Trinity University Press

Terra Firma: Trinity University Press blog

What Book Scares You?

by Rachel Cooley on

At TU Press, we understand the power of books to inform and motivate readers about many issues, including environmental protection. We celebrate the diversity of perspectives that books, whether fiction or nonfiction, can provide.

This Banned Book Week, we urge you to consider the books that have challenged your views or made you see the world differently. 

In researching books that have been frequently challenged, I was surprised to find many of my favorite classics, including Gone with the WindTo Kill a Mockingbird, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, on the list. I read most of these books in high school, and they all had a way of taking me to a place in history and showing me the common norms and values of that time. Books like The Kite Runner andPersepolis have shown me ways of life from all over the world. The Giver andSlaughterhouse Five made me consider radically different fictional societies and, in turn, think about my own life and world in a new way. In addition, I would argue that titles like Ender’s Game and The Perks of Being a Wallflower are essential coming-of-age stories for most preteens and teens. 

Parents and administrators often try to shield children from materials that may not be age appropriate, but banning a book from a library or school district is never the answer. Teachers and parents can talk to children about books that are appropriate for them and how books can offer many points of view. Differing perspectives are essential for students to form their own opinions and develop a well-rounded worldview. 

This year, stay informed about challenges to some of your favorite books and challenge censorship of any kind in your community. Celebrate banned books week with TU Press by continuing to read both fiction and nonfiction to broaden your perspective. 

Visit the American Library Association and view lists of frequently challenged books to find some of your favorite books that have been challenged or banned.


Make Peace with the Earth

by Rachel Cooley on

The International Day of Peace, on September 21 each year, was established in 1981 by the United Nations but has only gained worldwide attention in the past ten years as people unite on Peace One Day. Peace One Day is a global international ceasefire for individuals and organizations to work toward peace-building, development and aid, and the delivery of supplies like food and vaccines. This year’s theme is “Who will you make peace with?” At TU Press we see climate change as a threat to long-term international peace, wreaking social and political havoc as humans struggle to deal with environmental changes.

In Wisdom for a Livable Planet, Carl McDaniel profiles eight visionaries dedicated to addressing environmental issues that create social and political conflict. Some of these issues include:

  • hazardous waste
  • loss of biodiversity
  • effects of agribusiness on health and the food supply
  • overpopulation
  • economics based on outmoded growth models
  • lack of environmental education at all levels
  • larger gaps between the haves and the have-nots cause by globalization.

McDaniel argues that globalization “impoverishes people because, by ignoring the unique character and limits of each locality, it erodes environmental stability and produces dysfunctional societies characterized by violence, crime, poverty, substantial disparity between rich and poor, civil unrest, and social insecurity.” When we promote an econocentric worldview rather than an ecocentric one, resources are overexploited for economic gains and we see an increase in poverty, starvation, sickness, and suffering among the poor in developing countries. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that each individual has the right to a standard of living adequate for his or her health and well-being. Every person must therefore have access to clean water, air, and food resources. If these needs are not met, how can we claim to have world peace? 

If we allow environmental degradation and the unsustainable use of our earth’s resources to continue, the poor in underdeveloped or developing countries will suffer increasingly from disease and lack of nutrition. If a central goal of Peace One Day is to give vaccinations to children and provide them with better health care, another goal must be to work to stop global climate change. 

McDaniel’s message is one of hope. “Through the actions of each one of us,” he writes, “global culture can embrace an urgently needed ecologically centered pattern of living. With this transformation we will take our rightful place among the rest of nature and accept with grace and humility our relations to Earth’s diversity of life.”

Celebrate Peace One Day by working toward sustainability and reducing your carbon footprint. Visit Peace One Day for more information and to get involved.


A Call to Writers

by Rachel Cooley on

Kathleen Dean Moore, coeditor of Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, and Scott Slovic, editor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment, have written a blog post for urging writers to focus their voices on one important message: we all have a moral imperative to take immediate action to stop global climate change.

Moore and Slovic argue that the issue of climate change has become urgent, as evidenced by recent forest fires, droughts, record-breaking temperatures, and coastal storms. Writers must use their powerful and unique voices to “do the work of the moment”--that is, to help slow the planet's unsustainable use of fossil fuels by helping readers see those directly and negatively impacted by climate change, and by bearing witness to important stories no one else will tell, Moore and Slovic compel writers to use their skills in the most significant ways possible to combat global climate change.

Read the full post here.

A short goodbye from our intern, Victoria Mitchell

by Victoria Mitchell on

As my yearlong (and then some) internship at Trinity University Press ends, I can’t believe how far things have come since I applied for the position last spring. Spending my senior year gaining real-world experience on the same campus that shaped me for the three years prior was like a dream come true. Although I started the internship wanting to pursue a career in publishing, my experiences as the press's marketing assistant and in my final year of classes caused my interests to shift and mature--and led me straight to a career path I think I was meant for all along. Thanks to the skills and connections I’ve gained, I've accepted an exciting position at Toolbox Studios, a branding and content marketing firm in downtown San Antonio.

My time at the press has been crucial to my success, and I’ll miss everyone I've come to know and love here. From writing and editing, to various research projects, to reading titles like Home Ground and What I Can’t Bear Losing while “working,” I can say this is the most valuable internship experience I've had. I’ll be back for my copy of The Osage Orange Tree, the stunning conceptualization of a never-before-published story by William Stafford. Thanks for everything, TU Press!

Two Hats

by Nan Cuba on

You’d think editing an anthology and writing a novel would have nothing in common, but after trying my hand at each, I’ve noticed overlaps. 

An editor chooses a focus, a concept that drives the book’s contents and organizing principles. For Art at Our Doorstep: San Antonio Writers and Artists, Trinity University Press asked me to collect work that represented San Antonio’s literary aesthetic and history. Easy—I was ready at the get-go. A novel’s focus, however, appears during the process of creating the story. The author concentrates on craft issues, and the underlying concept emerges like a message from a Ouija board. I wrote Body and Bread because I wanted to understand the reasons my brother committed suicide. Not until I’d finished did I realize the novel was about the damage caused by a survivor’s grief.  

An editor chooses authors; a novelist creates characters. This comparison is a stretch, but there are similarities. An anthology’s author lineup determines the book’s content and essence; a novel’s characters do the same. An editor not only selects authors; she also chooses representative pieces by each, and the final product is a unique collection of individual parts. An author creates individual characters that shift and grow, their intersecting story lines evolving into a unique culmination. In both cases the artist’s aesthetic vision and literary standards drive the process.  

Maintaining balance is a major issue. For Art at Our Doorstep I included historical and contemporary work. Styles ranged from traditional to experimental, with a variety of genres represented. For Body and Bread I shifted between present and past story lines and between various characters’ scenes, always conscious of pacing.  

Which brings us to structure. How does an editor arrange selected pieces, and does that process resemble the ordering of a novel’s chapters? In each case I relied on some sense of narrative arc. An anthology’s structure is better compared to a piece of music, with the arrangement producing a tonal quality that rises and falls, tenses and relaxes, each effect intuitively conceived. In a novel, the protagonist’s development defines the arc.  

Transitions were tricky. Art at Our Doorstep includes fabulous artwork, and placement of those pieces became a project. Barbara Ras, director of Trinity University Press, and I paired them with the literary pieces, using abstract rather than literal associations. Relying on subject, style, and tone, a synergy evolved from the written and visual connections. Transitions between chapters in Body and Bread were created from seven questions I thought the reader would ask—for example, why did Sam commit suicide, would Cornelia receive her kidney transplant, would Sarah be able to control her hallucinations? Each transition focused on a question and shifted to another with the next chapter.  

I worked closely with an editor on both books. Barbara Ras’s emphasis on the anthology’s celebratory nature meant that some of my choices were replaced with lighter selections. An introduction wrestling with sensitive issues was admired but determined inappropriate. For Body and Bread, my editor guided me through three major revisions, cutting forty pages in the final edit. My experience with each editor was labor-intensive and emotionally and intellectually challenging. In other words, I’m one lucky girl. I’m also grateful for being given this chance to thank them.