The publishing industry puts out thousands of academic books in a calendar year and Choice takes on the task of finding the performances at the apex of scholarship. Recognition as a Choice Academic Title marks a book as essential, not just within its narrow field, but as concerns the public at large. Indeed, the criteria used by the editors includes a book’s suitability and importance for undergraduate library collections.
In 2016, six University of Illinois Press made the Choice list. Interestingly, the six highlight the wide range of books published at the UIP book barn. The topics represented include biography, film, history, African American studies, sports, gender and sexuality studies, and communication. Our congratulations to the very deserving authors and editors and our thanks to Choice for their recognition.
Daisy Turner’s Kin: An African American Saga
by Jane C. Beck
A daughter of freed African American slaves, Daisy Turner became a living repository of history. The family narrative entrusted to her—”a well-polished artifact, an heirloom that had been carefully preserved”—began among the Yoruba in West Africa and continued with her own long lifetime.
In 1983, folklorist Jane Beck began to interview Turner, then one hundred years old and still relating four generations of oral history. Beck uses Turner’s storytelling to build the Turner family saga, using at its foundation the oft-repeated touchstone stories at the heart of their experiences: the abduction into slavery of Turner’s African ancestors; Daisy’s father learning to read; his return as a soldier to his former plantation to kill the overseer; Daisy’s childhood stand against racism; and her family’s life in Vermont. Beck weaves in historical research and offers a folklorist’s perspective on oral history and the hazards and uses of memory.
Franklin D. Roosevelt: The War Years, 1939-1945
by Roger Daniels
Having guided the nation through the worst economic crisis in its history, Franklin Delano Roosevelt by 1939 was turning his attention to a world on the brink of war.
The second part of Roger Daniels‘s biography focuses on FDR’s growing mastery in foreign affairs. Relying on FDR’s own words to the American people and eyewitness accounts of the man and his accomplishments, Daniels reveals a chief executive orchestrating an immense wartime effort. Roosevelt had effective command of military and diplomatic information and unprecedented power over strategic military and diplomatic affairs. He simultaneously created an arsenal of democracy that armed the Allies while inventing the United Nations intended to ensure a lasting postwar peace. FDR achieved these aims while expanding general prosperity, limiting inflation, and continuing liberal reform despite an increasingly conservative and often hostile Congress. Although fate robbed him of the chance to see the victory he had never doubted, events in 1944 assured him that the victory he had done so much to bring about would not be long delayed.
Seeing Sarah Bernhardt: Performance and Silent Film
by Victoria Duckett
The most famous stage actress of the nineteenth century, Sarah Bernhardt enjoyed a surprising renaissance when the 1912 multi-reel film Queen Elizabeth brought her international acclaim. The triumph capped her already lengthy involvement with cinema while enabling the indefatigable actress to reinvent herself in an era of technological and generational change.
Placing Bernhardt at the center of the industry’s first two decades, Victoria Duckett challenges the perception of her as an anachronism unable to appreciate film’s qualities. Instead, cinema’s substitution of translated title cards for her melodic French deciphered Bernhardt for Anglo-American audiences. It also allowed the aging actress to appear in the kinds of longer dramas she could no longer physically sustain onstage. As Duckett shows, Bernhardt contributed far more than star quality. Her theatrical practice on film influenced how the young medium changed the visual and performing arts. Her promoting of experimentation, meanwhile, shaped the ways audiences looked at and understood early cinema.
Sex Testing: Gender Policing in Women’s Sports
by Lindsay Parks Pieper
In 1968, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) implemented sex testing for female athletes at that year’s Games. When it became clear that testing regimes failed to delineate a sex divide, the IOC began to test for gender—a shift that allowed the organization to control the very idea of womanhood.
Ranging from Cold War tensions to gender anxiety to controversies around doping, Lindsay Parks Pieper explores sex testing in sport from the 1930s to the early 2000s. Pieper examines how the IOC in particular insisted on a misguided binary notion of gender that privileged Western norms. Testing evolved into a tool to identify—and eliminate—athletes the IOC deemed too strong, too fast, or too successful. Pieper shows how this system punished gifted women while hindering the development of women’s athletics for decades. She also reveals how the flawed notions behind testing—ideas often sexist, racist, or ridiculous—degraded the very idea of female athleticism.
This Book Is an Action: Feminist Print Culture and Activist Aesthetics
by Jaime Harker and Cecilia Konchar Farr, editors
The authors in This Book Is an Action investigate the dynamic print culture that emerged as the feminist movement reawakened in the late 1960s. The works created by women shined a light on taboo topics and offered inspiring accounts of personal transformation. Yet, as the essayists reveal, the texts represented something far greater: a distinct and influential American literary renaissance. On the one hand, feminists took control of the process by building a network of publishers and distributors owned and operated by women. On the other, women writers threw off convention to venture into radical and experimental forms, poetry, and genre storytelling, and in so doing created works that raised the consciousness of a generation.
This Is Not Dixie: Racist Violence in Kansas, 1861-1927
by Brent M. S. Campney
Often defined as a mostly southern phenomenon, racist violence existed everywhere. Brent M. S. Campney explodes the notion of the Midwest as a so-called land of freedom with an in-depth study of assaults both active and threatened faced by African Americans in post–Civil War Kansas.
Campney’s capacious definition of white-on-black violence encompasses not only sensational demonstrations of white power like lynchings and race riots, but acts of threatened violence and the varied forms of pervasive routine violence—property damage, rape, forcible ejection from towns—used to intimidate African Americans. As he shows, such methods were a cornerstone of efforts to impose and maintain white supremacy. Yet Campney’s broad consideration of racist violence also lends new insights into the ways people resisted threats. African Americans spontaneously hid fugitives and defused lynch mobs while also using newspapers and civil rights groups to lay the groundwork for forms of institutionalized opposition that could fight racist violence through the courts and via public opinion.