Thursday, October 7, 2021 (New York, NY)—Celebrating the many ways university press publishing has evolved and excelled over the last decade, the Association of University Presses (AUPresses) has chosen “Keep UP” as the theme for this year’s tenth annual University Press Week (UP Week). The event runs from Monday, November 8, through Friday, November 12.

“Keep UP” is significant in a time when great change has come to all quarters of book publishing and the media. For university presses, the past decade has presented opportunities that have allowed these nonprofit publishers to explore new ways to reach readers, amplify ideas, and sustain scholarly communities while remaining steadfast in their commitment to advancing knowledge. To mark a momentous and eventful decade of university press publishing and UP Weeks, this year AUPresses members have suggested a “Keep UP Gallery” and Reading List that showcase books, journals, open access reading platforms, podcasts, and other efforts that put member UPs at the forefront of today’s issues and ideas.

“The inaugural theme of University Press Week back in 2012 was ‘Contributing to an Informed Society,’” said AUPresses Executive Director Peter Berkery. “In the ten years since, the university press community has stayed true to this goal, keeping up the highest standards of scholarship and championing the power of ideas.”

AUPresses President, University of Georgia Press Director Lisa Bayer, agreed. “As the world changes, so do university presses, adapting subject areas, author lists, and publishing know-how to grow into an ever more diverse, ever more global community,” she said. “An informed society is as important as ever, and we are proud to honor the forward-thinking work that has made university presses leaders in their fields and a force to keep up with.”

University presses’ shared commitment to promoting new ideas is clearly represented by their choices for this year’s Keep UP Gallery and Reading List, which includes Pain and Shock in America: Politics, Advocacy, and the Controversial Treatment of People with Disabilities by Jan Nisbet (Brandeis University Press); Unconscious Bias in Schools: A Developmental Approach to Racism, Revised Edition by Tracey A. Benson and Sarah E. Fiarman (Harvard Education Press); Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource by and for Transgender Communities edited by Laura Erickson-Schroth (Oxford University Press); Black Snake: Standing Rock, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and Environmental Justice by Katherine Wiltenburg Todrys (University of Nebraska Press); and Contemporary Asian American Activism: Building Movements for Liberation edited by Diane C. Fujino and Robyn Magalit Rodriguez (University of Washington Press).

Also trending in the Keep UP selections are projects that make books and authors more accessible to the wider world. Audio features prominently: the Southern Illinois University Press Blanket Fort Radio Theater features student-produced serialized audiobook podcasts, turning previously published titles into free audio versions. Syracuse University Press entered into an audiobook partnership with the Syracuse University Libraries’ Sound Beat: Access Audio. The University of the West Indies Press created the Caribbean Biography Audiobook Series and Wilfrid Laurier University Press launched the Amplify Podcast Network, which helps their authors share their research with academic and popular audiences. Other presses are showcasing ebook, online, and new format initiatives, such as Ediciones Uniandes’ online e-book platform—the first digital university press platform in Colombia (which offered most of its content for free during pandemic 2020)—and Harvard University Press’s Digital Loeb Classical Library, making Greek and Latin literary classics accessible to the broadest range of readers. Notably, Penn State University Press’ Graphic Mundi imprint is just one of several new UP efforts to publish graphic novels and nonfiction. 

When asked why they chose their book or project for the Keep UP Gallery, presses offered a variety of reasons. Publicity Manager Kait Heacock of the University of Washington Press said, “Asian American Activism was perfect for the Keep UP theme this year because it is the first anthology of its kind that centers intergenerational lessons from on-the-ground Asian American activists and activist-scholars. It moves beyond the frequently covered activism of the ’60s and ’70s to illuminate the story of present-day Asian American activism in struggles for environmental justice, workers’ rights, housing justice, prisoner rights, and movement-building in Asian American communities.” University of the West Indies Press series editor Funso Aiyejina offered several reasons why the press chose to feature its Caribbean Biography Audiobook Series this year: “Each biography is carefully curated, starting with the matching of each subject to a specialist scholar in the relevant field; each book is subjected to a rigorous process of writing and re-writing and editing to ensure that the tone is pitch-perfect; each book is reader-friendly, stripped of academic jargon; and each book is deliberately short and entertaining enough to be read at a sitting. The cover design for the Series also celebrates the visual vibrancy and intellectual confidence of the Caribbean.”

