So this is a little late, but better than never!
On the evening of Thursday 22nd October 2015 the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University were kind enough to help me celebrate and launch my book From Labouring to Learning.
I have been based here since September and I knew that my book was going to come out whilst I was away from the UK. I had half hoped to have a launch event when I got back, and while I still haven’t given up on this idea, it looks less likely as time goes on and the longer the book has been out. However, on hearing this in October, the head of department, Professor Lara Campbell told me that this could not pass without a celebration and hastily arranged a public event in the downtown campus. Lara thought it would an ideal opportunity for me to meet other scholars across the university. It also coincided with my father’s visit, which was handy.
I am used to talking about my work to academic audiences at conferences, but knowing that my father and a large group of friends who had not heard me speak before in this sort of context and would be present, left me feeling a little nervous. I was also aware that many people who would be present wouldn’t have much knowledge of Wales or the South Wales Valleys, so I opted to keep the sociological jargon to a minimum and my presentation was full of maps, photos and quotes from the young men who the book is about. The evening was very well attended and it was a pleasure to be able to talk in front of so many people about the work that I did.
The event got off to a bit of a tricky start at it seemed my UK laptop was not compatible with the Canada projector, or the mass of cables that were coiled up on the floor. So, acting like the great department chair she is, Lara pulled out her IPhone and a bag of connectors. I emailed her my slides and she quickly had my talk up on the screen. Good to go, marvelous!
I began by reading some extract from the book and spoke about how important the industrial heritage of place is in constructing the lives of people who still live in de-industrial communities. I then outlined the contents of the book and chose to focus on one group of young men I followed during the research, who I term The Geeks for the remainder of the talk. The Geeks were a group of young men who seemed to be the academic achievers in their year group and who performed a studious display of masculinity by working hard in school and achieving top grades in order to go to university. But the pressure to comply to stereotypical macho or boyish behaviour (e.g. drinking large amounts of alcohol, sexism) was strong and on occasion they came unstuck and could not always achieve what they wanted.
The event ended with some thoughtful questions by members of the audience and a general discussion about the differences and similarities between de-industrial communities in Wales and Canada. The province of British Columbia is littered with old mining towns and has suffered many of the same problems that have occurred in Wales. However, the towns in Canada seem to more fluid and turn into ‘ghost towns’ and the population move out. In Wales, or the South Wales valleys in particular, this doesn’t seem to have been the case. I wonder if this is partly to do with the continual growth and youthfulness of Canada, well youthful in the sense of white western expansion, (the first nations people have been here for 1000s of years) and its continual immigration and influx of outsiders. To draw the evening to a conclusion, we celebrated with a good old British tradition tea and biscuits, before heading to the pub!
The interest in the book has surprised me. Over the past few months I have conducted interviews with BBC Radio Wales in the UK and here on local radio in Vancouver. This second one you can listen to here. The book has also appeared in the Times Higher Education in November, and was given a glowing review. My publishers have also submitted the book for two book prizes, which I will find out about next spring. I was also told my friends recently that it is ‘currently out of stock’ on the UK Amazon site. It all feels kind of unreal, but it is truly humbling that people have taken an interest in it and it can only help raise awareness of the many issues that young people are dealing with in marginalized communities.