Meet the Press: Debra Diehl

Few things are more interconnected with the University Press of Kansas than Direct Mail and Exhibits Manager Debra Diehl.

Diehl’s responsibilities at UPK extend far beyond those covered by her job title. She’s the resident expert on Press history, official favorite person in the office of visiting kids, and long-time recruiter of local wildlife.

“Deb is easily one of the most warmhearted, generous, and sincere people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting,” said Kelly Chrisman Jacques, managing editor. “She carries her good nature with her through every aspect of her position and fosters genuine connections with UPK staff, authors, customers, and vendors.”

Diehl has extensive experience that reaches beyond UPK’s walls. She’s represented the Press at meetings across the country and made sure books have traveled to events large and small. If there’s an event at which UPK books might be displayed, Deb knows about it.

“Deb is hands down the best exhibits manager I’ve worked with in over thirty years in publishing,” said Joyce Harrison, editor in chief. “It’s such a joy to come into an exhibit space, with tables to be put into place and boxes to open, and know that all of the books and supplies you need are there. Exhibits require a lot of advance work, and Deb goes about this work with stunning efficiency, especially considering the number of conferences we attend each year.”

1. What do you do at the Press and how long have you worked here?

I’m part of the marketing department team. My responsibilities focus on promoting our books via the mail—postal and email—and arranging for them to be on display at conferences and events. I’ve been at the Press since (gulp) 1986. It is my second full-time job after graduating from college in 1985.

2. What is your history at the Press? What other positions have you held?

Originally I was hired as an office assistant and did work for every department at the Press. It was the perfect way to learn about the publishing process. My degree is in journalism with an emphasis in advertising. When the Press was able to increase its staff, a marketing assistant position was created and I was hired for that. Eventually the marketing department added another position, and I became the direct mail and exhibits manager.

3. What about academic publishing appeals to you?

I’ve always loved books and discovering good writers that were new to me. After working in the advertising department of a daily newspaper, I knew I wanted to be back in an academic environment. I didn’t know much about book publishing at the time I started at UPK, but in just a short while I felt like I had found “my people.” The projects and authors I learned about were interesting and important. They still are.

4. What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

Something that has become more challenging in recent years is getting direct access to individuals through a mailing list, whether it’s a postal address or an email. Many academic associations, as well as small organizations, do not rent their membership lists as they did in the past. We continually work on building our in-house lists to promote our books as well as the Press itself. We’ve recently started offering publishing services and that adds another category of customers we want to reach.

5. What are the most rewarding aspects of working at UPK?

I’m glad that I help market a quality product. Seeing a book “do well,” whether that’s defined by sales, an award, or getting the author’s next project, is gratifying. But the most rewarding aspect of being at UPK is that I work with great people— people that I respect and like and admire. That’s been the case since day one. After many years, I still feel lucky to be here.

6. When not at work, how do you spend your time?

I spend a lot of time with dogs! My husband and I have two dogs that we take on walks and rides and sometimes on vacation. I enjoy being with friends (and their dogs!), going to live music, and spending time with my mom.

7. You’re a townie. What’s something about Lawrence you want everyone to know?

Lawrence has an amazing off-leash dog park and outstanding breweries.

Stock and Lauck discuss “The Conservative Heartland: A Political History of the Postwar American Midwest”

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election there was widespread shock that the Midwest, the Democrats’ so-called blue wall, had been so effectively breached by Donald Trump. But the blue wall, as The Conservative Heartland makes clear, was never quite as secure as so many observers assumed. A deep look at the Midwest’s history of conservative politics, this timely volume reveals how conservative victories in state houses, legislatures, and national elections in the early twenty-first century, far from coming out of nowhere, in fact had extensive roots across decades of political organization in the region.

Focusing on nine states, from Iowa and the Dakotas to Indiana and Ohio, the essays in this collection detail the rise of midwestern conservatism after World War II—a trend that coincided with the transformation of the prewar Republican Party into the New Right. This transformation, the authors contend, involved the Midwest and the Sunbelt states. Through the lenses of race, class, gender, and sexuality, their essays explore the development of midwestern conservative politics in light of deindustrialization, environmentalism, second wave feminism, mass incarceration, privatization, and debates over same-sex marriage and abortion, among other issues. Together these essays map the region’s complex patchwork of viable rural and urban areas, variously subject to a wide array of conflicting interests and concerns; the perspective they provide, at once broad and in-depth, offers unique historical insight into the Midwest’s political complexity—and its status as the last real competitive battleground in presidential elections.

1. What is your elevator pitch for The Conservative Heartland? How would you describe the book in two or three sentences?

Stock: The 2016 election reminded political observers everywhere of the importance of conservative politics in the Midwest.  But what many did not realize is that Midwestern conservatism is nothing new.  In our book, contributors examine conservative political tradition in eleven states over the course of a transformative period, 1945 to the present, when “new conservatism” came to change American politics forever.

Lauck: Since the election of the Midwesterner Ronald Reagan in 1980, the dominant political orientation of the United States has been conservative, especially in the interior sections of the country. Unfortunately, we know very little about modern conservatism in the American Midwest, which is often seen as the heartland of the nation. This book is a major step toward addressing that historical oversight.

2. What was your inspiration to research and write about the political history of the postwar American Midwest?

Stock: Personally, I have been inspired to do political history by the grass-roots political work–stuffing envelopes and going door to door–that I did as a young girl in Minneapolis. My father was active in the Independent Republican Party and supported moderate IR candidates like Arne Carlson through the 1960s. Increasingly in the 1970s, however, IR politics began to change, with more far right candidates appearing in elections as hyper-local as those for the Minneapolis Park Board.  Since becoming a historian and moving to New England, I have continued to be fascinated with the region as a whole–even the question of how it became seen as a region in the first place. Most of my research and writing has examined the interactions between the federal government and the rural people.  I can still remember the arguments between my maternal grandparents, originally from Grand Forks, North Dakota, over the question of whether FDR had “ruined the country.”

Lauck: It is a bit annoying to hear coastal commentators opine about what is “really” going on in the interior of the country. I think it’s far past time for a deep and serious dive into the actual history of the Midwest and to get past stereotypes and anecdotes.

3. What was the most challenging aspect of compiling and editing the book?

Stock: We had far more terrific proposals than we had room for!  Also, we were looking for chronological, geographic, and thematic breadth so that was hard too!

Lauck: There is not much historiography to build on. We are starting from scratch in many cases.

4. How has the political influence of the American Midwest evolved over the past 100 years?

Stock: In one of our chapters, we show how the Midwest had been the most-frequently visited region of the country by presidential candidates throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Certain states like Ohio retained the reputation of being “bellwether” states even to this day.  But other Midwestern states, with fewer Electoral College votes, quickly became “fly-over states” in modern presidential campaigns.  And yet this too may be changing. It is quite striking to see how the Trump administration has returned time and again to small rural states with large percentages of his supporters, like North and South Dakota, to remind those voters that rural people are no less important to his coalition than urban voters.  Of course, the creation of the Iowa caucuses put rural, largely white, America front and center, but after the debacle of the 2020 primary I doubt it will continue to have that place of privilege, at least for the Democrats.

Lauck: Since the explosive growth of the Republican Party in 1850s as a Midwestern regional party to the Midwest GOP’s 50-year reign of dominance after the Civil War to the more recent rise of Reaganism the Midwest has been central to American politics. It is now the last swing region which will determine who captures the presidency this fall and in subsequent cycles.

5. How have single-issue voters influenced political trends in the Midwest?

Stock: I think that the rise of new conservatism cannot be boiled down to single issues–but there are some single issues that certainly made a huge impact in the region’s growing support for new conservatism in the 1970s and 1980s.  Support for the military is an understudied part of the appeal of the New Right in the Midwest; anti-abortion politics is better understood and, of course, seen as a critical component in this shift.  In our essay we also look at the impact of cultural issues like marriage equality, the increased numbers of evangelical Protestant congregations, and the appeal of often racially coded calls for “law and order.”

Lauck: Issues like farming, steel, and trade along with conservative social issues and defenses of American traditions have been major issues in the Midwest in recent decades and will likely remain so.

6. National attention turned to the Midwest after the surprising results from the 2016 Presidential election. Do you sense the region is being monitored more closely by political parties prior to the 2020 election?

Stock: Nearly every day (or at least before COVID 19!) major media outlets have published or broadcast pieces on Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio and their extremely important roles in the upcoming elections. It is now a truism that Hillary Clinton may have lost the 2016 election by neglecting to travel to Wisconsin.  No candidate will make that mistake this year!  Similarly, there are new articles examining the question of the Democrat’s supposed “blue wall” in the Midwest.  In our book we question whether there ever was a blue wall in the first place!

Lauck: Absolutely. The growing number of stories about Michigan and Wisconsin, for example, speak to that increased attention. The Democrats’ decision to have their convention in Milwaukee is no accident.

7. What is one thing you would like readers to take from your work?

Stock: That conservative politics have always been an essential part of Midwestern politics and that the region itself may be the last true battleground region in the country!

Lauck: There is a dense civic culture underlying the politics of the Midwest and people need to understand that and focus less on the day-to-day stories of polls and the horse race. People also need to understand that regions and smaller micro-places still play a role in politics and so we need to understand particular places better than we do. To do that we have to break out of the information bubble created by producers and editors in New York and Washington DC.

8. If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?

Stock: I would like to go back in time and have Hillary Clinton read it in 2015!

Lauck: Both Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Pete Buttigieg of Indiana. They could have teamed up, formed an all-Midwest ticket, and fought a good fight for the region. They dropped the ball and left the Democrats with an old Washington insider who hails from Delaware. They should have played the regional angle better and emphasized they were fresh voices from a new generation.

_____

Catherine McNicol Stock is the Barbara Zaccheo Kohn ‘72 Professor of History at Connecticut College.

Jon K. Lauck is the founding president of the Midwestern History Association, editor-in-chief of the Middle West Review, and adjunct professor of political science at the University of South Dakota.

