Aren Aizura’s Book Named Choice Outstanding Academic Title
On December 1, a book coedited by Associate Professor Aren Aizura was named 2022 Choice Outstanding Academic Title by the American Library Association. The book, Keywords for Gender and Sexuality Studies, is now classified as “essential” and will be stocked in the majority of university libraries across the country.
Choice Awards are highly selective—only a small portion of the 5,000 works reviewed annually make the list. To be included, titles must display overall excellence in scholarship, relevance in their field, and strong value to undergraduate students.
“I’m excited to receive this award because it will bring the conversations in the book to many more classrooms and libraries across the United States and beyond,” says Aizura.
Editing as Collaboration
Keywords for Gender and Sexuality Studies showcases an intersectional approach that “breaks ground as a text on gender and sexuality,” Aizura explains. To do this, it integrates perspectives from around 80 authors in short, accessible essays that contextualize issues in their historical, political, and sociocultural settings.
“We can’t understand gender without knowing about the history of immigration, enslavement, incarceration, and dispossession of Indigenous land and culture that built this nation,” states Aizura. “Now more than ever, we need to understand how gender and sexuality struggles from reproductive rights to queer and trans rights are connected to Indigenous freedom, anti-racism, and other political movements.”
Coedited by six scholars—mostly women of color—Keywords for Gender and Sexuality Studies approached the editing process as a collaborative activity, which is unique for an academic text. Editing tasks are usually divided between a couple of people, but this project was “edited by a collective who [brought] many different strengths to the table.”
Aizura says that the six coeditors “understand editing and writing as a form of collective intellectual and political care.” They worked according to the principles laid down by presses like the Combahee River Collective, a Black feminist lesbian organization, and Kitchen Table Press, established in 1981 by Audre Lorde, Barbara Smith, and others.
“Women of color feminists have often published outside of the traditional academy,” notes Aizura. “Although [Keywords for Gender and Sexuality Studies] is a scholarly book published by a university press, our working process and political approach honored Kitchen Table Press and many other feminist of color collective writing projects.”
Making Knowledge Accessible
In addition to honoring the change-makers who came before them, the editors of Keywords for Gender and Sexuality Studies will have an impact on future generations of students, scholars, and activists. The book encourages its readers to look beyond the basics of gender and sexuality, prompting new perspectives and vital conversations.
Aizura felt honored to be a part of such an important project. “I personally was thrilled to participate in a writing collective that felt transformative at the level of the work itself,” he says. “I hope that readers are able to learn about the complex history of all these important concepts more easily—this is knowledge that should be available to everyone.”