By Melissa Range and Tracy K. SmithEach of the poems in Scriptorium is a marvel. What may likely strike you on the first read is Range’s remarkable facility with form. She moves nimbly, naturally, with comfort and acrobatic delight through the rigors of sonnets, villanelles, anagrams, cento, and the like. She submits joyfully to the whims of rhyme, allowing music to exert its will upon her train of mind, and she does so with such virtuosic ease that you may not even detect it on a first read. But what you will feel more than any of this, I am certain, is an urgent usefulness. These are poems for which form is not an end in itself.
Throughout this election cycle, we’ve seen the rise of the radical right reminiscent of the pull of ultraconservative organizations from the past; increasing calls to prevent new immigrants from entering our country; increased calls to improve gun control legislation; a resurging wave of religious intolerance against Muslim Americans; and nationwide protests imploring racial justice and economic progress. These issues and others that have made headlines in the news have become focal points in this year’s presidential debates. To help inform the conversation about these topics, we’re recommending a list of titles from our catalogue.
By Stephen KendrickAutumn: New England’s residing glory, what people from all over the world come to see. Maybe we are used to it, or simply through familiarity do not realize our trees produce the greatest profusion of fall color in the world—but there it is. Nowhere else in the world are concentrated such orange-tinged russets, golds, and vivid reds. Our trees do us proud. There is only a short time to see all this; “leaf-peepers” are simply seekers of something rare and ephemeral. Mount Auburn, although a small player within these thousands of miles of burning fall tints, asserts itself every year as one of the special sites in the midst of nature’s color show.
By Dina Gilio-WhitakerI am a person of Native American heritage, and I also happen to love surfing. I began board surfing as a young adult thirty-six years ago, but in reality I grew up riding waves as a kid born and raised in coastal Southern California. I spent lots of time on the beach, bodysurfing and riding various types of bodyboards. At twenty-two I moved to Oahu’s North Shore in Hawaii, which unbeknownst to me at the time was—and still is—the epicenter of global surf culture, and it was there I learned to surf. Being Native American and a surfer sometimes seems like a contradiction in terms, and there is virtually no literature on how surf culture intersects with Indigenous peoples in the continental United States. But I have made it my personal mission as a scholar to begin this conversation, and here I share with you some of my ever-evolving thoughts on it.
By Roxanne Dunbar-OrtizThe first international relationship between the Sioux Nation and the US government was established in 1805 with a treaty of peace and friendship two years after the United States acquired the Louisiana Territory, which included the Sioux Nation among many other Indigenous nations. Other such treaties followed in 1815 and 1825. These peace treaties had no immediate effect on Sioux political autonomy or territory. By 1834, competition in the fur trade, with the market dominated by the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, led the Oglala Sioux to move away from the Upper Missouri to the Upper Platte near Fort Laramie. By 1846, seven thousand Sioux had moved south. Thomas Fitzpatrick, the Indian agent in 1846, recommended that the United States purchase land to establish a fort, which became Fort Laramie. “My opinion,” Fitzpatrick wrote, “is that a post at, or in the vicinity of Laramie is much wanted, it would be nearly in the center of the buffalo range, where all the formidable Indian tribes are fast approaching, and near where there will eventually be a struggle for the ascendancy [in the fur trade].”
By Alondra NelsonAs a wide-eyed girl watching Roots, and wondering about mine, I never could have dreamed a future where one day I’d have the surreal experience of having my genealogical results revealed to me before a crowd of African diaspora VIPs and civil rights leaders, and with a prominent actor, Isaiah Washington, as master of ceremonies. Although this experience elicited mixed emotions in me, I can personally attest that new branches on ancestral trees are the undeniable graft of genetic genealogy.
By Michael BronskiIt is impossible to overestimate the effect of World War II on American culture, and in particular on lesbians and gay men. The United States entered World War II, which had been ongoing since September 1939, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941. This decisive turning point in U.S. history reordered American social life and mores, public and private space, and virtually all social interactions having to do with gender and sexual behavior.
A Q&A with Dennis A. HeniganCertainly the horror of the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which twenty first graders and six adults were struck down, has been a key turning point in the national gun debate. The loss of those innocent young children shocked the conscience of the nation. Prior to Sandy Hook, the conventional wisdom in the Democratic Party was that advocacy of gun control was simply not worth the political risk, although this thinking was based on an exaggeration of the NRA’s actual influence over election results.
By Melinda ChateauvertThree decades before “Nothing about us, without us” became the axiom for policymaking by the sex workers’ rights movement, the national prostitutes’ rights organization COYOTE conducted a “Prostitute Study” which demonstrated that community-based participatory research had the power to revolutionize scientific paradigms. At the start of the AIDS epidemic, almost no one used community-based research to study critical health issues. But San Francisco sex workers, working as peer researchers interviewing and testing marginalized women like themselves, mapped the epidemiology of HIV in 1985. This forgotten study by sex workers on HIV/AIDS was an essential element of their political activism, using evidence-based research for making public policy, designing future medical research and changing public attitudes about the sex industry.
By Michael BronskiThe HIV/AIDS epidemic and the success of the battle for marriage equality have been, over the past thirty-five years, the two events that have most affected LGBT lives. These two phenomena—first the spread of a deadly virus that has killed thirty-four million people worldwide and close to 660,000 in the United States, and second a prolonged, well-funded, culturally bitter fight to grant a basic right of legal contact to same-sex couples—are rarely linked in the political or public imagination. Yet, numerous cultural and social interconnections, resonances, and ramifications link these events.
By Karl GibersonThe flamboyant creationist and enthusiastic biblical literalist Ken Ham has just opened his controversial and long-awaited “Ark Encounter” theme park in Williamstown, Kentucky. At a cost of almost 100 million dollars, the park promises visitors—who pay $60 for admission—an encounter with “one of the greatest reminders we have of salvation.” In Ham’s view, Christians must accept all the stories in the Bible, no matter how fanciful, as literal history. Compromising on one Bible story compromises everything else.
By Dina Gilio-WhitakerWhen a thirteen-year-old member of the Mississippi Choctaw Band of Indians entered into a job-training program with Dollar General, no one could have foreseen how it would turn out. Referred to as John Doe to protect his identity, the boy alleged that he’d been sexually molested and harassed by Dollar General manager Dale Townsend. Ordinarily, a case like this involving a crime on an Indian reservation would fall under federal jurisdiction, but the US Attorney’s office in Jackson failed to file a lawsuit, and the boy’s parents sued Townsend and Dollar General for damages in tribal court.
By Atef Abu SaifToday is Eid. After a month of fasting, Eid is like a long sigh of relief. The kids get up early, woken by the hymns and chanting from the minarets of all the surrounding mosques, whilst the sun is still struggling to get out of bed in the east. Normally at Eid, the kids play in the streets, excited by the pocket money they’ve just received from their parents. This is always the single largest amount of money they’ll receive all year. They rush out and buy toys, go to the fairground, fly between the heaven and earth. Eid is what every child waits for all the year. It was always a favorite moment for me when I was growing up. It’s exactly the same for my kids.
By Amanda BeinerWhen associate publisher Tom Hallock first suggested that Beacon publish a myth-busting book about gun control, we knew we had to move quickly. The urgency of this issue put the new book on a sped-up schedule. While discussing the idea with other staff members, it seemed everyone could rattle off countless gun “myths” that pop up time and again in conversations about the epidemic of gun violence in the US. I set about researching books covering gun policy and came across Dennis Henigan’s Lethal Logic.
By Caroline LightThis week we shoulder the weight of our grief and outrage after yet another mass shooting by a heavily-armed gunman, this one directed at patrons of an LGBTQ night club in Orlando on Latin night. Forty-nine innocent people are dead and more than fifty wounded. Once again we struggle to make sense of the senseless, asking how we keep following the same nightmarish script. But just as the loss feels most raw, and some of us may be tempted by reductionist appeals to xenophobia, it is urgent for us to take stock of the cumulative effects of our nation’s violent past.
By Rashod OllisonFresh-cut watermelon smelling like rain and ribs sizzling on a grill bring the music back. The songs complement the food and the weather and Technicolor the memories of when we were all just kids with nothing in our pockets but waxy penny candy. We thought we knew everything. We knew nothing. All that mattered was that my cousins and I in Arkansas—with our Jheri curls and short sets, scarred knees and Tabasco tongues—were all together and that Cousin Rodney’s boom box had fresh batteries.
By Dennis A. HeniganI am sitting here, in my only orange shirt, in observation of National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and my thoughts turn to the New York Times’ remarkable recent study of 358 shootings last year in which four or more people were killed or wounded. As the Times noted, these were not the high-profile mass shootings in unlikely places like schools, churches and movie theatres that capture national attention, but rather “a pencil sketch of everyday America at its most violent.” The Times’ reporters penetrated beyond the body count to describe the circumstances of these shootings, in which 462 died and over 1300 were injured. The scenarios were varied, but the terrifying descriptions point to a conclusion common to all: if no guns were available, violence may have ensued, but countless lives would have been saved and serious injuries avoided.
By Dina Gilio-WhitakerThe war that is Native American cultural appropriation rages on. And make no mistake, this is a war for the control of meaning on what constitutes cultural appropriation, and thus what is considered acceptable in the U.S. American mind when it comes to American Indian culture and even intellectual property rights. In the world of media those with the biggest platforms have a decided advantage when it comes to influencing public opinion. It’s something Dan Snyder, owner of the notorious Washington Redsk*ns, knows full well.
By Haley StaffordThis year, my class took part in National History Day, a program for middle-school students to put together a project on a historical topic of interest. I didn’t have a clue as to what I wanted to research. All I knew was that the theme was “Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange in History.” My teacher noticed my struggle and recommended I read Thousand Pieces of Gold by Ruthanne Lum McCunn. This biographical novel instantly had me hooked on Polly Bemis, born Lalu Nathoy, a Chinese-American Pioneer woman who encountered great hardships, explored new ideas and roles on the American frontier, and exchanged her hardships for generosity.
By Sharon Leslie MorganOn January 23, 1977, more than 100 million people across America tuned their television sets to ABC to watch one of the first and still few programs to truthfully tell the story of American slavery. The historic miniseries, based on the novel by Alex Haley, recounted the genealogical saga of one of the first black people in America to successfully trace his ancestry backwards from the tobacco fields of Virginia, through the Middle Passage, to the West African Gambia village of Juffure. Revolutionary in its content, it was a story that embodied extreme examples of both horror and hope, along with the emotionally wrenching roller coaster of events that tied those reactions together.