Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 27, 2013: Book Release Reflections, Part Four

[My newest book, The Chinese Exclusion Act: What It Can Teach Us About America, was released on Friday (check out that low low Kindle price!). So for this week’s series, I’ll be thinking about some different aspects of the book’s process, goals, and meanings. Would love to hear your thoughts—and if you’re interested in the book but can’t buy it, email me and I’ll send you a copy!]
On my new plan for getting the word out about the book’s ideas.
As I’ve discussed a good bit in this space, one of the most important yet at times more frustratingly hard-to-control aspects of public scholarship is the need to connect to audience. And not just an academic audience, of course—that isn’t a given either, and I’m always hugely grateful for any academic response and feedback on my work; but at the very least an academic book or article feels like an overt way to add our voices to those conversations. But if I’m writing public scholarship, I’m doing so because I feel that my focal points are likewise and perhaps most fundamentally of interest and value to audiences beyond academia—yet it can feel at best totally random, and at worst impossible, for our work to find its way to such broader audiences.
There are various ways to push back on that feeling and try to connect to audiences, and I’ve engaged in many for a good while now: blogging (duh), writing op-eds (so far without publication success, but I’m not giving up!), working with organizations both academic (NEASA) and public (the American Writers Museum). But with this current book, I’ve decided to focus on another and even more direct method of connecting my voice and ideas to audiences, and to do so far more aggressively than I would instinctively prefer: I’ve been contacting numerous institutions and organizations and asking if it would be possible for me to give a talk/presentation on aspects of the book. I’ve already got about a dozen such talks preliminarily lined up for the upcoming year, and have a lot more possibilities still in the mix.
None of the talks are quite finalized enough for me to mention them specifically here (but watch this space for info down the road!), so I’ll just briefly highlight two different categories and the different audiences to which I hope to connect through them. Some talks will be at universities, both as guest lectures in individual courses and as talks for groups of faculty and students; my primary goal for them will be to give students a better understanding of our collective past, and a secondary goal will be to share my take on public scholarship for fellow AmericanStudiers. And some will be at libraries, historical societies, museums, and other public institutions; my goal for them is more overtly parallel to my goal for the book itself, to share the lessons of these histories and stories with interested public American audiences. I’m excited to see what responses I get, and will be sure to keep you posted!
Final reflection tomorrow,
PS. To continue the aggressiveness, do you have suggestions for places (specific or general) where I could share these ideas? I’d love to hear ‘em!


  1. PPS. Since I wrote this post, I've had the chance to give the first such talk, to a group of Chinese pre-graduate students at UMass Lowell. The experience was inspiring in many ways, and reinforced all of what I wrote in this post and am hoping to do with these talks.

    Moreover, it convinced me even more fully of the need to bring these ideas to public audiences--as no one in this group of young Chinese students had heard of the Exclusion Act either. So there's work to be done!

  2. Ben, are you a member of the National Council on Public History? might be a good resource for promoting your book. Also, the Chinese Historical Society in San Francisco might be interested in a talk.