Ainissa Ramirez: The Alchemy of Us

Alchemy of Us

Alchemy of Us

THE ALCHEMY OF US:
HOW HUMANS AND MATTER
TRANSFORMED ONE ANOTHER

Ainissa Ramirez
The MIT Press, April 7, 2020, $27.95
ISBN-10: 0262043807; ISBN-13: 978-0262043809

Ramirez reports:

I’ve been hunting for years for a way to make my specialty, the little-known field of materials science, compelling to general readers. A glassblowing class at the end of a bad workday gave me the answer. After fashioning a hot glass piece, I left my glass class in a much better mood. I was molded by the glass as I was working with it.

This event nudged me to look at how materials and humans interact with each other, and catalyzed The Alchemy of Us. By telling the stories of how inventions came to be—from quartz clocks to silicon computer chips—this book looks at our lives today and unpacks how these technologies shaped us.

Ainissa Ramirez

Ainissa Ramirez

Once I had a book proposal in hand, I sent it to my literary agent, but she could not drum up any interest. I decided to pursue a publisher on my own. A year passed before I had the good fortune to connect with the MIT Press.

When the writing began in earnest, I had to visit numerous archives in the US and in the UK. I learned that some libraries have travel fellowships. Also, when planning my book, I wanted to include about one hundred images. I discovered, much to my dismay, that some pictures cost hundreds of dollars to use. Luckily, I secured a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to offset the cost of these images.

My book took much more time to write than I had anticipated. I was off by a few years. During the research process, I came to understand that finding hidden gems in stacks of books and inches of archival materials requires patience. Writing also takes courage. Sometimes I explored topics that were not part of my original plan, but I used the guiding principle that everything should serve to make the book better. I hope my book enables general readers to gain a deeper connection to the world and to the technologies in it.

Contact info:

MIT Press will hold a virtual book launch for The Alchemy of Us. Ramirez will speak from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. EDT, April 14. Request a free ticket.

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Hero image by Oklahoma Academy Publishing on Unsplash.

Apr. 8, 2020

Advance Copy

For this column, NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here.

Publication of NASW members' reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions.