By Ayla Zuraw-Friendland: I didn’t mean to start my spring cleaning at 10:30pm on a Tuesday. I had just gotten home from having a drink with a friend and it was warm enough in my attic room to open a window. I was optimistic in the way that only a cheap cider and a text confirming that your order of pad thai will arrive in thirty minutes or less can make a person. Tonight, I announced to my roommate’s cat, would be the night I finally switched my summer and winter clothes. I dragged the boxes from the attic, and began what would be a three-hour process. It was a lot more than I bargained for.
By Gayatri Patnaik: I had the very good fortune to meet Dr. Mary Frances Berry (MFB) when I was twenty-one years old and working at the University of Pennsylvania. Having recently graduated from college with one major and an excessive number of minors (three!), I was undecided about what to pursue in graduate school. I ended up in Philly, working in Penn’s history department, where, in addition to supporting the professors administratively, I was allowed to sit in on classes and lectures.
By Christian Coleman: There was one story Octavia E. Butler wouldn’t write. Reveling in science fiction/fantasy for an openness she saw lacking in other genres, Butler gave us gene-trading extraterrestrials, psionically powered mutants, a genetically engineered vampire, a reluctant time traveler forced to visit the brutal past of American slavery. But during her three-decades-long career as a novelist and short story writer, she never gave us a ghost story. She didn’t believe in ghosts. Raised as a born-again Baptist, Butler stopped believing in the afterlife and a celestial caretaker by age twelve. “Somehow you’re supposed to believe and have faith but not worry about having any evidence to support that belief and faith,” she said in a 1988 interview. “That just doesn’t work for me, and I never went back.” Coincidentally, at age twelve she began trying her hand at science fiction.
By Perpetua CharlesThis year marks the fortieth anniversary of the court decision in Loving v. Virginia that struck down anti-miscegenation laws across the United States. Thanks to this ruling, people across races could legally declare their love for each other through marriage. Sheryll Cashin’s new book, Loving: Interracial Relationships and the Threat to White Supremacy, offers a history of interracial relationships in the United States and looks at how present interracial relationships will shape the future of the country. As I read Loving, I was struck by a short section near the end of the book. Cashin writes that one doesn’t have to marry, date, or adopt a person of another race to experience transformational love or to acquire what she calls cultural dexterity—an enhanced capacity for intimate connections with people outside one’s own tribe. An intimate friendship works just as well. Cashin doesn’t use the word friend lightly, and neither do I.
By Gayatri PatnaikOne of my sharpest memories as a girl was when an immigration officer came to our house in rural Finzel, Maryland when I was about nine years old. He showed up at our house unannounced and I still remember the stunned look on my mother’s face when she answered the door. I didn’t realize until much later how high the stakes were or how very close we had come to being deported. While I can’t share specifics, I can say that one of the things the officer asked for was the phone number of people my mother knew who could attest to her character. And I remember sitting there in our kitchen hearing the one-sided conversation as he called friends or acquaintances or colleagues of my mother’s, one after another. When he left, I walked with him to the door and he shook my mother’s hand and told her she was a remarkable woman and that if she didn’t hear from him in the next six months, she wouldn’t have to worry about her citizenship status further.
By Ayla Zuraw-FriedlandWhen publicity assistant Perpetua Charles and senior editor Joanna Green first began planning a staff trip to see the film Loving in celebration of Beacon’s forthcoming book on the same topic five months ago, they couldn’t have known for sure what our political environment would be as they and fellow members of the Beacon Press staff walked through a rainy November night to the theater. Exactly a week after the country watched the electoral votes tally in favor of a divisive Republican presidential candidate, we came together to view a retelling of how Mildred and Richard Loving, a young interracial couple from Virginia, helped end the ban on interracial marriage in the United States.
By Christian Coleman: Renowned author and MacArthur fellow Octavia E. Butler would have been sixty-nine this year, and maybe two or three books deep into writing a new series. Ten years have passed since her death, and in that time, the Huntington Library became the resting place for her archives. Her archives contain, among many things, drafts of an abandoned third entry in her Parables epic and the sketch of a sequel to Fledgling, the story of a genetically engineered vampire. Poring over the notes for novels that could have been and rereading her bio, in which she wrote that she remembers being “a ten-year-old writer who expects someday to be an eighty-year-old writer,” I feel the ten years she has been gone.