The U.S. Studies Online 60 Seconds interview feature offers a short and informal introduction to a postgraduate, academic or non-academic specialist working in the American and Canadian Studies field or a related American and Canadian Studies association.
Last month you spent 60 seconds with the Executive Committee of the British Association for American Studies, our parent organisation, and before that the lovely (ahem) U. S. Studies Online Editorial team. For the remainder of the summer we have invited our first contributors to tell us a little bit more about themselves, the moment they decided “this is the path for me,” and what keeps them going all these years –or months– later.
Where are you right now?
I’m currently sitting in the Postgraduate Centre at Queen’s University Belfast working (or procrastinating!) on an essay.
If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of America, where would you go?
I’d probably travel back to 9 April, 1939 and stand with the 75,000 people that gathered to see Marian Anderson perform a concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. It’s an often overlooked moment in civil rights history, but definitely a very significant one!
Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Tough question… I’d need to book an entire restaurant to seat everyone I’d want to be there! It would probably be a very musical affair… Definitely Sam Cooke – I’d like to get to the bottom of what actually happened in the run up to his death. Chuck Berry, Etta James and Ray Charles would certainly keep me entertained, too! Beyond the musicians, Rosa Parks, Vince Vaughn, Lisa Kudrow acting as if she’s Phoebe Buffay, and Miranda Hart. And Beyoncé. Imagine the craic between all those people, I’d be loving life!
You’re stranded on a desert island, but luckily you pre-empted it. Which book do you take with you?
It would have to be Jennifer Johnston’s How Many Miles to Babylon?, it’s been a favourite of mine since I was 16. However, it’s rather short, so I’d probably die of boredom after two weeks. Plus I have a bit of a dislike for sand, so I’m doomed from the start!
What has been your most memorable career moment so far?
Definitely getting the email to say I’d been offered a PhD Studentship. You never know how these things are going to work out, so it was great to get the good news!
What advice would you give to early career academics?
I rarely listen to my own advice, so I don’t think I’m in a position to offer advice to anyone! However, definitely find a mentor or two. It’s great to have someone to bounce ideas off, someone to vent to, and someone to give you reasoned and experienced advice! I’ve had the great fortune of having Professor Catherine Clinton and Dr Elaine Farrell to guide me through my academic career so far.
What is the most exciting thing you have planned in the next six months?
Well, I’m going to the U.S. for 3 weeks in July – Boston, Cape Cod, New York City and Washington, DC. It’s for relaxation and fun purposes only. I won’t be stepping foot in any archives – the most historical thing I’ll be doing is a day trip to Salem, Massachusetts! I’m also hoping to start planning a research trip to Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee, over the next six months, hopefully going over next spring. I’ll also (hopefully!) be graduating with my MA in December, and I’ll probably need a holiday after that, too!
How did you come to your current area of research?
My classmates would probably tell you it’s because my family is very musical… But the truth is, I really don’t know! If I could explain my fascination for African American music and its history, I would!!
What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?
If I didn’t have the worst singing voice known to mankind, I’d probably attempt to be a singer – who wouldn’t want millions in the bank, screaming fans and a few Grammys? I’m a better rapper than I am a singer, my friends can attest to that! It would be great to work in the music industry in some capacity though!
What book is currently on your bedside table?
Bryant Simon’s Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks. I was supposed to read it for a seminar a few weeks ago but I had a pretty busy week and didn’t get round to it… I hope my lecturers don’t read this! Bryant was actually visiting the university that week and he gave a number of great talks and headed our MA seminar. The discussion in the class was great and I felt like I’d missed out by not getting a chance to read the book – so I promised to read it. Turns out it is a great book; I’d definitely encourage anyone interested in U.S. studies to read it!
Be honest; how long has it been there?
A couple of weeks, but I’m almost finished!
What’s in your fridge right now?
An out of date garlic baguette. I’m always running around between class, the library, and work, so rarely have anything in the house. Normally just take a jaunt to Tesco and get what I need for the day. My bank statements suggest I eat out far too often, also!