Ethelene Whitmire is an associate professor of library and information studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She answered some questions about her book Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian.

Q: Who was Regina Anderson Andrews and what role did she have in The New York Public Library (NYPL)?

Ethelene Whitmire: Andrews came to New York City on vacation in the early 1920s and decided to stay. She previously worked in a library as an undergraduate at Wilberforce University. She returned to her hometown of Chicago and was working at the Chicago Public Library when she applied for a job at the NYPL. Because she was African American, she was sent to the 135th Street Library branch in Harlem. African American librarians were restricted to working in a just a few branches so Andrews’ opportunities for promotion were limited. She fought against these policies and was able to work at various branches during the next forty years. In 1938, while at the 115th Street Library, she became the first African American to supervise her own branch.

Q: Why is Andrews’ legacy important for our understanding of both The Harlem Renaissance and the participation of female African American librarians in the development of The New York Public Library?

Whitmire: So many books and articles focus on the artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance. But Andrews, as a librarian, played a pivotal role in this movement too. She would set aside workspaces for the writers including Claude McKay, Eric Walrond, and Langston Hughes in the 135th Street Library. She invited people she met through her work at the library to a salon she co-hosted at the apartment she shared with two women. For example, poets Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen would read their work and get feedback from the attendees. People were able to network through this salon. Andrews, with the help of African American leaders like W. E. B. Du Bois, challenged the NYPL policies that prevented African American librarians the mobility necessary for job growth. Andrews helped to break barriers that gave other African American librarians more opportunities.

Q: You argue that Andrews refused to be limited by traditional roles because of her race or gender. Can you give some examples of how she challenged these roles?

Whitmire: Andrews married in 1926 and continued her career and enrolled in the library school at Columbia University. She later adopted a daughter, Regina Ann, and continued to work and became active in the National Urban League and the National Council of Women of the United States civic organizations. She was able to successfully navigate her professional, personal, civic and creative lives. Andrews was a board member for W. E. B. Du Bois’ KRIGWA theater which focused on only producing plays by and about African Americans. Andrews’ co-founded a theater company that decided to produce both African American and white plays. They consciously decided not to limit their plays by race. They also wanted to show a range of African American experiences on the stage. Andrews wrote several plays and unlike other female playwrights, her main protagonists were male. At least two of the plays demonstrated that fallibility of racial categorizations.

Q: You mention that Andrews hosted a salon of which Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes were attendees. How else did Andrews foster creativity during The Harlem Renaissance?

Whitmire: Andrews nurtured creativity through her work with the Harlem Experimental Theatre (HET). She co-founded the HET with Dorothy Peterson and Harold Jackman. One of the goals of the company was to educate African Americans in various theater-related crafts like playwriting, acting, set design, etc. They offered classes and the HET company consisted of both theater professionals and amateurs.

Q: In addition to being a librarian, Andrews was both and actress and playwright who helped establish The Harlem Experimental Theatre (HET). What subject matter did her plays revolve around?

Whitmire: Andrews wrote three plays and two were produced by the HET. Two of her plays revolved around common tropes from the time period: lynching and passing. One play, Underground, was about the Underground Railroad and runaway slaves who successfully outsmarted the overseers sent to capture them. An unproduced play, The Man Who Passed, was about a man who decided to live life as a white man at great cost to his personal happiness. Her play, Climbing Jacob’s Ladder, was about a lynching. Andrews was influenced to write this play by her interactions with Ida B. Wells-Barnett who was an acquaintance of Andrews’ father, defense attorney William G. Anderson. Wells-Barnett and Anderson unsuccessfully fought to prevent the execution of Anderson’s client by hanging. Andrews‘ plays have been published in recent anthologies and analyzed by scholars interested in African American female playwrights.


Cover for beal: Carla Bley. Click for larger imageFor the month of July we have lowered the e-book list price of four music titles in the University of Illinois Press catalog to $2.99.

Carla Bley by Amy C. Beal
This is the first comprehensive treatment of the remarkable music and influence of Carla Bley, a highly innovative American jazz composer, pianist, organist, band leader, and activist. With fastidious attention to Bley’s diverse compositions over the last fifty years spanning critical moments in jazz and experimental music history, Amy C. Beal tenders a long-overdue representation of a major figure in American music. “Beal … expertly contextualizes Bley’s career within the landscapes of emergent avant-garde, free jazz, and experimental music.”–Library Journal Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for caps: Henry Mancini: Reinventing Film Music. Click for larger imageHenry Mancini: Reinventing Film Music by John Caps
Henry Mancini, the first publicly successful and personally recognizable film composer in history, has practically become a Hollywood brand name. In this first comprehensive study of Mancini’s music, John Caps traces Mancini’s collaborations with important directors and shows how he homed in on specific dramatic or comic aspects of each film to create musical effects through clever instrumentation, eloquent melodies, and the strong narrative qualities of his scores. Accessible and engaging, this fresh view of Mancini’s oeuvre and influence will delight and inform fans of film and popular music. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for CUSHING: Blues Before Sunrise: The Radio Interviews. Click for larger imageBlues Before Sunrise: The Radio Interviews
by Steve Cushing
This collection assembles the best interviews from Steve Cushing’s long-running radio program Blues Before Sunrise, the nationally syndicated, award-winning program focusing on vintage blues and R&B. As both an observer and performer, Cushing has been involved with the blues scene in Chicago for decades. His candid, colorful interviews with prominent blues players, producers, and deejays reveal the behind-the-scenes world of the formative years of recorded blues. Many of these oral histories detail the careers of lesser-known but greatly influential blues performers and promoters. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for harrison: Then Sings My Soul: The Culture of Southern Gospel Music. Click for larger imageThen Sings My Soul: The Culture of Southern Gospel Music by Douglas Harrison
In this ambitious book on southern gospel music, Douglas Harrison reexamines the music’s historical emergence and its function as a modern cultural phenomenon. Rather than seeing the music as a single rhetoric focusing on the afterlife as compensation for worldly sacrifice, Harrison presents southern gospel as a network of interconnected messages that evangelical Christians use to make individual sense of both Protestant theological doctrines and their own lived experiences. Harrison explores how listeners and consumers of southern gospel integrate its lyrics and music into their own religious experience, building up individual—and potentially subversive—meanings beneath a surface of evangelical consensus. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Henry N. Barkhausen Wetlands Center is the perfect starting point for exploring the Cache River ecosystem. From the visitor center window one can spy muskrat, river otter hummingbirds and various other creatures that thrive in the restored wetlands. But there is plenty to been seen on the trails surrounding the center as well. Egrets, sparrows and hawks can all be seen depending on the season.

The Barkhausen Wetlands Center is featured in Exploring Nature in Illinois: A Field Guide to the Prairie StateThroughout the book naturalists Michael Jeffords and Susan Post invite you to discover fifty preserves, forests, restoration areas, and parks in the Land of Lincoln.

Each Wednesday we’ll preview some of the unexpected beauty of Illinois’s prairies, lakesides, river bottoms, and woodlands found within the book. . . . just in time for you to plan a weekend trip.

You’ll find maps and descriptions of these wild places in Illinois, including many hard-to-find sites, within the pages of the book.

In Chapter 5 of Jordynn Jack’s Autism and Gender: From Refrigerator Mothers to Computer Geeks, the author considers how autistic people consider gender and sexuality.

On her book blog Jack writes:

For some, gender is a confusing social construct; for others, it is an opportunity for experimentation and play. I consider how autistic people consider gender and sexuality and find that for many, mainstream concepts of gender and sexuality simply do not make sense. I describe this as a “gender copia”–an opportunity to think of gender not in terms of male/female or masculine/femininity, but as a range of options for self-identification.

Do social skills classes further confuse an issue for autistic children? Jack suggests that parents who sign their children up for them–seek to shape autistic people into the “ideal” or “average” child–and that means a child who conforms to gender stereotypes.

You can read more about how an autistic perspective complicates traditional perspectives in Autism and Gender.



On July 7, 1898, President William McKinley signed the Newlands Resolution which annexed the Republic of Hawai’i and created the Territory of Hawai’i. The annexation gave the U.S. use of Hawai’i as a military base during The Spanish-American War.

In her book Islanders in the Empire, Joanna Poblete writes:

Wanting total legal control in the islands, an imperial complex of U.S. military, government, and business leaders overthrew Queen Lili’uokalani in 1893 and supported the annexation of Hawai’i in 1898. Anglo-American efforts to completely overtake and transform the previous way of life in Hawai’i were completed when the islands became a U.S. Territory in 1900. Territorial status turned more than forty thousand Native Hawaiians into U.S. citizens without their consent. With the importation of laborers and investors for the growing sugar industry, Native Hawaiians quickly became a minority percentage of the population with little control over the politics and economics of their islands, a status which continues today. The sugar industry and the recruitment of non-Hawaiian laborers to the islands furthered the colonization of Native Hawaiians, denying their rights to self-determination and dispossessing these native peoples of their land. (11)

That same year, The Treaty of Paris gave congress control over Puerto Rico and the Philippines as well. While Hawai’i eventually became a state in 1959, Puerto Rico and the Philippines remain U.S. Territories with ambiguous political-legal status.

Poblete’s book examines the interconnected experiences of Filipino and Puerto Rican laborers in Hawai’i, their differing political-legal statuses, and interaction with Hawai’ian government structures to gain a greater understanding of U.S. imperialism.


Now that former Illinois Governor George Ryan is officially a free man, the Land of Lincoln has only a single former Chief Executive in prison.

In their book Fixing Illinois: Politics and Policy in the Prairie State, authors James D. Nowlan and J. Thomas Johnson tackle the problem of corruption.

As Johnson recently told Mark Reardon on KMOX Radio the culture of corruption in Illinois extends beyond our convicted political criminals.

“We use a very broad definition of corruption in our book.  It’s not only illegal acts,” Johnson said. “But it’s those ethical lapses that are tied to doing something for yourself instead of doing something for the good of the people. So I think we have to address that issue first.”

The good news is that Johnson and Nowlan identify some solutions to tackle a culture of ethical dubiousness in Illinois.

“This is a book about hope,” Johnson told Reardon. “So I hope it has some traction. Not only for our political leaders but for the public generally in our state.”


Matthiessen State Park in LaSalle County is a feast for the eyes in all seasons. With greenery and wildflowers in the spring and summer, colorful foliage in the fall, and the arresting sight of icefalls in the winter, there is plenty to take in.

For hikers this site near the Vermilion river offers a deep canyon, hundreds of steps and various streambeds to navigate.

Matthiessen State Park is featured in Exploring Nature in Illinois: A Field Guide to the Prairie StateThroughout the book naturalists Michael Jeffords and Susan Post invite you to discover fifty preserves, forests, restoration areas, and parks in the Land of Lincoln.

Each Wednesday we’ll preview some of the unexpected beauty of Illinois’s prairies, lakesides, river bottoms, and woodlands found within the book. . . . just in time for you to plan a weekend trip.

You’ll find maps and descriptions of these wild places in Illinois, including many hard-to-find sites, within the pages of the book.

At the risk of summoning Rod Blagojevich in a cloud of fire, brimstone, and cheap aftershave, our blog belatedly marks the third anniversary (June 27, 2011) of the former Illinois governor being found guilty of 17 charges.

Blagojevich got his start in politics by marrying an alderman’s daughter. After four years in the statehouse, Blagojevich ran—oh, the foreshadowing!—for the U.S. House seat of congressfixer-turned-prisoner Dan Rostenkowski. Michael Patrick Flanagan, a conservative Republican, had made a two-year cameo in the seat before playing doomed matador to the local Democratic machine and losing handily to Blagojevich in 1996.

Promoted without irony as a Kennedyesque figure, Blagojevich campaigned for governor on a promise to end business as usual in the wake of the corruption tsunami that brought down previous office-holder George Ryan. That he ran against an opponent with the name of Jim Ryan (no relationship to George) only helped. Voters, untroubled by Blagojevich’s Muppet voice or erroneous impression of himself as humorous, made him the first Democrat in thirty years to plant his lawn flamingo outside the governor’s mansion.

There is much to condemn in the years that followed. The hubris of tape-recording his own corruption. His successful attempts to alienate everyone in his own party. Calling his hairbrush “the football.” Trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat. Extorting money intended for a children’s hospital. A  foray into reality television that allowed him to become another of the semi-sentient piles of hair that frequently win a measure of American celebrity, a celebrity that ended only after he forced a 16th minute of fame on an unwilling public.

