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Astounding Wonder Cover

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Astounding Wonder

Imagining Science and Science Fiction in Interwar America

By John Cheng

When physicist Robert Goddard, whose career was inspired by H. G. Wells's War of the Worlds, published "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes," the response was electric. Newspaper headlines across the country announced, "Modern Jules Verne Invents Rocket to Reach Moon," while people from around the world, including two World War I pilots, volunteered as pioneers in space exploration. Though premature (Goddard's rocket, alas, was only imagined), the episode demonstrated not only science's general popularity but also its intersection with interwar popular and commercial culture. In that intersection, the stories that inspired Goddard and others became a recognizable genre: science fiction. Astounding Wonder explores science fiction's emergence in the era's "pulps," colorful magazines that shouted from the newsstands, attracting an extraordinarily loyal and active audience.

Pulps invited readers not only to read science fiction but also to participate init, joining writers and editors in celebrating a collective wonder for and investment in the potential of science. But in conjuring fantastic machines, travel across time and space, unexplored worlds, and alien foes, science fiction offered more than rousing adventure and romance. It also assuaged contemporary concerns about nation, gender, race, authority, ability, and progress—about the place of ordinary individuals within modern science and society—in the process freeing readers to debate scientific theories and implications separate from such concerns.

Readers similarly sought to establish their worth and place outside the pulps. Organizing clubs and conventions and producing their own magazines, some expanded science fiction's community and created a fan subculture separate from the professional pulp industry. Others formed societies to launch and experiment with rockets. From debating relativity and the use of slang in the future to printing purple fanzines and calculating the speed of spaceships, fans' enthusiastic industry revealed the tensions between popular science and modern science. Even as it inspired readers' imagination and activities, science fiction's participatory ethos sparked debates about amateurs and professionals that divided the worlds of science fiction in the 1930s and after.

At Berkeley in the Sixties Cover

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At Berkeley in the Sixties

The Making of an Activist

Jo J. Freeman

This book is a memoir and a history of Berkeley in the early Sixties. As a young undergraduate, Jo Freeman was a key participant in the growth of social activism at the University of California, Berkeley. The story is told with the "you are there" immediacy of Freeman the undergraduate but is put into historical and political context by Freeman the scholar, 35 years later. It draws heavily on documents created at the time -- letters, reports, interviews, memos, newspaper stories, FBI files -- but is fleshed out with retrospective analysis. As events unfold, the campus conflicts of the Sixties take on a completely different cast, one that may surprise many readers.

Babysitter Cover

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Babysitter

An American History

Miriam Forman-Brunell

On Friday nights many parents want to have a little fun together—without the kids. But “getting a sitter”—especially a dependable one—rarely seems trouble-free. Will the kids be safe with “that girl”? It's a question that discomfited parents have been asking ever since the emergence of the modern American teenage girl nearly a century ago. In Babysitter, Miriam Forman-Brunell brings critical attention to the ubiquitous, yet long-overlooked babysitter in the popular imagination and American history.

Informed by her research on the history of teenage girls' culture, Forman-Brunell analyzes the babysitter, who has embodied adults' fundamental apprehensions about girls' pursuit of autonomy and empowerment. In fact, the grievances go both ways, as girls have been distressed by unsatisfactory working conditions. In her quest to gain a fuller picture of this largely unexamined cultural phenomenon, Forman-Brunell analyzes a wealth of diverse sources, such as The Baby-sitter's Club book series, horror movies like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, urban legends, magazines, newspapers, television shows, pornography, and more.

Forman-Brunell shows that beyond the mundane, understandable apprehensions stirred by hiring a caretaker to “mind the children” in one's own home, babysitters became lightning rods for society's larger fears about gender and generational change. In the end, experts' efforts to tame teenage girls with training courses, handbooks, and other texts failed to prevent generations from turning their backs on babysitting.

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Back Channel to Cuba

The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana

William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh

Challenging the conventional wisdom of perpetual hostility between the United States and Cuba--beyond invasions, covert operations, assassination plots using poison pens and exploding seashells, and a grinding economic embargo--this fascinating book chronicles a surprising, untold history of bilateral efforts toward rapprochement and reconciliation. Since 1959, conflict and aggression have dominated the story of U.S.-Cuban relations. Now, LeoGrande and Kornbluh present a new and increasingly more relevant account. From Kennedy's offering of an olive branch to Castro after the missile crisis, to Kissinger's top secret quest for normalization, to Obama's promise of a "new approach," LeoGrande and Kornbluh reveal a fifty-year record of dialogue and negotiations, both open and furtive, indicating a path toward better relations in the future.

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Baltimore '68

Riots and Rebirth in an American City

Edited by Jessica I. Elfenbein, Thomas L. Hollowak and Elizabeth M. Nix

In 1968, Baltimore was home to a variety of ethnic, religious, and racial communities that, like those in other American cities, were confronting a quickly declining industrial base. In April of that year, disturbances broke the urban landscape along lines of race and class.

This book offers chapters on events leading up to the turmoil, the riots, and the aftermath as well as four rigorously edited and annotated oral histories of members of the Baltimore community. The combination of new scholarship and first-person accounts provides a comprehensive case study of this period of civil unrest four decades later.

This engaging, broad-based public history lays bare the diverse experiences of 1968 and their effects, emphasizing the role of specific human actions. By reflecting on the stories and analysis presented in this anthology, readers may feel empowered to pursue informed, responsible civic action of their own.

Baltimore '68 is the book component of a larger public history project, "Baltimore '68 Riots: Riots and Rebirth." The project's companion website (http://archives.ubalt.edu/bsr/index.html ) offers many more oral histories plus photos, art, and links to archival sources. The book and the website together make up an invaluable teaching resource on cities, social unrest, and racial politics in the 1960s. The project was the corecipient of the 2009 Outstanding Public History Project Award from the National Council on Public History.

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A Band of Noble Women

Racial Politics in the Women's Peace Movement

Melinda Plastas

A Band of Noble Women brings together the histories of the women’s peace movement and the black women’s club and social reform movement in a story of community and consciousness building between the world wars. Believing that achievement of improved race relations was a central step in establishing world peace, African American and white women initiated new political alliances that challenged the practices of Jim Crow segregation and promoted the leadership of women in transnational politics. Under the auspices of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), they united the artistic agenda of the Harlem Renaissance, suffrage-era organizing tactics, and contemporary debates on race in their efforts to expand women’s influence on the politics of war and peace. Plastas shows how WILPF espoused middle-class values and employed gendered forms of organization building, educating thousands of people on issues ranging from U.S. policies in Haiti and Liberia to the need for global disarmament. Highlighting WILPF chapters in Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Baltimore, the author examines the successes of this interracial movement as well as its failures. A Band of Noble Women enables us to examine more fully the history of race in U.S. women’s movements and illuminates the role of the women’s peace movement in setting the foundation for the civil rights movement

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Baptized in Blood

The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920

Charles Reagan Wilson With a new preface

Southerners may have abandoned their dream of a political nation after Appomattox, but they preserved their cultural identity by blending Christian rhetoric and symbols with the rhetoric and imagery of Confederate tradition. Out of defeat emerged a civil religion that embodied the Lost Cause. As Charles Reagan Wilson writes in his new preface, "The Lost Cause version of the regional civil religion was a powerful expression, and recent scholarship affirms its continuing power in the minds of many white southerners."

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Barnstorming to Heaven

Syd Pollock and His Great Black Teams

A rare insider’s perspective on baseball’s great barnstorming age.
   
The Indianapolis Clowns were a black touring baseball team that featured an entertaining mix of comedy, showmanship, and skill. Sometimes referred to as the Harlem Globetrotters of baseball—though many of the Globetrotters’ routines were borrowed directly from the Clowns—they captured the affection of Americans of all ethnicities and classes.

Alan Pollock’s father, Syd, owned the Clowns, as well as a series of black barnstorming teams that crisscrossed the country from the late 1920s until the mid-1960s. They played every venue imaginable, from little league fields to Yankee Stadium, and toured the South, the Northeast, the Midwest, the Canadian Rockies, the Dakotas, the Southwest, the Far West—anywhere there was a crowd willing to shell out a few dollars for an unforgettable evening.

Alan grew up around the team and describes in vivid detail the comedy routines of Richard “King Tut” King, “Spec Bebob” Bell, Reece “Goose” Tatum; the “warpaint” and outlandish costumes worn by players in the early days; and the crowd-pleasing displays of amazing skill known as pepperball and shadowball. These men were entertainers, but they were also among the most gifted athletes of their day, making a living in sports the only way a black man could. They played to win.

More than just a baseball story, these recollections tell the story of great societal changes in America from the roaring twenties, through the years of the Great Depression and World War II, and into the Civil Rights era.
 

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Battleground 1948

Truman, Stevenson, Douglas, and the Most Surprising Election in Illinois History

Robert E. Hartley

The election year of 1948 remains to this day one of the most astonishing in U.S. political history. During this first general election after World War II, Americans looked to their governments for change. As the battle for the nation’s highest office came to a head in Illinois, the state was embroiled in its own partisan showdowns—elections that would prove critical in the course of state and national history.

 

In Battleground 1948, Robert E. Hartley offers the first comprehensive chronicle of this historic election year and its consequences, which still resonate today. Focusing on the races that ushered Adlai Stevenson, Paul Douglas, and Harry Truman into office—the last by the slimmest of margins—Battleground 1948 details the pivotal events that played out in the state of Illinois, from the newspaper wars in Chicago to tragedy in the mine at Centralia.

 

In addition to in-depth revelations on the saga of the American election machine in 1948, Hartley probes the dark underbelly of Illinois politics in the 1930s and 1940s to set the stage, spotlight key party players, and expose the behind-the-scenes influences of media, money, corruption, and crime. In doing so, he draws powerful parallels between the politics of the past and those of the present. Above all, Battleground 1948 tells the story of grassroots change writ large on the American political landscape—change that helped a nation move past an era of conflict and depression, and forever transformed Illinois and the U.S. government.

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Battling Miss Bolsheviki

The Origins of Female Conservatism in the United States

By Kirsten Marie Delegard

Why did the political authority of well-respected female reformers diminish after women won the vote? In Battling Miss Bolsheviki Kirsten Marie Delegard argues that they were undercut during the 1920s by women conservatives who spent the first decade of female suffrage linking these reformers to radical revolutions that were raging in other parts of the world. In the decades leading up to the Nineteenth Amendment, women activists had enjoyed great success as reformers, creating a political subculture with settlement houses and women's clubs as its cornerstones. Female volunteers piloted welfare programs as philanthropic ventures and used their organizations to pressure state, local, and national governments to assume responsibility for these programs.

These female activists perceived their efforts as selfless missions necessary for the protection of their homes, families, and children. In seeking to fulfill their "maternal" responsibilities, progressive women fundamentally altered the scope of the American state, recasting the welfare of mothers and children as an issue for public policy. At the same time, they carved out a new niche for women in the public sphere, allowing female activists to become respected authorities on questions of social welfare. Yet in the aftermath of the suffrage amendment, the influence of women reformers plummeted and the new social order once envisioned by progressives appeared only more remote.

Battling Miss Bolsheviki chronicles the ways women conservatives laid siege to this world of female reform, placing once-respected reformers beyond the pale of political respectability and forcing most women's clubs to jettison advocacy for social welfare measures. Overlooked by historians, these new activists turned the Daughters of the American Revolution and the American Legion Auxiliary into vehicles for conservative political activism. Inspired by their twin desires to fulfill their new duties as voting citizens and prevent North American Bolsheviks from duplicating the success their comrades had enjoyed in Russia, they created a new political subculture for women activists. In a compelling narrative, Delegard reveals how the antiradicalism movement reshaped the terrain of women's politics, analyzing its enduring legacy for all female activists for the rest of the twentieth century and beyond.

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