No work, so I can work

The Claremont Colleges kick off another academic year today, but you can’t take any of my classes. That’s because I’m on sabbatical for the fall and spring semesters.

This is the second sabbatical I’ve been lucky enough to have during my career, the last one being six years ago. That doesn’t seem all that long ago and then I remember Bush was still president. The election of Barack Obama, the death of Michael Jackson, and our collective awareness of the “Great Recession” were all part of my year of research and writing. So was buying our first house, and my two kids (there were only two then) turning 3 and 1.

Back then I was still working on my first book, which became Latinos at the Golden Gate. I had much of it researched, and most of it written, but it was still really underdeveloped and kind of all over the place. My sabbatical not only made it a better book; I’m not sure I would have ever had the time to bring it all together and get it published if not for that year. (And now that first book will be coming out in paperback in the spring!)

It already feels like I have a lot going on, almost as much as I normally would at the start of a typical academic year. The big exception is that all of it is related to one, overarching project: Mexican Americans and the Vietnam War. That’s the topic of my second book, which is now officially in progress. I’m also partnering with a local arts center in Pomona on a public history project that’s also related to Latinos and the military, only with a focus on the Pomona Valley. That’s a two-year project that will involve a lot of interviews and culminate in a museum exhibit in 2017.

After a wonderful “family” summer filled with trips to Big Sur, Yosemite, Comic Con, and Palm Springs, I’m primed and ready to get a lot done during this sabbatical year. I’ve been reading a lot these past few months as well as doing a bit of archival work. The months ahead will involve a lot more primary research––both archival and oral interviews––but my primary goal is to write as much of book #2 as I can.

I feel privileged to work at a place where support for faculty research is real and meaningful. I also feel lucky to be in the position to write this book at this moment.

In the months ahead I might start making use of this space to write a little more informally about my work. In the meantime, I wish all my colleagues a productive and fruitful academic year 2015-16!

Nam

 

First Reviews

Though my book was released in summer of 2013, it’s only now starting to be reviewed in various scholarly journals. I’m happy to report that the reviews have been generally positive, too.

Here’s a list with links, although some can’t be accessed freely:

The Journal of American History, vol. 101, no. 3 (Dec. 2014): 892-893.
Western Historical Quarterly, vol. 45, no. 4 (Winter 2014): 481-81.
Regeneración Tlacuilolli: UCLA Raza Studies Journal, vol. 1, no. 1 (Dec. 2014): 167-69.
Utah Historical Review, vol. 4 (2014): 257-59.

This last review seems to have a formatting error. It’s not listed in the Table of Contents and doesn’t have an author listed. It shares specific analysis with the one published in the online journal from UCLA. My guess is it was reworked by the same author for republication.

As you might imagine, it’s pretty great feeling. You spend years of your life working on something, making it better and better until you finally just let it go. Then you start second guessing yourself. Is it any good? Is it useful? Will people like it?

These first reviews are helping to put all those feelings of inadequacy into perspective. I think the most rewarding part is that I can be sure there are at least a few people out there who have read my book. As more reviews come in, hopefully that group will continue to grow–and that’s a great feeling.

So thanks for the support!

BNitoOhCUAAflkN

History is not the past…

A friend of mine made this a short video from a talk I gave in San Francisco last fall. The talk was about my book on the history of Latinos in the city–Latinos at the Golden Gate–but, as you can see, it was also about some of the present struggle Latino communities are facing.

My “book tour”

I’ll be in the Bay Area this week to talk about my book, Latinos at the Golden Gate. It’s the first of four trips I’m making to the city to share my work and sign some books for those who are interested. It’s also my first trip back since the book came out.

This week I’ll be giving two informal talks on the book, covering the history of Latina/o community in San Francisco from the Gold Rush to the 1970s. I’d love to see you there if you can make it!

Wednesday, January 15 @ 7:30PM
I’m the first spring 2014 public talk event sponsored by Shaping SF. My talk will be at the Eric Quezada Center, in the heart of the Mission District, at 518 Valencia. The event is free and open to the public. For more info you can visit their website.

Thursday, January 16 @ 7:00PM
I’m also speaking in Berkeley, at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (2521 Channing Way). This event is part of the California Studies Dinner Seminar series. The dinner and discussion are both free (although they ask for a small donation for drinks) but an RSVP is required. You can find out the details by visiting their website.

I don’t think they’ll be selling books at either event but if you bring a copy I’d be happy to sign it!

Hope to see you this week!

Latinos & Presidential Shootings

Regular readers of Latino Like Me might remember an earlier post on JFK’s last night alive.

In it I discuss how the night before he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, the President spent the evening at an event hosted by the League of Latin American Citizens, or LULAC. Along with LBJ and both their wives, the President spoke before LULAC, the oldest and, arguably, the most successful Mexican American civil rights organization in the U.S.  The long and the short of it is that Kennedy spent his last night as President addressing Latino issues.

Now you can understand why this slideshow from CNN took me by surprise.

The images commemorate the 30th anniversary of the shooting of Ronald Reagan, on March 30, 1981. If you click to the second image you will see a copy of the President’s itinerary printed in a newspaper found in the hotel room of John W. Hinckley Jr.–Reagan’s would be assassin.

Notice anything?

