Written by Kiara Thompson, NEH SHARP student assistant, Spring 2022
My experience at the Press has informed my future career goals by showing me that there are people in the publishing world who are willing and want to be a part of scholarship that is shifting academia. Shifting it in a way that creates a place for hidden history to come to the forefront, furthering our understanding about United States history through a holistic perspective. Which was surprising to myself, because as a young academic I have heard of the challenges that some authors face when they are trying to bring light to hidden histories. At the start of this experience it was my hope to gain a better understanding of the publishing process, which would allow me to contribute to the humanities and humanistic social sciences through my scholarship on the African American educational experience. The scholarship that I publish will seek to illuminate the past experiences of African Americans and bring them to the present as a means to better it. So, seeing firsthand unpublished and published works that spoke to my subject of interest for study offered me the chance to see what is being done in the field already, introduced me to scholarly sources, and exposed me to the expectations that exist throughout the life cycle of a book, leaving me with this takeaway: Knowing what scholarship is already done and having credible scholarly sources is essential to the process of publishing at an academic press.
Throughout my experience I have been exposed to scholarship in several subjects other than African American studies, such as Latin American and Caribbean studies, dance, and southern history, with each respective subject seeking to illuminate its hidden history and history in view. Being exposed to scholarship across subjects has deepened my understanding of what it takes to produce quality scholarship, not only from an author but for a press as well; it has also highlighted the intersectionalities that exist in societies all over the world and made me think about ways that I could include them in my scholarship to show the connectedness across the African diaspora. My time at the Press has enlightened and empowered me to take new approaches in my writing that will distinguish me in academic scholarship. It has also encouraged me to push the bounds on subjects of scholarship that I take interest in and read from.
In addition to that, it has shown me what a healthy author-publisher relationship should look and feel like, and how this creates a positive publishing experience. For instance, one particular book that stands out to me from my time here that I would not have considered before is Beating the Bounds: Excess and Restraint in Joyce’s Later Works by Roy Benjamin. It captured my attention when I was creating a castoff to estimate final page count and glanced over the chapter titles. I found myself attracted to this work because of the intrigue I felt reading the titles, which were making these explicit distinctions about the disciplines that James Joyce’s work Finnegans Wake intersects with (e.g., philosophy, mathematics, and art history). Being that this book is still in the works, I was not able to choose it as a parting gift for my time at the press. Which led me to the Press’s catalog, which only furthered my appreciation for the press, because going through the catalog I found myself faced with a great deal of quality, important scholarship to choose from. Not only that, but this moment gave me the opportunity to push the bounds on the kind of scholarship that I read through my book choices.
Most importantly, my time at the University Press of Florida has shown me the kind of work climate that I want to be a part of in my future career. From the time that I began at the press I have been encouraged to share my thoughts and perspectives, and always treated with the same amount of respect that others members of the Press receive. This is true for each individual, even those not a part of the Acquisitions Department. I would like to give a heartfelt thank you to Carlynn Crosby, Sian Hunter, Stephanye Hunter, Mary Puckett, and Romi Gutierrez, for making this an experience filled with transformative learning about publishing and just being a professional overall.
Kiara Thompson is a senior in the University of Florida’s African American Studies Program who plans to pursue graduate work in her field.