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Local Book Notes: The ABA & China, The American Intellect & Pilsen Big In Japan

Follow the saga.

"In December 2014, the publishing arm of the [Chicago-based] American Bar Association, the preeminent professional organization for U.S. lawyers, commissioned a book by Chinese rights activist Teng Biao," Foreign Policy reported last month.

"Provisionally entitled Darkness Before Dawn, the book was to paint a picture of China's politics and society through 'the shocking stories' of Chinese human rights lawyers, as well as through personal narrative, according to Teng's book proposal, which he sent to Foreign Policy.

Teng . . . had moved to the United States in September 2014, as the situation for Chinese human rights lawyers was growing steadily worse. He took up a visiting fellowship at Harvard Law School, and began to reflect on his 11 years of experience as a Chinese human rights advocate. The book he planned to write would also have included his experience defending persecuted Chinese minorities; as the lawyer for Chen Guangcheng, the blind advocate who became famous after taking shelter in the U.S. embassy in Beijing in April 2012; and the "kidnaps [sic] and torture" Teng experienced.

But on January 28, 2015, Teng received an e-mail from an employee of the ABA, a professional organization with nearly 400,000 members, one avowedly committed to "serving the legal profession," according to its website. "I have some bad news," wrote the ABA employee, whom Teng wished FP keep anonymous. "My publisher, after receiving some concerns from other staff members here about your proposed book, has asked me to rescind the offer that I had made for DARKNESS BEFORE DAWN on December 9th."

"Apparently, there is concern that we run the risk of upsetting the Chinese government by publishing your book," the employee wrote, "and because we have ABA commissions working in China there is fear that we would put them and their work at risk."


The Wall Street Journal called the ABA the "American Self-Censorship Association."


"Two Republican lawmakers are asking the ABA for 'additional clarification' about its decision to withdraw a book offer made to a Chinese human rights lawyer," the ABA Journal reported next.

"U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey want to know whether the book project was canceled because of fears or threats that ABA projects would be adversely affected in China. Smith and Rubio are chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China."

In that report, the ABA said it had not folded to the Chinese.

ABA Associate Executive Director Robert Rupp, who oversees publishing services, counters that the employee was mistaken and the reasons for the withdrawn offer were "purely economic."

Rupp gave this statement: "The 2014 decision not to proceed with publication of the book Darkness Before Dawn was made for purely economic reasons, based on market research and sales forecasting conducted by the association's publishing group.

Unfortunately, the reasons resulting in the decision were miscommunicated to Mr. Teng.

We regret that Mr. Teng received erroneous information that did not reflect the views of the association or the process followed in evaluating his proposal.

We sincerely apologize to Mr. Teng for this situation and are taking steps to ensure that it cannot occur again."


"The American Bar Association has rejected a potentially incendiary book that is being written by the Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao, but others are exploring the possibility of publishing it," the New York Times reported next.

"With the working title Darkness Before Dawn, the book is at the center of a public brawl between Mr. Teng and the American Bar Association, which is primarily a professional organization for lawyers in the United States but also has an office in Beijing that aims to help build up the legal system in China.

"The dispute has raised questions as to whether foreign nongovernmental organizations working in China engage in self-censorship. That is an issue that will become more acute if China passes a proposed law putting more than 7,000 such foreign groups under police oversight."

By this time, the ABA had sent a letter to Rubio and Smith answering their questions and again denying that anything but market forecasting entered into their decision to pass on the book.


China passed that law.


@Teng Biao.


Is America Dumb?
From SIU Press:

The image of the lazy, media-obsessed American, preoccupied with vanity and consumerism, permeates popular culture and fuels critiques of American education. In Reimagining Popular Notions of American Intellectualism, Kelly Susan Bradbury challenges this image by examining and reimagining widespread conceptions of intellectualism that assume intellectual activity is situated solely in elite institutions of higher education.

