Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Writing an academic book – from start to finish

Next week, I will finally hold in my hands the physical manifestation of years of hard work – a hard copy of my book, Deported: Immigrant Policing, Disposable Labor and Global Capitalism. This special occasion is a time of reflection for me and makes me think back to how long it took to write this book, which was a significant departure from my first book – Yo Soy Negro: Blackness in Peru. The short answer: it took seven years from the initial grant proposal to the hard copy.

In August 2008, I began to write a grant proposal to the Fulbright Hays Faculty Research Abroad Award. I submitted that proposal in October 2008, and was notified that I had won the Award in March 2009. I had already planned to do pilot research that summer, and thus was able to begin my research just two months later. I conducted the bulk of the research for this book between May 2009 and August 2010, when my family and I traveled to and lived in four countries so that I could interview deportees. That research trip led to 147 interviews with deportees in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Brazil.

While on our trip, I got the bulk of the interviews transcribed. I also began the process of writing interview summaries for each of the deportees. When I returned to the United States, I continued to work on the interview summaries and began to code the data. I did not finish the interview summaries and coding until January 2012. That part felt like it took forever! However, I had been writing every day on the project while coding and writing summaries and thus had very rough chapter drafts. And, almost immediately after finishing that step of the data analysis, I came up with a framework and an outline of the argument for the book.

I remember that day very clearly. I was walking on the beach in Hawaii by myself after having spent the day writing and had an epiphany: I could organize the book based on a meta-story of deportees’ lives. I could begin with their lives in their home countries, then discuss getting to the United States, and growing up in the United States. Then, I could explain how they got were arrested, detained, and deported. The final chapter would focus on their experiences in their countries of birth. It seems quite simple, but it took me a long time to come up with a narrative arc that makes sense and would allow me to make my argument that global capitalism structures the lives and experiences of deportees.

I spent the year of 2012 revising drafts of each of the chapters. On January 11, 2013, I began to contact editors. In March, the editor at New York University Press agreed to send the first three chapters of the book manuscript out for review. With a favorable response from the reviewers, I continued revising and in March of 2014, I sent the editor a final version. By the end of June 2014, I had a contract in hand and a few revisions to make.

In October 2014, I sent the final revised manuscript to the editor. And, in November 2015, the book will be published! Seven years from idea to final product.

P.S.: If you are in the DC area, I will be presenting my book at KramerBooks at 6:30pm on November 17, and at Politics and Prose at 1pm on November 21! A full list of my speaking engagements is here.