Key Literary Figures in the City of Roses

I walk to Washington Park every Friday morning. After climbing the last of the steep steps to the Lewis and Clark Memorial, I’m greeted by an engraved plaque nestled into the brick wall.

“The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.”

The poem was written by the English poet by Dorothy Frances Gurney in 1913. Reading this excerpt got me wondering what other historical easter eggs are waiting to be discovered in this park?
The City of Roses and The Oregonian
Portland wouldn’t be the City of Roses without the early influences of certain literary figures in Oregon’s history.
Thomas J. Dryer started The Oregonian as a weekly periodical on December 4, 1850. Ten years later, in 1860, Henry Pittock purchased The Oregonian and began publishing daily issues; that same year, he married Georgiana Burton Pittock and the two began influencing the beginnings of modern Portland society.
Georgiana Pittock was “a philanthropist, reformer, and society leader with her husband Henry Lewis Pittock, owner and publisher of The Oregonian, she inspired Portland to become the cultural and business center of Oregon.” Georgiana was an avid gardener, so much so that in 1888 she founded and organized the Portland Rose Society. In 1889 Georgiana’s church established a competition for the year’s best homegrown roses, which marked the beginning of the annual Portland Rose Festival. Nearly sixteen years later, Portland boasted over two hundred miles of rose-lined streets.
In 1905 the city began preparing for the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. Over the course of the four-month exposition, nearly 1.6 million visitors traveled to Portland from all over the world. By the end of the display, Portland had earned its reputation as “the City of Roses.”
The International Rose Test Garden
Portland’s newly acquired reputation as the City of Roses, along with the efforts of Jesse A. Curry, led to the creation of the world-renowned International Rose Test Garden.
The Rose Test Garden initially began as a safe haven for hybrid roses grown in Europe in 1915. London hybridists, along with others, feared that the roses would be destroyed during the World War I bombings. Jesse Currey, a rose enthusiast and editor of the Oregon Journal, convinced city officials to create the garden. Hybridists around the world began sending their roses to Portland, and the garden was officially dedicated in 1924.
The garden currently houses more than ten thousand rose bushes from over six hundred rose varieties. The Shakespeare Garden was instituted in 1945 to honor the playwright with roses named after his characters. The dedicated plaque from the LaBarre Shakespeare Club features an engraving of the bard himself and the quote, “Of all flowers methinks a rose is best.”
Located in the largest city park in Portland, the International Rose Test Garden receives around 3.5 million visitors every year. I visit the park and gardens every week, and I still can’t get enough, no matter the season.
Acknowledgement of the Original People of the Land
I pass by the Lewis and Clark Memorial often, and everytime I think about how this beautiful place that I live came to be. I cannot write this without acknowledging the sacrifices and hardships that the Indigenous People of this land had to encounter in order for me to be here today. What we now call Portland, Oregon, and Multnomah County were the traditional lands of the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Tumwater, Tualatin Kalapuya, Wasco, Molalla, Cowlitz, Watlala, and many other tribes who made their homes along the Columbia River.

Covers of famous true-crime books in a collage

Shedding a Light on Victims in the True Crime Genre

Interest in true crime has been on the rise since the mid-2010s. Hundreds of podcasts, documentaries, TV shows, and books have all emerged for the consumer to learn about legendary serial killers and cases like Ted Bundy or the O.J. Simpson case. Surprisingly though, fascination with gruesome crimes has been a part of societies for decades, if not centuries, and research shows that nearly 85 percent of consumers are female. Just in the past fifty years, books such as The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule and Party Monster: A Fabulous But True Tale of Murder in Clubland by James St. James have flown off the shelves. While many of the books focus on the murders, madmen, and crazed, one wonders how the survivors and victims, who are generally women, walk in a world where their deepest traumas are made permanent on ink and paper.
Michelle McNmara was obsessed with the Golden State Killer (she even coined the name) and worked with the police in Sacramento, CA, to find them. For the last six years of her life, she worked on a true crime piece called I’ll Be Gone in the Dark that detailed her work to find the serial killer and rapists while also telling the stories of the survivors. Ms. McNamara unfortunately passed away before it could be finished, but it was later published with the help of her husband, Patton Oswalt, and detective Paul Holes. Due to this, the reader sees editor’s notes and rough versions of the author’s writing, giving them insight on how she chose to write the stories of the victims and survivors. The author made it clear that the research took a psychological toll on her, but rather than focus on the killer himself she made sure to place the victims “at the center of the story instead,” according to the Los Angeles Review of Books. Her ultimate goal was to show the strength of those who faced these traumas rather than the man who caused them. It offered those individuals a voice that was usually overshadowed by the public’s fascination with the perpetrator.
Ann Rule, a renowned true crime novelist, is best known for her book A Stranger Beside Me. This autobiographical and biographical piece details the demented killings of Ted Bundy and her time working at a sucide hotline call center with him before discovering who he really was. From 1980 to 2014, Ms. Rule published over thirty true crime books and was well-respected as a victims’ advocate who, like Michelle McNamara, focused on them. In a statement from the president at Simon & Schuster, Ann Rule’s decision to center her books around the victims “reinvented the crime genre and earned the trust of millions.”
With studies showing that a majority of true crime consumers are women who are often interested in the psychology of the perpetrator and the strength of the survivors, it’s clear just how important it is for a victim’s story to be heard. The researcher and social psychologist Amanda Vicary concluded that women wanted to read about “survival, whether it was preventing or surviving a crime.” There is a desire to read about the trauma of the survivors and victims, not only because it shifts the light away from the killer, but because it allows the consumer to understand how to avoid the situation themselves.
By being sensitive to the victim and allowing their voice to be heard, a true crime author can provide information for the reader without dimming the impact that the assailant had on their lives. The goal of the true crime genre is not to glorify these wrongdoers or give them an opportunity to share their side, but rather to teach us—the consumers—just how crazy the world can be and how it can alter a person’s life forever.

Desk with glasses resting on a laptop with a vase of pink flowers to the side.

How Technology Improves the Publishing Business

Steve Jobs in 1990

There’s something more going on, there’s another side of the coin that we don’t talk about much. We experience it when there’s gaps. When everything’s not ordered and perfect, when there’s kind of a gap you experience this in-rush of something. It’s the same thing that wants people to be poets instead of bankers. I think that same spirit can be put into products.

Hardware to Software to Market Trends

Industries change when technology improves and when gaps are filled. Publishing is no different. From ’80s desktop hardware to the overwhelming number of apps and sites today, innovation isn’t slowing down. To be a successful business, a publisher needs to keep up to date.

Our current audiobook situation is the best example of innovative technology changing the publishing industry. Technology has allowed the average global citizen to carry a library of audiobooks on their phone, and according to Forbes they are the fastest growing sector of the publishing industry: “US publishers reported audiobook sales in 2018 that totaled $940 million.” Hindsight allows publishers to see what’s on the horizon. We can’t be scared of the ones and zeros.

DTP: Hardware that Streamlined Publishing

Desktop publishing, or DTP, reinvented the day-to-day work of a publisher. Before Apple Macintosh (1984), Hewlett-Packard’s LaserJet printer (’84), Adobe’s PostScript (’85), or PageMaker (’85), publishers used typewriters, hired career typesetters, and even managed entire type shops despite their additional overhead. Layout and design on a computer took years off lives. Being able to print galleys at the office saved time and resources. Publishers didn’t cut and tape paper to print images and words on the same page. DTP meant publishers could create a printable document and have ten copies of it in one sitting. That’s something we all have today and it has improved alongside digital communication efficiency.

Task Managers: Software that Improved Publisher’s Communication

Every business is run through the internet by increasingly updated software. Many modern companies rely on the internet to promote their stories, often through apps that manage their tasks and information—task management software. A team proficient in Mailchimp, Trello,, Hootsuite, or Slack has a better chance of succeeding.

