Episodes

  • How does the world of book reviews work? In Inside the Critics’ Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times (Princeton University Press, 2020), Phillipa Chong, assistant professor in sociology at McMaster University, provides a unique sociological analysis of how critics confront the different types of uncertainty associated with their practice. The book explores how reviewers get matched to books, the ethics and etiquette of negative reviews and ‘punching up’, along with professional identities and the future of criticism. The book is packed with interview material, coupled with accessible and easy to follow theoretical interventions, creating a text that will be of interest to social sciences, humanities, and general readers alike.
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  • Franny Choi’s book-length collection of poetry, Soft Science (Alice James Books 2019), explores queer, Asian American femininity through the lens of robots, cyborgs, and artificial intelligence. As she notes in this interview, “this book is a study of softness,” exploring feeling, vulnerability, and desire. How can you be tender and still survive in a hard and violent world? What does it mean to have desire when you yourself are made into an object of desire? What does it mean to have a body that bears the weight of history? Choi’s poetry contemplates such questions through the technology of poetic form.
    “Once, an animal with hands like mine learned to break a seed with two stones – one hard and one soft.
    Once, a scientist in Britain asked: Can machines think? He built a machine, taught it to read ghosts, and a new kind of ghost was born.
    At Disneyland, I watched a robot dance the macarena. Everyone clapped, and the clapping, too, was a technology.
    I once made my mouth a technology of softness. I listened carefully as I drank. I made the tools fuck in my mouth – okay, we can say pickle if it’s easier to hear – until they birthed new ones. What I mean is, I learned.”
    — from “A Brief History of Cyborgs” by Franny Choi
    Franny Choi is the author of two poetry collections, Soft Science (from Alice James Books) and Floating, Brilliant, Gone (Write Bloody Publishing), as well as a chapbook, Death by Sex Machine (Sibling Rivalry Press). She is a Kundiman Fellow, a 2019 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellow, and a graduate of the University of Michigan's Helen Zell Writers Program. She is a Gaius Charles Bolin Fellow at Williams College and co-hosts the podcast VS alongside fellow Dark Noise Collective member Danez Smith.
    Andrea Blythe is a cohost of the New Books in Poetry podcast. She is the author of Your Molten Heart / A Seed to Hatch (2018) a collection of erasure poems, and coauthor of Every Girl Becomes the Wolf (Finishing Line Press, 2018), a collaborative chapbook written with Laura Madeline Wiseman. She is a cohost of the New Books in Poetry podcast and is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association and the Horror Writers Association. Find her online at andreablythe.com or on Twitter and Instagram @AndreaBlythe.
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  • In our efforts to comprehend the systematic dispossession of indigenous peoples in settler colonies such as the United States, Canada, Australia, or Israel, the notion that "invasion is a structure, not merely an event," first articulated by Patrick Wolfe, has become something of a maxim for critical theorists. Part of this structure, as Patrick Wolfe described it, was a logic of elimination: after all, the settler must eliminate the native in order to secure her claim to the native's territory. But whom does the Native/settler binary exclude? And what do we fail to understand about how settler colonialism functions, as a result?
    These are just some of the questions to which Iyko Day speaks in her new book, Alien Capital: Asian Racialization and the Logic of Settler Colonial Capitalism (Duke University Press, 2016). Centering Asian racialization in the United States and Canada in relation to Indigenous dispossession and structures of anti-blackness, Day explores how the historical alignment of Asian bodies and labor with capital's abstract and negative dimensions became one of settler colonialism's foundational and defining features. Romantic anti-capitalism, in turn, allowed white settlers to gloss over their complicity with capitalist exploitation.
    In treating Asian North American cultural production as a transnational genealogy of settler colonialism’s capitalist logic, Day does no less than re-theorize settler colonialism itself: Alien Capital pushes us to consider how settler colonialism functions not within a Native/settler binary, but rather as a dynamic triangulation of Native, settler, and alien positionalities. Listen in for the knitty-gritty.
    Nancy Ko is a PhD student in History at Columbia University, where she examines Jewish philanthropy and racialization in the late- and post-Ottoman Middle East from a global and comparative perspective. She can be reached at [nancy.ko@columbia.edu].
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  • Overseas Vietnamese are estimated to remit 15 billion dollars annually to family that remains in Vietnam. Ivan V. Small moves beyond the numbers to examine how remittances affect sociality and human relations in his book Currencies of Imagination: Channeling Money and Chasing Mobility in Vietnam (Cornell University Press, 2018). Although remittances flow back to Vietnam with relative ease, bodies have more difficulty migrating and tend to remain in place. This condition reorients the gaze towards overseas horizons and opens up imaginative possibilities for labor, expectations about their own country, and desires for physical mobility. Small tracks remittances in Saigon, small coastal towns, and in Southern California, thus producing a transnational ethnography of monetary flows and relations. He notes remittances’ shifting forms from goods, to money, and charitable contributions. Although remittances are often thought of only through economic terms, Small argues that they contribute to ongoing social transformations at individual and social levels.
    Ivan V. Small is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Central Connecticut State University.
    Reighan Gillam is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Southern California. Her research focuses on race, blackness, and visual representation in Brazil. She is on Twitter @ReighanGillam.
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  • If you’re a grad student facing the ugly reality of finding a tenure-track job, you could easily be forgiven for thinking about a career change. However, if you’ve spent the last several years working on a PhD, or if you’re a faculty member whose career has basically consisted of higher ed, switching isn’t so easy. PhD holders are mostly trained to work as professors, and making easy connections to other careers is no mean feat. Because the people you know were generally trained to do the same sorts of things, an easy source of advice might not be there for you.
    Thankfully, for anybody who wishes there was a guidebook that would just break all of this down, that book has now been written. Going Alt-Ac: A Guide to Alternative Academic Careers (Stylus Publishing, 2020) by Kathryn E. Linder, Kevin Kelly, and Thomas J. Tobin offers practical advice and step-by-step instructions on how to decide if you want to leave behind academia and how to start searching for a new career. If a lot of career advice is too vague or too ambiguous, this book corrects that by outlining not just how to figure out what you might want to do, but critically, how you might go about accomplishing that.
    Zeb Larson is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a PhD in History. His research deals with the anti-apartheid movement in the United States. To suggest a recent title or to contact him, please send an e-mail to zeb.larson@gmail.com.
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  • Over the course of less than a century, the U.S. transformed from a nation that excluded Asians from immigration and citizenship to one that receives more immigrants from Asia than from anywhere else in the world. Yet questions of how that dramatic shift took place have long gone unanswered. In Gates to Asia: A Transpacific History of How America Repealed Asian Exclusion (University of North Carolina Press, 2019), Jane H. Hong unearths the transpacific movement that successfully ended restrictions on Asian immigration.
    The mid-twentieth century repeal of Asian exclusion, Hong shows, was part of the price of America's postwar empire in Asia. The demands of U.S. empire-building during an era of decolonization created new opportunities for advocates from both the U.S. and Asia to lobby U.S. Congress for repeal. Drawing from sources in the United States, India, and the Philippines, Opening the Gates to Asia charts a movement more than twenty years in the making. Positioning repeal at the intersection of U.S. civil rights struggles and Asian decolonization, Hong raises thorny questions about the meanings of nation, independence, and citizenship on the global stage.
    This episode is part of a series featuring legal history works from UNC Press. Support for the production of this series was provided by the Versatile Humanists at Duke program.
    Hong is an assistant professor of history at Occidental College where she specializes in 20th-century U.S. immigration and engagement with the world, with a focus on Asia.
    Siobhan M. M. Barco, J.D. explores U.S. legal history at Duke University.
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  • What stories should we remember, and which ones are we forced to forget? What if we discover a truth from the past that shaped us even though we didn't know it? Maxine Hong Kingston's 1975 masterpiece, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, transformed American literature by adding a voice that had been with us all along yet insufficiently recognized. The book gives expression to the experience of Chinese Americans, which Kingston splices, multiplies and amplifies in five powerful sections of a book that delve into Chinese mythology, the experience of immigrants, and the difficult and tenuous ways of passing stories from generation to generation. In my conversation with professor Ava Chin, author of Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal, who has been teaching The Woman Warrior for many years, we examine how this gripping book of one girl's coming of age teaches us to figure out which parts of us are true to ourselves, and which ones have been imposed on us by others.
    Uli Baer is a professor at New York University. He is also the host of the excellent podcast "Think About It"
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  • Between 1901 and World War II, up to half of all U.S.-born Chinese Americans relocated to China in search of better lives due to the discrimination they faced in the United States. Charlotte Brooks tells the story of these emigres in American Exodus: Second-Generation Chinese Americans in China, 1901–1949 (University of California Press, 2019). Initially, Chinese American dual citizens found unprecedented professional opportunities as merchants and government officials in their ancestral homeland. However, shifting political conditions in China and hardening exclusionary policies in the U.S. narrowed their options in a world where they were considered neither Chinese nor American enough to receive the protection or respect of their governments. Faced with these constraints at a time of global depression and war, Chinese Americans made agonizing choices that led them down surprising paths—including, in some cases, as collaborators during the Japanese occupation of China. American Exodus challenges well-worn mythologies in the U.S. of upward mobility for immigrants, as well as celebratory and nationalist narratives in China about the overseas Chinese.