It seems that the morning of the 30th, just before he went to the Hilton Hotel to give a speech, Reagan met with “Hispanic supporters.”  Upon exiting the hotel, after his speech, Reagan was shot by Hinckley in the chest.

Just an interesting little historical coincidence.

Cosmopolitan San Francisco in 1855

Beginning in 1849, the lure of gold made San Francisco into an “instant city,” and a cosmopolitan one at that, with more than half of its population born somewhere other than the United States.

This quality almost certainly added to its mystery and exceptionalism, while also shaping both the need and the contours of its version of “white supremacy.”   For many accustomed to life amidst a more racially and culturally homogenous population, assumptions of racial difference and fitness proved invaluable tools in an almost natural effort to grapple with newness by “rationally” organizing daily, multiracial interactions marked by difference.   At the same time, life in San Francisco helped to further solidify such assumptions, providing a detailed observer with an avalanche of new “evidence” and expertise.

One early account ( from the The Annals of San Francisco, published in 1855) communicates the combination of exoticism and informed certainty that could result:

The every-day aspect of the plaza and streets was of the most curious and interesting kind. Take the plaza, on a fine day, for a picture of the people. All races were represented. There were hordes of long pig-tailed, blear-eyed, rank-smelling Chinese, with their yellow faces and blue garbs; single dandy black fellows, of nearly as bad an odor, who strutted as only the negro can strut, in holiday clothes and clean white shirt; a few diminutive fiery-eyes Malays, from the western archipelago, and some handsome Kanakas from the Sandwich Islands; jet-black, straight-featured, Abyssinians; hideously tattooed New Zealanders; Feejee sailors and even the secluded Japanese, short, thick, clumsy, ever-bowing, jacketed fellows; the people of the many races of Hindoo land; Russians with furs and sables; a stray, turbaned, stately Turk or two, and occasionally a half naked shivering Indian…

[The] multitudes of the Spanish race from every country of the Americas, partly pure, partly crossed with red blood—Chilians, Peruvians and Mexicans, all with different shades of the same swarthy complexion, black-eyed and well-featured, proud of their beards and moustaches, their grease, dirt, and eternal gaudy serapes or darker cloaks; Spaniards from the mother country, more dignified, polite and pompous than even their old colonial brethren; “greasers,” too, like them; great numbers of tall, goat-chinned, smooth-cheeked, oily-locked, lank-visaged, tobacco-chewing, large-limbed and featured, rough, care-worn, careless Americans from every State of the Union, dressed independently in every variety of garb, not caring a fig what people thought of them, but determined to “do the thing handsomely,” and “go ahead”…

Live Aid (25 years ago today)

On July 13, 1985, perhaps the largest concert event of my lifetime took place.

Live Aid was a benefit concert for sub-Saharan African relief, a single day comprised of two concerts–one in London’s Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia’s JFK.

Born in Bob Geldoff’s head, Live Aid was a trans-Atlantic follow-up to 1984’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, the UK single that inspired USA for Africa’s “We Are the World” the following spring.  They raised some $245 million dollars as a result of this one day.

I was one of the more than 2 billion people that watched the live broadcast, a day’s worth of music shown in more than 60 countries.

It was an historic day on many levels. The surviving members Led Zeppelin played onstage for the first time since Bonham’s death.  U2 blew people away with their concert performance, no doubt beginning the generally accepted view of them as one of the best live bands of the next generation.  The Who played, their first time on stage since their ’82 “Farewell Tour.”  Black Sabbath reunited, as did Crosby, Still, Nash and Young.

There were famous no-shows, people who were invited but did not perform for one reason or another.  Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, and a host of others were invited to perform but didn’t. Some had conflicts, some had a falling out with US promoter Bill Graham. Others didn’t believe Geldoff’s vision. Springsteen later said he didn’t know it was going to be as big as it was.

The show began at 12 noon GMT at Wembley. The band Status Quo played the first set.  Two hours later, the show began in Philadelphia with Joan Baez.  The shows ran concurrently, with one act on stage at a time, the UK audience watching the US stage via satellite when it was live, and vice versa.  Paul McCartney closed out the UK show, formally closed with a rendition of “Do They Knoew It’s Christmas.”  Bob Dylan and friends Ronnie Wood and Keith Richard were the last act, taking the US stage at around  3:30 am London time, followed by “We Are the World.”

For all this greatness, and the greatness that never was to be, one performance stood out the most for me. The set played Queen was one of the most amazing live rock moments I have ever seen, largely for the crowd’s participation, but due in no small part to Freddy Mercury’s command of the stage. It left a memorable impression on my 12-year-old self.  I was never a huge fan, but I forever carried a tremendous amount of respect for the band after this day in July 1985.

Here’s their entire set, in 3 parts:

Strange Coincidences in History

It has occurred to me that this past Sunday was another strange pop cultural event in the world.

Ronnie James Dio died on May 16, 2010, on the exact 20 year anniversary of the passing of Sammy Davis Jr.  On August 16, 1977, Elvis Presley died and, 20 years to that day, in 1997, internationally-known Sufi singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan died.  Elvis and Nusrat are a pair, each man has a similar standing in his own musical genre, musical culture, and global industry.  Dio and Davis aren’t too oddly matched either, both being notables inside of a larger genre, perhaps not recognized widely as the best but certainly widely known as on of the best by all those who’s opinions matter.