Thanks to a generous grant from the Ahmanson Foundation, the Historical Society of Southern California (HSSC) awarded grants to assist in the publication of books on the history of Southern California, California, or the American West.
Book publishing is getting increasingly expensive—for authors. Publication, whether by university presses or popular imprints, requires not only a substantial investment of time but often hard-earned cash from authors for such essentials as copyright clearances, image licensing, copy editing, and indexing.
That’s why the Historical Society of Southern California (HSSC)’s innovative new pilot program to help authors meet such expenses drew such an overwhelming response from scholars, writers focused on more general audiences, and even fiction writers drawing proposals from as far away as Paris for individual publication awards of up to $5,000.
A generous grant from the Ahmanson Foundation made it possible for the HSSC to offer awards to support the publication of books on the history of Southern California, California, and the American West. Founded in 1883, the HSSC is the oldest historical society in California. Its flagship publication, the Southern California Quarterly, was the first historical journal west of the Mississippi.
“We easily could have awarded four or five times as many grants had the money been available,” says HSSC President Donna Schuele. “Authors are really starting to feel the pinch as even academic presses are require them to meet more of the costs of publication. It’s clear from the response that our pilot program addressed a real need.”
Announced in April, the pilot program drew 42 proposals from scholars from around the country and overseas to help meet the cost of copyediting, proofreading, permissions, creating maps and drawings, design, and marketing.
The program attracted responses from a wide range of authors, from tenured professors to adjunct faculty and independent scholars, many of whom had signed book contracts with major presses including Harvard, Yale, the University of California and Duke. Non-academic authors were also drawn to the program as well. Subject matter ranged from African-American history, Native American activism, and the political history of Silicon Valley, to environmental history and rap music in Los Angeles.
“We wish we had the resources to fund more than a dozen proposals from among the many impressive pieces of scholarship that were submitted and to fund them at a higher level,” Schuele says. “Both the response and the dollar amounts requested were far greater than we had anticipated.”
The awardees are (in alphabetical order):
Emily Bills, adjunct faculty, Woodbury University: Linking Up in Los Angeles: How the Telephone Built a City (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020)
Judy Branfman, research affiliate, UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment: Public Los Angeles: A Private City’s Activist Futures (University of Georgia Press, 2019)
Terri Castaneda, professor of anthropology, Cal State Sacramento: Marie Mason Potts: The Lettered Life of a California Activist (University of Oklahoma Press, 2020)
John DeSimone, freelance writer and author: Road to Delano (historical novel based on the work of Cesar Chavez) (Rare Bird Press, 2019)
Vanessa Diaz, assistant professor of Chicano/a and Latino/a Studies, Loyola Marymount University: Manufacturing Celebrity: The Latina/o Paparazzi and Women Reporters Who Fuel the Hollywood Industrial Complex (Duke University Press, 2020)
Elsa Devienne, assistant professor of American studies, Paris Nanterre University: Shifting Sands, A Social and Environmental History of the Los Angeles Beaches (Sorbonne Editions, 2021)
Elizabeth Faletta, teaching professor, USC Price School of Public Policy: By Right, By Design, Housing Design versus Housing Development in Los Angeles Routledge 2019
Ken Farsing, retired Carson city manager: Black Gold in Paradise—Reclaiming Signal Hill (self-published, 2019)
Alison Jefferson, independent scholar: Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era (University of Nebraska Press, 2020)
Elaine Lewinnek, professor of American studies, Cal State Fullerton: A People’s Guide to Orange County (University of California Press, 2020)
Susan Phillips, professor of environmental analysis, Pitzer College: The City Beneath: A Century of Los Angeles Graffiti (Yale University Press, 2019)
Felicia Viator, assistant professor of history, San Francisco State: L.A. County Blues: Los Angeles Rap in the Age of Reagan (Harvard University Press, 2020)