    Ian Shin is assistant professor of History and American Culture at the University of Michigan.
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  • We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but what if we don’t understand what we’re looking at? Social media has made charts, infographics, and diagrams ubiquitous―and easier to share than ever. We associate charts with science and reason; the flashy visuals are both appealing and persuasive. Pie charts, maps, bar and line graphs, and scatter plots (to name a few) can better inform us, revealing patterns and trends hidden behind the numbers we encounter in our lives. In short, good charts make us smarter―if we know how to read them.
    However, they can also lead us astray. Charts lie in a variety of ways―displaying incomplete or inaccurate data, suggesting misleading patterns, and concealing uncertainty―or are frequently misunderstood, such as the confusing cone of uncertainty maps shown on TV every hurricane season. To make matters worse, many of us are ill-equipped to interpret the visuals that politicians, journalists, advertisers, and even our employers present each day, enabling bad actors to easily manipulate them to promote their own agendas.
    In How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter about Visual Information (W. W. Norton, 2019), data visualization expert Alberto Cairo teaches us to not only spot the lies in deceptive visuals, but also to take advantage of good ones to understand complex stories. Public conversations are increasingly propelled by numbers, and to make sense of them we must be able to decode and use visual information. By examining contemporary examples ranging from election-result infographics to global GDP maps and box-office record charts, How Charts Lie demystifies an essential new literacy, one that will make us better equipped to navigate our data-driven world.
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  • As you may know, university presses publish a lot of good books. In fact, they publish thousands of them every year. They are different from most trade books in that most of them are what you might called "fundamental research." Their authors--dedicated researchers one and all--provide the scholarly stuff upon which many non-fiction trade books are based. So when you are reading, say, a popular history, you are often reading UP books at one remove. Of course, some UP books are also bestsellers, and they are all well written (and, I should say, thoroughly vetted thanks to the peer review system), but the greatest contribution of UPs is to provide a base of fundamental research to the public. And they do a great job of it.
    How do they do it? Today I talked to Kathryn Conrad, the president of the Association of University Presses, about the work of UPs, the challenges they face, and some terrific new directions they are going. We also talked about why, if you have a scholarly book in progress, you should talk to UP editors early and often. And she explains how! Listen in.
    Marshall Poe is the editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at marshallpoe@gmail.com.
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  • Perla Guerrero is the author of Nuevo South: Asians, Latinas/os, and the Remaking of Place (University of Texas Press, 2017). Nuevo South explores the history of an ever diversifying U.S. South by examining the mixed reactions refugees, immigrants, and migrants, from different countries, received in Arkansas in the latter half of the 20th century. Comparing the experiences of Vietnamese, Cuban, and Mexican refugees and migrants, Guerrero demonstrates why we need a more nuanced understanding of how these groups, and others, changed the face of the South and its many regional racial thinking.
    Perla Guerrero is an Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland – College Park. Guerrero studies race and ethnicity, with a focus on Latinas/os/xs and Asian Americans, space and place, immigration, labor, U.S. history, and the U.S. South specifically.
    Derek Litvak is a Ph.D. student in the department of history at the University of Maryland.
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  • The things that make people academics -- as deep fascination with some arcane subject, often bordering on obsession, and a comfort with the solitude that developing expertise requires -- do not necessarily make us good teachers. Jessamyn Neuhaus’s Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers (West Virginia University Press, 2019) helps us to identify and embrace that geekiness in us and then offers practical, step-by-step guidelines for how to turn it to effective pedagogy. It’s a sharp, slim, and entertaining volume that can make better teachers of us all.
    Stephen Pimpare is Senior Lecturer in the Politics & Society Program and Faculty Fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. He is the author of The New Victorians (New Press, 2004), A Peoples History of Poverty in America (New Press, 2008), winner of the Michael Harrington Award, and Ghettos, Tramps and Welfare Queens: Down and Out on the Silver Screen (Oxford, 2017).
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  • World War II played an important role in the trajectory of race and American political development, but the War's effects were much more complex than many assume. In order to unpack these complexities and mine underutilized sources of public opinion data, Steven White had written World War II and American Racial Politics: Public Opinion, the Presidency, and Civil Rights Advocacy (Cambridge University Press, 2019). White is an assistant professor of political science at Syracuse University.
