Untangling famine from pandemic means untangling food from capital

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Stian Rice is a food systems geographer and author of Famine in the Remaking: Food System Change and Mass Starvation in Hawaii, Madagascar, and Cambodia, new from West Virginia University Press. Here he shares perspective on the entwined crises of pandemic and famine.

As the curtains opened on 2020, famine watchers warned that 135 million people in 55 countries were experiencing acute food insecurity and an elevated risk of starvation. War in Yemen, an economic crisis in Zimbabwe, and a locust plague in East Africa were set to repeat as the defining challenges for the new year. In the words of World Food Program (WFP) executive director David Beasley, “2020 would be facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two.” And then COVID-19 stole the show. Since then, quarantine and stay-at-home orders have strangled food supply chains. The collapse of oil prices has left some governments without revenue to feed their populations. Tens of millions, dependent on daily wages, face uncertainty over their next meals. School closures have deprived 368 million children of meals and snacks. And the strain is beginning to show: looting, protests, and ration line stampedes are being reported from Latin America to South Asia. Last week the WFP nearly doubled its estimate to 265 million facing acute hunger by the end of the year. Meanwhile, industrial agriculture in developed countries has become a theater of the absurd as farmers plow under crops, breeders kill off millions of surplus chickens, and dairy operations dump spoiled milk into fragile watersheds.Read More »

Celebrating West Virginia University’s long-form scholarship

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Each spring, West Virginia University’s Office of the Provost, in partnership with the WVU Libraries, WVU Humanities Center, and WVU Press, hosts an annual celebration of long-form scholarship and creative work produced by WVU faculty and staff. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 event was canceled, but we hope you’ll take a moment to celebrate WVU faculty through the virtual showcase linked here.

Mid-spring roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

With universities pivoting quickly to online instruction in response to public health concerns, a number of authors from our series Teaching and Learning in Higher Education are in the news:

  • Joshua Eyler, author of How Humans Learn, is part of an Inside Higher Ed roundtable on “The Shift to Remote Learning,” and he appears on the podcast Tea for Teaching to talk about how universities might plan for the fall semester.
  • Also in Inside Higher Ed, Cathy Davidson’s essay on student assessment during the pandemic cites work on going gradeless by Susan D. Blum, editor of our forthcoming Ungrading (a volume to which Davidson contributes). Blum’s work on the shift from grades is discussed, as well, in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • Thomas Tobin, coauthor of Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone, appears in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed, and talks with the Lecture Breakers podcast.
  • The EdSurge series “Sustaining Higher Education in the Coronavirus Epidemic” includes a writeup of Derek Bruff’s Intentional Tech.
  • In Public Books, Kevin Gannon, author of Radical Hope, talks with historian Kevin Kruse about the role of public engagement at less prominent universities that are sometimes overlooked by traditional media. Gannon is also interviewed for the Teaching in Higher Ed and Tea for Teaching podcasts.

Pittsburgh City Paper‘s guide to supporting independent bookstores during the pandemic recommends Deesha Philyaw’s forthcoming The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.Read More »

How it’s made: Notes on the seasonal catalog cover

Art director Than Saffel provides a look at the DNA behind our Fall 2020 seasonal catalog cover.

“I believe that there is something in you that strives for order, and within that order, there’s a certain kind of mishmoshy confusion, and you bring this mishmoshy confusion, if you succeed, into some kind of order. There’s an element of control, and there’s also an element that just happens—if you’re very lucky.”
—Saul Leiter

—–

As WVU Press’s art director and lone production designer, I stay busy cranking out covers, interiors, galleys, ads, posters, signs, catalogs, social media imagery, and more. Most of the press’s visual sensibility originates with materials I create (or, in the case of Deesha Philyaw’s cover shown here, commission).

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Read More »

A publisher worth having in good times is twice as valuable in bad: A message from WVU Press

Update: Our warehouse in Chicago has now reopened!

In this period of extraordinary challenges—for publishing, bookselling, higher ed, and just about everything and everybody else—the staff at West Virginia University Press is committed to ensuring that the state’s largest publishing house continues to maintain a robust lineup of books and journals. Some key points:

  • We look forward to sharing our fall catalog next month. If your access to the print catalog is interrupted, let us know and we’ll make sure you get a digital copy. Booksellers and sales reps can always access information about our new and forthcoming titles on the Edelweiss platform.
  • Forthcoming titles will continue to be released on schedule, with the possibility of some modest hiccups related to the temporary closure of our warehouse at the University of Chicago Press’s Distribution Center. Our colleagues in Chicago have been great, and we don’t anticipate significant disruptions.
  • Many print books continue to be available directly from WVU Press during the warehouse closure (currently scheduled to last through April 7), but to help compensate for any delays we’ve made all of our ebooks half off on our website. Plus you’ll receive a free digital edition immediately when ordering any print book directly from WVU.
  • If you’re looking for print without delay, our books are widely available at online retailers. We suggest Bookshop.org, Indiebound.org, or independent bookstores that sell directly from their own websites. Our titles are also available and shipping now from Amazon.com and BN.com.
  • Our staff is working offsite, but we’re excited to continue acquiring new books. If you have something to pitch, please email the appropriate acquisitions editor.
  • While face-to-face book events are—like events of nearly all kinds—canceled, we’re teaming up with Taylor Books in Charleston to hold a virtual book launch for Kevin Gannon’s timely book Radical Hope on April 1.
  • We’re also donating 120 copies of Radical Hope to West Virginia University’s Teaching and Learning Commons, to be shared with teachers across our home institution.