Bradbury begins by tracing the origins and evolution of the narrow views of intellectualism that are common in the United States today. Then, applying a more inclusive and egalitarian definition of intellectualism, she examines the literacy and learning practices of three non-elite sites of adult public education in the United States: the nineteenth-century lyceum, a twentieth-century labor college, and a twenty-first-century GED writing workshop. Bradbury argues that together these three case studies teach us much about literacy, learning, and intellectualism in the United States over time and place. She concludes the book with a reflection on her own efforts to aid students in recognizing and resisting the rhetoric of anti-intellectualism that surrounds them and that influences their attitudes and actions.

Drawing on case studies as well as Bradbury's own experiences with students, Reimagining Popular Notions of American Intellectualism demonstrates that Americans have engaged and do engage in the process and exercise of intellectual inquiry, contrary to what many people believe. Addressing a topic often overlooked by rhetoric, composition, and literacy studies scholars, it offers methods for helping students reimagine what it means to be intellectual in the twenty-first century.

Answer: Maybe.


Chicago Zine Fest Happened
"The festival felt like half arts and crafts fair and half trade show," Third Coast Review said.

"Everything from comic books and whimsical postcards to prose chapbooks and guides to cultivating your own garden filled the event space."




Pilsen Big In Japan
"[W]hen I heard that a photo book about Pilsen had been published in Japan, out of all places, it struck me as strange, but not too strange," Jackie Serrato writes at Chicago Voz.

"Maybe a foreign lens was capable of looking past the racist and political commentary of the time. Maybe the photographer, who was an immigrant himself, felt like an equal next to his subjects or at least sympathized with their lifestyle. I wasn't sure.

"So I found him on the internet and we exchanged some e-mails. His name is Akito Tsuda and he captured Mexican Pilsen in the 1990s."

Click through to see!


Rebranding Anthropology
"Beloit College [anthropologist professor] Jennifer Esperanza was feeling frustrated," Dori Tunstall writes on her Design/Anthropology/Culture blog.

Why is there always images of "exotic" peoples on the cover of anthropology textbooks? "Why can't there be images of, for example, a group of white American women eating salads, on the cover?," she asked.

Esperanza's frustration "led to the redesign of the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology branding and logo mark in 2008 by University of Illinois at Chicago graphic design students."

Click through to see the glorious results.


Chicago Novel
"Brian Doyle is known on campus for being the editor of the University's Portland Magazine, but outside of the UP community he is also a big deal," according to the university's Beacon.

"Doyle is the author of 13 books which range from collections of essays and poems to more recent novels.

"Doyle has received three Pushcart Prizes, the John Burroughs Award for Nature Essays and he has been a finalist multiple times for the Oregon Book Award.

"Chicago is his latest novel, it tells the story of a recent college graduate who moves to Chicago and the interesting people he meets along the way."

Doyle did live here for awhile and returns occasionally.

I did live in Chicago a little bit when I was fresh out of college, and to be young and strong and penniless and tireless is a perfect way to see a city. I just love Chicago I thought it was a great American city. It is in the middle of the country, rising out of the plains like Oz. It is a big city, it's a big rough, beautiful, cruel, violent, outstanding city.

This is a common formulation, but poverty, cruelty and violence aren't very romantic when you are actually experiencing them and not observing them for literary material. There's nothing "great" about any of it in a city except in terms of magnitude.


Drag City
"A new book from Magnus Hastings is 10 years in the making - and filled with 141 photos of 130 drag queens from across the U.S., including some Chicago flavor," Chicago Pride reports.

"Why Drag? will be released May 17 from Chronicle Books and will be available from all major booksellers."


Hey J.

"J. Ivy performs his poem 'Wings' at his Dear Father Book Concert in Chicago last month. This concert marked the launch of his new book Dear Father: Breaking the Cycle of Pain, which is now available in stores."


Comments welcome.


Posted on May 12, 2016

MUSIC - Chicago Music Poster History.
TV - Hollywood Still Can't Get Abortion Right.
POLITICS - The Dark Side Of Kirin Beer.
SPORTS - The Four Horsemen Of Halas Hall.

BOOKS - Why Chimps Don't Hold Elections.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Recall! Sriracha Chicken Ravioli.

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