Note: Links to books are affiliate links to Bookshop.org. If you purchase books through these links, I’ll make a small commission, which helps me keep Drafting the Past going. Thanks for supporting our guests and the podcast! You can also support Drafting the Past by becoming a monthly contributor via Patreon.
For this episode of Drafting the Past, I interviewed historian and writer Dr. Einav Rabinovitch-Fox. In addition to teaching history at Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Rabinovitch-Fox has also worked as a public historian and curator, and regularly writes for public audiences in outlets like the Washington Post, Zocalo Public Square, and Nursing Clio. Her first book, Dressed for Freedom: The Fashionable Politics of American Feminism, came out in 2021 from the University of Illinois Press.
In this episode, we talk about both the challenges and advantages of writing in a language other than your first language, what it’s like to publish a book when you’re not on the tenure track, and why she spends a lot of time crawling on the floor when she’s editing.
MENTIONED IN THE SHOW:
- Zotero, for bibliographic references (although Einav also used it for sources)
- Tropy, new software that helps historians manage sources
- Nan Enstad, Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure: Working Women, Popular Culture, and Labor Politics at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
- Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York, and Zoot Suit: The Enigmatic Career of an Extreme Style
- Tiya Miles, All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake
TRANSCRIPT (EDITED VERSION COMING SOON)
Kate Carpenter 0:03
Welcome back to Drafting the Past. I’m your host, Kate Carpenter, and this is a podcast devoted to the craft of writing history. My guest in this episode is Dr. Einav Rabinovitch-Fox.
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 0:15
I’m really happy to be here.
Kate Carpenter 0:17
Einav is a historian and writer. She teaches at Case Western Reserve University, and her first book Dressed for Freedom: The Fashionable Politics of American Feminism recently was published by University of Illinois Press. In addition to her writing, Einav also has worked as a public historian and exhibit curator, and she also regularly writes for public audiences in places like the Washington Post Zocalo Public Square, and Nursing Clio. In this episode, we talk about both the challenges and advantages of writing in a language other than your first language, what it’s like to publish a book when you’re not on the tenure track, and why she spends a lot of time crawling on the floor when she’s editing. Enjoy!
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 1:03
For me, it wasn’t kind of like, oh, I always wrote as a child. And I always knew I wanted to be a writer, it was something that, you know, I came to like, and I came to kind of like, see myself as a writer, really in graduate school, I was always like, a writer in terms of like, you know, I was always knew how to write to some degree, but I felt like it wasn’t something like, oh, I wanted to do necessarily in an academic way. But in graduate student in grad school, I kind of like, well, I like it. You know, I know a lot of people don’t like writing. And it’s kind of like the thing that they are more afraid of, but I actually enjoyed it to some degree. And for me, and I think it was always like, important, I wanted to write in a way that will reach the most, as many people as possible. So I think that I always wanted to write kind of like for the masses. And you kind of like realize, well, maybe academia is not, it’s not, you want to go right to the masses. So I do kind of like, you know, when I think I really, I really was excited about writing once I really started to write for popular audiences. And I think it really helped me also to become a better academic writer, really thinking about language and about writing. That’s something that popular writing really helped me and to kind of like, oh, so, you know, yes, maybe my articles and my books aren’t going to be read as much as the other forms of writing. But I think it did made me a better writer and better understood kind of like audiences and kind of like what I want to do with my writing. Now I’m, like, I can’t say like that, it’s my passion. But it’s, it’s definitely something that I like, kind of like the whole what academia is, writing is kind of like what I like to do.
Kate Carpenter 3:05
Well, let’s talk about practicalities, when and where do you like to do your writing?
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 3:10
Now, I really like to write in my office, I have a big screen. And I think it’s really helped me in writing. And it’s quiet, especially now after COVID. Oftentimes, I’m kind of like alone in the, on the floor. So which has good things and bad things about it. So for me kind of like writing is kind of like the office became kind of like my place of writing, I do need like, quiet and home. Now I do have an office at home. But like, that’s a very new thing. So I always had, like, you know, to kind of like, find an office space to find, you know, a place of your own, and I never had it at home. So my office became a place to do it. And I do usually in my, in the morning, I find my writing brain is better in the morning. And it’s quiet, and I’m still not very early morning because I’m not a morning person. But that’s kind of like, you know, from nine to, to about lunch, that’s kind of like my writing hours, usually. And after that I usually do you know, the other things that are not really writing, but connect it to writing.
