Speaking Up One Book, and One Season, at a Time 

When Does Your Press #SpeakUp?—University Press Week 2023 guest blog post by Cate Hodorowitz, UNC Press Acquisitions Editor

With each seasonal list, UNC Press’s publishing program engages with the past as a way to understand our present world. Instead of waiting for a specific event to compel to speak up, we try to drive the conversation and spark debate. If we’re doing our job well, we can say, “Hey, we have a book for that!” when something newsworthy happens.  

As I started to choose books to highlight here, I realized I’d taken on an enormous task: the Press has taken this #SpeakUp approach for much longer than I’ve been working here, and we publish 100-120 books per year. For the sake of brevity and consistency, all the titles mentioned here have been or will be published from Fall 2022 through Spring 2024.  

Interested in the history of labor from the rank-and-file workers’ perspective, particularly considering the recent auto workers’ strike? Check out Christian O. Paiz’s The Strikers of Coachella: A Rank-and-File History of the UFW Movement

Following the legal struggles in Kentucky and Tennessee over bans on transgender care? Go back to the beginning with Alison Li’s Wondrous Transformations: A Maverick Physician, the Science of Hormones, and the Birth of the Transgender Revolution. Add Cookie Woolner’s The Famous Lady Lovers: Black Women and Queer Desire before Stonewall for bonus reading. 

For all the talk of “woke college students” on the left, Laura Lassabe Shepherd’s Resistance from the Right: Conservatives and the Campus Wars in Modern America reminds us that political movements on campus have always had two sides. Never far from front page headlines, immigration and migration to the US is certain to be a hot-button campaign issue for 2024. Carly Goodman’s Dreamland: America’s Immigration Lottery in an Age of Restriction teaches us who gets to come to this country and why. If you’re interested in stories about refugees and their search for a new home, Far From the Rooftop of the World: Travel with Tibetan Refugees on Four Continents by Amy Yee provides a global perspective. 

Sometimes books are even timelier than anticipated; Mahnaz Afkhami’s The Other Side of Silence: A Memoir of Exile, Iran, and the Global Women’s Movement came out in 2022 during the Iran women’s uprising in the aftermath of Mahsa Amini’s death. 

Sometimes we wish the books weren’t so timely so often, like Andrew C. McKevitt’s Gun Country: Gun Capitalism, Culture, and Control in Cold War America. 

But speaking up isn’t just about political and hot-button issues. The Press picks up its megaphone for the arts, too. Music shows up nearly every season in books like Burgin Mathews’s Magic City: How the Birmingham Jazz Tradition Shaped the Sound of America. Fine art, especially from the South, is often beautifully presented in full color, like Liza Roberts’s Art of the State: Celebrating the Visual Art of North Carolina

There’s one last kind of speaking up that’s my personal favorite: books that give voice to the voiceless and address silences in the archives, like Amrita Chakrabarti Myers’s The Vice President’s Black Wife: The Untold Life of Julia Chinn. This kind of work changes whose stories get told, how, and by whom. I can’t think of a better way to speak truth to power than that.