The Jayhawks, Sanctions and the Role We All Play…

by Andrew Malan Milward, author of Jayhawker; On History, Home, and Basketball

In 2016 I was hired as an English professor at Auburn University. After the fall semester, I called an old writing buddy of mine to catch up. I liked the town and university very much, but I also tried to tell my friend how crazy the football fandom was in Auburn. He listened to me talk about the flotillas of RVs that started arriving to tailgate on Wednesdays before home football Saturdays and how the town’s population doubled on gameday because so many people came in from out of town for the game. He listened to me talk about the millions of dollars that were just spent to give Jordan-Hare Stadium the largest Jumbotron in the country and how head coach Gus Malzahn seemed to get a lucrative contract extension after every win and then would suddenly be on the hot seat after every loss. My friend listened to this and much more and when I was finished, his response was: “So, basically, you work at a shell company for a professional football team.” I laughed because it was a funny joke, but it was the kind of laugh that caught in my throat because I knew there was some serious truth in what he had said.

I know something about sports fandom. I was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and I was raised in Lawrence, Kansas, so I was geographically predisposed to be obsessed by basketball. UK and KU are the two winningest college basketball teams in the history of the sport, which means I come from places where lunatic fandom for the men’s basketball team is the norm. And, indeed, I am a fan, a real sports junky whose spirits and moods have a direct correlation to the rise and fall of the winning percentage of teams I adore, and there’s no team I adore more than the University of Kansas men’s basketball team. Given the amount of time I devote to watching, thinking, and writing about sports, I could easily add Fan to my business card next to Writer and Professor.

At present, like many KU fans, I’m both excited for the start of the new season but also anxious about the future. The ongoing and unfolding scandal surrounding the University of Kansas men’s basketball team and its relationship with Adidas is real, and while we wait to learn the full fallout from the NCAA’s recent Notice of Allegations it seems likely that there will be serious repercussions. Scandals of this sort, of course, are nothing new, and none but the most naïve onlookers wearing rose-colored specs should be surprised that they have happened and will continue to happen because players have been receiving so-called improper benefits forever. Wilt Chamberlain, the greatest player ever to don the crimson and blue, talked openly in his autobiography about how KU boosters paid him to come to Lawrence. He was, and is, not alone, and neither is KU. It’s not a question of whether it’s happening; it’s a question of how it happens, who gets caught, and how badly they will be punished.

Perhaps that sounds cynical, but I think it’s just the logical and predictable outcome of a situation in which, to borrow my friend’s pithy turn of phrase, we’ve let universities turn into shell companies for professional sports teams. There’s simply too much money involved for this game to be uncorrupted and ‘pure,’ the way some fans want to believe it is, and the way the NCAA certainly wants us to continue thinking it is. The role of money and worry over its potential to corrupt the game is nothing new, I should say. It goes back nearly to the beginning of the sport. In 1911, James Naismith, the inventor of the game and KU’s first coach, gave a speech that was transcribed and published as an article titled “Commercialism in Sports” for the Graduate Magazine of the University of Kansas. It is a well-written and carefully argued polemic about the “insidious growth of commercialism” and its ability to “destroy one of the greatest forces of education.” Naismith believed, correctly I think, that commercialism leads to over-training and the breaking down of athletes’ bodies, it makes work of sport and turns it into a spectacle instead of recreation, it puts the emphasis on winning instead of enjoyment and personal development and thus encourages breaking the rules and stimulates betting. He also thought it leads to “worship of the dollar” and “class distinction, for when a man is paid for his services in athletics he is on a different level from the man who buys him.”

Over one hundred years after Naismith gave this Cassandra-like warning about commercialism, I imagine him going absolutely centrifugal in his grave right now, given the current landscape of sports, particularly basketball and football, in universities. As William J. Baker writes in his introduction to Naismith’s book, Basketball: Its Origin and Development, “Whatever its later commercial developments, basketball was made for principled play, not for profit…. Naismith designed his new game for athletes to enjoy, not for coaches, television networks, or corporate sponsors to control.”

photo from ksha.org

Naismith’s star pupil and successor as KU’s coach, Phog Allen, however, was quick to realize the monetizing potential of the game. One of the issues he and Naismith clashed over was whether tickets should be sold for KU games, which had quickly become quite popular in the years after Naismith brought the sport with him to Kansas from Massachusetts. Rob Rains writes in his biography of Naismith, James Naismith: The Man Who Invented Basketball, that “Allen wanted to use the strong interest in basketball that was developing on campus to generate as many sold tickets as possible, while Naismith considered selling tickets an exploitation of the student athletes. Allen argued that bringing money into the university through the sale of basketball tickets would benefit the other university sports as well.” Of course, ultimately, Phog’s opinion won out. Money has a way of making that happen.

I think they were both right, at least in theory. And yet, selling 10-cent tickets for admission to a game isn’t exactly on the same scale as earning hundreds of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals and television contacts. How we got from there to here is a longer, much more complicated story than I’m capable of telling here, but in short it has a lot to do with the growth of American business after World War II and the commodification of so many aspects of our lives theretofore unknown. However, it also has to do with the growth and popularity of the game. That is to say, it has a lot to do with us and our intense fandom that demands winning and thus incentivizes massaging, bending, and sometimes breaking the rules. (Whether we think those rules are sensible or foolish is another matter altogether). We should remember this when the penalties come down on our beloved Jayhawks and we’re sad and angry and eager to cast blame. Here are my own thoughts on that matter: the players certainly aren’t to blame, even the ones who knowingly accepted money. The coaches and shoe companies, sure. The agents and the NCAA, you bet. But so am I and people like me, the fans who love the game all out of proportion. We are all complicit in this scandal and we should be part of finding a solution.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but our love and demand for the game has created a mighty big and lucrative pie, so it seems sensible to let players have some of it, not just coaches, universities, and the NCAA. We should allow players to profit on their name, image, and likeness, allow them to have a job or profit on their abilities the same way every other college student can, and we can provide all players, from stars to the last person on the bench, with a modest monthly living stipend and lifetime academic scholarships.

Thankfully we are finally starting to see movement on some of these issues. If nothing else good comes from the scandal, perhaps it will have at least pushed the conversation forward and helped usher in necessary changes. I think that’s something all of us fans should cheer for.

Andrew Malan Milward was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and raised in Lawrence, Kansas. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is the author of two short story collections, The Agriculture Hall of Fame and I Was a Revolutionary. His fiction has appeared in many venues, including ZoetropeAmerican Short FictionVirginia Quarterly ReviewThe Southern ReviewGuernica, and Best New American Voices and has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award. He is an assistant professor of English at the University of Kentucky.

Keith E. Whittington named Thomas M. Cooley Book Prize Recipient

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Georgetown Law’s Center for the Constitution will award its third Thomas M. Cooley Book Prize of $50,000 to Professor Keith E. Whittington of Princeton University for his book, Repugnant Laws: Judicial Review of Acts of Congress from the Founding to the Present (University Press of Kansas, 2019).

“This book is a must-read for any serious student of our Constitution and how it actually works,” said Georgetown Law Professor Randy Barnett, director of the Center for the Constitution.

Repugnant Laws presents the most comprehensive account of every Supreme Court decision reviewing the constitutionality of a federal statute since the nation’s founding.

This is the second UPK book to receive the prize. Gary Lawson & Guy Seidman’s A Great Power of Attorney won in 2018.

“Facts matter and this book provides them,” Barnett said. “From now on, no discussion of the practice of judicial review can ignore the book’s empirical findings. The most cynical political scientist will need to come to grips with its conclusion that ‘the justices are not lapdogs, and they have often bitten the hand of the party that put them on the bench.’ At the same time, idealists will need to incorporate its findings that the ‘justices have proven themselves to be allies of [their] political coalition leaders.’”

The Center for the Constitution established the Thomas M. Cooley Book Prize, Symposium & Judicial Lecture to recognize exceptional books written that advance our understanding of, and commitment to, our written Constitution. The third annual event will be held at Georgetown Law over two days, March 19-20, 2020.

On the opening evening, Judge Neomi Rao of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will deliver the event’s annual judicial lecture, which is open to the public.

The next day, the Cooley Book Prize ceremony will be held as part of a daylong invitation-only symposium focused on Whittington’s book. Featured political scientists and scholars of the judiciary will share commentary about the book, including Georgetown Law Dean William Treanor and professors Nancy Maveety (politics, Tulane University), Chancellor Howard Gillman (law, Univ. of Calif., Irvine), and Adam Carrington (politics, Hillsdale College).

Professor Whittington will join these scholars and a group of constitutional law professors from area law schools to discuss the issues raised by the book and papers — which will be published in a special issue of the Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy.

The Cooley Book Prize, Symposium & Judicial Lecture honor the renowned legal scholar and jurist Thomas McIntyre Cooley. Cooley was a longstanding chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, and a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, where he also served as the dean. He authored several highly influential books, including A Treatise on the Constitutional Limitations Which Rest Upon the Legislative Power of the States of the American Union.

Keith E. Whittington is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics at Princeton University. His many books include Political Foundations of Judicial SupremacySpeak Freely, and, also from Kansas, Constitutional Interpretation.

Three UPK Titles Named 2019 Kansas Notable Books

Topeka, KS – Last week State Librarian Eric Norris announced the 14th annual selection of Kansas Notable Books. The fifteen books feature quality titles with wide public appeal, either written by a Kansan or about a Kansas-related topic.

“I am proud to present the 2019 Kansas Notable Book list. Choosing only 15 books is no easy task,” said Eric Norris, State Librarian. “The selection committee began with a pool of nearly 100 submitted titles and worked diligently to identify the year’s best works by Kansas authors and illustrators, as well as those works that highlight our history and heritage. Kansans are encouraged to visit their local public library and celebrate the artists and the artistry of Kansas.”

Three University Press of Kansas books were selected.

No Place Like Home; Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas by C.J. Janovy

Far from the coastal centers of culture and politics, Kansas stands at the very center of American stereotypes about red states. In the American imagination, it is a place LGBT people leave. No Place Like Home is about why they stay. The book tells the epic story of how a few disorganized and politically naïve Kansans, realizing they were unfairly under attack, rolled up their sleeves, went looking for fights, and ended up making friends in one of the country’s most hostile states.

The Diaries of Reuben Smith, Kansas Settler and Civil War Soldier by Lana Wirt Myers

In 1854, after recently arriving from England, twenty-two-year-old Reuben Smith traveled west, eventually making his way to Kansas Territory. There he found himself in the midst of a bloody prelude to the Civil War, as Free Staters and defenders of slavery battled to stake their claim. The young Englishman wrote down what he witnessed in a diary where he had already begun documenting his days in a clear and candid fashion. As beautifully written as they are keenly observant, these diaries afford an unusual view of America in its most tumultuous times, of Kansas in its critical historical moments, and of one mans life in the middle of it all for fifty years.

Elevations; A Personal Exploration of the Arkansas River by Max McCoy

The upper Arkansas River courses through the heart of America from its headwaters near the Continental Divide above Leadville, Colorado, to Arkansas City, just above the Kansas-Oklahoma border. Max McCoy embarked on a trip of 742 miles in search of the rivers unique story. Part adventure and part reflection, steeped in the natural and cultural history of the Arkansas Valley, Elevations is McCoy’s account of that journey.

 

Kansas Notable Books is a project of the Kansas Center for the Book, a program of the State Library. The Kansas Center for the Book is a state affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Throughout the award year, the State Library promotes and encourages the promotion of all titles on this year’s list at literary events, and among librarians and booksellers.

An awards ceremony will be held at the Kansas Book Festival, Saturday, September 14, 2019, at the State Capitol to recognize the talented Notable Book authors. The public is invited.

For more information about Kansas Notable Books, call 785-296-3296, visit kslib.info/notablebooks or email infodesk@ks.gov.

A Rainbow Wave in Kansas

by CJ Janovy, author of  No Place Like Home; Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas.

“There were tears, of course, as the reality began to set in that the eight years of persecution of LGBTQ Kansans was coming to an end,” Stephanie Mott wrote on Facebook early on Wednesday morning. Kansans had elected Laura Kelly rather than Kris Kobach as their next governor.

Mott, a highly visible transgender activist in Kansas for a decade now, remembered the night Sam Brownback was elected governor eight years ago and reelected four years ago. She also recalled the 2016 presidential election, or “that horrible night 2 years past.” Now she was waking up to a different future, “in the full knowledge that anti-LGBTQ legislation will not pass in Kansas in the next 4 years, at least 4 years,” she wrote, in a kind of social media poetry:

  • No bathroom bills.
  • Protected Kansas LGBTQ employees.
  • Yes, there were tears.
  • It is also about Medicaid expansion, and education and tax policy, and so much more.
  • But for this transgender woman and so many LGBTQ Kansans, it is about life and death.
  • It is about living in a state that respects our identities and honors our love. #GovernorElectLauraKelly

Kelly’s defeat of Kobach was big national news; even bigger national news was that Kansans were sending a lesbian to the US House of Representatives. Sharice Davids, who defeated four-term Representative Kevin Yoder, would also be one of the first two Native American women in Congress.

In its postelection piece on what national media outlets were calling a “rainbow wave” (echoing the slogan of the national Victory Fund, which helped bankroll the victories), NPR’s Leila Fadel spoke with 3rd District resident Hailee Bland Walsh, who called Davids’s win “lifesaving”: “Walsh and her wife never imagined that they’d see an open lesbian serve in their district. She’s been afraid as a minority in an America that’s becoming more and more uncivil,” Fadel reported.

“There’s something really fundamental about feeling safe,” Walsh said. Listeners around the country could hear her voice begin to waver. “And today, for the first time in couple of years— I’m getting emotional about it, but I feel safe.”

Volumes on Davids now wait to be written as she heads to Washington and as we watch what she does there. Pundits are already talking about how Kansas, of all places, elected a lesbian.

From where I sat, watching Davids’s rise from afar (I did not cover her campaign) and witnessing people’s enthusiasm about her, the explanation looked simple: 1) Yoder was a Trumpist from a moderate district; 2) Democrats had fielded a clear and qualified alternative, someone whose very existence and openness stood for something bigger than herself; 3) newly awakened voters who were eager to make a statement against the administration added to the energy in Johnson County, where citizens had been working hard through several election cycles to try to reverse the economic disaster of the Brownback administration—primarily its damage to public education; and 4) in majority-minority Wyandotte County, voters broke a twenty-two-year record for turnout, with Davids getting 68 percent of the vote to Yoder’s 29.

For me, the most surprising moment of the Davids-Yoder race was a couple of lines in the Kansas City Star the morning after the two debated, late in the campaign, when Davids held a substantial lead in the polls:

“Asked if Congress should pass federal LGBTQ protections, Davids advocated for the move and  said ‘LGBT people should be considered a protected class.’ Yoder was not clear about the issue during the debate but clarified afterward that he would support making LGBTQ a protected class under federal law.”

The idea of federal protections for LGBTQ people is blasphemy for party-liners in Trump’s GOP; only two weeks earlier, his administration had considered defining trans people out of existence.

But Yoder’s tendency to say whatever was politically expedient at any given moment was just one reason so many people in the 3rd District had proclaimed themselves #OverYoder. It’s likely any strong-enough Democrat would have beaten him; that a lesbian was the one to do it spoke to a profound change in public opinion.

“Twenty years ago, a lot of identities were liabilities. Being a Native American lesbian in the 1990s probably was a nonstarter to getting elected to anything,” University of Kansas political scientist Patrick Miller told my KCUR colleague Gina Kaufmann on the morning after the election. “And it didn’t matter yesterday.”

It didn’t matter—in fact, it might have been a strength rather than a liability—thanks in part to the kind of hometown activism chronicled in No Place Like Home.

That change in attitudes is not a fluke. We know this because, far away from the national spotlight yet also in Davids’s district, two other openly gay people won their races: Brandon Woodard and Susan Ruiz are headed to Topeka in January to represent their neighbors in the Kansas House.

The two representatives-elect came to politics from different angles: Woodard from a lifelong interest and through a primary where his opponent was also gay—thus ensuring that the Democratic candidate in House District 30 would be an openly gay man either way—and Ruiz, who, like so many other activists I met in the course of reporting for No Place Like Home (and my follow-up blog), stepped up because no one else did.

In both cases, however, identity was not their main issue. Like other Kansans, they were most concerned about public education and health care. Voters seemed to have awakened to the fact that anti-LGBTQ rhetoric was an attempt at distraction.

“We got push-polled with a robocall from our opponent,” Woodard told me, “and I had conservative people call me and say, ‘I don’t have a problem with you being gay—what I have a problem with is your opponent attacking you for your stance on LGBT issues.’”

 

CJ Janovy, Digital Content Editor for KCUR, is the author of No Place Like Home; Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas.

News and Reviews

REVIEWS

Drawing Fire; A Pawnee, Artist, and Thunderbird in World War II

Review in Publisher’s Weekly: “…Echohawk movingly recalls the language and warrior traditions he and his fellow Native soldiers followed—and, in one episode, humorously recalls fake ones they invented to intimidate insolent German captives. This excellent and fascinating account is a unique contribution to the literature of WWII.”

 

Napoleon’s 1796 Italian Campaign

Review in New York Journal of Books: “The translation is excellently done, with copious footnotes and annotations by the authors on their reasoning for choosing certain English translations for Clausewitz’s strategic thinking, particularly his major themes such as the schwerpunkt, or center of gravity, a term he frequently used to describe the concentration of forces for an attack that have long been debated among Clausewitz scholars.”

 

Justice Robert H. Jackson’s Unpublished Opinion in Brown v. Board

Review in The Review of Politics: “…we should be grateful that he has now made Jackson’s opinion so easily accessible, along with background material on the Court’s struggle to do the right thing in Brown. ”

 

AUTHORS

Mark Harvey, featured in The Washington Post

 

Robert Rebein, featured on Kansas Public Radio

 

Mark Eberle, featured on Kansas Public Radio

 

Greg Weiner, Op-Ed featured in The New York Times

 

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, featured on The University of Illinois website

Lana Wirt Myers (The Diaries of Reuben Smith) Q & A

In 1854, after recently arriving from England, twenty-two-year-old Reuben Smith traveled west, eventually making his way to Kansas Territory. There he found himself in the midst of a bloody prelude to the Civil War, as Free Staters and defenders of slavery battled to stake their claim. The young Englishman wrote down what he witnessed in a diary where he had already begun documenting his days in a clear and candid fashion. As beautifully written as they are keenly observant, these diaries afford an unusual view of America in its most tumultuous times, of Kansas in its critical historical moments, and of one mans life in the middle of it all for fifty years.

Lana Wirt Myers speaks about her experience editing the book…

When did you first have the idea to work on The Diaries of Reuben Smith?

My first introduction to Reuben Smith’s diaries happened forty years ago when I was a graduate assistant in the Special Collections Department of Wichita State University’s library. While I was organizing the manuscript collection of Kansas poet May Williams Ward, I found an excerpt from her grandfather’s diary describing his voyage from England to America in 1854. It was a fascinating story and once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. Soon after, I learned from one of Ward’s cousins that their Grandfather Smith had written extensive diaries and they were believed to be in the possession of a descendant living in Texas.

Now, fast-forward to 2009 when I was finishing my book Prairie Rhythms, a biographical book about May Williams Ward. I was checking some references at the Kansas Historical Society’s archives when I saw that the complete set of Reuben Smith’s diaries had been acquired and was available for viewing. Of course I had to see them. And I found the stories within them as captivating as the excerpt I’d read back in 1978. I knew then what my next project would be.

Can you describe your process of writing? How long did you spend working on the book?

When I first began, I honestly had no idea how I was going to present the diaries in the book. I didn’t want the book to be simply a transcription of the diaries; I wanted it to appeal to a general audience, ranging from those who would simply enjoy Smith’s personal stories to those who would appreciate the historical details contained in them. So, I guess you could say it was a bit like letting the fabric speak to the designer or the canvas dictate to the artist. It was a process that kept evolving, and I tried to let the diaries guide me. When I first read through them, I noted some of my own curiosities and what I felt I needed to learn in order to understand who some of the people were and the roles they played, especially during the Civil War years. Gradually, I began to picture my role as one to provide the background for Smith’s stories, offering the necessary information to make the stories more meaningful.

After I finished typing the diaries into a word processing document, I launched into research, especially pertaining to Civil War military history, because I wanted to let readers know what was happening at various times, both nationally and regionally. An added bonus to this was learning so much about where I’d grown up and where my father’s family settled along the western border of Missouri. It truly became a journey for me as well as for the book. During this time, I also began to see that the diaries could be sectioned into categories, or chapters, and not necessarily by years. In addition, I began to see that not every diary entry needed to be included. The significant stories within the diaries are those that provide a new primary resource for early Kansas history.

In all, I spent two and a half years working on the book, including the various editing stages involved in the publishing process.

What was the most challenging aspect of editing the publication?

