University of Nevada, Reno professor Susan Chandler and Jill B. Jones, associate professor emeritus, received national recognition for their book, Casino Women: Courage in Unexpected Places, last month. The co-authors from the University's School of Social Work received the 2012 Oral History Association National Book Award at the Oral History Annual Conference in Cleveland, Ohio for their compilation of true stories about women working in casinos.
"The Oral History Annual Conference has always been one of Susan's and my favorites, undoubtedly because we're interested in the dialectic between personal stories and historical context, and that is oral history's concern as well," Jones said. "Thus, we are particularly delighted to have been given an award by the Oral History Association."
The book, 10 years in the making, is based on extended interviews the two had with women working in a wide variety of jobs in Nevada's casinos from the 1950s to the present. Chandler and Jones talked with maids, dealers, cocktail waitresses, cooks, laundry workers, pit bosses and vice presidents. The authors take on some of the working conditions of the casinos, from the past and present, which are not without controversy. Among them, they discuss the issue of the tremendous amount of smoking in the casinos and its possible health effects on those who work in the industry. The book was published by Cornell University Press.
"The Oral History Association committee members were tremendously impressed by this exemplary study based on oral histories," Mary Larson, president of the Oral History Association, told the authors in a letter. "Your work provides a very good understanding of working conditions, the women's struggles (individually and collectively), their experiences, values and views, while creating for the reader a deep understanding of the issues which instill a deep admiration for the women without making them into clichéd heroes or victims."
Books for the award are judged according to their contribution to sociohistorical inquiry, contribution to the practice of oral history, adherence to sound methodology in the conduct of interviews and skillfulness and originality of presentation.
"Jill and I are tremendously pleased to receive the book award," Chandler said. "We have always appreciated the work of oral historians who do so much to preserve voices that would otherwise be lost to history. The award is a great honor to us, and an honor as well to the casino maids, cocktail waitresses, dealers, cooks, janitors and middle managers whose stories lie at the heart of the book."
Chandler also recently received a Social Justice Superhero Award from the Nevada Social Justice Institute for her work in social welfare policy and community organizing.