    White offers an extensive analysis of rarely used survey data and archival evidence to assess white racial attitudes and the White house response to civil rights. Intriguingly, he shows that the white public's racial policy opinions largely DID NOT liberalize during the war against Nazi Germany and Congress remained unwilling to act on a civil rights policy agenda. Painfully aware of this, civil rights advocates shifted venues to lobby for unilateral action by the president. This book offers a reinterpretation of this critical period in American political development, as well as implications for the theoretical relationship between war and the inclusion of marginalized groups in democratic societies.
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  • "Poetry gave me back a way to find my culture, my history,” says Jason Bayani while discussion his new book Locus (Omnidawn Publishing 2019), which blends memoir and poetry into a stunning exploration of fragmented identities and the Pilipinx-American experience. Drawing inspiration from hip-hop and delving into the knotted complexity of family history and relationships, Bayani is able to recover a migrant identity and experience that is often silenced and shape a confident declaration of selfhood in American culture.
    In my grandfather’s last days
    He wandered the rice fields alone.
    What was left of his mind bringing him back
    to what he spent his entire life building.
    We are the land—lupa ay buhay, land is living.
    When my father talks of his poverty, he presents
    a bowl of rice and says, ‘Your Inang
    would put one piece of fish on the table,
    and we would press our fingers
    against it for flavor.’ Mimicking his hand
    scooping rice out of the bowl.
    — fragment from “The Low Lands”
    Bayani’s recommended poets and artists from the podcast: Microchips for Millions by Janice Sapigao, This is for the Mostless by Jason Magabo Perez, Souvenir by Aimee Suzara, Circa 91 by Ruby Ibarra, Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay,  Insurrecto by Gina Apostol, and Anak Ko by Jay Som.
    Jason Bayani is an MFA graduate from Saint Mary's College, a Kundiman fellow, and works as the artistic director for the Kearny Street Workshop, the oldest multi-disciplinary Asian Pacific American arts organization in the country. His publishing credits include World Literature Today, Muzzle Magazine, and Lantern Review, among others. Jason performs regularly around the country and debuted his solo theater show "Locus of Control" in 2016 with theatrical runs in San Francisco, New York, and Austin.
    You can join New Books in Poetry in a discussion of this episode on Shuffle by joining here.
    Andrea Blythe bides her time waiting for the apocalypse by writing speculative poetry and fiction. She is the author of Your Molten Heart / A Seed to Hatch (2018) a collection of erasure poems created from the pages of Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyers, and coauthor of Every Girl Becomes the Wolf (Finishing Line Press, 2018), a collaborative chapbook written with Laura Madeline Wiseman. She is a cohost of the New Books in Poetry podcast and is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association and the Horror Writers Association. Learn more at:www.andreablythe.com

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  • Tehama Lopez Bunyasi and Candis Watts Smith have written an accessible and important book about the #BlackLivesMatter social movement and broader considerations of, essentially, how we got to where we are, in the United States, in regard to race and racism. They also go on to suggest and encourage readers and citizens to move towards a more equal and better future.
    Stay Woke: A People’s Guide to Making All Black Lives Matter (NYU Press, 2019) compiles social science research and data to explain the current situation for white citizens, African-American citizens, Latinx citizens, and citizens of other races in the United States. By laying out, in facts and figures, the very different experiences and daily lives of citizens, Lopez Bunyasi and Watts Smith demonstrate not only the way many individuals live profoundly separate and different lives in the United States, but also to show the many ways in which we, as Americans, speak past each other when we are talking about the fraught issue of race, racism, and racial inequality. Stay Woke provides substantial social science data to buttress the discussion and analysis of race and racism in the United States, and it also has an excellent chapter that provides definitions, context, and understanding of so many of the terms that are used, and often differently conceptualized, by citizens in thinking about race, inequality, and social and political dynamics. The authors also examine the history around structural racism and racial inequality. At the end of each chapter Lopez Bunyasi and Watts Smith also include other resources that contributed to their research and that extends the substance of each chapter—the resources include podcast, films, documentaries, television shows, websites, books and articles. These resources along with the questions provided for discussion and debate help readers and students think about what they are learning from each section of the book. The final part of the book provides more options for activism while positioning these actions within the American federal system. This book can be used in classes across a variety of disciplines; it is also a text that is accessible and of interest to any citizen who might want to learn more and work towards a better future.
    Lilly J. Goren is professor of Political Science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She co-edited the award-winning Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012).
