April 21, 1967, dawned cool and foggy in northern Illinois. It had been a tough winter and the cold had yet to fully retreat. In fact, it would snow again three days later in some parts. Not the kind of day you expected warm temperatures, let alone one of the deadliest swarms of tornadoes to ever strike the state.

school busTemperatures warmed as the day continued. The various meteorological factors involved in the development of super-cells steadily gathered. The situation generated a long list of tornadoes that day. Meteorologists later ranked three of them as super-destructive F4 storms. One hit Belvidere shortly after 3:50 p.m., another Oak Lawn and Chicago’s South Side at rush hour, and a third the Barrington-Lake Zurich area. At least seventeen tornadoes touched down in Illinois that day, as did almost thirty others in surrounding states.

The Belvidere tornado became that town’s defining event. The details make one wonder about divine providence. When the tornado hit, school was just letting out at the high school. A fairly small town, Belvidere mixed high school riders with children from middle- and elementary school. Buses full of those kids were lined up when the tornado struck. The storm had already blasted past the local Chrysler plant where my uncle worked, destroying hundreds of cars.

Later on, I met people who had hunkered in the basement while the tornado ripped their houses to pieces, and others who carried in bodies to the school gymnasium. It was one of those events that people remembered like it had happened yesterday. Seemingly everyone knew somebody injured or killed, or who had lost a child. This guy had been in a car rolled across a field. That woman was in a bus that landed on someone’s porch. My grandmother lived in Belvidere then and for the rest of her life she only needed to see a dark cloud to bring up that day. The summers there, the sirens went off three or four or five times, and though I didn’t get it then I can see why the town might play it safe and press the button.

mrs coolidgeUntil climate change renders snowball fights the exclusive preserve of those able to climb K2, April will remain the most welcome of months, for have mercy, it is spring. Natural history, now observable without misery, returns to the forefront of our minds in the chromatic splendor of flowers and tree blossoms, the scents in the air, and the warm sun on our gently perspiring faces. The mysteries we see revealed! Human skin. Baby animals. Tornadoes. Fenders that inexplicably still look whopperjawed after that ice-aided accident in January.

We here at the University of Illinois Press have put aside the temptation to sun ourselves in the verdant pasture between the parking lot and the train tracks in order to help you find a way into nature. Why? Because we care. Pretty much every scientific study not sponsored by the fluorescent lighting industry agrees that connecting with the natural world boosts happiness and adds years to our lives, unless by “connecting” you mean “Dumpster diving with raccoons.” Get in on that free healthiness. And as you do, consult with these UIP volumes in order to better understand all the stuff going on around you.

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pieperIn future years, when the 2010s become a matter of nostalgia and the “What were they thinking?”-related wonder enjoyed by every generation, people will laugh about the neckbeards, and the adult coloring books, and Dubsmash.

When it comes to the increasing fluidity of gender, well, they will probably be over it in a way that, say, the state of North Carolina is not over it right at this moment.

Gender fluidity found one of its first pop culture battlegrounds in sports. In 1960, New York Times sports wag William Barry Furlong went on record wailing about how female shot-putters and the like violated what he called The Image, that is, a traditional female look, body type, and attitude. “Those that frolic athletically in swim suits or brief tennis skirts find it easy to preserve, not to say enhance, that Image,” Furlong mansplained.

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bierleyToday we received word that noted UIP author Paul Bierley had passed away.

For us, Bierley wrote The Incredible Band of John Philip Sousa. He penned other words on Sousa as well as acting as principal author of the three-volume Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music. He also contributed dozens of magazine articles and reviews in music journals and produced liner notes for numerous CDs and LP series. In 1976, Bierley founded a publishing company dedicated to publishing band-related literature.

Considered the world’s foremost expert on Sousa, Bierley came by his enthusiasm honestly, for in addition to writing and scholarship, he played the tuba. He lent his musical talents to municipal orchestras and a variety of other organizations including the North American Aviation Concert Band, the New Sousa Band, and the Virginia Grand Military Band. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.

As Ebertfest gathers for the sixteenth year, the Press again will contribute to the filmic festivities by providing swag for the official goodie bags. What form of swag? Books, surprisingly. We hope CFD entries on Pixar mastermind John Lasseter and the epic career of French filmmaker Agnès Varda will please festival goers as much as they’ve wowed the general public.

The list of filmmakers and film scholars in the series runs river deep and mountain high. Turn your camera onto a full range of the classic film studies brought to you straight from the UIP Dream Machine.

neupertJohn Lasseter, by Richard Neupert
Celebrated as Pixar’s “Chief Creative Officer,” John Lasseter is a revolutionary figure in animation history and one of today’s most important filmmakers. Richard Neupert explores Lasseter’s signature aesthetic and storytelling strategies and details how he became the architect of Pixar’s studio style. Neupert contends that Lasseter’s accomplishments emerged from a unique blend of technical skill and artistic vision, as well as a passion for working with collaborators. As Neupert shows, Lasseter’s ability to keep a foot in both animation and CGI allowed him to thrive in an unconventional corporate culture that valued creative interaction between colleagues. The ideas that emerged built an animation studio that updated and refined classical Hollywood storytelling practices—and changed commercial animation forever.

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clampittWhat does America need? You probably have a long list. It might even include “a good five-cent cigar.

What does America NOT need? More corn. We’re swimming in corn. South America is swimming in corn. If there was an East America, its silos would be full and its crows obese.  The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) tells us that we sit in a perfect storm of corn. Farmers report record harvests at home, while imports from abroad have surged to create a veritable yellow tsunami. The story includes this rather amazing fact:

At the same time, we’re importing a lot of corn, because the cost of shipping by rail actually make it cheaper for many American livestock producers to bring in corn from South America than to ship it from other U.S. states.

Since we’re about to start bathing in high-fructose corn syrup, it’s wise to learn as much as you can about the crop behind today’s maize craze. Fortunately, UIP publishes the book America needs to make sense of the glut.

One of our most popular recent releases, Midwest Maize, tells the epic story of what happened when Mesoamerican farmers bred a nondescript grass into a staff of life so prolific, so protean, that it represents nothing less than one of humankind’s greatest achievements. Food historian Cynthia Clampitt leaves no ear un-shucked in writing the biography of a plant woven into the fabric of our diet, politics, economy, science, and cuisine.

Leck S16Ralph M. Leck teaches in the University Honors Program at Indiana State University. He answered some questions about his book Vita Sexualis: Karl Ulrichs and the Origins of Sexual Science.

Q: Was Karl Ulrichs, as some claim, the first person to publicly advocate for homosexual rights? 

Ralph Leck: Well, that’s a tricky question. He certainly was not the first person to publicly advocate for the civic legitimacy of homosexuality. Some ancient Theban military units were comprised of male lovers, because the bond of love, it was assumed, enhanced their martial spirit. One also finds in ancient Greek literature and philosophy arguments concerning the superiority of male homosexuality. An explanation for this homosexism is found in the Greek ideal of compound love: Eros-Agape. In Plato’s The Symposium, Eros is denigrated as mere physical love; Agape—shared cultural, philosophical, or civic interests—was the higher love. As an amatory ideal, compound love amounted to a double and simultaneous merging of mind and body. Except in the metaphysical realm (i.e. Socrates’ correlation of Agape and Diotima), however, gender relations generally barred women from experiencing this amatory ideal. Greek women were sequestered and had little access to education. Due to an inability to experience Agape, many Greek intellectuals assumed that women and heterosexuals could not experience compound love. Continue reading

The Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, April 7-10, 2016 was a great opportunity for editors and staff from the Press to congregate with people in the field of history (and perhaps check into future acquisitions in that field), and the conference also served as an occasion to honor a number of authors whose books have recently been published.

Daniels signingThe UIP hosted a reception and book signing in honor of Roger Daniels, author of the epic two-volume biography, Franklin D. Roosevelt: Road to the New Deal, 1882-1939 and Franklin D. Roosevelt: The War Years, 1939-1945. The author signed copies of both volumes of the book, the second of which has an official release date of April 18.

As we previously announced, Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South: White Evangelical Protestants and Operation Dixie by Elizabeth Fones-Wolf and Ken Fones-Wolf won the David Montgomery Award or the best book on a topic in American labor and working-class history.

The Fones-Wolfs faced some tough competition for the award. Smokestacks in the Hills: Rural-Industrial Workers in West Virginia by Lou Martin won an Honorable Mention for the David Montgomery Award.


Hedda Kalshoven (center) with family in June, 1943

Hedda Kalshoven (center) with family in June, 1943

Hedda Kalshoven lived history, and as part of that living, restored it to the rest of us.

In 1920, her mother arrived in the Netherlands as part of a program that ferried German children to recuperation abroad after the end of World War One. The mother kept a running correspondence with German relations from her teen years into adulthood. Marrying a son from her foster family, she watched—first with interest, then aghast—as her German relatives embraced National Socialism and became engulfed in terror and world war.

Years later, Kalshoven discovered a trove of letters that chronicled that time in painfully intimate detail. “The decision to have this book published was not easy,” Kalshoven would write in her book of collected letters from that time. “My conviction that documents like these letters shouldn’t just vanish again in the end won out over the desire to protect our family’s privacy.”

The letters she curated provide insight into the thoughts and emotions of a family on the ground, from wonder at the Amsterdam Olympic Games to the suffering of the Depression and uncertainties of the Weimar Republic to the enthusiasm of German officials on the march into Poland. The details are every day, recognizable to us all.

[The Olympics] was really a wonderful scene, the vast array of flags from the most diverse nations and the enormous, excited mass of people. And along the way you could make a study of languages and races. You could see just about every human type: tall Englishmen, elegant Americans, short Japanese and Chinese, black-eyed Italians, even Negroes and Indians. There is great celebration at the conclusion of every match. The results are then announced over a loudspeaker usually in French, but also frequently in Dutch and English. Then, to the sounds of the national anthem of the victorious nation, the flags of the 3 main winners soar into the sky, while everybody stands and the respective countrymen sing along.

And then recognizable, but not quite:

Sonja just acquired a little doggy; he’s called “Strupp.” Half Pomeranian, half dachshund. Today I asked her: “What does he look like?” “Black, but he is not Jewish; he was born a Christian.” And with that dead serious little face!

And finally:

Friday last week, Mutti and I were admitted into the NSDAP along with a large number of prominent elites (ministers, directors, nobles, former leaders of the German Nationalists, etc.). A handshake made us duty-bound to show absolute allegiance to the Führer.

At Monday’s city council meeting every city parliamentarian as well as the entire city council showed up in a brownshirt—complete unity. Our unity is so complete that in the future some 90% of all council motions will no longer need to be discussed in parliament but will be taken care of in committee. As a result, time and energy will be available for productive work.

And so your “old” Vati had to quickly acquire brownshirt, cap and visor, belt, tie, and party pin. Mutti thinks that the uniform suits me well and makes me look decades(?) younger!!! Oh!!! Well, well, dear August, if someone would have predicted this! But it is uplifting to see the discipline that makes everyone exert themselves to serve the Fatherland—strictly according to the principle Public Interest before Private Interest.

In recent years, Hedda Kalshoven—despite initial reluctance—published selected letters from the trove, to the acclaim of historians and readers across Europe and the United States. It is with heavy heart that we have heard she passed away. It is with gratitude that we remember her decision to make the Press a part of the extraordinary gift she gave to history, and all of us.

FonesWolfStruggle for the Soul of the Postwar South: White Evangelical Protestants and Operation Dixie by Elizabeth Fones-Wolf and Ken Fones-Wolf has won the David Montgomery Award from the Organization of American Historians (OAH) for the best book on a topic in American labor and working-class history.

The award was given at the OAH annual conference, April 7-10, in Providence, Rhode Island.

Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South is a title in the Working Class in American History series edited by James R. Barrett, Julie Greene, William P. Jones, Alice Kessler-Harris, and Nelson Lichtenstein.