Events and promotions during the week will celebrate these and other achievements of the past decade as well as the bright future of university press publishing. The UP community will host online celebrations of this year’s theme via a blog tour, and industry supporters such as Ingram, NetGalley, and Baker & Taylor also will mark the week online through special messages and marketing. A virtual panel focused on the strengths and challenges of university press publishing organized by Seminary Coop in Chicago, will take place on Wednesday, November 10, at 2:00 PM ET, featuring bestselling University of West Virginia Press author Deesha Philyaw, University of North Carolina Press Publisher John Sherer, Point Reyes Books owner and longtime bookseller Stephen Sparks, and Seminary Coop’s own Alena Jones.  

University presses publish nearly 12,000 books each year, as well as more than 1,500 journals and numerous innovative digital works. One hundred and fifty-nine presses belong to AUPresses, and 20% of that number are presses based outside the U.S.

Since 1937, the Association of University Presses advances the essential role of a global community of publishers whose mission is to ensure academic excellence and cultivate knowledge. The Association holds intellectual freedom, integrity, stewardship, and diversity and inclusion as core values. AUPresses members are active across many scholarly disciplines, including the humanities, arts, and sciences, publish significant regional and literary work, and are innovators in the world of digital publishing. You can learn more at http://www.aupresses.org/

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by Professor Elizabeth Kuipers

She tip-toed to her place in the wings, outside of her boss’s office, waiting for her cue—the silence of the end of a phone call.  Her stomach churned.  Her audience could react, embrace her expression of vulnerability or reject her completely.

The dress rehearsal happened on Friday.  She thought that her audience would be responsive, even though they were not face to face.  She thought that her questions were reasonable.  She simply asked for clarification.  She needed to know before she committed to the year-long run what the terms of that commitment were.  She got no response.

So, she rehearsed all weekend.  The next performance would be so much easier, in her zone of comfort, if it could be in writing.  But writing is dangerous.  Writing can be documented.  Writing can be forwarded.  Writing can be damning.  The rehearsals wore her out—the constant play in her mind.  The constant “What if?” The knowing.  The knowing that she was being screwed again.  That she was worth more.  And yet, knowing that she dare not wish for too much.  There were stakes.  There were children to feed.  There were college educations to pay for.  And she was expendable to her employers.  

The twenty years she worked in her first job out of graduate school taught her she was expendable.  The moves to all of the dances were ingrained in her very being.  When her students’ eyes lit up with understanding, she felt the energizing joy and beauty of a perfectly executed stag leap across the stage.  She worked her craft, practicing, tweaking, getting a little higher, a little farther each time.  The perfect leap represented hours upon hours of practice, calloused feet, bruised knees, but the light in the students’ eyes was worth it every time!  The Charleston, gay and careless, was not as gay or as careless as it seemed when the Women’s Studies Faculty did it to bring attention to violence against women, when we bit off the ends of our figurative, phallic cigars and spit them in the faces of the entirely male administration who didn’t want a spectacle.  She learned the Shuffle too, head down, avoiding eye contact, watching her feet,  when she was denied promotion by her colleagues who had worked with her for fourteen years, hearing her voice echoing down the close hallway as she taught her heart out, but who still said they weren’t “assured” that she was an excellent teacher.  She knew to save the Tango.  The Tango was for when she couldn’t look away, when the dictate from on high was so egregious that she not only withstood the tension of the dance, but invited it, hoping that someone would be there to catch her when she got spun out of the hands of the men in charge.  Always the men in charge.

Those years taught her to shape-shift, to be pliable.  Her Can-Can sounded like Yes.  Of course.  I will.  I’ve never done that before, but I’ll give it my best.  She re-made herself to fit the needs of the department, the needs of the students. Everyone’s needs…It’s not that she was unappreciated.  Every few years she would get a card or an email from a student who remembered her fondly.  When she was unfulfilled, wrung dry from continuously learning new steps, she learned dances in other places, always hoping to be the change she wished to see in the world.  

The constant “What if?” The knowing.  The knowing that she was being screwed again.  That she was worth more.  And yet, knowing that she dare not wish for too much.  There were stakes.  There were children to feed.  There were college educations to pay for.  And she was expendable to her employers.  

