UP WEEK! PRODUCING THE BOOKS THAT MATTER
This October, Fordham University Press published my first book, Left Bank of the Hudson: Jersey City and the Artists of 111 1st Street. My book chronicles the history of an arts community in downtown Jersey City from the late 1980s until 2005. The artists of this community worked and lived at 111 1st Street, the former P. Lorillard Tobacco Company warehouse. Through this building and its community, my book explores the relationships between the creative class, cities, and the faces of gentrification.
Jersey City, New Jersey is the setting and larger subject of my book. Not Manhattan. Not Brooklyn. Not Los Angeles. Not any other instantly recognizable global city with a marketable image. Few people knew of this story beyond a very small population—local artists and their supporters—largely in Hudson County, New Jersey. For these reasons, my submitted manuscript wasn’t an easy sell. Yet Fordham University Press saw the value in producing a book on an almost forgotten community in less known city. The editors believed that this story deserved to be told and that readers might find it compelling.
Ann-Christine Racette, Production Manager at Fordham University Press, created an eye-catching and memorable cover for my book, basing its typography and graphic design around a dreamy, mysterious photograph taken by an artist of the former 111 1st Street. Such care and craftsmanship made the book an artifact unto itself. During the book’s production, she and I selected photographs—all provided by 111 1st Street artists–for an eight-page color insert. This insert tells a captivating visual story of the life and death of 111 1st Street, greatly enhancing the book.
During the recent annual Jersey City Art & Studio Tour (October 14-15, 2017), one exhibition showcased the art and artists of the former 111 1st Street building. The exhibition’s curator invited Ann-Christine and me to discuss the writing and production of Left Bank of the Hudson. After our presentation, audience members—primarily artists and fellow creative types—complimented the high-quality book design.
A promotional tour accompanied the publication of Left Bank of the Hudson. The history of 111 1st Street connected with audiences beyond Jersey City and the New York metropolitan region. In Buffalo, New York, the audience was aghast that Jersey City’s government failed to comprehend the value of a vibrant arts community and later allowed 111 1st Street–a historic structure–to be demolished. In Durham, North Carolina, readers expressed interest in ways that the arts might maintain a foothold in their own rapidly gentrifying city in order to avoid the fate of 111 1st Street.
University presses allow for smaller stories like this one to be written and to find audiences. Such stories potentially hold long and lasting impact. My hope is that Left Bank of the Hudson can provide a model for discovering, researching, analyzing, and writing local history: it can demonstrate methods to connect and relate a seemingly isolated and obscure event to larger trends, anxieties, and desires coursing through American cities or culture. Additionally, I hope that my book will offer an instructive lesson for other citizens and communities. The story of 111 1st Street might help save an arts center, an architecturally significant building, or an imperiled neighborhood in another town, city, or region.
University presses influence real events and public discourse. My book—if only in a finite way—is contributing to the conversations in many localities and cities about the value and role of art, culture, and history. Without university presses—without Fordham University Press—these discussions would lack certain voices. These discussions would be less rich and less vibrant. Without university presses, they might not even be taking place.
—David J. Goodwin, author of Left Bank of the Hudson: Jersey City and the Artists of 111 1st Street
Follow today’s stops on UP Week blog tour!
University of California Press
University of British Columbia Press
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Setting the facts straight for future generations, Left Bank of the Hudson provides an illustrative lesson to government officials, scholars, students, activists, and everyday citizens attempting to navigate the “rediscovery” of American cities.
The Lorrillard snuff mill on the grounds of the New York Botanical Gardens, across the street from Fordham University. Read more about the restoration and rehabilitation of the snuff mill from The New York Times.