Kate Carpenter 4:23
Are you a person who writes every day? Or does it kind of come and go?
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 4:26
It comes and goes in terms of kind of like, you know, deadlines and when they need to do you know, deadlines are our best friends. But when I do kind of like when I worked on the book, I did try to to write every maybe not every day, but every kind of like a day that I wasn’t teaching or wasn’t like, every what I call a writing day or research day. That was like my day. So I tend to write every day. I was I really do think like and I say also to my students that writing is like going to the gym. And I really hate going to the gym. Like, really, it’s like, there are very few things that I think are more awful than going to a gym. But But I kind of like well, but if you go and you do it, and it’s like a muscle, then you, it’s getting easier. And I do feel like it’s the same about writing. Like, if you do it, maybe you don’t like it at first. But like if you do it every day, or every couple of days and you do it, you’ve built a routine of writing like you because it’s like a muscle. So it does become kind of like easier to some degree. So I was I’m trying to do that, that kind of like it will be become part of kind of like my life and not something that’s like, Oh my God, I need to write.
Kate Carpenter 5:51
Talk to me a little bit about your workflow. How do you take notes? How do you organize your sources? Are there special tools that you use?
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 5:59
I’m a very visual person, so I need to see. Like, it’s funny, but I really need to see the text when I’m writing. This is why like, because I have like a big screen. And I think it really helps. And it’s weird, because when I when I write you know, I also think like, oh, it’s like the length of like, the paragraph and how it looks on the page, like it really kind of like, oh, this is seem too short, too long. Like the visual also means something to me. So I and I, that’s usually not when I’m writing, but more when I’m editing. I literally use scissors and tape like cut and paste is kind of like a literal early action for me. And I like to kind of like write I have a floor space, put all the chapter on the floor. So I can see the entire chapter or the entire article. And then I’m trying to like and working with scissors and I’m organizing it visually. Like that’s something that I that I do. So for me, that’s something that I need to see the chapter I know it sounds weird, but so that’s for me something that it’s really important when I write I when I did kind of like when I started this book and was a dissertation. So I use Zotero as a kind of like a way to organize sources, because that was the thing, but it’s not the best. It was weird because I was in at an event that someone from the Roy Rosenzweig Center came and talked. And apparently he was kind of like one of those Zotero creators, and I kind of like vented and I told him Look, it’s like it’s a great software, but it’s like it doesn’t work for images. It doesn’t work for you know, the things that I really needed to work. And he’s like, you’re right, it doesn’t, because it doesn’t suppose to do those things. And here, let’s try Tropy because that’s what we’re working on. That was kind of like that. That’s kind of like the software that was supposed to answer the things. And I played a little bit with Tropy. And and I think he was right.
Kate Carpenter 8:15
I just want to pop in with a quick editorial note here that if you are intrigued by the sound of Tropy, but don’t know what it is, stay tuned for our next episode. I actually talked to an expert in Tropy and learned a lot more about how it can help historians in our work.
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 8:30
So I think like with this with like the new project, I will try like Tropy will become kind of like because I think it does lend itself better to archival and kind of like what historians do, then Zotero we’ll see, we’ll see how the Tropy will go.
Kate Carpenter 8:47
So what is the drafting process look for look like for you? You know, do you draft a hand on paper? Do you you know, do you outline, that sort of thing?
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 8:55
Sometimes I outline, not necessarily. I’m kind of like a great believer in just putting words on the page. I do think the most scary thing is like a blank page, right? So when I write I usually try to just get words on page, even if I’m not I know they’re not the most organized or the most, you know, making sense. And because I do find editing is easier to some degree. So for me, it’s like okay, just kind of like fill the page and then, you know, work afterwards with scissors and tape and in trying to figure out how it really works. And I really, I do kind of like more free writing. I do you know in terms of footnotes, which you know, after sometimes it’s gonna bite you but I’m kind of like I don’t when I write I don’t invest a lot of kind of like okay, formatting, a perfect footnote. But I tried to kind of like really concentrate on the writing and not kind of like everything that goes with the writing. If If I’ll have a writing day, I will do it in the morning. And then in the afternoon, I can just go in and do kind of like more working on the footnotes or worrying things that that kind of like I need a different brain for, to some degree. But I think like for the flow of writing, for me, it’s like that I need to do writing and not like anything that like if this is the time for writing that I need to do writing and not other things that we might call them writing, but are not really writing.
