By Louis Roe | Now that we’re in summer’s final stretch, Beacon’s design department is busy putting together jackets for our Fall 2018 titles. Our cover designs are typically finalized about a year in advance of the on sale date for in-house and marketing purposes, so there’s finally enough emotional distance from the design process to reflect on these! Here’s a peek at a few of my favorites from this list.
I always thought I was going to be a Professor and had just finished my Masters in Cultural Anthropology from The New School for Social Research. My thesis was on the role of the Indian government in perpetuating the AIDS pandemic, and as passionate as I was about it, I wasn’t sure I wanted to make the PhD commitment. Around this time, I happened to spend time in India with my uncle, Sonny Mehta, a longtime publisher who tossed out, “Why not try an internship in publishing and see what happens?” I did, and it changed my life.
If you’re not diving into the ocean at the beach this season, crack open those books and dive into summer reading! Sometimes you just need a break from the awfulness that has inundated the news and our social feeds. So. Fiction? Nonfiction? What’s your pleasure? We asked our staff members what they’re reading and what they’d recommend. You’ll thank us later.
By Helene Atwan | Like most Americans who care about poetry and literature, I was saddened to learn that Donald Hall died this weekend. We were privileged to publish two of his books of prose: Life Work and Principle Products of Portugal. When I first took over as director of the press in 1995, a poster for Life Work was proudly displayed in our offices, and it made me even happier to be a part of the press. Later, I was fortunate to meet Don and to chat with him about projects, on and off, though never quite lucky enough to publish any new work. His work is a gift to us all. I think often about one line of his, often quoted by a mutual friend, that resonates especially now: Work, love, build a house, and die. But build a house. The house that Donald Hall built is a mansion with room to embrace all readers. He will be missed.
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.
We’re excited to be marching in Boston Pride this year! Will we see you there tomorrow? You’ll see us in bright blue shirts emblazoned with “Publishing with Pride,” handing out buttons and postcards with links to PDF samples of select LGBT titles from our catalog. And it looks like the weather will be cooperative this year, too. A sunny Pride is the best Pride. Those of us you will see in the parade, staff members and authors, would like to share with you the reasons why we’re marching. Happy Pride!
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 Tom Hallock | We, as publishers, have important work to do in protecting an open, democratic society that is now under increasing threat. The threat has been growing after decades of disturbing illiberal trends: the growth of corporate power, a widespread anti-intellectualism, the rise of social media echo chambers, pervasive racism, and partisan attacks on the nature and purpose of government. Now we are about to inaugurate a president whose election is a product of these trends, a man whose public statements have been true only fifteen percent of the time according to Politifacts and who regularly disparages science, expert advice, the media, and his critics. As Robert Reich points out, these are the tactics of demagogues. In the face of these threats, publishers have urgent work to do.
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 Maya FernandezI have always believed I’m Black. Both of my parents are Black, the majority of my immediate family identifies as Black, so essentially, I am Black. While race was a continuous topic of discussion in my household, colorism—discrimination or prejudice based on skin color—was left unattended. Similar to racism, colorism establishes a hierarchy in which lighter skin is treated with higher regard than darker skin. My father, a cultural proficiency consultant, made sure my sisters and I understood how society would see us as black women, but somehow forgot to give us the tools to navigate a world also plagued by colorism. It wasn’t until I stepped outside the comfort of my front door that I was fully able to grasp the concept of colorism.
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.
By Tom Hallock | Now we get to feel what it’s like to live in extreme weather. The 16’’ of snow we just received, on top of the 80” we already had—most of which arrived in the past three weeks—has changed the way we live and work. We are experiencing the world we’ve created by our collective failure to address climate change and invest in public transportation. Our offices have been closed 5 of the past 15 workdays.
Beacon’s Senior Editor Alexis Rizzuto and Associate Publisher Tom Hallock talk about their experiences at the People’s Climate March and why climate change is fast becoming one of the most important issues of our time.
By Tom Hallock | I first became manager of Coolidge Corner’s Paperback Booksmith (now the Brookline Booksmith) back in 1978, just four years after Judge W. Arthur Garrity’s historic decision to integrate the Boston School District through the “forced busing” of students, as it later became known. It was a time when the fallout over that decision was still shaking the communities of Boston, and a time I revisited when Beacon first published Michael Patrick MacDonald’s All Souls, a powerful account of what it was like to be a young man growing up in Southie during the time when busing came to that neighborhood.
"Are we witnessing the death of Black prophetic fire in our time?" asks Cornel West in the introduction to 'Black Prophetic Fire,' one of three new book projects Beacon Press is planning with him.
Every year in September, people across the country celebrate Banned Books Week to raise awareness about the problem of censorship. In 2012 alone, there were 464 challenges to books reported to the American Library Association's Office of for Intellectual Freedom. Common complaints include content being unsuitable for an age group, the use of offensive language, sexually explicit material, violence, homosexuality, and religious viewpoints. At Beacon, we support the freedom to read, so we asked staff to recommend some of their favorite banned and challenged books. Read on to find out how they were influenced by these books. Happy Banned Books Week!
By Tom Hallock | Today is Jessie Bennett’s last day at Beacon Press, and I want to take the opportunity to thank her in the space she created. Jessie came to Beacon six years ago, answering the call for someone to fill “a temporary, grant-funded position” to create a blog for the press. In my new hire letter I wrote, “There is a possibility that the position will be funded for a second year.” Thanks to her work, it was funded for a second and then a third, by which time we had come to feel that both the blog and its editor were essential to the work of the press.