Today, teams can be spread out in varied time zones and countries. Freelancers are more prevalent with sites like Upwork, Fiverr, and PeoplePerHour. Teams with members spread out across the globe make video chats less practical and miscommunications more costly because they can take hours of emailing and waiting. Hootsuite allows an account holder to schedule social media posts and Trello makes it easier to move projects from team to team. Learning to use these systems can feel like a time suck, but with a dedicated team a press will benefit as much as the first press to take a risk on desktop publishing products.

Where to Look

Hindsight only takes you so far. With AI, changes in metadata management, SEO, personal data mining, ad blockers, and increased voice searching, all potential influences on the industry looking forward can be overwhelming. There are some projects out there worth paying attention to.

Technology for Publishing has a Publishing Innovations newsletter that compiles articles touching on everything listed above. It’s worth checking for news about multimedia conglomerate buys and the Big Five if you don’t already get that from Publishers Weekly and the Bookseller.

In November 2019, a new browser called Brave launched it’s 1.0 stable version. Brave Software was founded in 2015 by Brendan Eich (creator of JavaScript and former CEO of Mozilla FireFox) The browser is working to solve the problem of ad blockers, which are so widely used no business can trust that their ads are being seen. Brave pays users to view ads, incentivising digital publishers, advertisers, and anyone off the street to use the browser. At launch they had eight million monthly active users. A month later they had ten million. Innovations like Brave have the potential to change the way publishers advertise. They are one example of what to keep your eye on as a publisher.

If you want to outsource your digital work, you could reach out to Publishing Technology Partners and search for articles with their names. I’ve found timely articles by all four partners on Publishers Weekly.

Whatever changes, we know from history that technology will play a large part. Spending the time to learn new technology will allow publishers to work smarter, instead of harder.

How Goodreads Helped Me Find My Memories

An unsettling thing happened when I went home to Colorado for the holidays last year. While my family sat around a fire in Summit County, trading stories and recent news, my sister asked me about a time she and I had shared that she remembered vividly.

“You don’t remember that?” She stared at me emphatically, as if asking the question would light the match to the memory that had clearly grown cold and damp in my mind. No such luck. In fact, I couldn’t recall even a portion of the memory she described to me—a memory that wasn’t from too long ago, but distant enough that it’s not tangible anymore, something vaguely familiar.

I don’t know when I started noticing gaps in my memories of things, but it became more pervasive and embarrassing in my early 20s. Large swaths of time suddenly go dark, dissolve from within me. It starts small, with a drive home from a late shift that I couldn’t really describe, to a song that sounded like something I knew but couldn’t pinpoint who it was. People waving and saying, “How are you?” who I didn’t recognize or couldn’t name. Then more of those questions:

“Remember that time?” “What year was that?” “When did you get that tattoo?” Significant portions of my own timeline were missing. I became skilled in leading conversations away from my frustration and increasing anxiety over these lost portions of time. I started leaving myself notes around the apartment.

“Don’t dry the tan, wool shirt!” “Remember your sister’s birthday is on the 13th, CALL HER.” “There is spinach in the fridge, if you don’t eat it, it will go bad and you will feel like a failure again.” While some of these were reminders about small tasks, I started to wonder if this was how my life was just going to be now. The problem for me wasn’t just why I couldn’t remember, but how I could get these memories back.

My partner and I were talking about books we had read in 2019; books that blew us away and books that we wished we had put down sooner. I knew I had read stellar books last year, but I couldn’t pinpoint those titles. I reached for my phone, as many of us who need to remember something right away do, and opened my Goodreads app. My “2019” shelf sat, neatly and chronologically ordered for me to peruse. Month by month, the books I had slogged through and the books that shone brilliantly awakened in my memory, but something else happened too. I began to remember other parts of my life in those months, what I was doing while reading The Song of Achilles, or where I had been sipping a particularly delicious sticky rice tea in Sellwood while devouring La Fronterra in June. One by one, my memories filtered back in, and as I looked further and further through my Goodreads archive, pieces of 2017 and 2016 came together before me.

