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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 2, 2011

Three new books on American history are now available from the UI Press

Three new books of interest to American cultural and literary historians are now available from the University of Iowa Press. They are:

* "The Trouble with Sauling Around: Conversion in Ethnic American Autobiography, 1965-2002" by Madeline Ruth Walker.
* "Against the Gallows: Antebellum American Writers and the Movement to Abolish Capital Punishment," by Paul Christian Jones.
* The revised third edition of "Iowa Past to Present: The People and the Prairie," by Dorothy Schwieder, Thomas Morain and Lynn Nielsen, a volume in the Iowa and the Midwest Experience series.

The books are available at bookstores or directly from the UI Press, 800-621-2736 or Customers in Europe, the Middle East or Africa may order from Eurospan Group at

In "The Trouble with Sauling Around," with a title drawn from a quote by Ralph Ellison in "Invisible Man," Walker probes the complex and troubled relationship between ethnicity, society and religious conversion in late 20th-century African-American and Mexican-American autobiography.

Timothy Dow Adams, the author of "Telling Lies in Modern American Autobiography," wrote, "Starting with Madeline Walker's writing —- which is clear and persuasive and characterized by a compelling personal voice —- 'The Trouble with Sauling Around' has much strength. Walker's writing sounds like a real person expressing opinions, struggling with contradictions, while reasoning and thinking through complex issues.

"She's smart, and her main argument is original, based on impressive research, and devoid of cant. Walker's ability to answer questions rather than just raise them, the clear structure of the work, the overall sense of fairness that emanates from the manuscript, and the courage she demonstrates in writing so openly about delicate and politically charged subjects are exactly what make this book so original and valuable."

Walker is the writing scholar in the School of Nursing at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, where she teaches online writing courses for graduate and undergraduate students, and offers an array of writing coach services to nursing students and faculty members. She has published articles in the Journal of Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States and English Studies in Canada, poetry in A Room of One's Own, and fiction in the University of Toronto Quarterly Review.

"Against the Gallows" explores the cooperation of America's writers--including Walt Whitman, John Greenleaf Whittier, E. D. E. N. Southworth and Herman Melville--with reformers, politicians, clergymen and periodical editors who attempted to end the practice of capital punishment in the United States during the 1840s and 1850s. In an age of passionate reform efforts, the anti-gallows movement enjoyed broad popularity, waging its campaign in legislatures, pulpits, newspapers and literary journals.

Although it failed in its ultimate goal of ending hangings across the United States, the movement did achieve various improvements in the practices of the justice system, including reducing the number of capital crimes, eliminating public executions in most northern states, and abolishing capital punishment completely in three states.

Although a few historians have studied the antebellum movement against capital punishment, until now very little attention has been paid to the role of America's writers in these efforts.

Jones' study recovers the relationship between the nation's literary figures and the movement against the death penalty. It illustrates that the editors of literary journals actively encouraged and published anti-gallows writing, that popular crime novelists created a sympathy toward criminals that led readers to question the state's justifications for capital punishment, that poets crafted verse that advocated strongly for Christian sympathy for criminals that coincided with an antipathy to the death penalty, and that female sentimental writers fashioned melodramatic narratives that illustrated the injustice of the hanging and re-imagined the justice system itself as a sympathetic subject capable of incorporating compassion into its workings and seeing reform rather than revenge as its ends.

Jones, who teaches at Ohio University, is the author of "Unwelcome Voices: Subversive Fiction in the Antebellum South," which won the Nancy Dasher Prize for Literary Scholarship by the College English Association of Ohio, and editor, with Dorothy Scura, of "Evelyn Scott: Recovering a Lost Modernist."

In "Iowa Past to Present," originally published in 1989, Schwieder, Morain and Nielsen combine their extensive knowledge of Iowa's history with years of experience addressing the educational needs of elementary and middle-school students. This revised edition brings the story into the 21st century and makes a paperback edition available for the first time.

Beginning with Iowa's changing geological landforms, the authors progress to historical, political and social aspects of life in Iowa through the present day. The authors have teamed with Iowa Public Television's Iowa Pathways project to create a new "Iowa Past to Present" teacher's guide available online at This guide includes additional articles, videos, links and curriculum resources to support the textbook.

UI arts events are searchable on the UI Master Calendar: Exhibitions are searchable at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to click on "Subscribe or Unsubscribe and then follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay,