JHU Press Blog

Wildflowers of the Adirondacks

by eea | Thursday, January 30, 2020 - 4:40 PM

Stunning. That was my impression on my first visit to the Adirondacks in summer 2009. I had recently spent considerable time in other beautiful areas but nothing compared to the majesty of the Adirondacks. It was a new world to me. The image of sky, water, and forests, the smell of the lake on that sunny day – stays with me.

I was invited by Professor Don Leopold to teach a botany course at the Cranberry Lake Biological Station that summer. I jumped at the opportunity because I taught at other field stations and always found the experience rewarding. As an avid botanist, dwelling right in the forest was an ideal setting to learn about the flora. And the privilege of teaching about plants only heightened the experience.

For several years I taught at Cranberry Lake and worked with Don Leopold learning his expertise in the flora and ecology of the Adirondacks. I saw his images of plants, many of which were the best I had seen in my long career of teaching and publishing. His pictures of orchids deserved wider attention. I encouraged him to consider a book that would share his knowledge of plants and plant...Read More

Tackling the CRISPR Debate

by may | Monday, January 27, 2020 - 3:09 PM

DNA Editing

Perspectives in Biology & Medicine has dedicated its entire Winter 2020 issue to exploring the complex and contentious issue of CRISPR gene editing. In light of the timely nature of the topic, three articles from the issue have been made freely available online prior to the journal’s official publication. Once published, the entire issue will be freely available for three months online via Project MUSE. The issue’s guest editor, Neal Baer, M.D., is an Emmy-nominated television producer and pediatrician. Dr. Baer explores the potentially harmful uses of CRISPR on Designated Survivor , a Netflix series he writes and produces.

CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) is a genome-editing tool that allows researchers to alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. The technology has been at the forefront of scientific and public debate following the announcement in November 2018 that a Chinese researcher successfully altered the genes of human embryos that resulted in the birth of twin girls. He Jiankui’s announcement at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing sent shockwaves across the scientific community and ignited a firestorm of criticism that his work crossed moral and ethical boundaries.

CRISPR has provided...Read More

Preventing Child Trafficking: A Public Health Approach

by eea | Monday, January 13, 2020 - 2:30 PM

I started researching trafficking and its attendant forms of child exploitation in the late 1990s. Back then, if I mentioned that I was working on “trafficking,” most people assumed I meant drug trafficking. A few even responded by telling me about their frustrations with their morning commute. In the late 1990s, most people had not even heard of human trafficking. More than two decades later, human trafficking is regularly in the news, and hundreds of organizations work on the issue. Legislatures are actively developing law and policy to address the issue. And January is recognized as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the United States.

In short, we have witnessed a dramatic change over the past twenty years, with human trafficking transforming from a largely invisible issue to one that is recognized as a priority by most governments. Yet, despite this progress and the substantial ongoing antitrafficking work, it’s unclear whether the prevalence of human trafficking has changed. In Preventing Child Trafficking: A Public Health Approach , Dr. Angela Diaz and I draw on public health methodologies to advance a vision for a comprehensive response to child trafficking that is both evidence-based and prevention-oriented....Read More

Entangled Lives: Labor, Livelihood, and Landscapes of Change in Rural Massachusetts

by eea | Monday, December 23, 2019 - 9:00 AM

Among the most powerful artifacts I know of early American women’s work isn’t an artifact at all. It is the darkened wood around some eighteenth-century flooring, shown to me many years ago now by an architectural conservator at work in the Porter-Phelps-Huntington House (Forty Acres) in Hadley, Massachusetts. I had spent a lot of time in and around that site in the course of my research, working to recover insight into the lives of the women whose labors had made the household run, and I had seen plenty of tools—spinning wheels, churns, and so forth—associated with their work. But this was different. The discolored wood, now hidden away in a storage space, was a remnant of hundreds of scrubbings. The chapped hands that created this evidence may well have never held a pen, but they nonetheless left me this testimony of their labor.

For historians eager to understand the lives of working women in the early republic, artifacts—from household goods to agricultural tools to entire cultural landscapes—are sometimes the only way to find our way into lives too rarely preserved in archival records, or preserved only as they appeared from the perspectives of their employers. In the course of...Read More

Staten Island Stories

by eea | Friday, December 20, 2019 - 12:00 PM

The only book about Staten Island I can remember reading as a child was Paul Zindel’s The Pigman which probably most Staten Islanders have been assigned to read at one point in middle school. I liked The Pigman , the working-class characteristics of Lorraine’s life at home, the way her mother smacked her silly right in front of the cops when the police showed up at their door. I, too, grew up perpetually in trouble for talking back. But not one of these characters looked like me or my family, and Zindel wrote that book in 1968, almost twenty years before I was born. Surely there must have been more authors writing about Staten Island since then?

As it turns out, there were. But for some strange reason, we rarely hear about those authors’ origins on the island. Take for example, Sigrid Nunez, who recently won the National Book Award in 2018 for her beautiful novel The Friend. She grew up in a housing project in Staten Island and graduated from the old New Dorp Highschool in 1968. (In 1988, the old New Dorp HS building was turned into Staten Island Tech, which I attended in the nineties.) Nunez’s...Read More

Birth and Death in an Ethical Upside Down

by eea | Wednesday, December 18, 2019 - 3:00 PM

The plot of the hit show Stranger Things revolves around another dimension, the Upside Down, where people’s thoughts and behaviors are controlled by an organism known as the Mind Flayer. When the Mind Flayer crosses into our world, it upends the moral foundations of human society. Our health care system is similarly controlled by an organism outside the ken of most patients and even physicians, in such a way that the foundational moral principals of medicine are turned upside down.

As I examine in my book The Medicalization of Birth and Death , the vast majority of people who give birth and who die in this country will do so with high intensity hospital-based care. This despite extensive research suggesting that pregnant women, the elderly, and the terminally ill all get too much care in our current system: too many interventions, too many medications, and too much time in hospitals, away from social support networks. Hospitalization itself is often harmful. Patients risk hospital-borne infections, medical mistakes, isolation from family and friends, lack of sleep, and discomfort. The dangers increase with frequent transfers, a serious problem for the elderly in particular. A quality health care system...Read More

America’s First Ebola Outbreak and the Response Towards African Immigrants in Dallas

by eea | Monday, December 16, 2019 - 3:00 PM

Alim, an immigrant from Liberia, was quick to realize why fewer passengers were using his services as an airport-shuttle driver at the Dallas Fort Worth airport. A few weeks earlier, Thomas Duncan, a native of Liberia, had died of Ebola at a hospital in Dallas; he was the first person known to die of the disease on U.S. soil. The response to Duncan’s death was dramatic and it increased local fears about the consequences of contracting the deadly virus. It did not take long for African immigrants to be stigmatized in Dallas and other American communities. Few people wanted to be around them because they were seen as potential carriers of the virus. Their race was just one factor used to identify them as the targets of stigma. As Alim recalled, people could tell from his accent that he was from Africa, and as a result, it was difficult to get passengers to board his vehicle.

About a year earlier, in December 2013, an Ebola outbreak started in the village of Meliandou in Guinea and subsequently became the world’s largest Ebola epidemic. Although the epidemic led to the death of thousands of people in West Africa, it was not...Read More

Designer Bob Cronan on “Distilling Complexity Into Straightforward Visuals”

by eea | Friday, December 13, 2019 - 2:00 PM

JHU Press recently invited me to comment on my collaboration with them over the past decade, creating maps, infographics and spot illustrations for books. So far, I’ve completed more than 20 projects for JHU Press, including the double page graphic pictured above taken from Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters (Amy Davis, Sept. 2017) . Here are a few other examples of my work, along with some discussion on their development. A successful result is a combination of experience, useful art direction, and refinement through the revision process.

The first example comes from a forthcoming title, Breakaway Americas: The Unmanifest Future of the Jacksonian United States , (Thomas Richards, Jr., April 2020) , for which I designed the cover art meant to resemble a vintage engraving. For guidance and inspiration, I began with the author’s rough sketch, reference material, and an old map supplied for style.

My first attempt (below) displayed the subject matter accurately, but it still lacked a convincing antique feel overall. JHUP’s art director, Martha Sewall, suggested some tweaks in my type selection, line weights, and color palette.

...Read More

Did Ancient Women Read Books?

by llk | Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 3:57 PM

Author Sarit Kattan Gribetz joins us for a Q&A about “Women as Readers of the Nag Hammadi Codices" published in the Journal of Early Christian Studies. (Article can be found at https://muse.jhu.edu/article/709379 .)

How did you delve into this area of research?

A decade ago, I took a graduate course, co-taught by Elaine Pagels and Lance Jenott, about the Nag Hammadi Codices. Rather than studying the individual texts as second or third century compositions of largely unknown origin, as they are usually studied, the course challenged us to explore them as material objects – that is, as Coptic texts bound together in fourth- or fifth-century codices and buried near monasteries in the desert of Upper Egypt. The focus of analysis thus shifted from the composers and transmitters of these texts to their translators and readers, and from regarding each individual text on its own to thinking about its place within a text collection. Who might have been interested in such texts in fourth- or fifth-century Egypt? What might they have found theologically compelling or otherwise relevant to their lives? In what context might they have read, performed, or studied these texts? How did the binding...Read More

How My New Book about Jane Austen Started with Stephenie Meyer

by eea | Monday, December 9, 2019 - 9:00 AM

Guest post by Janine Barchas

In The Lost Books of Jane Austen , I champion the cheapest and least authoritative reprints of an important author, mixing hardcore bibliography with the tactics of the Antiques Roadshow. How I came to stray from scholarly libraries to eBay and beyond, shifting from a fastidious bibliographical critic who favored “original” and “first” editions to reluctant hunter of bookish throwaways, is an odd story.

It all began in 2010 with a phone call from a distraught teacher at my daughter’s all-girls school. The teacher, now my friend, wanted to talk about teaching Pride and Prejudice for the first time to her sixth graders. Knowing her choice was ambitious, she had expected the book to challenge her savvy 11-to-12-year-olds but could not account for their response to Mr. Darcy. “Janine,” she said with a hint of despair, “all the girls seem to think his coldness towards Elizabeth suggests he’s a vampire. I just don’t know where they’re getting this idea.” After exchanging incredulities, I asked what edition the class was using. A straightforward Teen Edition from Harper Collins had been ordered by the school administrator as suitably inexpensive—one...Read More