consciously experienced as a wholesome desire for diversity.”[1] So while inequitable power relations are at the root of commodifying practices, because of the diversity ideology these roots are obscured and the desires are framed positively by Whites. This is a great example of the “naturalness” of whiteness—Whites do not see themselves as oppressors and do not interpret their commodifying practices as such. As a result of the privileged position of Whites, the narrative that explains their desires and values as normal and universally beneficial becomes dominant.

Julie, a homeowner and newcomer who lives on Cardinal Street, mentioned her appreciation of the diversity in Creekridge Park: Continue reading ‘Excerpt: Behind the White Picket Fence, by Sarah Mayorga-Gallo’ »

  1. [1] Sullivan, Revealing Whiteness, 126.

Mara Casey Tieken: 60 Years after Brown, Resegregation Is on the Rise

Why Rural Schools Matter, by Mara Casey TiekenWe welcome to the blog today a guest post by Mara Casey Tieken, author of Why Rural Schools Matter. From headlines to documentaries, urban schools are at the center of current debates about education. From these accounts, one would never know that 51 million Americans live in rural communities and depend on their public schools to meet not only educational but also social and economic needs.  For many communities, these schools are the ties that bind. This book shares the untold story of rural education. Drawing upon extensive research in two southern towns, Tieken exposes the complicated ways in which schools shape the racial dynamics of their towns and sustain the communities that surround them. Vividly demonstrating the effects of constricted definitions of public education in an era of economic turmoil and widening inequality, Tieken calls for a more contextual approach to education policymaking, involving both state and community.

In today’s post, Tieken discusses the desegregation effect of Brown v. Board of Education, and the more recent reversion toward resegregation in U.S. schools.


Somewhere during these past six decades, our nation reversed course. What had been a slow march towards school desegregation has become instead a rapid retreat from that goal. This about-face is not accidental—and recent education policymaking is largely to blame.

This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision that found racial segregation in schools unconstitutional. In large measure, the decision worked. Though it took many years—and the added weight of executive orders, U.S. troops, and the Civil Rights Act—slowly, the nation’s schools began to integrate. By the late 1980s, gains in desegregation were significant, particularly for black students. The South saw the largest gains: the year of the Brown decision, no black student was attending a majority white school, but, by 1988, 44 percent were. The South had become the most integrated region of the country.

Delight, Arkansas, was one of the success stories. In a state notorious for its civil rights history, this small rural district quietly works towards desegregation. Through several school closures and reorganizations in the 1960s and 1980s, the Delight school district came to encompass students from six small towns—three nearly all-white, two nearly all-black, and one more racially mixed. The process certainly had its faults: in the closure of its schools, the black community bore a cost the white community never did. Yet it also had a supportive leadership and teaching staff. As a former superintendent explained, “when kids came here, black or white, they were Bulldogs and we all pulled together.”

When I visited Delight for the first time in 2007, I found a desegregated district. Its one K-12 school, with 330 60students, was about 60 percent white and 30 percent African American (with the remaining 10 percent international students, due to a robust international program). More telling than numbers were the details: black students spent the night at the houses of white classmates, the rosters of AP classes listed both black and white students, and the school ran smoothly under the leadership of a black principal and a diverse school board. Delight sometimes struggled with racialized incidents—a racial epithet heard on the playground or a parent’s ignorant comment. But, however imperfectly and incompletely, it was moving towards the promise of Brown.

Today, though, we see a different reality: our nation’s schools are resegregating. Continue reading ‘Mara Casey Tieken: 60 Years after Brown, Resegregation Is on the Rise’ »

Save 40% on Savor the South Cookbooks 10-volume Set


Each little cookbook in our SAVOR THE SOUTH® collection is a big celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. From buttermilk to bourbon, pecans to peaches, one by one SAVOR THE SOUTH® cookbooks will stock a kitchen shelf with the flavors and culinary wisdom of this popular American regional cuisine. Written by well-known cooks and food lovers, the books brim with personality, the informative and often surprising culinary and natural history of southern foodways, and a treasure of some fifty recipes each—from delicious southern classics to sparkling international renditions that open up worlds of taste for cooks everywhere. You’ll want to collect them all.

Add to shopping cart: A History of the Book in America, 5-volume setThe first ten volumes published in the series are now available in a hardcover set for $180.00, but for a limited time you can save 40% on this set (and all UNC Press books in print!) by using discount code 01REL40 at checkout. So the 10-volume set can be yours for $108.00. And because your purchase totals more than $75, the shipping is FREE!

Each book is also available individually. Just use discount code 01REL40 at checkout using the links below to get the special savings. (Pssst! These books make great gifts!)

In this set you’ll find:

Buttermilk by Debbie Moose

Pecans by Kathleen Purvis

Peaches by Kelly Alexander

Tomatoes by Miriam Rubin

Biscuits by Belinda Ellis

Bourbon by Kathleen Purvis

Okra by Virginia Willis

Pickles and Preserves by Andrea Weigl

Sweet Potatoes by April McGreger

Southern Holidays by Debbie Moose

Included are almost 500 recipes for these uniquely Southern ingredients.

