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Monica Perales Receives Award for Best Urban History Book

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November 21, 2011-Houston-

Monica Perales, an associate professor in the department of history at the University of Houston (UH), has been awarded the Kenneth Jackson Award for Best Book in North American urban history from the Urban History Association.  Perales will be honored at the organization’s biennial conference to be held in New York City in October 2012. Perales

According to the awards committee, “Monica Perales’ new book, ‘Smeltertown: Making and Remembering a Southwest Border Community,’ is an extraordinary study of a city that once epitomized industrial might, labor exploitation and human resilience in the face of both, that today lives on only in memory.”

“Monica Perales’, ‘Smeltertown’ is a powerful study because it is as personal as it is universal,” said Martin V. Melosi, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Professor of History at UH and a recipient of the Kenneth Jackson Award for Best Book in urban history in 2000.

“Her gift for oral history puts life into a story about Mexicans and Mexican Americans living and working in a community surrounding the American Smelting and Refining Co. in El Paso, Texas – her home town.  The book never loses sight of the sense of place, nor the peoples’ life-long attachment to it. And, it marvelously contrasts the earnest commitment to raising and providing for one’s family juxtaposed against work that was inherently dangerous.

“‘Smeltertown,’ is a fitting winner of the Kenneth Jackson Prize, which recognizes the best book in U.S. urban history for 2010,” Melosi said. “The award, given annually by the Urban History Association, is the most prestigious in the field, which speaks to the high scholarly achievement Dr. Perales has attained.”  

The awards committee notes, “Not only does Monica Perales place their story, the story of thousands of Mexicans, at the center of the century U.S. urban history, but she also asks scholars to consider far more seriously than they yet do how closely linked the worlds of work and those of city and community building were for the majority of those who lived in, and built, this nation.

“Eventually, Smeltertown faded from the landscape of the Southwest, but thanks to historian Monica Perales and her gift for oral history and for the recovery of collective memory, urban histories now have much to mull over, and much to reconsider, about how cities are defined and understood in the long 20th century.”  

Perales earned a Ph.D. in history from Stanford University in 2004, a B.A. in journalism in 1994 and M.A. in history in 1996 from the University of Texas at El Paso. She is the recipient of various fellowships, including the 2009 Women’s Studies Faculty Summer Fellowship and the 2006-2007 Summerlee Fellow in Texas History at the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University. Her current research explores questions of race, gender, nation, community and identity on the border. She is presently working on a manuscript that explores the multiple meanings of Mexican motherhood on the border during the Progressive Era. 

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