Earlier this month, Tom Hansell (author of After Coal) was joined by Steven Stoll (author of Ramp Hollow) and Sarah Jones (staff writer at New York Magazine) for a special event in New York City at Book Culture, co-sponsored by Harper’s Magazine and filmed by C-SPAN BookTV. The video clip is available below.
On November 13, 1974, the whistleblower and nuclear activist Karen Silkwood died at the age of 28 in a one-car crash. Late that evening, she was driving to meet a reporter for the New York Times, allegedly with a folder of documents that revealed safety problems at the Kerr-McGee plutonium plant where she worked in Cimmaron, the northwestern part of Oklahoma. A private investigator found evidence that suggested her car may have been pushed off the road – and the documents were never found – but an autopsy also revealed alcohol and sedatives in her blood, according to an article in Time that was published on the 40th anniversary of her death. Regardless of the exact circumstances surrounding the crash, her actions had an impact as Kerr-McGee was closed down the following year, anti-nuclear activists rallied after her death, and her story was made famous by the 1983 Mike Nichols film Silkwood starring Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell, and Cher.
The site of the crash is seen in this photograph from Andrew Lichtenstein in the new book Marked, Unmarked, Remembered: A Geography of American Memory, published last month by West Virginia University Press. Lichtenstein shot his photo from the side of the road that Silkwood must have been driving on, just a few feet from the culvert wall that her car barreled into. A stream runs through a tunnel underneath the road and in the distance we see vehicles passing by in the opposite direction, with drivers unlikely to know what happened on this stretch of highway. The middle section of the book – Unmarked – captures areas of the country like this, sites of dark moments from our history that remain un-commemorated, yet continue to be passed by, lived on, perhaps even appreciated for a pretty landscape.
With captions from Andrew’s brother Alex Lichenstein – professor of history at Indiana University and editor of American Historical Review, who also wrote the introduction and gathered essays from leading historians including Douglas Egerton, Julie Reed, and Kevin Boyle – we are able to see these innocuous photos, and then imagine the places at some point in the past, soaked in blood, and the site of grave injustice. Many of the photos document sites in the struggle for Civil Rights, Native American displacement, and labor history. As Lichtenstein said on the making of the book “I was equally, if not more, fascinated with sites I came across where there was nothing, no sign, no marker, no candle lit vigil…”
For more on Marked, Unmarked, Remembered there are features in the Atlantic, Smithsonian, and the New York Times Lens. Both Alex and Andrew will be featured speakers at the Miami Book Fair this weekend on Saturday November 18 at 2:30pm, appearing with Michael Carlebach, for an event called America Through the Lens: Photography.
This year I have been pleased to collaborate with authors and publishers releasing new books that I greatly admire. A selection of my non-fiction projects are highlighted below (another post will soon follow featuring the two novels and a memoir I am publicizing):
For The New Press (founded in 1992 by Andre Schiffrin whose The Business of Books I read a year or two ago and thought a lot about since) I have been working with Arlie Russell Hochschild on her recent book Strangers in Their Own Land, a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award, continuing a publicity campaign begun by Angela Baggetta. Also for The New Press, I have been the publicist on the latest entry in their stats series – LGBTQ Stats by David Deschamps and Bennett Singer – an exhaustive almanac-style guidebook that M.V. Lee Badgett calls “the most comprehensive portrait of LGBTQ life around.”
Zone Books, a scholarly publisher in the humanities and social sciences with an office in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, recently launched the Near Future Series, edited by Wendy Brown and Michel Feher, and I am helping to promote the second and third volumes: Ivan Ascher’s Portfolio Society and Melinda Cooper’s Family Values. The series is looking at the effects of neoliberalism in the past 30 years, with Ascher analyzing the role of finance and Cooper arguing that neoliberalism aligned with social conservatism towards the end of the 20th century.
I’m also very much looking forward to the publication of Marked, Unmarked, Remembered (West Virginia University Press) this fall, what promises to be a beautiful book of photographs by Andrew Lichtenstein with an introduction and essays by leading historians edited by his brother Andrew Lichtenstein, chronicling historical sites of American social conflict. I have known Derek Krissoff, the director of the press, for many years now and glad to have an opportunity to work with him and his colleagues on their lead title this fall.
“MARKED, UNMARKED, REMEMBERED is startling and extraordinary…this book is a true gift. It both unsettles our sense of who we thought we were, and it makes us see the imperative of forging a more just future for all.” -Heather Ann Thompson, author of Blood in the Water, winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for History.