By Gerald Patriarca
Northwest Asian Weekly
For nearly 90 years, the University of Washington Press has been in the business of publishing books. For over half that time, Naomi Pascal has been at the forefront of the operations.
Starting as an editor in 1953, she worked her way up to editor-in-chief in 2002 as well as associate director.
Pascal has seen a lot in her nearly 50 years at the Press. “It’s amazing how time goes,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of changes at the UW Press.”
One person who has been with Pascal for the majority of her time there is Pat Soden. He’s been the director for the past 12 years but has been with the Press for 38.
“Her ability to identify a good manuscript and to work with an author to make that manuscript the best that it can be — I’ve known nobody who can do it better than she,” Soden said.
Indeed, Pascal has set her mark. During her time there, she has made several accomplishments, such as becoming the first recipient of the Association of American Presses Constituency Award in 1991 for “her outstanding contributions to scholarly publishing,” as well as the Nancy Blankenship Pryor Award of the Washington Commission for the Humanities and the Washington State Library for her “contribution to the literary heritage of Washington” in 1995.
But, getting to that point meant bending some rules.
Her husband, Paul Pascal, was the first to work at the University of Washington in 1953. That barred her from working at the university due to anti-nepotism laws.
She started out on a freelance basis for five years. The Press eventually made an exception and hired her. A case was made stating that Pascal was an important part of the organization.
“At the time I came, the Press was housed in one small office,” she said. It then made a series of moves, one to the Skinner Building and most recently, the former Safeco Building this past autumn.
According to Pascal, she was associated with the Press “almost from the beginning, with the development of the Press’ pioneering program of publishing books by and about Asian Americans.” In 1973, the Press had issued or reissued “a long list of books on subjects of special interest to Asian Americans. With the help of an informal group of advisors, we became the first university press to make a serious commitment to this field, and our list, a combination of scholarly studies; original works of fiction, biography and drama; and inexpensive paperback reprints of out-of-print classics … have kept us in the forefront in this area.”
Pascal has since retired, but has chosen to remain active in the Press. She took the status of editor-at-large for four years in 2002. She continues to give advice and insight to the Press today.
Newly appointed Acquisitions Editor Beth Fuget, who will follow Pascal as the editor-in-charge of the Asian American list, agrees. She said she consults with Pascal regarding proposals and gets her opinion on people who she thinks would be ideal readers of certain books.
“We all feel a great sense of pride in what she’s done,” Fuget said. “Naomi has done a tremendous job of building one of the preeminent lists in the field of Asian American studies.”
“Beth has big shoes to fill,” Soden said, “but with Naomi’s encouragement and support, I am sure that she will be able to keep the University of Washington Press number one in this important field.” ♦
For more information on the University of Washington Press, visit www.washington.edu/uwpress.
Gerald Patriarca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.