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  • In Unsustainable Empire: Alternative Histories of Hawai‘i Statehood (Duke University Press, 2018), Dean Itsuji Saranillio offers a bold challenge to conventional understandings of Hawai‘i’s admission as a U.S. state. Hawai‘i statehood is popularly remembered as a civil rights victory against racist claims that Hawai‘i was undeserving of statehood because it was a largely non-white territory. Yet Native Hawaiian opposition to statehood has been all but forgotten. Saranillio tracks these disparate stories by marshaling a variety of unexpected genres and archives: exhibits at world's fairs, political cartoons, propaganda films, a multimillion-dollar hoax on Hawai‘i’s tourism industry, water struggles, and stories of hauntings, among others. Saranillio shows that statehood was neither the expansion of U.S. democracy nor a strong nation swallowing a weak and feeble island nation, but the result of a U.S. nation whose economy was unsustainable without enacting a more aggressive policy of imperialism. With clarity and persuasive force about historically and ethically complex issues, Unsustainable Empire provides a more complicated understanding of Hawai‘i’s admission as the fiftieth state and why Native Hawaiian place-based alternatives to U.S. empire are urgently needed.
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  • In The Gateway to the Pacific: Japanese Americans and the Remaking of San Francisco (University of Chicago Press, 2019), Meredith Oda shows how city leaders and local residents in San Francisco fashioned a postwar municipal identity through their promotion of what Oda calls transpacific urbanism. Though the Japanese American presence in prewar San Francisco had been minor, it boomed as Japan came into vogue during the early Cold War. The Japanese Cultural and Trade Center was the apotheosis of urban redevelopment to attract Japanese capital and sell Japanese culture. Oda traces the conflicts and collaborations between a diverse set of stakeholders, including municipal planning officials, local merchant-planners, Japanese American professionals, Japanese-Hawaiian bankers, and African American neighborhood organizers. San Francisco’s rise as a major business and cultural hub in the postwar Pacific World benefited the Japanese Americans who called the city home even as it reinscribed their status as perpetual foreigners in American life.
    Ian Shin is assistant professor of History and American Culture at the University of Michigan.

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  • In Migrant Futures: Decolonizing Speculation in Financial Times (Duke UP, 2018), Aimee Bahng traces the cultural production of futurity by juxtaposing the practices of speculative finance against those of speculative fiction. While financial speculation creates a future based on predicting and mitigating risk for wealthy elites, the wide range of speculative novels, comics, films, and narratives Bahng examines imagines alternative futures that envision the multiple possibilities that exist beyond capital’s reach. Whether presenting new spatial futures of the US-Mexico borderlands or inventing forms of kinship in Singapore in order to survive in an economy designed for the few, the varied texts Bahng analyzes illuminate how the futurity of speculative finance is experienced by those who find themselves mired in it. At the same time these displaced, undocumented, unbanked, and disavowed characters imagine alternative visions of the future that offer ways to bring forth new political economies, social structures, and subjectivities that exceed the framework of capitalism.
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  • In Postcolonial Grief: The Afterlives of the Pacific Wars in the Americas (Duke University Press, 2019), Jinah Kim explores questions of loss, memory, and redress in post WWII Asian diasporic decolonial politics. Through a close analysis of seminal cultural works that range from theory, short stories, film noir, documentaries, plays, and novels, Kim makes legible how Korean and Japanese diasporic communities have experienced U.S. militarism and Japanese colonialism. The concept of melancholia, defined as an unending state of mourning, along with the notion of “dread forwarding,” in which a new trauma can trigger an older one, inducing both a flashback but also a flash forward, is crucial to her reading. This concise yet rich work addresses the question of collective pain brought on by postcolonial loss and trauma. Kim puts geographical, cultural, and temporal spaces in conversation with one another, illuminating the ways in which Asian diasporic communities have negotiated their colonial histories.
    Laura Ha Reizman is a PhD candidate in Asian Languages & Cultures at UCLA

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  • In her new book, Collisions at the Crossroads: How Place and Mobility Make Race (University of California Press, 2019), Professor Genevieve Carpio considers tensions around mobility and settlement in the 19th- and 20th-century American West, especially California’s Inland Empire. In this wide-ranging study, the first academic work to draw on the Inland Mexican Heritage archives, Carpio examines policies and forces as disparate as bicycle ordinances, immigration policy, incarceration, traffic checkpoints, and Route 66 heritage. She shows how regional authorities constructed racial hierarchies by allowing some people to move freely while placing limits on the mobility of others. Highlighting the ways that people of color have negotiated and resisted their positions within these systems, Carpio offers a compelling and original analysis of race through spatial mobility and the making of place.
    Carrie Lane is a Professor of American Studies at California State University, Fullerton and author of A Company of One: Insecurity, Independence, and the New World of White-Collar Unemployment (Cornell University Press, 2011). Her research concerns the changing nature of work in the contemporary U.S. She is currently writing a book on the professional organizing industry. To contact her or to suggest a recent title, email clane@fullerton.edu.

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