When she left for what she thought to be a more compelling cause—creating a new place for children to learn in a community handicapped by years of poverty and despair—no one noticed.  No one told her goodbye.  No one thanked her for 20 years of loyal service in higher education.  For her 30s.  For her 40s.  She was expendable.  But her children were worth it, she said.  The children of the community were worth it.  This new environment would be filled with love, respect, and equality.  The teachers would be creative, and the children and parents would be engaged and involved.  This school would help to change the future for thousands of children, parents, and members of the community.  Children would learn about service and civic pride and would be equipped to soar to any height they imagined.  She envisioned a Contra-dance, full of noisy, upbeat music, communal, giving and taking in turn. Yet men continued to play the same tune, the one she had learned to Shuffle to.  As she shuffled, more and more slowly, moving down into a depth she had never dreamed, men struck absurd poses on stage, fueled by their egos, pomposity, and fear.  No amount of money could compensate for the soul-crushing loss of her dream.

Feeling the failures of the past in her knees and in her heart, she executed a plie into the chair, her chin high, attempting to exude grace and courage she did not feel.  She fumbled her way through the first steps.

She explained to her boss, “I need you to understand why I responded the way that I did.  Maybe it’s being 50.  I’m not willing to feel taken advantage of anymore. “

In her mind, she twirled on her right pointe shoe, her left leg soaring high in an attitude as she stood up for what was right, what was fair.

“The job that is a ‘promotion’ will mean more work, more stress, but no more money.  There is gender inequity at play.  The new hire, a boy straight out of graduate school, with a lower teaching load, is making more than I am.”

Her ankle wobbled.

“I would be angry all of the time.  That would not be fair to anyone here.”

Her boss reached out to her—steadying her pose—saying, “I appreciate your candor.”  How far does that steadying hand extend?  Will it extend through the impromptu meeting?  Through turning down the insulting gesture at a promotion which her boss facilitated?  Will it extend to contracts for next year?

She left the office, knowing that her dance had been shaky. Her words were disorganized, but she stayed true to herself.

Within minutes she had another performance, this time for a very different audience.  A ballet would shut them down completely.  The pandemic made the audience exceptionally small:  two Black male teenagers furtively studied their phones as she explained epic similes.  The others, purportedly streaming the class, were undoubtedly playing video games or listening to music because every time she called on one of them, she got no response.  She could execute the opening to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” but in the current climate, these students might take that as an insult from a middle-aged white woman rather than an effort to cross the divide.  No, these students didn’t want Michael Jackson.  In fact, they didn’t want anything she had to offer them; today’s offering was “The Iliad.”  She felt like Prince Humperdink reading signs in the dirt:  “There was a mighty duel….”  Even the impressive choreography of Inigo Montoya and the Dread Pirate Roberts couldn’t thaw this small group of students.  Homer’s pearls before swine.  Circe would be proud.  They endured.  She endured, hopeful that the next class would be more engaged.

“The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano; or Gustavus Vasa, the African, written by Himself.”  These tickets should be easy to sell, she thought.  A story of life in Africa, kidnapping, enslavement, the Middle Passage.  It’s eighteenth century HipHop.  A man claims himself and defies the odds.  It’s edgy; it’s truth revealed.  Certainly the students who chose to go to a Historically Black College would be engaged, maybe even excited.  Two young women arrive on time, one perpetually on her phone and the other hiding behind her computer.  Thirty minutes into class, two young men come in, one completely empty handed, the other with a pencil and spiral notebook through which he shuffles trying to find a blank page. With ten minutes of class remaining, she gets their attention with the question, “How do we dehumanize people now?”  She leads them by the nose, connecting the dots:  slaves were dehumanized to legitimate atrocities against humanity; after 911, Muslims were dehumanized to increase fear and legitimate a war; Trump used tear gas on peaceful BLM protests for a photo-op at his convenience and a platform of “law and order.”  How much has changed, she asks as she steps hopefully out onto her right pointe shoe, leg poised to elevate, but never coming off the floor.

After class, she has an existential crisis.  She knows that she is not truly educating these students.  Her arms shoot out at jarring angles from her body.  She has no idea how to make them care.  She kicks to the left, throwing her head back aggressively.  She is not even sure if they can read the homework that she assigns.  She collapses her body into a fetal position.  But this inability is not their fault; instead it is the fault of a system that has failed them.  On her feet again, she punches the air.  This is a modern dance.  It is abstract; Isadora Duncan be damned!  There is no language for this disservice or the hopelessness she feels on behalf of her students and herself.  This dance breaks the rules of the system that leaves 85% of the children behind….the poor, the ethnic other, the desperate…those who don’t know any better.  She stomps her feet and waves her arms over her head with abandon.  So the haves cut the Federal School Lunch Program for the have-nots who then are incapable of learning because they are hungry and can’t focus on their school work.   She circles as if the floor is on fire, never leaving one foot in place for long.  Projections for prison populations are based on the number of students who are unable to read on grade level in the third grade!  She channels the mother of Equiano who undoubtedly expressed her own grief at his kidnapping in a violent dance around a blazing fire.   If only she could convince her students to dance this dance with her!  She, they, we all can claim ourselves!

She is quickly exhausted by the movement and the emotion.  This dance is unsustainable.

She drives home, an hour of quiet on country roads.  Her spirit settles.  Her equilibrium returns when she sees her home and knows she is blessed.  She is in a different realm.  No physical needs go unmet.  She has a dear husband and sons who love her unequivocally.  She has books to sustain her imagination.  All is well.  She can rest.

The usual exchanges happen when she walks in the door.  “Hey, Mom!” a boy yells.  The pandemic has stranded them at home.  They work online with pre-recorded lessons taught by a variety of teachers for each subject.  There is no connection.  There is no desire to please these individuals who, in normal times, would turn into her sons’ away from home support system, their champions.  There will be no letters of recommendation for college scholarships from these teachers.

She replies cheerfully, “Hi!  How was your day?  How did your schoolwork go?” The usual answers follow.  On a whim, she adds, “Bring down your computers and let me see what you’re up to.”

The air immediately fills with tension.  The freshman’s face registers something….concern? fear?  Her dances are not done for the day.  Worries about how to choreograph this dance before she even knows what to call it fill her mind.

She is not a parent who yells.  But when she sees fifty-two missing assignments in English, thirty-four in science, forty-six in math, all she can think is, “Not you too!  Another child lost and dishonored by this combination of forces that feels out of control.”  But this is her child; she cannot lose him.  She must execute the perfect dance or the tragic outcome will be of her own design.

She reaches out to him with a brush step, hearing the front of her tap shoe slide softly against the floor.  “What in the world is going on?” she asks with direct eye contact.  She must bring him into the dance.  

“I don’t know,” he responds.

“Do you never work?”  She begins to tap out a tentative rhythm.  He responds with a shoulder shrug.  “Do you work at least a little every day?”  She knows he must be allowed to riff on his own, but he doesn’t seem to know the steps.  There are consequences for not knowing the steps of this basic dance.

“Bring me your phone and your game controller.”  Step-ball-change away from him.  He Shuffles away.  She knows that dance so well it breaks her heart to see him do it.

When he returns and hands her his technology, she does the buffalo shuffle towards him, saying, “Tomorrow, you will come to work with me and sit in my office to get caught up.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She grabs his chin, holding it firmly, asserting the rhythm of her heart into his cheeks and saying, “I love you.  Even when I’m mad at you I love.”  His eyes tell her that they can be in sync soon.  She must keep dancing.

Alice Walker says that hard times require furious dancing. These are hard times.  She longs for Baby Suggs to step off the page of Beloved and call her community into a dance.  To call the women in, crying; to invite the men to begin the dance; and to bring in the little children laughing in spite of the hard times.  In community, the dance will morph and include all, creating space for those who need to cry and those who need to laugh, here if nowhere else.  Only in a true community can she find solace and healing. So.  She will keep dancing, inviting her students, her friends, and her family to join her, hoping that in the dance she can empower others to keep true to the rhythms of their hearts.

About the Author

Elizabeth Kuipers’s love of teaching began in the 70s when she cajoled her little brother into completing “homework” which she promptly graded with a red crayon.  Years later, at Wesleyan College, the first college in the world chartered to grant degrees to women, Elizabeth learned to love the written word and to be a fierce feminist.  An MA and PHD in English later, she committed to public education where she has lead a team to design and open a K-12 charter school and worked in administration in both K-12 and higher education.  But she has consistently found her way back into the classroom where her heart will remain.