Kate Carpenter 10:29
You mentioned already your cut and paste revision method. Do you go through multiple drafts that way? Or what are the steps of your revision?
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 10:37
Yeah, I mean, so. So I do kind of like, read it, and then kind of like organize it, and then printed it out again, and, and see it again. And oftentimes, I also work with like, I always have like my main word document, and then like a leftover file, that it’s kind of like my draft file that I’m trying to play with. And like, it’s a different. And, you know, sometimes it’s paragraphs that I cut, because they don’t fit in, and then I sometimes go back to them. So every chapter has this, like, really big leftover chapter file that that is kind of like more of a drafty dirty things that I do. I just relegate it to kind of like, okay, I need to see it again, on a blank page, often, like in a different font and a different, you know, just to see it differently. And then I put it back into the text.
Kate Carpenter 11:37
Do you then then cut and paste again, or, you know, are there multiple levels of cutting and pasting? Or is that just your first big revision step?
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 11:44
That’s usually the first big revisions. And then then I’m, I’m reading it again. And I tried to do more line editing. Yeah, so I’m kind of like, you know, first, like, it needs to work, right? The structure and then like, every paragraph needs to work on its own. And that’s where someone suggested to me to do like the reverse outline method, which I was like, Oh, yeah. Like, this is so awesome. For me, it’s like after I kind of like, okay, I think it works. And then I do the reverse outline to kind of like, make sure that really works.
Kate Carpenter 12:23
In case listeners don’t know what that is, how do you approach reverse outlining?
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 12:28
So again, technically you need to outline. That’s what I tell my students, you need to outline your chapter, right? And kind of like figure out the structure. I sometimes I do it, sometimes I don’t. But after you do have the written chapter, next to each paragraph, that’s a reverse outline. You kind of like write what this paragraph is, or what kind of like the topic, what does it do kind of like, is this an argument? Is this an evidence, and then you write it right? And then you have an outline, and then you figure out whether this outline make sense. And then that’s where the places are kind of like this is really not not connected to kind of like the arc of the chapter, things like that. So I found that as a good method to think about, but, but again, I feel like I did kind of like towards the end.
Kate Carpenter 13:18
Is there a point in your drafting where you like to share with someone else to get feedback?
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 13:23
Yeah, I mean, and that’s something you know, that I really miss about graduate school, because I feel like, you know, that was easier, to some degree to have that writing community. But yeah, I’m trying. I mean, it often is kind of like, in the stage that I kind of like, I think it makes sense, but I’m kind of like too much in the in it, that nothing makes sense anymore to me. So I’m, I often like to like to get a feedback of like, does that make sense to you? Is that like, Am I making an argument here? Even so I do, like, you know, to share things that are more baked, but I have I have, like good colleagues here that that read things that I wrote, and some of them are in my field, but some of them are really not in my field. So for me, it’s like, it’s, I’m kind of like, can you read this please? And kind of like, let me know if it even makes any sense to you? Because I’m like, if it’s not in my field, and he’s like, okay, I get what you mean. And kind of like, I’m fine. I’m doing okay.
Kate Carpenter 14:28
You mentioned before the interview that one of the challenges of your writing process is that English isn’t your first language. How does that impact how you write?
