Mars Hill University professor receives Choice Award for book

photo courtesy of Mars Hill University


Dr. David Gilbert, visiting assistant professor of history at Mars Hill University, has received a Choice Award for his book, The Product of Our Souls: Ragtime, Race, and the Birth of the Manhattan Musical Marketplace (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

Choice awards are presented annually by Choice magazine, a publication of the American Library Association. The awards reflect the best in scholarly titles reviewed by Choice and brings with it the extraordinary recognition of the academic library community. The list of award winners is prestigious and quite selective: it contains approximately ten percent of some 7,000 works reviewed in Choice each year.

In awarding Outstanding Academic Titles, the editors apply several criteria to reviewed titles: overall excellence in presentation and scholarship; importance relative to other literature in the field; distinction as a first treatment of a given subject in book or electronic form; originality or uniqueness of treatment; value to undergraduate students; importance in building undergraduate library collections

The Product of Our Souls explores the historic appearance at Carnegie Hall in 1912 of the Clef Club Orchestra, an African American ensemble. The book explores how conductor James Reese Europe and other African American performers, at the height of Jim Crow, transformed their racial difference into the mass-market commodity known as “black music.” The movement not only introduced Americans to new styles of music, but it challenged the nation’s preconceived ideas about race and culture.

According to Gilbert, The Product of Our Souls grew out of his dissertation in U.S. history and he always hoped to turn his research and writing on African American music, dance, and musical theater in pre-World War I New York City into a book for a wider audience.

“For years, as I worked in and out of academia, my book project became a labor of love, though one aiming to contribute to the scholarly histories of African American music and U.S. popular culture more broadly,” Gilbert said. “Having worked for so long without institutional support and, often, during long nights in-between a wide variety of day jobs, it is remarkably gratifying to receive a national award that recognizes my work as part of scholarly conversations about race, equality, and U.S. American modernity.”

Mars Hill University is a premier private, liberal arts institution offering over 30 baccalaureate degrees and one graduate degree in elementary education. Founded in 1856 by Baptist families of the region, the campus is located just 20 minutes north of Asheville in the mountains of western North Carolina.

About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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