Interview: Jamie DeMent, the Farmhouse Chef

Jamie DeMent, photo by Felicia Perry Trujillo

Jamie DeMent (photo by Felicia Perry Trujillo)

Gina Mahalek talks to Jamie DeMent, author of The Farmhouse Chef: Recipes and Stories from My Carolina Farm, which is now available at bookstores and from UNC Press.


Gina Mahalek: First, please set the scene for us. You and your partner, Richard Holcomb, run Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough, North Carolina. What’s it like there?

Jamie DeMent: We live and work on an actual farm. In an old farmhouse. Beside a river. With a swimming hole and a rope swing and all the farm life trimmings. Most days, it’s as charming as you might imagine. Our life is fully integrated into the farm cycle. Our house is right in the middle of the action. We look out on our gardens and can take walks by the river. It’s also a working farm, so those walks are often interrupted by a wayward pig and those long gazes are taking notes of chores to be done. The rewards are huge, though. I hope this book goes a long way in showing that.

GM: How did the farm get its name?

JD: Coon Rock Farm came with its name. It is an old name, drawn from a very large rock formation that juts out into the Eno River right at our property’s edge. It’s a landmark that all the old-timers in Hillsborough know, as many of them grew up swimming and fishing at the Coon Rock. We tried for months after we bought the farm to come up with a contemporary, stylish, and fabulous name for the farm, but nothing stuck. Everywhere we went in town, people kept referring to us as the Coon Rock folks, and eventually we stopped fighting the tide.

Coon Rock is just outside Hillsborough, a small town with deep roots in time. Because it sits along the banks of the Eno, it has been a significant staging point for east-to-west travel in the area for more than a thousand years. John Lawson surveyed the area in the early 1700s and found a vibrant Native American community that had been living around Hillsborough for generations. Both the community’s trading path and, eventually, the colonial road to western North Carolina followed the Eno directly past our now famous Coon Rock.

Coon Rock juts up and out of the river and has always made an ideal lookout point and obvious meeting and resting area. Some think the rock may have been named for the local raccoons that have always covered the rock because they got used to the visitors and the trash and food scraps they left behind. These days the rock is more likely to be covered with wayward teenagers coming for a swim, but the name persists, as do the memories of those who stopped to visit. There is also speculation that the name evolved from misspellings of Occoneechee, the name of the Native American tribe that lived along the Eno River in Hillsborough.

GM: Where did you grow up? Tell us about your family and the path that led you to the farm.Continue Reading Interview: Jamie DeMent, the Farmhouse Chef

Recipe: DIY Basic Bacon

Thompson: BaconToday is National Bacon Day! If you’re as delighted (and hungry) as we are, check out Fred Thompson’s Bacon!  Filled with tons of delicious recipes, Bacon will be sure to fulfill your National Bacon Day cravings.  Try this recipe for DIY Basic Bacon and see how easy homemade bacon can be!

From the earliest days of European settlement in the South, as in many rural economies around the globe, cured pork became a main source of sustenance, and the cheaper, lower-on-the-hog cuts–notably, bacon–became some of the most important traditional southern foodstuffs. In this cookbook, Fred Thompson captures a humble ingredient’s regional culinary history and outsized contributions to the table. Delicious, of course, straight out of the skillet, bacon is also special in its ability to lend a unique savory smokiness to an enormous range of other foods.

Today, for regular eaters and high-flying southern chefs alike, bacon has achieved a culinary profile so popular as to approach baconmania. But Thompson sagely notes that bacon will survive the silliness. Describing the many kinds of bacon that are available, Thompson provides key choices for cooking and seasoning appropriately. The book’s fifty-six recipes invariably highlight and maximize that beloved bacon factor, so appreciated throughout the South and beyond (by Thompson’s count, fifty different styles of bacon exist worldwide). Dishes range from southern regional to international, from appetizers to main courses, and even to a very southern beverage. Also included are Thompson’s do-it-yourself recipes for making bacon from fresh pork belly in five different styles.

Fred Thompson, well-known cookbook author and editor of Edible Piedmont magazine, is the author of Fred Thompson’s Southern Sides: 250 Dishes That Really Make the Plate, among other books.

For more mouthwatering recipes, grab a copy of Fred’s addition to the Savor the South® collection.

Remember to “like” the Savor the South® book page on Facebook for more news and recipes. Keep an eye out this fall for a new Savor the South® cookbook!

#CharlottesvilleCurriculum, #CharlottesvilleSyllabus: UNC Press edition

Over the past few days, UNC Press (like many of our sister presses) has received an influx of requests from readers for books that provide context around the tragic events in Charlottesville. UNC Press has a longstanding commitment to publish books that examine histories of racial violence. Many of our authors over the years have given especially deep consideration to way the Civil War era is remembered and commemorated in the South and the nation as a whole—a question once more at the center of public debate and struggle.

We hope the list of books shared here serves as a resource for all those seeking deeper understanding and sound engagement with historical evidence. The list is by no means comprehensive, and we hope you’ll check this list here and on our website in the coming days as new titles are added. We also encourage readers to watch for the hashtag #ReadUP on social media, where university presses continue to highlight work that can promote fuller understanding of our past and present.

Karen L. Cox: Dreaming of Dixie Prince: Stories of the South Janney: Burying the Dead but Not the Past

Janney: Remembering the Civil War Brundage: Where these memories grow Brown: Civil War Canon

Horton: slavery and public history Reardon: pickett's charge in history and memory rubin: through the heart of dixie

Elaine Frantz Parsons: Ku-Klux Barkun: religion and the racist right Fahs: the memory of the civil war in american culture

yuhl: a golden haze of memory Powell: troubled memory Tiya Miles: Tales from the Haunted South

Denson: Monuments to absence blair: cities of the dead Marshall: creating a confederate kentucky

gallagher: causes won lost forgotten gasaway: progressive evangelicals  gannon: won cause

The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil War (Movie Edition), by Victoria E. Bynum bynum: the long shadow of the civil war Eagles: civil rights, culture wars

Des Jardins: women and the historical enterprise in america

Easily and quickly request exam and desk copies online by visiting any of the books’ pages above. If you need assistance in choosing the right texts for your course, we’d be glad to help, contact us here.

We’re happy to offer a 40 percent discount on book purchases, and if your order totals $75, the shipping is free.  Simply enter promo code 01DAH40 at checkout to receive your discount.

For other relevant resources, follow #CharlottesvilleCurriculum and #CharlottesvilleSyllabus, and read the Charlottesville Curriculum.

Andrew C. McKevitt: UAW’s Defeat at Nissan and the Path Forward

Andrew C. McKevitt: Consuming JapanToday we welcome a guest blog post from Andrew C. McKevitt, author of Consuming Japan: Popular Culture and the Globalizing of 1980s, on the recent decision by Nissan workers in Canton, Mississippi, to reject the United Author Workers’ representation.

Consuming Japan explores the intense and ultimately fleeting moment in 1980s America when the future looked Japanese. Would Japan’s remarkable post–World War II economic success enable the East Asian nation to overtake the United States? Or could Japan’s globe-trotting corporations serve as a model for battered U.S. industries, pointing the way to a future of globalized commerce and culture? From autoworkers to anime fans, this insightful book introduces new unorthodox actors into foreign-relations history, demonstrating how the flow of all things Japanese contributed to the globalizing of America in the late twentieth century.

Consuming Japan will be out in October 2017 and is available for pre-order now.


The UAW’s Defeat at Nissan and the Path Forward

On August 4, 2017, workers at Nissan’s assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi, voted to reject representation by the United Auto Workers union. The loss stung, to be sure, but the once-powerful UAW has become accustomed to failure in its efforts to organize auto production facilities operated by foreign companies. Twice previously, in 1989 and 2001, workers rejected the union at Nissan’s plant in Smyrna, Tennessee,—the company’s first North American plant, and only the second Japanese-owned plant in the United States. The UAW later lost another hard-fought battle at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga in 2014, after high-profile anti-union interventions by Tennessee’s top Republican politicians. In Canton, pro-union workers were Continue Reading Andrew C. McKevitt: UAW’s Defeat at Nissan and the Path Forward

Interview: Eric Muller Gives Voice to Injustice with Scapegoat Cities Podcast

Scapegoat Cities graphicOn the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Japanese American internment camps, Eric L. Muller, editor of Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II, talks to UNC Press Publicity Director Gina Mahalek about his related podcast, Scapegoat Cities, launching on September 6, 2017. Read on for a chance to win a copy of Colors of Confinement!

