Thursday, February 2, 2012

Author Spotlight, Wayne H. Bowen

By: Sarah Mason, Sales Intern
Wayne H. Bowen, author of Spain and theAmerican Civil War, is our latest author spotlight! He took some time to answer a few questions about his book, interests, and research.
What first got you interested in studying Spain? What about teaching?

Growing up near Spain's colonial mission of La Purisima, near my hometown of Lompoc, California, I was intrigued by artifacts--helmets worn by Spanish soldiers, for example--and learned bits and pieces of Spanish history.  When I started graduate school at Northwestern, I initially planned to study German history, but quickly decided that Spain had better food, an easier language, and fewer historians as my potential competitors.  I've never regretted making the switch, especially when I am in in Madrid.

As far as teaching, I blame it on Dr. Michael Robinson, a professor of Korean history I had as an undergraduate at the University of Southern California.  During my sophomore year, I was visiting him in his office, and he remarked: "You are pretty good at this history thing.  Have you thought about becoming a professor?  It's a great life--around young people all the time, summers off, and trips overseas if you don't study the United States."  He convinced me immediately, and from then until now being a college professor was my dream.

Which of your books/essays did you enjoy researching for the most?

My first book, Spaniards and Nazi Germany: Collaboration in the NewOrder, which began as my dissertation, was my first academic passion.  Thanks to financial support from the ITT Corporation, as well as from Northwestern University, I was able to spend nine months in Madrid doing nothing but combing through archives, conducting oral history interviews, and reviewing newly declassified Spanish documents from the Franco Era.  It would be hard to re-create the luxury of that time, focus, and single-mindedness now. However, I have enjoyed all of my subsequent projects, and consider myself very blessed to be in a profession where I am paid to speak, read, write and research in fields--modern Spanish and Mediterranean history--that are an endless source of rediscovered stories.

What is your favorite city in Spain and why?

Madrid, without question.  Not only is it the political, cultural and economic capital, it is the location for nearly all the important archives and libraries, at least those with a national focus.  Having conducted research there for a combined total of almost two years, starting as far back as 1993, I can arrive there on one day, and be already immersed in the archives on the next.  In fairness, however, I have yet to make it to Barcelona.  Three untimely rail strikes prevented me from making the trip when I had the time and money, as did poverty during my first few visits to Spain.

What was your favorite book in high school?

I read a lot of science fiction, especially Robert Heinlein, but also the novels of Ayn Rand, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Tom Clancy.  On my shelf was William Shirer's mammoth Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, but if I had a time machine I would go back and warn my teenage self to be pretty dubious of that particular volume's historical perspective.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of your profession?

I am in my twenty-first year of service in the Army Reserve, where I am a lieutenant colonel and battalion commander.  It's been a wonderful balance to my university career, reminding me of the cost of the liberty we all enjoy.  A tour in Iraq, while difficult in many ways, also broadened my professional interests, resulting in two books on the region and a secondary teaching field. When I am not in uniform, I enjoy spending time with wife (Kendra) and two boys (Sam, 6, and Nathan, 2), building blanket forts, playing in the park, or pretending to be dinosaurs, monsters and wild animals.

If you could read a book for the first time again, which one would it be?

The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  OK, it's actually three books, but one amazing story arc. Tolkien's vision is timeless, and yet rooted firmly in his own time.  Many fantasy writers create the framework of another world, but his was more complete, more spectacular, more dramatic, and yet more authentic, than any others.

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