Monday, August 13, 2018

David R. Coon

David R. Coon is an associate professor of media studies at the University of Washington Tacoma. He is the author of Look Closer: Suburban Narratives and American Values in Film and Television.

His new book is Turning the Page: Storytelling as Activism in Queer Film and Media.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Coon's reply:
Having recently finished a major research project, I spent the last few years reading only books and articles directly connected to that research. Now that the project is behind me, I have some time to read books that interest me, even if they have nothing to do with my work. In spite of this freedom, I find myself continuing to read in areas closely related to my research, but also starting to explore some new areas.

Sisters in the Life: A History of Out African American Lesbian Media-Making, edited by Yvonne Welbon and Alexandra Juhasz, is a collection of essays, interviews, and conversations about a group of women who have been largely overlooked or ignored by most scholars and critics. In an industry that has traditionally favored straight white men, lesbian women of color have faced significant hurdles in their attempts to make it as media producers. Sisters in the Life illuminates the work of the small number of African American lesbians who have broken through barriers and found success as writers, directors, and producers. Mixing critical essays with less formal interviews and conversations allows this book to provide a wide range of perspectives and ultimately provides important documentation of work that has previously received very little attention.

Reading The Queer Fantasies of the American Family Sitcom by Tison Pugh offered me a chance to stay within the realm of my recent research while taking a closer look at sitcoms, which I have enjoyed as a viewer throughout my life. Pugh’s book examines some landmark family sitcoms, including Leave it to Beaver, The Brady Bunch, The Cosby Show, and Modern Family, discussing how sexuality has been woven into such “family-friendly” programming over the years, going from nearly hidden in early programs to very explicit in recent years. In his investigation of these programs, Pugh raises questions about how sexuality intersects with childhood, nostalgia, race, class, humor, and other aspects of the sitcoms that he examines. Overall the book invites readers to revisit some very familiar texts and to look at them with fresh eyes, thanks to the framework Pugh provides.

In recent years I have become increasingly fascinated with sound design as a vital part of storytelling in film and television. To help me explore this interest, I picked up Sound: Dialogue, Music, and Effects, edited by Kathryn Kalinak. As part of the “Behind the Silver Screen” series, which examines various aspects of the work that goes into filmmaking, this collection of essays traces the history of sound design in Hollywood cinema, moving from the so-called “silent” film era to the contemporary age of digital cinema. The book does not just emphasize the evolution of sound technology, but also explores cultural and aesthetic shifts in the use of sound in cinema, highlighting individuals and organizations that changed the way audiences experience stories on the big screen. It has definitely changed the way I listen to films and television programs.
Learn more about Turning the Page at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue