University Press Week: Forward-Thinking

Happy University Press Week! Help us celebrate university presses November 8-12. Since 2012, members of the Association of University Presses have participated in an annual celebration of University Presses. Following the example of the first University Press week, proclaimed by US President Jimmy Carter in the summer of 1978, this event recognizes the impact that a global community of university presses has on every one of us.

This year’s theme for UP Week is “Keep UP.” This is meant to celebrate the many ways university press publishing has evolved and excelled over the last decade.

The #UPweek blog tour today features Forward-Thinking: new ventures that presses will #KeepUP with in the next ten years. Other posts on today’s topic come from Northwestern University Press, Yale University Press, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, University of North Carolina Press, and University of Notre Dame Press.

For our contribution, one of our new series editors, Timothy Schaffert, discusses the forthcoming book series, Zero Street Fiction, which was announced earlier this year. Read more about it in Publishers Weekly.

Amplifying LGBTQ+ Voices

When novelist SJ Sindu and I pitched Zero Street Fiction to the University of Nebraska Press, we did so knowing that such a publishing endeavor could contribute significantly to the voices and careers of LGBTQ+ authors, and we knew there’d be a readership for powerful and poetic stories that might otherwise fall outside the consideration of commercial literary publishers. 

The fact that stories of queer experience are making politicians apoplectic once again is just the icing on the cake. 

Last year, the Association of University Presses joined with the National Coalition Against Censorship to support and defend LGBTQ books challenged in schools and libraries. And such challenges have only increased as state governments and political candidates seek to titillate their constituents. The American Library Association reported in September that its Office for Intellectual Freedom has recorded a significant increase in challenges to books written by minority and LGBTQ+ authors—an increase of 60 percent from the previous year. 

The rights and free speech of LGBTQ+ individuals always make for good election cycle melodrama. And while parental groups and other organizations typically focus their anti-gay efforts on books for children, their mission is an affront to all LGBTQ+ stories and experience. It’s a shrill demand to silence queer voices and obliterate queer history. 

The history of LGBTQ+ literature belongs to the small press—throughout the 20th century, publishers had to skirt laws and adopt unconventional avenues of publication and access, and LGBTQ+ authors of the middle 20th century were dealing with some of the same accusations that are being lobbed at today’s authors: charges of pornography and obscenity. 

In the face of such opposition, I’m excited that Zero Street Fiction will exist alongside an inspiring number of independent publishers that have supported and celebrated generations of LGBTQ+ authors and have built and sustained a rich, vibrant, and diverse literary legacy. The publication of each book by Zero Street will be in tribute to that legacy. 

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