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 14:37
Yeah, I mean, I really think it impacts the way I think about writing right because it’s about it’s for me, it’s always like translating kind of like what I want to say and in a way that make people understand. So but I think like I’m I’m doing kind of like a to like my brain because because it’s always kind of like a translation process, right? I mean, I don’t think I I’m thinking in Hebrew, I do think in English, but it’s sometimes. And it’s sometimes when you write you kind of like, I know what I want to say. And I know there’s an English word for it, but I just don’t know the word. You know, before COVID, I have a colleague here who’s like, just across the hall. And a lot of time I was like, so like, what is the word if I want to say this? And this and this? And is there an English way of saying, you know, are things like metaphors that are existing in Hebrew work? Or like, how do you say, so I have a lot of those questions, because because it’s sometimes like, I know, the sentence doesn’t work. Like I know, it sounds funny, but I don’t know how to fix it. And I also think, but I think it really influenced the way I write because I’m not as versed in English to make it very complicated. Like, right, it’s not as I think that you shouldn’t use jargon. I mean, you, you need to write clearly, like, I believe it kind of like but it also kind of, like, I cannot write really in convoluted way because I’m not kind of like immersed in the language to do that. Like, I don’t know, fancy synonyms to to regular words. So I feel like it did make my writing clearer whether it was intentional or not, but But yeah, and I do you think it is something like grammar and things like that aren’t mechanical to me, like it’s not intuitive in any way for me. So it does make but again, it makes kind of like thinking about the structure of the sentence and kind of like, what really I want to say, like, in a better way, because it’s not like oh, it’s just sounds good. Like no, I need to know like, if it’s true to something, is that correct? Not just because it sounds good, because nothing sounds good. Like, I don’t know, nothing is intuitive.
Kate Carpenter 17:04
To talk more about how she brings everything together, I asked Einav to talk me through a passage from her new book. Here’s Einav reading an excerpt from Dressed for Freedom: The Fashionable Politics of American Feminism.
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 17:20
Luckily for suffragists, developments in clothing styles and manufacturing facilitated their ability to appear fashionable without compromising on comfort or mobility. By 1908, the year in which suffrage parades began, new fashions, which reduced the numbers and weights of undergarments, and marked an end to the famous Edwardian petticoats with their frills and flounces, entered the mainstream. Moving toward simplification, the new styles created a narrower and straighter silhouette than the famous S-shape of the 1900s by reducing skirt circumference and train length. Vogue’s fashion reporter commented on the new silhouette: “the fashionable figure is growing straighter and straighter, less bust, less hips, more waist, and a wonderfully long, slender suppleness about the limbs…How slim, how graceful, how elegant women look!” Although the shirtwaist-and-skirt ensemble would remain popular, its prominence declined in favor of one-piece dresses and tailored suits, which became the latest word in fashion. These styles created a new fashion ideal that, according to fashion historian Elizabeth Ewing, symbolized “the start of modern fashion.”
Kate Carpenter 18:39
I chose this paragraph in part because it demonstrates the range of sources that you’re using in this book from the silhouettes of clothing themselves to magazines, to commentators. And elsewhere in the book, you also talk even about sewing patterns, how do you weave those kinds of materials that are so different together?
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 18:59
As I told you, like, I’m a very visual person. So for me, it was kind of like very natural to look at images as text. And I know that in history, right, we kind of very favoring the text that I think when writing about fashion, right? It’s the images that really helped me in looking to see a pattern. And especially right because oftentimes you don’t write a manifesto when you get dressed in the morning. So for me, it was kind of like the only way to really get at, because you know, I have very, very few kind of like smoking guns of women of like, yeah, I wore this dress, because, you know, I really wanted to protest my oppression. Yeah, people usually don’t do that. I have a few of those, which I was really happy to find like, yes, it’s not just a figure of my imagination, but but I really do think that it’s for what I wanted to do in the book, so the visual evidence was kind of like right in the base of it. And the challenge was how to how to weave it. Because I cannot use, you know, everyone who has went through the publication process know that images is probably the most exhausting thing to do and above and the most expensive thing. So I could, I, there was limited amount of photographs that I could use or images, so you need to kind of like, explain to people what you see, and what is the patterns that you see, but not making it too cumbersome. So that for me was kind of like the challenge and, and it was kind of like those visual connections that I was like thinking about, and not just visual, because fashion is awesome material. And that was kind of like in this paragraph, right? With a suffrage parades. I was like, yeah, that really makes sense. Because if you need to go like walk through a city street that is often dirty, and was much dirtier than, you know, now, for a few miles, like you can’t do it, in an 1890s outfit. And then I saw Oh, yeah, this new silhouette really makes sense for parades, because you can walk a few miles in this.
Kate Carpenter 21:21
What kind of work did it take to sort of find ways to best describe these images so that readers could see them as they read?
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 21:31
So again, I think here language really, really kicked in also in a way that not always I knew kind of like the fashion term to use the correct fashion term to use. So and I did try to kind of like that, you know, people who are not from the fashion world actually will understand what is right, what is the train of a dress. So I tried to make it kind of like, you know, in, in terms that people that are not fashion scholars will understand. And so thinking of kind of like, what do I see here, right. And it is hard, because and this is why I do have images in my book, because I really do think that image helps you to do a lot of analytical work. And in just describing and I think you know, and at least, you know, in my book, and I know not all like it’s not just illustrative like I really do talk about the pictures that are in the book are, you know, there for a reason. And they do kind of like do analytical work. Because because, again, clothing is a language and you can infer a lot of from looking at images and pictures and even the clothing themselves, which is another thing that I did, I remember like going to an archive and looking at bathing suits from the 20s. And then you realize it’s from wool. Oh. And you can’t I mean, like, you cannot see it in illustration, you sometimes can see it in, in, in photographs. But it’s like, when you really touch it and you kind of like, you know, that was like the most you know, advanced thing. And I was like I will never wear it in my life. Like who in their right mind would wear a wool bathing suit? That’s like a disaster waiting to happen. But it’s something that you cannot do until you touch the actual bathing suit and realize like, yeah, I will never wear it. But yeah, so that’s, I think those things that really, it’s really hard also to convey through words.
Kate Carpenter 23:39
In your historical training, do you feel like you were taught how to analyze images and material culture as a historian? Or is that something you sort of had to learn as you went?
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 23:49
Both. I mean, my undergraduate I had, like, I did an Art History degree. So I do have kind of like, some more training in in art history. So I know kind of like to analyze an image and kind of like what the questions are. But it is something that you need to go along the way. Because, again, it’s oftentimes material objects. It’s not just images. And it’s something like even in graduate school. So I took a few museum studies, classes and training. And that’s another thing that really helps in kind of like thinking about how you tell a story through objects, and how kind of like you built a narrative without, you know, without the text, right? What question can you ask about objects that you cannot ask about text? I always say like, you know, I used to feeling like I can never enjoy reading women’s magazine for fun anymore, because now it’s it kind of like it became research. I was like, yeah, what are you doing? I’m reading Vogue for like, from 1910 to, like 1980 and I just read all the Vogues there. it, and then it’s not fun to read. It’s not, it’s not a relaxing thing to do. But kind of like right after you, you really immerse yourself in kind of like the language of magazines. I mean, it’s both kind of like the textual languages, but also kind of like, how the magazine page looks like, right? Where are the advertisements? Where are the illustrations and kind of like how, how to navigate those things. So the magazine become kind of like an object, not just kind of like for the text, you know, and you can really see patterns within the magazines. I was, in the moment when I did my research, it was kind of like a moment that it was before the big digitization of magazines. Now, it’s like everything Vogue, and Harper’s, everything’s online, which is, which is very useful. And when I was doing the, like, the revisions for the book, it’s very helpful that you can just click like, a key word, and everything comes up. But a lot of when I started it, it wasn’t. So it was either in microfilm, or I was lucky. Because I was in New York at the time. So I just went and spent hours and hours in the public library with all those bound volumes. But it really got me a sense of kind of like, what is a magazine, which I think like if you if you go on to, you know, ProQuest database, there are advantages to that. But you don’t get the feel of the magazine, and you don’t understand kind of like, oh, where is this advertising goes right after what section? So that was kind of like a good experience. And then it really became, like, it’s nice. I mean, I’m not, you know, it’s good. There’s like a lot of the dissertation going on, I’m really in favor, but I really do think that you lose something when you don’t have the objectivity of or the, the tangible. Yeah, the physicality, the duties, not the right word, the physicality and the tangibility of, of like touching the source. And I guess it’s true. Also, kind of like for written source, I just worked a lot with digital sources, which also, again, I think, has to do with kind of like, you know, the thing with the English as a native language, like, for me, it was easier to read images.
