Saturday, January 24, 2009

What is Jana K. Lipman reading?

This weekend's featured contributor to Writers Read: Jana K. Lipman, author of Guantánamo: A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution.

Her entry begins:
What am I reading?Thanks so much for asking – and the question makes me sit down and actually process the recent books I have read. And it makes me realize I wish I was reading more fiction.

Right now, I am starting a new research project, and my reading has focused on 19th century US empire. Most of these books have dealt with mapping and the geographies of America in the 19th century. They have made me re-think the “map” of the “United States” again – why is Hawaii a state? California? but not Panama or Puerto Rico? As borders continue to be disputed throughout the contemporary world, I’ve found it constructive to look back in time to re-remember how the areas we often take for granted as “American” have a much more violent and complex history.

Today I’m in the middle of Island World: A History of Hawaii and the United States by Gary Y. Okihiro. Although I still haven’t gotten to Barack Obama’s memoirs, I’m glad to be reading a book about Hawaii this week when the nation is celebrating the inauguration of the first president who grew up in Hawaii. So far, I’ve been intrigued by Okihiro’s descriptions of surfing and indigenous culture and the way in which it was appropriated by white men in California to demonstrate their strength and masculinity. Personally, I can’t surf, but Okihiro’s analysis will never allow me to look at surfing culture in quite the same way…. And it makes me want to read and learn more about Hawaii and its history vis a vis the United States and the Pacific. [read on]
Jana K. Lipman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Tulane University.

Learn more about Guantánamo: A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution at the University of California Press website.

Writers Read: Jana K. Lipman.

--Marshal Zeringue