A Q&A with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: The Lannan Lifetime Achievement Prize for Cultural Freedom is a prestigious award that I never imagined being bestowed upon me. Only eight other individuals have received it since it was initiated in 1999 to honor the great Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano. Subsequently, Arundnati Roy and Cornel West were among the awardees. I personally know and know of dozens of cultural freedom warriors whom I feel are more deserving than I am, so I am humbled as well as overjoyed.
12 posts from January 2018
By Ben Mattlin: Back in 2012, I had the good fortune of publishing a book. That book. You know, the one able-bodied people are always telling crips to do because they’re sure it would be “so inspirational!”—in short, a memoir about growing up with a severe disability and somehow prospering. Indeed, being unable to walk or even scratch my nose hadn’t prevented me from going to Harvard. I was one of the first quadriplegics to matriculate, if not the first (bragging rights not yet fully established). It hadn’t prevented me from marrying (and staying married for twenty-six years now, and counting), having two delightful children, and forging a career as a freelance journalist. But of course, you already know all that, if you’ve read my first book.
By Philip Warburg: Donald Trump’s much-touted tariff on imported solar panels and cells couldn’t be a worse fit for America’s energy needs. Instead of accelerating our use of solar power, it will discourage the development of this clean energy resource and rein in the growth of solar jobs. For a president who—in his rhetoric at least—is hell-bent on creating US jobs and putting America First, does this move make any sense?
I’m sure my answer is true of 99.9% of us in this business: I am a life-long reader and lover of books! I can’t remember not reading. Every trip to the library or bookstore was magic and memorable for me. I looked forward to English class in school like none of my other subjects. I was an English and sociology major, and then did my graduate degree in library science. I knew I would be involved with books somehow. I worked in educational publishing for the first fifteen years of my career. I was always most drawn to the projects that felt they were directly serving the greater good, so when the position opened up at Beacon, I was thrilled at the opportunity to spend my days working with two of my greatest passions: books and social justice.
A Q&A with Mary Frances Berry: Black women going public about rape is not new. Harriet Jacobs, in her 1861 autobiography, denounced her rape by her master. Ida B. Wells, in 1892, denounced the rape of Black women and girls by white men in her newspaper along with the lynching of Black men for false accusations of raping white females. Other Black women, including Anna Julia Cooper and Fannie Barrier Williams, also sounded the alarm. The files of the Justice Department and the NAACP contain complaints of the rape of Black women throughout the Jim Crow Era. Recy Taylor, like Harriet Jacobs, went public and spoke out about her own rape by six white men.
A Q&A with Michelle Oberman: Americans have spent the past forty-five years fighting over whether abortion should be legal. I spent the past ten years trying to figure out how it matters. I had a couple of reasons for wanting to know why. First, because I’m a law professor and I study women’s health issues, the abortion war has been raging throughout my career. We fight over abortion’s legality like it matters, with both sides investing millions of dollars in lawyers and lawsuits every year. Many Americans now cast votes to elect our public officials based on their abortion stance. But what difference would it make if abortion was illegal? I wanted to know what was really at stake.
By Kay Whitlock: I called my father and asked him to meet in me in a hometown park in southern Colorado. He still lived in the small stucco house I’d grown up in, a space that I felt still defined me as a child. My mother was deceased. My only purpose in meeting with my father that day was to hear myself breaking the silence in which our own family fiction evolved. The fiction that we were in all respects, apart from a minor blip or two, a happy family. In reality, we were a complicated and unpredictable mix of good intentions and terrible hurts, at once inflicted, received, and kept hidden from the outside world, sometimes even from ourselves.
By Kay Whitlock: Throughout my life, my most painful and wrenching experiences have become unexpected portals into new ways of seeing more deeply into the nature of old dilemmas—or at least, my old dilemmas. My initial feeling is almost always, “Oh, shit, no.” Followed by: “I won’t! I can’t! Fuck this! You can’t ask this of me! No!” And yet. And yet. One such portal appeared when, as a result of breaking my personal silence on child sexual abuse and trying to imagine what justice could possibly mean for me (and also, yes, for “the perpetrator”), I ran smack into the punishing prison archetype constellated in my own psyche. Unsettled, I began to question, then openly reject, public rituals of shaming, revenge, and retribution.
By William Ayers, Crystal Laura, and Rick Ayers: The journalist Fareed Zakaria notes, “Half of America’s teachers graduated in the bottom third of their college class,” in sharp contrast to countries that have more successful schools, such as Finland, South Korea, and Singapore, places that consistently draw 100 percent of their teachers from the top third of graduates.1 Finnish students are dependably at or near the top in international examinations, which makes sense since their teacher corps is drawn from the best and the brightest.
“It is our common tragedy that we have lost [Martin Luther King, Jr.’s] prophetic voice but it would compound the tragedy if the lessons he did articulate are now ignored.” So wrote Coretta Scott King in the forward of Dr. King’s final book Where Do We Go from Here, his analysis of American race relations and the state of the movement after a decade of civil rights efforts. Each year, we honor his life and his legacy on his birthday. 2018 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death—a time for us to take account of our troubled times and truly pay attention to the message of his lessons.
What has gone wrong in the field of mental health care? In recent decades there has been a decline in the quality and availability of psychotherapy in America that has gone unnoticed—even though rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide are on the rise. Many people struggle to find an available and affordable practitioner in their area, and if they do, they’re limited to restrictive short-term treatment options, sporadic appointment schedules, and prescriptions for medications they don’t want or need. On top of that, psychotropic drugs, if no longer thought of as a magical cure, are still over-prescribed. How do we bring back the days of patients sitting comfortably across from their therapists, talking through their thoughts, struggles, and desires?
By Brian Clements, Alexandra Teague, and Dean Rader: All three of us are poets and professors. We all also write prose. Our jobs rely on and live in words. And yet, there are no real words to describe our complicated emotions about this anthology. On the one hand, we are grateful that it exists. On the other, we are mortified that it exists. We are pleased these amazing poems and responses are out there in the world; we are horrified there are increased reasons for them to be in this book.