Kate Carpenter 27:34
I want to ask you a little more about the process of revising the dissertation into the book. So I’m curious how you approached that, and what kinds of changes it took or what you thought it would take versus what it did take?
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 27:48
I mean, in the end, I wrote two, two new chapters for the book. So the original dissertation is kind of like, was compressed to the three chapters, and a lot came down, right. And it was another thing that like, when I did the revision, I mean, first of all, I kind of like, let it go, like, I didn’t look at the dissertation for a while. And I think it’s really is important. And, you know, I’m, I’m not as we talked about, I’m not on the tenure track. So and in a way, it was something that was liberating, because I never had a deadline, I wasn’t kind of like, oh, I have to have contract by this year. So I felt like oh, I can really kind of like, sit with the dissertation and realize, like, what I want to do, and kind of like what I want this book to be, and it really became like, like the book is organized. Like the theme is different, like the both because the, like the scale has is different. But, um, but it’s also kind of like, a different theme, my dissertation was more focused on the new woman image and kind of like that aspect of it. So I like the book is more about, like, feminist movement and ideologies. But I could really think about kind of like, okay, what I want this book to be and what I need to do to this book for it to be what I want it to be, right. So so I think like the, the fact that I could kind of like, okay, let it go for a while. And there were pieces that I knew that were in the dissertation that were like, not connected to anything, right. So it like I worked. I made an article out of it. So I did like other things with a dissertation before I was like, Okay, so now I need to think about it. And I was kind of like, I was already talking with publishers, so I didn’t like it didn’t start from from writing a proposal, and kind of like I found a publisher that was really interested. And she’s like, Yeah, I’m, you know, I’m really interested in this project, but and she’s like, I really do think you need to write like a proposal. It’s not like to convince me in that. But I think it will help you think about the book more. And I. And I was like, at first I really didn’t want to write the proposal because like, oh, that you already agreed to kind of like that you’re wanting to see the manuscript. Why do I need to write a proposal? But I really do think it was a good exercise, and to really understanding and to some degree, I mean, right. I mean, I wasn’t stressed about like, Oh, she will read the proposal. And she didn’t, she won’t want to see the manuscript, because she already told me she wants to see the manuscript. So that factor, I think, helped me. And then it became kind of like, really a writing exercise, which I, which I do recommend people to do, even if they don’t have to do it to get the contract. Because then when I had kind of like, because it really forced me to think about the book as a book, and kind of like how everything can work together. And then it was really a document that I could go back to the editor. And she’s like, look, I think here, you making a really good point, I think here you can, you know, maybe think about this chapter as two chapters were kind of like, maybe you need to think about it differently. So, but it was really an exercise of kind of like, I’m like, I really didn’t want to do it. But once I did it, I was like, this is like, really good. People should do it.
Kate Carpenter 31:33
What were the challenges of working on a book not on the tenure track?
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 31:38
Well, you know, first of all the, the teaching load and the the fact that you already have like another job, which is applying to jobs, and also kind of like, at one point, when I’m like, Hell, I’m just going to publish the book. But right, it’s kind of like when you’re in the beginning is like, do you want to have a book in the job market or kind of like, when to start the process, I feel it’s always like negotiating and navigating between kind of, like, have something concrete or like, show that you’re, but as you further away from from the PhD, right, you need to show that you have a book in publication, but at one point, I was like, Yeah, I’m gonna, I’m just gonna publish, and I don’t care. And that’s nothing like, you know, you don’t have institutional support, right, so I had, I had to do more research, because I added chapters and things that I didn’t do for the dissertation. So you know, luckily, I can, like the archives I needed can like have their own travel grants, but not always, like I had that. So and there, there were some institutional in the place I am that I could apply to. But it’s not that I have like a semester off, right, when you’re on the tenure track, and kind of like research grants. And those things matter. They’re important, and you don’t have it.
Kate Carpenter 33:08
Well, before we go, I want to talk a little bit about inspiration. Are there other writers or historians that you look to or that you’d like to read?
