Anita Miller, who with her husband Jordan Miller founded Academy Chicago Press in 1976, died on Saturday. She was 92.
Miller was the matriarch of a literary family that is well-known both regionally and nationally. Aside from her husband, she leaves behind her sons Mark Crispin Miller, a political activist and the author of several books about politics from a left-wing perspective; Bruce Joshua Miller, a commission publisher’s rep, the principal of Miller Trade Marketing, and PW’s 2013 rep of the year; and Eric Lincoln Miller, previously the publisher of a regional press in Chicago, Wicker Park Books.
The Millers founded Academy Chicago after Anita, who at the time was working on a PhD in English literature at Northwestern University, published A Guide to Non-Sexist Children’s Books. The critical response to that reference book--including a positive review in the Chicago Tribune--motivated the couple to launch Academy Press, later rebranded Academy Chicago, in the early ‘80s.
Academy Chicago published somewhat erudite, even quirky, fiction and nonfiction titles in a number of genres. It was known for. among other things, its British mysteries, classics in Victorian literature, and works in translation.
In 1987, Academy Chicago was the talk of the industry after it was hit with a lawsuit by John Cheever’s widow, Mary, in the wake of publishing a number of uncollected short stories by the late author. Academy Chicago had expected to release 68 previously unpublished short stories by Cheever but, thanks to a poorly written contract, the small press wound up mired in more than six years of litigation with the Cheever family. Ultimately, the press lost the case.
Rowman & Littlefield then published, in 1998, Miller’s post-mortem on the matter, Uncollecting Cheever: The Family of John Cheever vs. Academy Chicago Publishers.
In 2014, citing the challenges of running an indie press, the Millers sold Academy Chicago to Chicago Review Press Inc, the parent company of Chicago Review Press and IPG. Through the deal, Academy Chicago became CRP’s fifth imprint and began publishing fiction for the first time.
Miller's husband, Jordan, told PW that his wife was "that rare combination of acquirer and editor," who gave Academy Chicago "its character, both in discovering impressive new talent and in reclaiming many out-of-print gems from the past.”
A memorial service for Miller will be held on August 31, 4:30 pm-7:00 pm, at the Self Help Home, 908 West Argyle, in Chicago.
Due to an editing error, Jordan Miller's relationship to Anita Miller was misrepresented in an earlier version of this story and has been corrected. Also, Anita Miller was not the author of A Guide to Non-Sexist Children's Books, she was the publisher.