Lisa Wilson: Stepfamilies Are “Traditional” American Families

A History of Stepfamilies in Early America, by Lisa WilsonWe welcome a guest post today from Lisa Wilson, author of A History of Stepfamilies in Early America. Stepfamilies are not a modern phenomenon, but despite this reality, the history of stepfamilies in America has yet to be fully explored. In her book, Wilson examines the stereotypes and actualities of colonial stepfamilies and reveals them to be important factors in early United States domestic history.

In today’s post, Wilson responds to media characterization of stepfamilies as a “new” kind of normal.


What is a traditional American family? In a recent article in AARP Magazine, “The New American Family: Meet 6 clans who embody our country’s changing ideas about what kinship is,” Brennan Jensen, citing high divorce rates, argues that modern families now include “a tumble of step- and half-siblings.” I applaud Jensen’s effort to complicate what we think of as a “real” American family, but I would suggest that the “new” American family is actually the “old” American family—at least in terms of the presence of stepfamilies.

Death (not divorce) created these families in the past, but they were ubiquitous. The number of marriages that were remarriages in early America can give us a sense of how common stepfamilies were.  In some locations 40% of marriages were remarriages. And before effective birth control, most people brought children to a subsequent marriage. Everyone was in or knew someone who was in a stepfamily.

Even the founding Fathers and Mothers of our country were in stepfamilies. Continue reading ‘Lisa Wilson: Stepfamilies Are “Traditional” American Families’ »

Interview: Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr on the Music of Appalachia

Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr

Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr

Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr, authors of Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia will be in Perthshire, Scotland, for the Dougie MacLean Festival this week. They’ll return for more music-filled stops in North Carolina in November. See their author page for all upcoming events.

Here is our conversation about the 300-year story of musical migration.

Gina Mahalek: Wayfaring Strangers includes a CD with 20 songs by musicians featured in the book. How do you imagine your readers using it as they read? Is it meant to be a soundtrack of sorts?

Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr: We felt sure that, as our readers got deeper into the story, they’d become increasingly eager to hear for themselves how the music has evolved. So the book’s CD has songs and tunes that are chosen to help illustrate the musical voyage. Some readers may enjoy listening along as they read. Others will want to lay aside the text and immerse themselves in the music. There are so many songs—and multiple versions of songs—that our CD can only ever be a taste. We could easily have made a boxed set! Hopefully it will open readers’ ears to the connections we’re highlighting and they’ll be tempted to embark upon their own musical explorations. There are so many great artists to discover who will lead them further—some are noted in our Discography.

GM: You acknowledge that, “The swell of a thousand voices carried this book to shore upon the waves of ten thousand tales.” Who is this book about?

FR & DO: We reached back to explore medieval troubadours in the south of France, wandering minstrels who fanned out across Europe, and Scottish ballad collectors, composers, singers, and fiddlers. Above all, though, our book is primarily about the nameless families—across many generations—who held onto the one thing that cost nothing, took up no space in their travel trunks, and was perhaps their most valuable symbol of identity: the songs and tunes they carried over centuries and the miles. In particular, we spent years researching these intrepid wayfarers: Scottish emigrants to Ulster in the north of Ireland, who blended their musical traditions with the Irish in their new home and transported these on their Atlantic crossing to America. They often seemed drawn to the distant horizon and their journeys have been a carrying stream of music, fed by so many sources and in turn feeding out along countless tributaries. As Scots-Irish, many found Appalachian homes and new ways of sharing their long-held musical traditions. To tell the truth, at times it felt as if we were traveling along with them, and we developed a real affinity for their unshakeable spirit and their incredible persistence in keeping their music and traditions alive.

GM: Your interviews with key contributors to this living tradition greatly enrich your book. Tell us about these conversations.

FR & DO: In producing and hosting NPR’s The Thistle & Shamrock® through the years, Fiona has had many opportunities to talk with tradition-bearers about our developing book. Many were able to provide insights and guidance. Then as our Wayfaring Strangers project took shape, it also became clearer which artists we should interview specifically for the book. Some were perfectly placed to come onto Fiona’s radio shows, or to join us at Traditional Song Week during the Swannanoa Gathering. We made special visits to some others, such as Pete Seeger. In fact, our visit to his home stands out as a treasured memory of working together on this book. As for the conversations themselves, they unfolded naturally. We found that people were very enthusiastic about sharing their stories. We knew early on that documenting these conversations would become an important and unique element of our book and that we desperately wanted their voices to speak through the pages. Some of these voices are elderly; a few are now quiet. It feels timelier than ever to share their insights and to reflect on the lineage of this music even as the regional accents and styles blur and fade.

GM: What do you think your readers will find most surprising about this musical voyage across oceans?

FR & DO: You mean, apart from how long it took us to write the book?! Generally, we think people will be surprised that there is no one stream, no linear musical journey. We are not starting off in the heartland of Scottish balladry and ending up at the birth of country music. Our story is more dynamic than that—and bigger. It reaches back farther, travels more widely, and flows onward timelessly.

While not necessarily surprised, we were both struck by how the music persevered, through hardship and deprivation, from one generation to the next. Without any of the advantages of modern technology, our wayfarers were able to sustain their music traditions over the long migratory trail of countless years and new lands. It seemed that the music had an enduring power and life force of its own, rebounding even when outlawed, thriving where it might have died.

A couple of specific story elements that may surprise: the role of the linen industry on the music migration and the evolution of the dulcimer on the Great Wagon Road. Intrigued? You’ll have to read the book to find out more!
Continue reading ‘Interview: Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr on the Music of Appalachia’ »