It turns out, it’s not just me; our memories are getting worse and that’s largely due to the
Google effect, in which the ability to look up or search is so readily available to us that our minds have “decreased dependency on internal memory storage.” I can’t recall the amount of times I’ve been thinking of a word for something or a fact about so-and-so and just Googled it. While I was briefly euphoric at the discovery that Goodreads had carefully catalogued the past three years of my life for me with dates and metadata to support the timeline, I wonder about the accuracy of archival memory. It’s unsettling to consider that memory may become something that lives on a server farm somewhere, susceptible to be infiltrated, altered, or vanished. But there is a rather simple solution: write more. Research has shown that writing things down is essential to memory retention. Perhaps the digital cataloguing of the books I’ve read in some way has captured those memories within the pages of those books. In rereading the titles, I am able to relive those parts of my life with more clarity, and to engage again with my life through the “written” lists of how my past was spent.

Marketing Romance Through the Ages

Everyone is familiar with the stereotypical cover of a romance novel. Generally, it’s a white man and woman, partially nude, staring into one another’s eyes with the wind blowing through their hair. Think Nora Roberts. Think Ilona Andrews. Think Nicholas Sparks. These are all household names to the casual romance consumer. Everyone is also familiar with the stereotypical romance reader. These people are thought to be “middle-aged women who are bored in their marriages and want to fantasize about hard, chiseled men,” explains a writer for HuffPost. But after about ten minutes of internet research, one can figure out that in today’s world, this stereotype is simply not true.

The romance genre is one of the oldest-known styles of writing in the world and has only progressed throughout centuries. Many believe the first example of a mass-market romance was Pamela, written by Samuel Richardson in 1740, which led to the style developing many subgenres and niches that have only broadened its readership. That being said, some argue that late twentieth and early twenty-first century romance readers have witnessed one of the most major evolutions in the subject matter and marketing strategies of the romance genre.

The rise of Harlequin during the 1960s in the publishing world allowed for a wider readership in sensual mass-market romances that were quickly nicknamed “bodice-rippers.” These forms of romance novels led to marketing strategies that give us the stereotypes we have today, which have pigeon-holed these books. It did come with some perks though.

One word: Fabio.

But with the dawn of the twenty-first century came the push for representation of more modern relationships. For example, a heterosexual relationship with greater equality between the man and woman. A relationship that explored what it meant to be an LGBTQ+ couple and the complexities of living in a heteronormative society. A biracial relationship that explored what it meant to be a minority. It also came with Fifty Shades of Grey, but we’re going to ignore that for right now.

The massive tech boom of the 2000s sent the entire publishing world reeling. The everyday consumer no longer searches for the latest books in magazines or newspapers, but on social media or the internet. A publishing house needs to be able to catch a reader’s eye as they swipe through Instagram or Twitter—hence the push for brightly colored book covers and less intertwined limbs.

Readers’ desire for realistic couples and the technological explosion left romance publishing houses scrambling for a better way to market to an evolving audience. We now see less writhing bodies on book covers and more pastels and drawings. Think Crazy Rich Asians. Think Simon vs. The Homo Sapien Agenda. Think Me Before You. These books are all within the romance genre, yet are marketed toward the general public as funny, inspirational, and even relatable. It’s opening the door for the Average Joe (or Jane or J) to fall in love with romantic fiction.

Some claim that the romance genre is the most progressive of the literary industry, and it’s hard to disagree. It has learned to develop with its readers as the world continues to change. So what’s next for the romance genre? One can only hope it will just keep getting better.

Think more inclusion. Think love for all. Think bright future.

Announcing Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper’s Life Among the Herd

I’m thrilled to announce Ooligan’s winter 2020 title, Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper’s Life Among the Herd by Melissa Crandall. Scheduled for publication in March, this biography details the life of award-winning, nationally renowned elephant keeper Roger Henneous. A historical accounting of the world-famous Oregon Zoo elephants and the deep bond they developed over several decades with Roger, Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper’s Life Among the Herd illustrates the evolution of elephant captivity, care, and conservation over the last forty years, filtered through the perspective of a keeper who grew and matured alongside these beautiful giants.
Across Roger’s thirty-year career, he discovers the joys, pains, and dangers of life in a zoo, all the while maintaining an unwavering devotion to Belle, Packy, and the rest of the Asian elephants he cares for. As their friend, Roger faces many risks—but his willingness to learn their language and speak for the herd makes Roger unique among his contemporaries. In return, the elephants give Roger a rare level of trust and respect, reminding us how much we can learn when we choose to listen.
Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper’s Life Among the Herd takes place in a time when ethical conversations about animal comfort, safety, and enrichment in zoos are just beginning. More than an evolutionary history of zookeeping, this unique biography celebrates the extraordinary bonds between humans and elephants and asks what we owe elephants, where we have fallen short, and how we can move forward together.
In this time of drastic changes to our planet, we must take a moment to step outside ourselves and learn from the creatures who inhabit it, few of which are more intelligent and majestic than the elephant. In many ways, this book is a love letter to this incredible animal. At the same time, it shows future generations what we can learn from these creatures and how we can better ourselves in the process.
As the first project manager for Elephant Speak, I had the great privilege of beginning the production of this book, moving it swiftly through its developmental stages of editing, marketing, and design. I learned an immense amount about elephants in the process. It’s been one heck of a ride so far, and we’re not done yet. We must set our eyes on finishing the editorial process and getting the book into the hands of reviewers.
But just as we began to hit a critical time in our efforts, I had to hand over the reins. Just like every manager at Ooligan, my time came to move on to (hopefully) greener pastures. In June, Julie Collins became the new project manager for Elephant Speak, taking the lead on every aspect of production. She’s been with the project since the very beginning, and we’ve been extremely lucky to have her on board. She’s got a clear eye for what she wants now as well as ten months down the line, and she’s just as passionate as I am, if not more so, about the book’s essential messages of community and conservation.
My departure was inevitable, but it pains me just the same.
And with that, here I go. Signing off.

Brief Art Lesson on the Bookstagram

Bookstagrams are a form of art. Fact.

Bookstagrams are also a form of great marketing, and as such, a source of revenue. Also fact.

Why is it that the bookstagram community has worked so well for publishers and bloggers alike? Why is #bookstagram currently at over 19 million hits on Instagram? It’s because of both of those above facts. People like to see art. And in posting this art, they are unknowingly marketing a publisher while simultaneously marketing themselves. It’s brilliant. And there are no signs of it slowing down.

Bookstagrams, like all other forms of art, can be tricky to learn how to make. All it takes, though, is an honest feed, intentional artistic arrangement, and, most importantly, consistent branding.

What exactly goes into a bookstagram? The short answer: ANYTHING WITH A BOOK. It really is that simple. For me, I like to use props that go well with the themes of the book as well as the cover design. Some people just take pictures of pages. Some people take pictures of endless stacks of books surrounded by hundreds of colorful props so large you actually can’t read any of the titles on the books.

When starting an account, you have to understand who you’re trying to reach and what your basic brand will be. I want to be a very personal and trusted reviewer. I want people to feel like they know me. So, I only post pictures of books I’ve read and only post honest things about those books. That’s my brand. (This also makes it much easier to pick out themes in the book I can match with props.)

For my picture, I arrange the props against a consistent white background. It’s actually just a shelf I have at home. A really popular background right now is monochrome sheets.

For my props in my example of The Ocean in My Ears, I used SweeTarts because they’re relevant in the book itself and also pair very well with the cover.

