December 13, 2009

Me and my three books I am writing….

I have been blogging a bit less lately. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is the fact that we moved to a new country. However, we are pretty well settled into the Dominican Republic, so that is no longer a good excuse. The main reason is that I have been working on my book.

I actually am working on three books – all in different stages. Right now, I am mainly working on my book on Afro-Peruvians – Yo Soy Negro: Blackness in Peru. This book is based on my 2005 dissertation on Afro-Peruvians, and it has taken me quite a while to get it into publishable shape. In fact, so long, that I have written another book! My second book is on immigration policy in the US – Immigration Nation? This book explains how US immigration policy results in a wide range of violations of international human rights. My third book is the one on deportees that I have barely started except for a draft of a proposal and this blog.

Since I am primarily working on Yo Soy Negro: Blackness in Peru right now, I will take the time to explain a bit what the book is about and why it has taken me so long to publish it. Yo Soy Negro is based on nearly two years of fieldwork and over 80 interviews in a black community in Peru. I argue that in Peru, when people talk about blackness, they are primarily talking about skin color. That might seem obvious, but skin color is quite distinct from race or ethnicity. And, many people presume that when people call themselves black they are referring to race and/or ethnicity. In Peru, I argue that this is not necessarily the case. For some black Peruvians, being black is just a skin color, and is not connected to other people of African descent, is not a reference to Africa, and does not mean that they are the descendants of slaves. In the community where I did my research, most people identified as black, but few thought they had African ancestors or that their ancestors had been brought to Peru as slaves. That is the general summary of the book, now on to why I have taken so long to publish it.

I wrote up a prospectus of Yo Soy Negro in January 2007, and sent it to several publishers. One publisher expressed interest in it. However, the reviews were mixed, and the editor asked me to revise it and submit it again. I did extensive revisions, and decided to send it to another publisher, one I thought would be a better fit for the book. I sent it to this second publisher in February 2008, while I was doing a post-doc at UIC. This second publisher took an entire year to get back with me. I received the reviews in February 2009. The reviewers did not look kindly upon the book, and the editor decided not to offer me a contract. So, I went back to the first editor. She was no longer interested, and I was back to square one.

I revised the book based on the reviewers’ critiques, and I submitted a full draft of the manuscript to University Press of Florida in May 2009, just before I began this blog. The editor took a couple of months to look it over and to find reviewers. She got the reviews back some time in October. Both reviewers were fairly positive and recommended publication of the book. The editorial board decided in November 2009 to offer me a contract. I spent a few days negotiating the terms of the contract with the editor, although there wasn’t much room for negotiation, since the book is based on my dissertation. Finally, she sent me the contract, which I now have to sign and send back to Florida.

I also need to revise the manuscript based on the reviewers’ critiques. My due date for that is March 15, 2010. As the revisions are not very extensive, meeting the deadline should not be a problem. The publication process takes about eleven months, so the book should be published in February 2011. For those academic types who might want to see a preview of the book, I have an article forthcoming in Social Problems in the February 2010 issue that explains why the distinction between race and color is important in the case of Afro-Peruvians, and, potentially Afro-Latin Americans in general. The title is: “Does Whitening Happen? Distinguishing between Race and Color Labels in an African-Descended Community in Peru.”

Although Immigration Nation? is officially my second book, I am hoping it is published first. I sent a prospectus and two sample chapters of that book to Paradigm Publishers in July 2009. The editor was quite interested in the book, and offered me a contract based on the prospectus and sample chapters. I then sent her the remaining chapters, and she worked on getting peer reviewers for the manuscript. I still have not seen the reviews, but they are supposed to come any day now. If the revisions are not too extensive, I hope to get the final version to her in early 2010. I would like for that book to be published in 2010, in time for it to be read by people working on immigration reform. The publishing process is supposed to be quicker at Paradigm – seven months in production. With any luck, Immigration Nation? will be published by August 2010.

Once I have those two books off of my desk – hopefully in March 2010 - I can begin to write the book on deportees. As I have been writing blog entries on a regular basis, and already have many of my interviews transcribed, I hope to complete that book in twelve months. My goal for finishing the book on deportees is May 2011. If I meet that goal, and find a suitable publisher in time, it should hit the shelves by May 2012.

For my book on deportees, I still do not have a publisher. I am hoping to go more mainstream with the book on deportees, and to find a publisher that can get my book into more bookstores and have it read by a wider audience. So, if you have any suggestions, please let me know!


  1. peace tanya,

    thanks for sharing your experiences with the publication hoops. i did not quite follow your observation regarding little room negotiation because your data comes from your dissertation research. i suppose you mean that data acquired as a phd student = less scholarly weight and a fewer bargaining chips but i wanted to make sure. kzs

    I also wonder if black narrowly references phenotype then does that mean that slave narratives in that region have disappeared entirely?


  2. Kzs:
    I have the impression that when you are trying to publish a bookbthat is a revisions of your dissertation, editors are usually less willing to negotiate. Of course, there are exceptions, such as if you have a dissertation that receives a lot of "buzz" or if you are able to secure contract offers from several presses. Then, you may be able to negotiate a better deal from the press. However, in my case, in my dealing with presses, they seemed to mention "dissertation" to me as a reminder that my manuscript likely had issues that would need to be worked out.

    As for slavery/blackness, I wil try to explain that briefly. There is a slavery narrative in the region where I did my research. However, that narrative is not tied to blackness, and it often confounds post-abolition exploitation with chattel slavery. For example, many elders in the village told me their parents had been slaves. Slavery ended in Peru in 1854. So, they were referring to severe exploitation and abuses on the plantation after slavery was over. Also, these abuses were not exclusive to people of African descent.

    So, slavery narratives have not disappeared, but those of the slave trade have.

    Thanks for your comments and interest!