Monday, August 26, 2019
August 26, 2019: Talking We the People: Early Talks
[I’ve long been a fan of book talks, but since my most recent book, We the People: The 500-Year Battle over Who is American, is intended to be my most public yet, I’ve redoubled my dedication to talking about it anywhere and everywhere. Since I’m on sabbatical this fall and even more flexible, I wanted to take this week to highlight some of my prior and upcoming talks, as examples that I hope can lead to more such opportunities! I’ll travel and talk anywhere and am happy to pay my own way for the chance to share these stories and histories!]
On three distinct, complementary early audiences with whom I developed the book’s ideas and arguments.
1) A New Hampshire reading group: As I highlighted in that post, the first public space in which I talked about the concepts of exclusion and inclusion which would become the core of We the People was the restaurant in Jaffrey’s Monadnock Inn, where a group of adult learners were holding their monthly reading/discussion group. Adult learning programs and related conversations (such as the Women’s Circle Breakfasts at the Southgate community) have become one of the most consistent settings for my public American Studies scholarship and teaching, and for good reason—no audiences provide more thoughtful, careful, experienced, challenging perspective and responses than these, and no conversations have better modeled for me the kinds of dialogues I hope to help create and participate in everywhere. There’s no adult learning space or discussion group I wouldn’t be happy to join to talk more about We the People!
2) The Gardner Museum: A few months later, as I discussed in that post, I continued to develop my ideas at this wonderful historical and cultural museum in Gardner, Massachusetts. Ever since my phenomenal fall 2013 experience talking about my Chinese Exclusion Act book at New York’s Museum of the Chinese in America (MOCA), I’ve been trying to find more such museums and historic/cultural sites in which to share my work and thoughts. One such possibility for this book is the American Writers Museum in Chicago (for which I served as a scholarly advisor for many years while it was in development), and I’ll keep you all posted if that possibility develops as I very much hope it will. But in any case, I’m open to any and all other suggestions for museum and sites, as they provide an ideal backdrop and context for discussing these histories and stories.
3) Fitchburg State University’s Harrod Lecture: Building on those and other early talks, the ideas for We the People came together most fully in an academic setting, my February 2018 talk in FSU’s Harrod Lecture series. I’ve given more book talks in academic settings (both as separate lectures and to particular classes) than for any other audience, and for good reason—as I argue in the Introduction to that aforementioned Chinese Exclusion Act book, public scholarship is very parallel to teaching in its ideal forms, and my own ideas (including these) have developed in and through my teaching in central and crucial ways. So at the risk of repeating myself, there are literally no academic spaces, settings, or classes in which I wouldn’t be willing and happy to come share We the People and its histories and stories.
Next book talk tomorrow,
PS. Ideas or suggestions for future talks, in-person or online? I’d love to hear them!