After I take the picture, I edit it. All of my photos are edited to have the same lighting, the same fade, the same vibrancy. This is all part of the brand. I’ve yet to see a successful bookstagram that doesn’t use some kind of consistent photo editing. People want to see similar styles of photographs.

Keeping a consistent brand, no matter how personal the account, is so important. People want to follow accounts they can trust will post fairly similar art because they like that art. You wouldn’t commission an artist who gave out a different-styled piece every time someone requested their services; in a similar way, people will not give you that follow if you remain inconsistent and unpredictable. According to Forbes, “The best brand strategies are ones that are unique, ones that get users involved directly, and ones that remain true to the brand (preferably all three). If you can do this, and maintain a steady stream of content over the course of months and years, you can build a similarly massive, engaged following with your Instagram account.”

You heard it from the rich people’s magazine itself. Stay consistent, and your bookstagram will reach more people. When you reach more people, the books make more money, and you get more followers. It’s a win-win.

Hit the Trail: 50 Hikes Is Now Available!

50 Hikes in the Tillamook and Clatsop State Forests was published on March 1, 2018, and hundreds of hikers have already snagged a copy and hit the trails. On March 10, The Ranger Station hosted a well-attended launch event, at which guest speakers Tara Brown of the Wild Salmon Center and Greg Jacob of the Sierra Club shared important information about our state forests and how to turn hiking into advocacy.

Now we’re trying to get the word out about the book as much as possible, though the book seems to sell itself. Still, we are broadening our audience with continued news coverage, social media posts, and book events. In April, Tillamook Bay Community College invited me and Greg Jacob of the Sierra Club to speak about the book and the forests. In the coming weeks, you can learn more about 50 Hikes in an Astoria radio spot, a May 17 meeting of the Oregon Sierra Club, and through many other channels.

This spring and summer is this book’s chance to shine. We urge you to look out for a 50 Hikes photo contest over social media; the best photo from the Tillamook or Clatsop State Forest will garner a special grand prize to facilitate further adventures into the wilderness.

This book is special to us because it’s more than just another book. It introduces Northwesterners to beautiful yet relatively unexplored areas in our backyard. It’s about showing people that these forests, which have been famously devastated by fire and logging, are now viable playgrounds for horseback riders, cyclists, hikers, and campers. It’s about encouraging people to become advocates for these forests and the wildlife within so that future generations can enjoy the same trails.

50 Hikes was a pleasure to work on, and we hope outdoor enthusiasts of all types will continue to discover it. But now that this title has slipped into the backlist, we have set our sights on a new project, and we think readers will be very pleased with what we’re brewing. Stay tuned!

Rehousing History: Finding a New Home for Our 1885 Chandler & Price Letterpress

We’re only a few months into 2018, but Ooligan Press has already seen a lot of changes this year. We’ve released our long-anticipated hiking guide (50 Hikes is available in stores and online now!), created a new project team, and much more. However, one of our most significant changes was kept behind the scenes. During the break between fall and winter term, we moved offices.

Ooligan Press has always lived in Portland State University’s Neuberger Hall, but we’ve been anticipating a move ever since the university began announcing building remodels. Despite the building’s many quirks and charms, Neuberger was due for a refresh and closed its doors in early December. When the dust finally settles and the doors reopen, Ooligan will move into a new, beautiful office designed to fit our needs—but this upgrade required some creative maneuvering to keep things running in the meantime. Last term, boxes were meticulously packed and labeled for either our temporary office or deep storage. Some supplies even lived in managers’ cars during the winter break. There was one item, however, that needed special attention: our 1885 Chandler & Price letterpress.

This stunning piece of publishing history was acquired from the PSU art department over ten years ago. It was set for removal from campus, but Ooligan saved and restored it to working condition. Over the years, many students have taken the opportunity to experiment with printing and created collateral for titles and events. Unfortunately, our temporary office doesn’t offer us enough space to continue housing the press. We were faced with two options: move it into deep storage to gather dust during the remodel or find it a new home where it could be cherished.

Luckily, we found a lovely new home for the press! The c3:initiative is a non-profit operating organization that serves as a platform for critical inquiry and supports artists in creating work focusing on social introspection. The press and its accompanying type collection has been sent on a “permanent loan” to c3:initiative’s sister campus, Camp Colton, located in Colton, Oregon.

This new home ensures that the press will be continue to be accessible for PSU students and opens it up to rural and artist communities as well. According to director Shir Ly Grisanti, “The press and type collection look so beautiful in their new home, and we can hardly wait to get printing!”

We are excited to see such a lovely opportunity for creativity come from our move between offices. If you stop by to visit the press in its new home, let us know!

History as a Key to Representation

A year ago, in my first weeks at Portland State University’s graduate program in Book Publishing, I wrote about the need to consider representation in nonfiction. My concern was that the discussions of diversity in publishing I saw were focused almost exclusively on the diversity of fictional characters and how the lack of diversity in the publishing industry creates biases that marginalize storytellers who could address this issue. This seemed important, but I felt that there were other important considerations. Looking at nonfiction seemed like a first step to figuring out what was missing.

I like that blog post, but what I wish I had done—what I wish I had known enough to be able to do—was articulate why thinking about representation in nonfiction should matter to people who publish fiction. That is what I’m attempting to do here.

There’s a long tradition in Western philosophy of trying to determine the one precise thing that distinguishes humans from other animals. It’s pretty questionable whether this question really makes any sense at all, but there is one answer that I’ve found fruitful to think about: humans are the historical animal, and they’re the animal whose nature is radically determined by historical context. I’ve tried to imagine what a person without a historical context would look like, and it’s very similar to imagining a person who doesn’t have a culture. There’s something important missing, and it’s a very profound form of lacking.

If history is really what makes humans human, it seems like the effort to be more respectful and inclusive of other peoples has to include the acknowledgement of and effort to learn about history. If we want publishing to be something that helps make our wider community something more respectful and inclusive, publishing should help create an understanding that all peoples have history rather than obfuscate it.

My sense of things is that publishing at present is very often an obfuscating force. This example comes from journalism, rather than book publishing, but I was recently discussing an article about death squads in the Philippines with one of my (excellent) teachers here in the program. I’ve lived in the Philippines and have studied a bit about it, so I was sensitive to how the article didn’t acknowledge that the Philippines had any history or politics. President Duterte emerged from nowhere and had no relation to the Filipino people except in how his rule killed them. It may have appeared to stick to the immediate facts as an individual piece of journalism, but I argued that the cumulative effect of American journalism about non-Western culture is to create a sense that the rest of the world is a place where brown and black dictators do terrible things to a vast sea of brown and black people without any sense of these places having history or politics at all. The lack of context turns much of the world into a stage of almost formless violence and suffering, without any context that makes it appear human in the way that we understand ourselves to be human.

These kinds of things matter. It is a big part of the reason why the debate about immigration takes the form that it does, shaping the perspectives of both people hostile to immigrants and those who celebrate them. It determines how ethnic minorities in countries like the United States are perceived, because the understanding of ethnic minorities is very much informed by the understanding of their ethnic equivalents in other countries. It shapes foreign policy, because places without politics or history can’t have their politics or history violated.

This is the kind of thing I notice when I read books, too—both fiction and nonfiction. Very little foreign language literature gets translated into English, and the cumulative effect of reading what does get written in English gives a sense that most peoples don’t have a lot of history. I don’t want to say that history is the only determinant in individual human behavior—its effects are subtle, and writers and editors who have fictional characters behavior informed by history in a crude way risk creating a character that doesn’t resemble a human at all. It’s something I ,as a reader, notice—that fictional characters from marginalized communities will often lack any historical dimension, and they’re less human for it. It’s something I think writers and publishers need to be aware of.