Gina Mahalek:
It’s been five years since the publication of your highly acclaimed book, Colors of Confinement (UNC Press, 2012), which features Bill Manbo’s color photographs of Japanese American incarceration in World War II, and 75 years since the opening of the internment camps in 1942. Why is this the right moment for the launch of your podcast, Scapegoat Cities?

Eric Muller: Two reasons. First, since the election of President Trump we are awash in discussions about policies that would (or do) single out people on the basis of religion or race or national origin. It’s easy for these policy debates to stay at an abstract and legalistic level. I think it’s crucial to remember that policies of these sorts are not abstract at all; they have real, often devastating, impacts on real people. The stories I tell in Scapegoat Cities are reminders of those human impacts.

Second, the permanent Japanese American camps opened in August and September of 1942, which is exactly 75 years ago. If this isn’t an appropriate moment for us to remember this historical episode and the people it affected, I don’t know what is.

GM: Tell us about the podcast and what listeners can expect to hear.

EM: The idea is simple: each episode tells a single true story of someone’s experience of being removed from his or her home and imprisoned. The stories are not of major earth-shattering events and they are not the experiences of prominent people. They are, rather, ordinary events in the lives of ordinary people. But each of the vignettes, in its own quiet way, reveals something important about the nature of what people who are singled out because of their race had to endure.Continue Reading Interview: Eric Muller Gives Voice to Injustice with Scapegoat Cities Podcast

Interview: Judy Kutulas on the “Me Decade” and Man Buns

Judy Kutulas, author of After Aquarius Dawned: How the Revolutions of the Sixties Became the Popular Culture of the Seventies, talks to UNC Press Publicity Director Gina Mahalek about making sense of the “me decade” and whether man buns are here to stay. 

cover image for After Aquarius Dawned: How the Revolutions of the Sixties Became the Popular Culture of the Seventies, by Judy KutulasGina Mahalek: In your book, you challenge the common view that the 1970s were a time of counterrevolution against the radical activities and attitudes of the previous decade. Rather, you see the 1970s as a time of assimilation. Tell us about yourself and what led you to this topic.

Judy Kutulas: I was a young teen in the 1960s, very influenced by the ways the world seemed to be changing, but too young to be out there on the political barricades. College was a revelation to me, full of peers rebelling against their parents’ lives and this interesting blend of ambition and pleasure-seeking. Nobody wanted to be an adult like their parents. Perhaps the 1970s really were the “me decade,” because at some point as a historian, I wanted to make sense of that experience, to explore a topic with emotional resonance to me and the 1970s were that moment.

GM: The revolutions of the 1960s undermined traditional hierarchies of race, gender, and sexual identity, liberating people from traditions, social norms, and rules. What happened when experts, rules, and authorities lost influence?

JK: At some point, authorities just seemed hypocritical or wrong, so ordinary people felt like they could challenge the status quo and get away with it.  When The Rolling Stones appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and altered the lyrics to “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” but Mick Jagger just rolled his eyes as they did, for instance, young viewers saw a subversive attitude toward authority.Continue Reading Interview: Judy Kutulas on the “Me Decade” and Man Buns

Happy Book Lovers Day: What We’re Reading Now

Happy Book Lovers Day

Happy Book Lovers Day! In honor of one of our favorite holidays, we’re sharing what we’re currently reading.

Take a look below to see what’s striking our interest now.

Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul

(New in Paperback!)

Ford: Liberated Threads

From the civil rights and Black Power era of the 1960s through antiapartheid activism in the 1980s and beyond, black women have used their clothing, hair, and style not simply as a fashion statement but as a powerful tool of resistance. Whether using stiletto heels as weapons to protect against police attacks or incorporating African-themed designs into everyday wear, these fashion-forward women celebrated their identities and pushed for equality.

Drawing from an eclectic archive, Ford offers a new way of studying how black style and Soul Power moved beyond national boundaries, sparking a global fashion phenomenon. Following celebrities, models, college students, and everyday women as they moved through fashion boutiques, beauty salons, and record stores, Ford narrates the fascinating intertwining histories of Black Freedom and fashion.Continue Reading Happy Book Lovers Day: What We’re Reading Now

Karen L. Cox: Goat Castle

Cox: Goat CastleAugust 4, 2017, is the 85th anniversary of the “Goat Castle Murder.” This strange and fascinating tale is recounted in Karen L. Cox’s new book, Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South, publishing on October 9, 2017. John Grisham calls it “a highly entertaining story about a long-forgotten murder.” Read on for a glimpse at the story, and pre-order your copy today!

In 1932, the city of Natchez, Mississippi, reckoned with an unexpected influx of journalists and tourists as the lurid story of a local murder was splashed across headlines nationwide. Two eccentrics, Richard Dana and Octavia Dockery—known in the press as the “Wild Man” and the “Goat Woman”—enlisted an African American man named George Pearls to rob their reclusive neighbor, Jennie Merrill, at her estate. During the attempted robbery, Merrill was shot and killed.

The crime drew national coverage when it came to light that Dana and Dockery, the alleged murderers, shared their huge, decaying antebellum mansion with their goats and other livestock, which prompted journalists to call the estate “Goat Castle.” Pearls was killed by an Arkansas policeman in an unrelated incident before he could face trial.

Continue Reading Karen L. Cox: Goat Castle

Mr. Seashell’s Legacy Lives On


This article originally appeared at Coastwatch Currents, the blog of North Carolina Sea Grant. Seashells of North Carolina is now distributed by UNC Press. For more information and to order, visit

Mr. Seashell’s Legacy Lives On

By Danielle Costantini

2 books by Mr. Seashell/Hugh Porter

Two of Hugh Porter’s publications: Seashells Common to North Carolina and Seashells of North Carolina. Photo by Trish Murphey

There are few people in North Carolina who know seashells as well as Hugh Porter. Born in Ohio, he came to North Carolina in the mid 1950s and quickly earned the nickname “Mr. Seashell” for his extensive knowledge and passion for mollusks.

This summer, North Carolina Sea Grant and the University of North Carolina Press are honoring Porter’s contributions to the state and celebrating the 20th year of his book, Seashells of North Carolina.

In 1950, Porter graduated from Millersville State Teachers College in Pennsylvania. After briefly attending Pennsylvania State University, he joined the United States Army and saw action in the Korean War. He earned a master’s degree in marine sciences from University of Delaware in 1956. Shortly after, Porter made his professional home at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City, where he stayed for nearly 55 years.Continue Reading Mr. Seashell’s Legacy Lives On

New Books for Fall and Winter 2017-18

Last week we shared a few highlights coming up this fall and winter season. Browse the interactive catalog below to see more! We’ve got great titles in store for fall and winter 2017-2018 in areas like American History, Foodways, African American Studies, North Carolina History, Environmental History, and more. You can also visit our website to see what’s already available in a subject that interest you. But the easiest way to stay up to date is to sign up for our monthly eNews announcements!

Continue Reading New Books for Fall and Winter 2017-18

Chris Myers Asch & George Derek Musgrove: Chocolate City

Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrave: Chocolate CityYou might recognize this book from the cover of our fall catalog. Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital by Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove is the most up-to-date and comprehensive history of race and race-relations in the nation’s capital. Thoroughly researched yet very readable, Chocolate City focuses on African American history, but does not neglect Native American and white components of DC history. Coming out in November just in time for Washington History Month, pre-order your copy today!

Monumental in scope and vividly detailed, Chocolate City tells the tumultuous, four-century story of race and democracy in our nation’s capital. Emblematic of the ongoing tensions between America’s expansive democratic promises and its enduring racial realities, Washington often has served as a national battleground for contentious issues, including slavery, segregation, civil rights, the drug war, and gentrification. But D.C. is more than just a seat of government, and authors Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove also highlight the city’s rich history of local activism as Washingtonians of all races have struggled to make their voices heard in an undemocratic city where residents lack full political rights.

Continue Reading Chris Myers Asch & George Derek Musgrove: Chocolate City

Pamela Grundy: Color and Character

Pamela Grundy: Color and CharacterOur Fall Preview today features Color and Character: West Charlotte High School and the American Struggle over Educational Equality by Pamela Grundy. The end of July means the end of summer, and more importantly, back-to-school planning. What better way to stay in the know than with our timely new book? Just in time for the start of the school year, Color and Character will prove a significant addition to the education debate and an aid in solving education issues. Pre-order your copy to stay informed!

At a time when race and inequality dominate national debates, the story of West Charlotte High School illuminates the possibilities and challenges of using racial and economic desegregation to foster educational equality. West Charlotte opened in 1938 as a segregated school that embodied the aspirations of the growing African American population of Charlotte, North Carolina. In the 1970s, when Charlotte began court-ordered busing, black and white families made West Charlotte the celebrated flagship of the most integrated major school system in the nation. But as the twentieth century neared its close and a new court order eliminated race-based busing, Charlotte schools resegregated along lines of class as well as race. West Charlotte became the city’s poorest, lowest-performing high school—a striking reminder of the people and places that Charlotte’s rapid growth had left behind. While dedicated teachers continue to educate children, the school’s challenges underscore the painful consequences of resegregation.

Continue Reading Pamela Grundy: Color and Character

Emily Herring Wilson: The Three Graces of Val-Kill

Emily Herring Wilson: The Three Graces of Val-KillWe’re continuing our Fall Preview today with a feature on The Three Graces of Val-Kill: Eleanor Roosevelt, Marion Dickerman, and Nancy Cook in the Place They Made Their Own by Emily Herring Wilson, which focuses fully for the first time on the relationship of Eleanor and the “three graces”, as well as her time at Val-Kill. The biography also sheds new light  on the tumultuous time for Eleanor as FDR ascended to the governorship and eventually the presidency, revealing the changing nature of her relationships at this time. Don’t forget to pre-order!


The Three Graces of Val-Kill changes the way we think about Eleanor Roosevelt. Emily Herring Wilson examines what she calls the most formative period in Roosevelt’s life, from 1922 to 1936, when she cultivated an intimate friendship with Marion Dickerman and Nancy Cook, who helped her build a cottage on the Val-Kill Creek in Hyde Park on the Roosevelt family land. In the early years, the three women—the “three graces,” as Franklin Delano Roosevelt called them—were nearly inseparable and forged a female-centered community for each other, for family, and for New York’s progressive women. Examining this network of close female friends gives readers a more comprehensive picture of the Roosevelts and Eleanor’s burgeoning independence in the years that marked Franklin’s rise to power in politics.

Continue Reading Emily Herring Wilson: The Three Graces of Val-Kill

Earl J. Hess: The Battle of Peach Tree Creek

Earl Hess: The Battle of Peach Tree CreekCan you believe the fall season is almost upon us? July is racing by, so now we’re turning our attention to our amazing line-up of fall books. We’ll be highlighting a few of our picks this week on the blog. First up—The Battle of Peach Tree Creek by Earl J. Hess.


Famed Civil War historian Earl J. Hess is releasing the latest title in the Civil War America series this fall! The Battle of Peach Tree Creek: Hood’s First Effort to Save Atlanta is now available for pre-order—just in time to reserve your copy around the anniversary of the battle.

On July 20, 1864, the Civil War struggle for Atlanta reached a pivotal moment. As William T. Sherman’s Union forces came ever nearer the city, the defending Confederate Army of Tennessee replaced its commanding general, removing Joseph E. Johnston and elevating John Bell Hood. This decision stunned and demoralized Confederate troops just when Hood was compelled to take the offensive against the approaching Federals. Attacking northward from Atlanta’s defenses, Hood’s men struck George H. Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland just after it crossed Peach Tree Creek on July 20. Initially taken by surprise, the Federals fought back with spirit and nullified all the advantages the Confederates first enjoyed. As a result, the Federals achieved a remarkable defensive victory.

Continue Reading Earl J. Hess: The Battle of Peach Tree Creek

Interview: Brian Tochterman on the “Summer of Hell”

Brian Tochterman, author of The Dying City: Postwar New York and the Ideology of Fear, talks with publicity director Gina Mahalek about what E.B. White, Mickey Spillane, Death Wish, hip-hop, and the “Summer of Hell” have in common.

cover photo for tochtermanGina Mahalek: Where are you from and how did you get interested in this topic?

