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Pushing the Envelope

By Lisa C. Moore
Lambda Book Report, February 2004

Temple University Press publishes an average of two to three books connected to gay and lesbian studies per year—but don't equate the small number with slim content. "We're more concerned with the intellectual quality of the book, its timeliness in general, and secondarily what fields it fits in," says Janet Francendese, TUP's editor-in-chief. To that end, TUP has earned accolades for its gay and lesbian books from the Lambda Literary Foundation and the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America. One title, Q&A: Queer in Asian America, edited by David L. Eng and Alice Y. Hom, received honors from both, as well as the Book Award from the Association for Asian American Studies.

There is a staff of seventeen at TUP, including four in editorial: Francendese, a former educator, is in charge of acquisitions; and there are two senior acquisitions editors, Micah Kleit and Peter Wissoker, and an assistant editor, William Hammell. However, there is no one person responsible for acquiring gay and lesbian titles. "Temple is complicated because our list is categorized by interdisciplinary scholarship," Francendese says. "We're each responsible for certain fields, but there's overlap. I typically do American history, American studies, ethnic studies, but our political science editor will also do ethnic studies books. We'll do gay and lesbian studies as it relates to our lists." Ultimately, Francendese, and Temple University Press' director and board, decide which books get published.

There are twenty-eight gay/lesbian TUP titles in print. The first was The Mirror Dance: Identity in a Women's Community, by Susan Krieger, in 1983. "That was an ethnography of a lesbian community; as far as I know, it was the one of the first academic studies on the lesbian topic," says Francendese. That year, 1983, was also Francendese's first year working for the press. She recalls, "The former director [David Bartlett] believed we should be doing books on important social and social justice issues, and he is gay himself. There was a press-wide interest in reflecting the burning issues of the day. His push was to publish books that would be broadly interesting to people, accessible in language, and concern social justice issues." When Bartlett retired in 1987, the press continued its integrated mission.

In addition to publishing books related to gay and lesbian studies within each field, TUP also has a "Queer Politics, Queer Theories" (QPQT) series that focuses on "politics in the broadest sense: not only state- and government-oriented studies, but also community politics and the internal politics of new social movements," according to the web site. Most recently, TUP published Officially Gay: The Political Construction of Sexuality by the U.S. Military, by Gary L. Lehring (2003). Shane Phelan (Sexual Strangers: Gays, Lesbians, and Dilemmas of Citizenship, 2000) originally developed the idea for the QPQT before retiring from academia; Craig Rimmerman (From Identity to Politics: The Lesbian and Gay Movements in the United States, 2001, also in the QPQT family) is the current series editor.

One of TUP's best-selling gay/lesbian books was Lesbian and Gay Marriage: Private Commitments, Public Ceremonies, by Suzanne Sheman (1992). "That was written for a broad popular audience, not an academic audience. We sold thousands of copies of that book," Francendese says. But Francendese wishes that William Turner's A Genealogy of Queer Theory (2000) had gotten just as much attention. "[Turner] talks about Foucault and other theorists and what impact they have had and should have had on writing history. ...To some degree queer theory has fallen out of favor, particularly among historians," she adds, noting, "I don't know if it was ever in favor with historians.''

Francendese is particularly excited about the fall 2004 titles. TUP will release the paperback of Marc Stein's The City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves, a community history of gay Philadelphia, and Francendese is editing Legalizing Gay Marriage: Vermont and the National Debate, by Michael Mello. "He teaches law in Vermont Law School," says Francendese. "[The book is] about the development of the decision in Vermont to support gay civil unions. He's not so much interested in the legal aspects of the decision as what happened when the state supreme court made its decision and bounced it to the legislators. He focuses on how the legislators decided, despite vehement response against it by local Vermonters, to create legislation for it. It also looks at Howard Dean's role in the Vermont legislation. Mello argues that what happened in Vermont is the kind of debate that will take place in all the other states."

Temple University Press do's and don'ts

Temple does accept unsolicited manuscripts, but, says Francendese, "Don't send a manuscript cold." Contact her or one of the other acquisition editors and ask if it's something Temple University Press would be interested in.

"Books happen in a lot of different ways. We do get plenty of book that come in unsolicited just because we're known for particular areas, but we also know people that we'd be interested in publishing, and we go after them."

Temple almost never publishes novels or poetry.

"We're always looking for material that's original and has a point of view and [is] by and large well-written."


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