I’m not sure I can assign “most challenging” to any one aspect, but initially, I had to figure out a workable way to transfer the original diaries to a word processing document. It was a tremendous help to be able to access the diaries through the Kansas Historical Society’s “Kansas Memory” website, but it took some experimenting to figure out a workable way to read from one screen while typing to another. It was a bit tricky working with a desktop computer and a Surface tablet at the same time, using two keyboards and two mouses, but the equipment and I eventually settled into a routine.

Beyond logistics, an ongoing challenge was identifying references in the diaries to unfamiliar names and phrases — ranging from towns, creeks and bridges that no longer exist to the nickname of an insect that was notorious for residing in Missouri soldiers’ tents. I consulted all sorts of unusual and dated resources, even an 1860s military medical guide, to find answers. One of the local interlibrary loan librarians finally asked me, “What ARE you working on?” Some field trips were involved as well. But this historical “digging” was fun, and the little victories were rewarding.

The Diaries of Reuben Smith is a beautiful narrative of Free State settler and Civil War soldier. Smith’s writing is moving and candid. What do you think readers, both from Kansas and across the globe, will find more interesting about his story?

I think Smith provides an unusual perspective, being a young Englishman who formed his political opinions after arriving in the United States, unfiltered by familial or geographical loyalties. And he’s never a bystander; he’s a participant. He gives us personal introductions to key figures, and through his descriptions of what he observes and experiences, we feel as though we are there alongside him. He takes us with him as he encounters border ruffians, wolves and Indians on his way to stake a claim on land in Kansas Territory. And through his writings, we witness the escalation of the Civil War along the Kansas-Missouri border, as well as Smith’s evolution from a civilian volunteer soldier to a seasoned military officer. We can see the process. We can watch as history unfolds.

Smith was an early steward of the Kansas State Insane Asylum. Is there any indication of how he would view the current state of the Larned State Hospital and Osawatomie State Hospital?

I’ve thought about that as I’ve read news articles about the problems facing these institutions, especially Osawatomie State Hospital, since Smith was entrusted with its funds as steward during the early days of its operation. Smith experienced firsthand what the swinging pendulum of politics can do to the state’s institutions. I believe he’d be busy writing letters to newspapers, as well as to legislators, voicing his opinions and proposing solutions.

 If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?

I’m going to take the liberty of defining “one person” as all of Smith’s descendants. And that is no small number, since Smith fathered thirteen children, ten of whom lived to adulthood. I can’t imagine a more treasured gift for a father to leave his children and grandchildren than fifty years of his personal history, during which he participated in the settlement and statehood of Kansas, in the fight against slavery, in postwar politics, and in the operation of the state’s first psychiatric hospital. Smith wanted his children to read history as he lived it. And I’m anxious for his many grandchildren to meet him.

What are you reading now?

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Lana Wirt Myers is the author of Prairie Rhythms: The Life and Poetry of May Williams Ward, named a 2011 Kansas Notable Book.

C.J. Janovy (No Place Like Home) Q & A

This week we will publish C.J. Janovy’s first book, No Place Like Home; Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas. Her beautiful, powerful book tells the epic story of how a few disorganized and politically naïve Kansans, realizing they were unfairly under attack, rolled up their sleeves, went looking for fights, and ended up making friends in one of the country’s most hostile states. Janovy, along with guest, will celebrate her book at 7pm on Kansas Day (01/29/2018) at the Lawrence Public Library.

We spoke to C.J. about her journey with No Place Like Home

1.When did you first have the idea to write No Place Like Home?

I explain this a bit in the intro. It was June 26, 2013, the day of the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry, which overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s ban on gay marriage, respectively. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote that the crowd’s jubilation outside the courthouse that morning was so loud it floated through marble: “A muffled cheer pierced the quiet in the Supreme Court chamber.” News from out in San Francisco was that people danced all night on Castro Street.

I went to a rally in downtown Kansas City with a couple hundred people, but it felt so weird to be celebrating historic rulings that didn’t change anything in states other than California that had banned same-sex marriage. A decade earlier, I’d covered the marriage-amendment politics in Kansas, and as I stood there at the rally that day, I wondered what had become of the Kansans who had fought it back then.

2. Can you describe your process of writing? How long did you spend working on the publication?

From that rally in June 2013 until I turned in the final, edited and revised manuscript was almost four years. I have a great full-time job, so I’d get up at 5 in the morning to write for a couple of hours before work, and usually put in at least one full day of writing on the weekends. I made several reporting trips around Kansas, and those beautiful drives around the state were the best parts, meeting and interviewing people and going to Pride celebrations and other events. I did a lot of phone interviews, looked at a lot of legislation, watched city hall testimonies archived on public-access TV channels, and read a lot of newspaper archives, including on microfilm at libraries.

3. What is one thing you were most surprised to learn while working on the book?

I was most surprised to learn that Charlie Snook, a transgender man from Newton, and LuAnn Kahl, a transgender woman who worked on farms in Haven and Kalvesta, appeared on an episode of a short-lived reality-TV series called “Sex Change Hospital” back in 2007. It was set in Trinidad, Colorado, where there was a surgeon famous for performing thousands of gender-confirmation surgeries (this I already knew). Alas, the episode is no longer on YouTube.

4. How did you identify the activists featured in the book?

The first person I contacted was Tom Witt of Equality Kansas, a statewide organization that works to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, who connected me with several other people. Like Tom, many of the activists I profiled were public figures – I’d seen them leading rallies or giving speeches or I’d read newspaper stories quoting them. When I interviewed them, they told me stories about other people who’d been involved, so I contacted those folks too. I sent emails and Facebook messages introducing myself to strangers, and many of them wrote back. Others clearly didn’t want to talk, a choice I respect.

5. You’ve lived on both coasts and have made a home in Kansas City. Can you describe the cultural differences or challenges LGBT citizens face in the middle of the country?

That’d be a whole other book(s) — and I hope dissertations are being written on the subject as we speak. But for starters, I’d say the biggest challenges are the smaller dating pool, and limited access to a large and diverse community of peers and allies  and the resources and services such communities can provide.

6. What do you view as the biggest issue facing the LGBT community in Kansas in 2018?

I think it’s the same biggest issue facing all of America in 2018: Saving our endangered democracy.

During the legislative session last year, Equality Kansas held one of its annual rallies on the steps of the Capitol. I was surprised, as were others, by how young the crowd was – mostly college and even high school kids. During his speech, Tom Witt gave them instructions (he’s good at that): “When you go home,” he yelled, “start looking outside your LGBT community and your Gay Straight Alliance and your usual church groups. Our country is in a horrible mess, but we have to resist. As a queer community, we already know how to resist and resist and resist. Take what you know about fighting bad ideas and say, ‘I’m in this fight with you.’ Unite with other progressive organizations around Kansas.” He’s right. We need to take our experiences and the hard lessons we’ve learned fighting for our own causes and put them to use in service of our country.

7. Your book is dedicated to Matthew Shepard. Has his death served as motivation for you to advocate for LGBT rights in conservative regions?

I wouldn’t identify myself as an advocate, though I’ve obviously written advocacy journalism; as a journalist, I consider myself a witness. But I know that witnessing is a political act, and that being present and recording these stories makes me a participant. I also know that being part of the community I’m writing about gives me access and understanding that outsiders might not have, and I feel a profound responsibility to my sources and their stories.

Matthew Shepard’s murder wasn’t what inspired me to start this project, but by the end of it I’d spent a lot of time on lonely roads. LGBT people – especially trans people – are still in danger. But in general, these days the world – yes, even Kansas – is a much better place for 21-year-old LGBT people. I want us to remember those who helped create it but didn’t live to see it.

8. If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?

I’m going to resist the urge to name one politician or the other who I hope reads the book so they’ll know their rhetoric doesn’t speak for all of Kansas. Instead, I’ll say I hope these stories reach individuals out there who might feel isolated, who want to make the world a better place but don’t know how, who need to know they’re not alone.

9. What are you reading now?

Woman Walk the Line: How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives, the University of Texas Press’s collection of personal essays by women music writers, edited by Holly Gleason.

 

C. J. Janovy is an arts reporter and editor for KCUR (Public Radio Kansas City, MO) and former editor of The Pitch.

The First Drink of Fall

When University Press of Kansas acquisitions editor Kim Hogeland contacted Pete Dulin with a book idea, he didn’t have to consider it for long.

“It was a pretty quick ‘yes’ from me,” Dulin says with his customary straight-forward fashion. “You want me to write a book examining all the breweries, wineries and distilleries across Kansas and Missouri? No problem.”

With Expedition of Thirst; Exploring Breweries, Wineries, and Distilleries Across the Heart of Kansas and Missouri, experienced Kansas City journalist Pete Dulin guides readers through a dizzying array of beverages made in America’s heartland. Expedition of Thirst maps routes that crisscross eastern Kansas and western Missouri, with stops at some 150 breweries, wineries, and distilleries along the way. Dulin, explains how and why these businesses produce beer, wine, and spirits tied to regional terroir and represent the flavors of the Midwest from the Flint Hills to the Ozarks. More than a travel guide, his book is a cultural journal exploring the people, places, and craft that make each destination distinct and noteworthy.

“This book was so much fun to write,” Dulin explains. “When I started I had no idea how many breweries and wineries were in Kansas and Missouri. It mirrors the national trend of growing craft breweries and wineries. In fact, there are now as many breweries in America now as there were before Prohibition – which has never happened before.”

Dulin’s travels for the book took him down back roads and across interstates; into tasting rooms and walking through vineyards. However, the assignment wasn’t a stretch. Dulin is the author of Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland, KC Ale Trail, and Last Bite: 100 Simple Recipes from Kansas City’s Best Chefs and Cooks. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Flatland, Feast Magazine, The Kansas City Star, Visit KC, River Front Times, The Boston Globe, Thinking Bigger, Pitch, and Kansas City Business Journal. He knows what he’s doing when talking about food and alcohol.

“I love the process of meeting small business owners who are so passionate about what they do,” Dulin says. “People that brew beer or distill whiskey or create wine are some of the most passionate people I’ve ever met.”

Dulin shares the stories of many of these brewers, winemakers, and distillers in their own words. Expedition of Thirst captures the character of the small business owners and makers and offers insight about their craft. For good measure, Dulin delves into the history, culture, and geography that have shaped these producers and their practices, from the impact of Prohibition to the early influence of immigrant winemakers and brewers, regional agriculture, and politics. As informative as it is engaging—even intoxicating—his Expedition is sure to work up readers’ thirst to travel and discover firsthand the singular regional pleasures Dulin so richly describes.