In Fixing Illinois: Politics and Policy in the Prairie State, authors James D. Nowlan and J. Thomas Johnson make a rather novel appraisal of Blagojevich, blasting him not for his scandals—anyone can do that, as this blog shows—but for his long-overlooked record as a lousy executive: Continue reading

Flammulina velutipes (Curtis) Singer

Edible, but tough. Despite appearances, the commercially produced “enoki” mushroom found in many grocery stores is a cultivated form of this mushroom.

One of the best-known and most-produced mushrooms in the world, Flammulina velutipes has a far-spanning career that includes appearances in forests, countless Japanese restaurants, and the labs of the space shuttle. F. veluptipes, nicknamed the winter mushroom (and also the velvet foot), makes the scene in late fall and under the right circumstances may grow throughout the cold months, even in such life-hostile January climates as Wisconsin.

In the wild, the velvet foot’s color and texture ranges from resembling a kitschy orange vinyl souvenir to a rubbery shroom of reddish or yellow-brown. Boldly bald, F. veluptipes prefers hardwoods and may grow fairly high up on a tree trunk.

As mentioned above, the cultivated version of F. veluptipes is the enoki or enokitake mushroom familiar to lovers of Japanese cuisine. Farmed since at least 800 A.D., the enoki does not resemble its feral cousin in the least, thanks to being grown in the dark in a carbon dioxide-rich environment that encourages the growth of its telltale long stems. Asian folk belief attributes anti-tumor and other properties to the enoki, and a small body of scientific research does suggest the presence of anti-cancer and anti-oxidant compounds.

In 1993, NASA sent F. veluptipes into orbit aboard the space shuttle to test the mushroom’s reaction to zero gravity. Instead of growing more or less vertically, F. veluptipes shot out in all directions. Nonetheless, it grew, good news for future astronauts who want an extra on their pizza but are reluctant to take swine into space.

Here’s the disclaimer: F. veluptipes, more than most edible mushrooms, MUST be positively identified before you eat it. In one of those tricks Nature likes to play, F. veluptipes resembles Galerina autumnis, one of the more common deadly mushrooms. Extremely poisonous, G. autumnis adds to its menace by fruiting next to F. veluptipes, making it easy to drop a mushroom you definitely don’t want in your basket of benign woodland swag. Left untreated, G. autumnis poisoning can cause vomiting, internal bleeding, and kidney failure. In the end, it essentially leaves victims with a choice between an emergency liver transplant or death.

As always with mushrooming, eat well, but be careful out there.

The UIP book Mushrooms of the Midwest describes and illustrates over five hundred of the region’s mushroom species.

Authors Michael Kuo and Andrew S. Methven provide identification keys and thorough descriptions. The authors discuss the DNA revolution in mycology and its consequences for classification and identification, as well as the need for well-documented contemporary collections of mushrooms.

Each “Mushroom Monday” get a taste of this unique and beautifully illustrated book here on the UIP blog.

Photo: Michael Kuo


The Modern Masters of Science Fiction series is devoted to books that survey the work of individual authors who continue to inspire and advance science fiction.

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote of his alter ego Kilgore Trout: “Like most science-fiction writers, Trout knew almost nothing about science.”

That most doesn’t include Gregory Benford. A longtime professor of physics with a noteworthy research career, Benford sold his first story in 1965 and has since put out twenty-some novels and over 100 short stories, as well as many essays and articles.

From the start he brought a new perspective to hard sci fi informed by his own background. “Long ago I realized that I had one great advantage in fiction, since few write about scientists, yet science is the driving force of modern times,” he told author George Slusser. “I’ve always wanted to render how scientists think while in their most characteristic mode–facing the unknown, that is, doing research.”

Benford also embraced the big issues, with morality, the failings of human nature, and immortality among the ideas fueling his fiction. And he hasn’t shied away from offering solutions.

“I think we are rushing toward terrible times, with all pressures rising,” he said. “Climate chaos, resource depletion, overpopulation, the rats-in-a-cage frenzy of maddened crowds. So maybe pointing out ways we can best solve these problems by looking large is the best use of my time.”