Read More »

Ebooks are half off or FREE

Our warehouse in Chicago is temporarily closed because of a shelter-in-place order scheduled to last through April 7, and to help compensate we’re offering half off all WVU ebooks with code EBOOK50 at checkout.

Plus when you buy a print book from our site and wait for it to ship, you get the same title instantaneously as a FREE ebook. Just add both the print edition and the electronic edition (epub or PDF) to your cart and use the code PRINTPLUS. Then start reading.

Even though not all of WVU’s print books are currently shipping immediately when ordered from our own site, you can still get them now at online retailers like Bookshop.org, Indiebound.org, Amazon.com, BN.com, and from bookstores that sell directly from their websites. So there are lots of ways to get our books, both e- and print.

Thanks for sticking with us while we wait for our warehouse to reopen, and thanks too to our great partners at the Chicago Distribution Center warehouse for all the wonderful work they do. Stay safe and read!

Why Ungrade?: An excerpt from Susan D. Blum’s forthcoming book Ungrading

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With universities pivoting quickly to online instruction in response to public health concerns, many teachers are considering new approaches to grading, including the prospect of ungrading—the topic of Susan D. Blum’s forthcoming edited volume in our series Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Here we share an excerpt from the introduction to her book Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead).

Humans, in recent memory, invented a way of looking at students’ learning. We in the United States call it grading; in Canada, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere, they distinguish between marking on particular assignments and final grading. Though grading seems natural, inevitable, a part of the very fabric of school, it isn’t. It was created at a certain moment, for certain reasons not entirely well thought out, and then became embedded in the structures of schools for most students.

But because we invented it, we can uninvent it. We can remove it.

And many of us believe we should.Read More »

Early spring roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

The New York Review of Books features Clay Carey’s The News Untold as part of its roundup review “Can Journalism Be Saved?” Carey’s book was winner of the Weatherford Award for best nonfiction title in Appalachian studies last year, and we’re pleased to share the news that another of our books—Appalachian Reckoning, edited by Meredith McCarroll and Anthony Harkins—is the winner this year.

In other awards news, LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia has been named a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, as reported in O Magazine. Coeditor Jeff Mann talks with the Virginia Festival of the Book.

The Chronicle of Higher Education features an interview with Kevin Gannon about his new book Radical Hope. Also in the Chronicle, an essay about introverts and teaching discusses Jessamyn Neuhaus’s Geeky Pedagogy, which appears, as well, on the blog Pedagogy and American Literary Studies.

Donald Rice, author of Cast in Deathless Bronze, talks with Washington Post columnist John Kelly about the entwined stories of Calixto García Iñiguez, Elbert Hubbard, and Andrew Rowan, figures from his book about the Spanish American War (and, in Rowan’s case, a West Virginia native).Read More »

“If we surrender to cynicism, we abandon the allies and tools with which we can make things better”: An interview with Kevin Gannon

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Kevin Gannon will launch his book Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto at West Virginia University on April 1. Here we share a conversation with Gannon conducted by Jeremy Wang-Iverson of Vesto PR. [Edit: The IRL book launch has been postponed, but watch for details on a virtual event.]

Why did you decide to write this book now?

I’ve had this book in me for quite a while, to be honest. It’s the product of about 20 years of teaching in higher education, as well as my own journey as a student (in the heady days before the internet was a thing, thankfully). But in the last few years, it became less a matter of “hey, I might write something,” to “hey, I need to write something.” The manifesto had its origins in a blog post I wrote in the summer of 2016, and it resonated with enough people that I was encouraged to turn it into a book. Writing a book on hope has been . . . a journey, in these last few years, that’s for sure.

How has your experience teaching at a small, teaching-focused institution like Grand View University shaped your views on pedagogy and higher education?

So often our public conversations about higher ed are shaped by a handful of folks at elite institutions (educational or otherwise) who work with a pretty narrow subset of students, and do that work much more sporadically and infrequently than someone at a “teaching university.” Yet those of us at the schools with 4-4 (or higher) class loads, as opposed to the 1-1 or 2-2 at R1 and Ivy League schools, are by far the majority of practitioners in this space, and our experiences and perspectives are often quite different from the ill-informed caricatures we see from the scolds in the op-ed pages of the New York Times, for example. Schools like mine—small, under-resourced, access-oriented, student-focused—are where the real work of higher education often takes place, and this environment has profoundly shaped the way I look at teaching, learning, and higher ed at large. We don’t have a lot of 4.0 academic superstars applying for admission, but we do have students who come out of a variety of experiences and have overcome a lot of obstacles to join our academic community. And these are the students who push me to be a better teacher every day.Read More »