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 33:17
I mean, I really, again, like historians, who, who write who really kind of like use visual objects or material culture as a category of analysis, right. So I mean, Nan Enstad, who had a wonderful book on fashion and labor, and I really liked the way she writes, I think she again, she writes very loosely and very kind of like in a way that you can see what she means. You know, I remember reading Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure, and I was like, this is the book I want to like, you know, the book like this, I want to write. So so that was was also great. I mean, Kathy Peiss was also really good about really thinking and I think, to kind of, like really think about culture in a serious way. And also to think about the limitation of what cultural history can do, right. And kind of like, because you do want like clothes to be, you know, to do like very meaningful work, but, but there are limitations to that. Like they cannot do everything all the time. In terms of kind of like writing style, Tiya Miles. Her latest book was really kind of like a good, like, yeah, I would like to write like this. I don’t think I do, but but it was, it was one of those times that kind of like, Yeah, this is what good writing really looks like. And I always kind of like, again, how she weaved it, her, talking about objects in history and her own personal voice. So I feel that was like from the recent things. I’ve read I was like, oh my god, this is like, really good writing. But again, I think it for me, it’s hard to replicate it to some degree. Because I think for forever, like, no matter how good I’ll become an English, it’s like it will always be a foreign terrain to some degree. So I’m like, I’m always kind of like, oh, yeah, like, but thinking of how to replicate those things like for me, like, harder, I’m more motivating, like, Okay, what do I want to say? And like how can I say it?
Kate Carpenter 35:34
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 35:36
So I think the, the one thing that really kind of like really changed, the way I think about writing is that writing is thinking and that, and it really, you know, it was kind of like, it was, once I really understood that it made me fear less about writing. Because I was like, okay, writing is the thinking process. And that’s kind of like how I read it. So this is why like, it’s okay to do revisions. And that, you know, that the first draft is shit. And really, to think about writing also, is the thinking process really helped me to think about language and kind of like, okay, how this language sounds like. So. So it really is, I think, really shifted the way I was thinking about what writing can do and what is the function of writing. But kind of like a more practical advice that I got is really to think about your writing projects in terms of words, and not in terms of a chapter or a dissertation. Because that really made everything doable. Because I was like, Yeah, I can write 500 words a day. That’s, you know, that’s two paragraphs, I can totally do that. You know, and if you write 500 words a day, after 10 days, you have 5000 words, which is an article. That was like for me of like breaking it into words, and not to kind of like, oh, I need to write a dissertation, or even I need to write an article really helped me and I think that that’s, again, kind of like helped me to fear less about writing. And kind of like, when I also start to do more public writing, I was like, Yeah, I can do like 1000 words, writing about a topic, that’s totally easy. Like that doesn’t need to take me a long time. So that in thinking about kind of like, in terms of the capacity in terms of words, and not in terms of pages, or, or projects that I think really helped me.
Kate Carpenter 37:37
Well, before I let you go, can I ask you what you’re working on now? Sure.
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 37:41
So I’m kind of like I have some few smaller projects that came out of the book, and I feel I need to dive in like last dive before I let it go. But now I’m kind of like, you know, on the more research stage of kind of like a second book project that looks more kind of like the commercialization of feminism in the 70s. And how the marketing of feminism was good or bad for the movement. I haven’t completely decided, but so now I’m kind of like diving in into advertising campaigns and things like that from the 70s is actually, I mean, I don’t know if it’s good or bad that things haven’t changed and changed a lot. But, I mean, for me, it is, I need to go into primary sources before I can figure out what I want to say. I’m trying to kind of like also, again, because I’m not on the tenured clock. So I was like, I just wrote a book and I want to enjoy it.
Kate Carpenter 38:45
Well, thank you so much for coming on the show and talking a bit about your writing process. It was great to have you on.
Einav Rabinovitch-Fox 38:50
Thank you for having me.
Kate Carpenter 38:52
Thank you again to Einav Rabinovitch-Fox for joining me on this episode of Drafting the Past. And thanks to you for listening. You can find show notes including links to all of the books that we mentioned in this episode on draftingthepast.com. If you have been enjoying the show and you would like to help me keep making it, you can now support the podcast on Patreon at patreon.com/draftingthepast. Until next time, remember that friends don’t let friends write boring history.