Brian Tochterman: I grew up in the Midwest, Green Bay, Wisconsin to be exact, and on a whim I moved to New York City a few months after I graduated from college. You could say that, in some respects, I embodied the kind of dreamer that E.B. White wrote about in “Here is New York”—I wanted to work in film production. That proved a bit of a dead-end, and New York being New York, I needed a job if I wanted to stay. I worked for NYC Parks Department for a few years under Giuliani and Bloomberg before going to graduate school to study urban planning— an interest that grew out of my experience across the five boroughs.

Whenever I’d go back to Green Bay and run into family and old friends they’d ask, “Isn’t it scary living in New York?” I often heard that from people who had never been to New York. At that time, though, it was already the safest large city in the country. As I matriculated through graduate school, first in planning and then studying history, I became interested in how that image evolved. How could someone who never encountered a place assume such knowledge, and how could they be so wrong yet so convinced they are right? Of course, the answer is popular culture and its representations of the city. My father is a cop, so I’ve always been intrigued by crime and crime fears. Take a Midwest upbringing, add a move to the big city, mix in some cultural studies and graduate work in city planning and U.S. postwar history, and a touch of evil and voilà, you have the recipe for The Dying City.

Continue Reading Interview: Brian Tochterman on the “Summer of Hell”

Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon

Plan on making a summer getaway to the mountains? Or in need of a perfect gift? Randy Johnson’s Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon can help with both! Grandfather Mountain highlights the natural beauty and history of one of North Carolina’s best known landmarks. This fabulous book was a finalist for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award and also just won two prestigious awards:

  • First Place and Best in Show 2017 Writing and Photography Contest, Eastern Chapter, Society of American Travel Writers
  • 2016 Foreword INDIES Winner for Travel (Adult Nonfiction)

With its prominent profile recognizable for miles around and featuring vistas among the most beloved in the Appalachians, North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain is many things to many people: an easily recognized landmark along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a popular tourist destination, a site of annual Highland Games, and an internationally recognized nature preserve. In this definitive book on Grandfather, Randy Johnson guides readers on a journey through the mountain’s history, from its geological beginnings millennia ago and the early days of exploration to its role in regional development and eventual establishment as a North Carolina state park. Along the way, he shows how Grandfather has changed, and has been changed by, the people of western North Carolina and beyond.

Continue Reading Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon

Sarah S. Elkind: Energy Corporations in Schools: Then and Now

Elkind: How Local Politics Shape Federal PolicyWe welcome a blog post today from Sarah S. Elkind  author of How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy: Business, Power, and the Environment in Twentieth-Century Los AngelesFocusing on five Los Angeles environmental policy debates between 1920 and 1950, Sarah Elkind investigates how practices in American municipal government gave business groups political legitimacy at the local level as well as unanticipated influence over federal politics.

Revealing the huge disparities between big business groups and individual community members in power, influence, and the ability to participate in policy debates, Elkind shows that business groups secured their political power by providing Los Angeles authorities with much-needed services, including studying emerging problems and framing public debates. As a result, government officials came to view business interests as the public interest. When federal agencies looked to local powerbrokers for project ideas and political support, local business interests influenced federal policy, too. 

In the following post, Elkind looks at how energy corporations are wielding their influence in the public school system and the dire consequences that will arise from it. 


Energy Corporations in Schools: Then and Now

In 1927, the Federal Trade Commission announced that America’s electric utility companies had spent the previous decade engaged in a concerted propaganda campaign against public ownership of electrical systems. The utilities subsidized academic research, planted newspaper editorials, and created curriculum for public schools all to bolster support for the private utility industry. This was, the Federal Trade Commission found, an astonishingly systematic, coordinated, and well-orchestrated campaign to change public opinion. It was also highly effective:  public support for government ownership of electrical power fell steadily in the 1930s in spite of these and other damning revelations and scandals.

Why did the National Electric Light Association and other utility trade groups work so hard to change public opinion in the 1910s and 1920s? In 1915, Congress required public development of hydroelectric power at all federal flood control and irrigation dams. Public support for government-owned utilities was at an all-time high. Cities invested in waterworks, gas and electrical grids, and transportation networks to improve public services and lower consumer costs. In New York, scandal erupted as a firm controlled by Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon secured a lease to generate electricity at Niagara Falls. Debate raged, too, over whether the federal government should complete a massive hydroelectric power and fertilizer complex at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and whether the Bureau of Reclamation should build Hoover Dam. Private utilities spent over a million dollars a year (nearly fourteen million in 2017 dollars) to defeat Muscle Shoals and Hoover Dam, because they felt their future access to markets and water resources, their very survival, was at stake.

Continue Reading Sarah S. Elkind: Energy Corporations in Schools: Then and Now

Excerpt: Living at the Water’s Edge by Barbara Garrity-Blake and Karen Willis Amspacher

Garrity-Blake and Amspacher: Living at the Water's EdgeThe Outer Banks National Scenic Byway received its designation in 2009, an act that stands as a testament to the historical and cultural importance of the communities linked along the North Carolina coast from Whalebone Junction across to Hatteras and Ocracoke Island and down to the small villages of the Core Sound region. This rich heritage guide introduces readers to the places and people that have made the route and the region a national treasure. Welcoming visitors on a journey across sounds and inlets into villages and through two national seashores, Barbara Garrity-Blake and Karen Willis Amspacher share the stories of people who have shaped their lives out of saltwater and sand. The book considers how the Outer Banks residents have stood their ground and maintained a vibrant way of life while adapting to constant change that is fundamental to life where water meets the land.

Heavily illustrated with color and black-and-white photographs, Living at the Water’s Edge will lead readers to the proverbial porch of the Outer Banks locals, extending a warm welcome to visitors while encouraging them to understand what many never see or hear: the stories, feelings, and meanings that offer a cultural dimension to the byway experience and deepen the visitor’s understanding of life on the tideline.

In the following excerpt (pp. 7-12), Barbara and Karen share the past dangers of the North Carolina coast for ships and the lighthouses that saved them.



I’ve seen right many boats hit the shores of this island. Some of them they got off, and some of them busted up. —Anderson Midgett, Hatteras Island

“Graveyard of the Atlantic” is a well-earned moniker for North Carolina’s coastal waters. Hundreds of vessels have sunk or broken apart in the deadly combination of quick-changing weather, dynamic currents, and hidden shoals along what was once a key shipping route between New York and Charleston. The Diamond Shoals off Cape Hatteras are especially notorious for dooming ship after ship in their attempts to round the cape en route to northern or southern ports.

Shipwrecks were once so frequent that the state appointed commissioners to manage wreck auctions called “vendues.” Well into the twentieth century, banks dwellers and mainlanders alike gathered on the beach to bid on sails, turnbuckles, barrels, lanterns, ropes, and cargo. Lumber wasn’t easy to come by; planking was coveted as building material. The Salvo Assembly of God Church was built from the timbers of the G. A. Kohler, a grand four-masted schooner wrecked on the beach between Avon and Salvo during the ’33 Storm. Many old houses have beams, joists, and other materials salvaged from a wreck.

One of the worst wrecks in American history occurred off North Carolina in 1837. The steam packet Home, en route from New York to Charleston, encountered the Racer’s Storm and broke apart off Ocracoke. Ninety of the 135 people aboard—many of them women and children—drowned. The vessel was equipped with only two life jackets. The dead were buried by Ocracoke villagers, as a lifesaving station wasn’t established on the island until 1905. The tragedy of the Home received national press coverage and led to the federal requirement that all vessels carry life preservers for each passenger. Shipwrecks like the Home brought to light the need for the establishment of lifesaving stations up and down the nation’s coasts.

The village of Portsmouth, made up of 150 souls in 1900, once cared for shipwreck victims whose numbers far exceeded the population of the small community. The 605-ton brig Vera Cruz VII wrecked offshore in 1903, bringing forth 421 Cape Verde Islanders needing food, clothes, and a dry bed. Every villager was enlisted to help. A Portsmouth Islander recalled, “Some of the foreigners ran away from the station crew and crawled through the marshes to beg for food at the homes. We fed them when they came.” The villagers used up all the flour in the community to feed these weary victims of the sea.


No matter how hard the winds blow around her, she will stand, wrapped in diamonds, giving us strength every time we see her light come around. —Madge Guthrie, Harkers Island

A light piercing the darkness gives hope and helps orient the lost. No wonder the lighthouse has become a symbol for strength and guidance. Outer Banks lighthouses have long provided an essential navigational aid to ship’s captains, whether the steady burning, fixed light on Ocracoke or the flashing beacons of Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras, or Cape Lookout towers. Not only do the lights alert mariners as to how close they are to shore and shoals, but the timing of the beam is specific to its location along the shore. If the flash occurs every fifteen seconds, the crew knows they are near Cape Lookout, no matter how dark or foggy it may be. If it flashes every seven and a half seconds, the Cape Hatteras light is their guide.

The U.S. Congress, alarmed at the growing number of shipwrecks, authorized the first North Carolina lighthouse in 1794. It was to be built on Cape Hatteras, the most treacherous part of the coastline. Vessel captains declared the light to be faint and sorry. The 90-foot tower was raised to 150 feet in 1854 and fitted with a powerful Fresnel lens. Today’s black-and-white spiral tower was built in 1870 and was moved to higher ground in 1999. At 208 feet Cape Hatteras is the tallest lighthouse in America.

Another lighthouse was built on Shell Castle Island in 1798 to serve ships carrying cargo through Ocracoke Inlet. Today’s 65-foot-high, solid-white structure was built on Ocracoke in 1823, emitting a nonflashing, steady light. The first Cape Lookout light was lit in 1812, and today’s 163-foot, diamond-painted tower went into operation in 1859. The black-and-white pattern was the inspiration for the name Diamond City, Shackleford Banks’s whaling community.


Barbara Garrity-Blake is a cultural anthropologist long interested in the 21 villages along the byway from the north end of Hatteras through the Down East region of Carteret County; she lives in Gloucester, N.C. Karen Willis Amspacher, director of the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center on Harkers Island, is descended from Shackleford Banks fishermen and boatbuilders and lives in Marshallberg, N.C.

From Living at the Water’s Edge: A Heritage Guide to the Outer Banks Byway by Barbara Garrity-Blake and Karen Willis Amspacher. Copyright © 2017 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher.

Elizondo Griest: All the Agents and Saints

Elizondo Griest: All the Agents and Saints

Today is the official publication date of All the Agents and Saints by Stephanie Elizondo Griest. As we wish a happy book birthday to Stephanie and All the Agents and Saints, we wanted to share the  coverage that she’s been getting to keep our readers in the loop!

Texas Monthly put All the Agents and Saints on its July reading list, and Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club selected it for their 2017 Summer Reading List. The Texas Observer calls it “an extraordinary book” and “a model for how a curious person, any person who is sufficiently interested, can begin to navigate the boundaries that compartmentalize our country, and ourselves, toward wholeness.” Read an excerpt on Aster(ix), and listen to Stephanie’s interview on KKUP “Out of Our Minds” radio show with Rachelle Escamilla. Other highlights include reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews (also included on 10 Buzzworthy Books from Memoirists & Essayists by Kirkus)and ALA Booklist. 

Stephanie had a really special reading at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., this past Sunday and will be doing more events throughout the summer and into fall. We’ll keep spreading the word here and on Twitter, but for the full events schedule, check out our website page.

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Free Book Friday! Lessons from the Sand by Charles & Orrin Pilkey

Pilkey: Lessons from the SandIt’s Free Book Friday!! Enter to win a copy of Lessons from the Sand by Charles O. Pilkey and Orrin H. Pilkey via Goodreads. Each easy-to-follow activity is presented in full color with dozens of whimsical and informational illustrations that will engage and guide readers through the experiments. Great for taking along on your next beach vacation! The giveaway ends on Friday, July 15, so get your entry in now!

Goodreads Book GiveawayLessons from the Sand by Orrin H. PilkeyLessons from the Sand by Charles O. Pilkey and Orrin H. Pilkey

Giveaway ends July 15, 2017. See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

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