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 Nicholas DiSabatinoToday marks the hundredth anniversary of legendary literary icon Gwendolyn Brooks. I’m so proud to be working on the new biography of her from award-winning poet, playwright, and novelist, Angela Jackson, who intimately knew Brooks and her family and had unprecedented access to her papers. A Surprised Queenhood in the New Black Sun: The Life & Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks is a welcome introduction to Brooks for both longtime fans and newbies like myself.
By Rashod OllisonWhen I realized I’d never jump in the sky and fly away like the mythical African slaves in that old folktale, which was also around the time I figured Michael Jackson would never come to the projects and take me away in a rocket limo, I begrudgingly accepted my sexuality. I was still a child, a precocious one, about eight or nine years old who lived inside his overactive and always vivid imagination. I didn’t know what “gay” really meant, but I gathered from the casual and mean-spirited homophobia at home and in the working-class neighborhoods we shuffled in and out of that being “that way” or a “faggot” was a sin and shame.
By Rashod OllisonIt didn’t surprise me to see him in the news. Back home in central Arkansas where I grew up in the 1980s and ’90s, Judge Wendell Griffen has long been a respected presence in the local press. But this week as he faces impeachment for a Good Friday protest against the death penalty, in which he lay strapped to a gurney in front of the Governor’s mansion, Griffen’s story has made national headlines. He was featured in a segment on Democracy Now! that aired on Monday, May 8.
By Bill AyersAnd then they arrived. Let the rumpus begin! Spirited greetings and introductions all around, laughter at the improbability of the whole thing, a ﬂurry of separate conversations as wine was poured and glasses lifted. I proposed a toast to Tucker, thanking him for his generous gift to the Public Square and reminding everyone that this was a dinner party, not an interview or a performance (of course, dinner is always a performance, and this one more than most). Then they were seated at the table, ﬁrst course served.
By Angela Maria SpringSometimes it takes a cataclysmic event to unearth who we are. Even though I’ve been a bookseller of color for sixteen years, I didn’t fully realize until last year how great the need was for an inclusive bookstore curated and shaped by a majority of people of color. I started Duende District Bookstore this past January to celebrate the power of a diverse community expressed through the bookstore’s space for books, learning and discussion for all voices. But even this began somewhere. So I want to share how the cracks in my foundation formed nearly years prior, when I read a book by Daisy Hernández.
A Q&A with Marianne LeoneMy mother was a singular, irrepressible individual. Her wake, held in the working class area of Newton where I grew up called “The Lake,” was like a celebrity’s, with people from all walks of life telling stories about her. I wanted to tell her story, too, and the idea for this memoir, like my first book, grew out of an essay I had written called “The Official Story.” My mother was an immigrant who had come to the States to escape fascism under Mussolini and an arranged marriage. With my mother, there was the “official story” of her emigration, and the real story that I didn’t learn until years later, which I told in the book.
By Louis RoePoetry collections are a bit of a fantasy cover project for me. They’re an opportunity to think in a different visual language from Beacon’s usual nonfiction catalogue, inviting a relationship between image and text built on reflection and, hopefully, subtlety. Sasha Pimentel’s poems in her forthcoming collection For Want of Water carry this poise on their own particularly well: they reveal only as much as you’re ready to see, but they also ignite a desire to pursue and peel.
By Helene AtwanAh, April. No, it’s not the cruelest month at all; in fact, it’s the month when we celebrate poetry, and given all the other things that are going on in our country at the moment, it’s a gift to be able to turn to the comforts and joys that poetry offers. For Beacon, though, poetry isn’t just about offering those gifts. We view poetry as an important and effective voice for addressing issues of social justice, for underlining the importance of a community devoted to equity and building a just society. Another way, a very compelling way, of speaking truth to power.
By Laura WinnickTeaching Octavia Butler’s Kindred is one of the most important projects I embark on with my students. I’ve taught it for the past two years, and have seen my students, previously bored by texts, evolve into voracious readers, horrified by the grim depictions of slavery and transfixed by the possibility of time travel. This year, we paired John Jennings and Damian Duffy’s newly published graphic novel with the dense fictional text, and students arrived every day begging to read the graphic novel, utterly obsessed with the artistic rendering. In this unit, our essential questions are extremely difficult. We examine: How do race and gender affect our identities? What are the lingering effects of slavery? How are people impacted by their ancestral histories?
Today is International Women’s Day, a global day to honor and celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political accomplishments of women. Observed since the early 1900s, it marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality. This year’s campaign theme, #BeBoldForChange, implores us to help build a more inclusive, gender-equal world. It also coincides with the “Day Without a Woman” general strike, organized to bring attention to the inequalities women still face, including lower wages, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity. Women in thirty-five countries are participating in the strike.
By Martin MoranA few years ago I had the privilege of serving as a French-speaking interpreter for a group of refugees, many of them survivors of torture, who were seeking asylum in the United States. Most of the immigrants I worked with were from war-torn regions of Africa. They all happened to be Muslim. In recent weeks, with the issuing of a travel ban against seven predominately Muslim countries and news of many immigrants being deported, I have been thinking constantly about the men and women I worked with, especially one young man whom I’ve called Siba in my recent book All the Rage: A Quest.
By Lisa Kotin: I will never understand how lovers can buy one another chocolate for Valentine’s Day. If I eat chocolate, the last thing I want to do is to get romantic. I just want to hole up in the bathroom with my box of sea salt caramels and my nuts and chews. Door locked. Lights off. So not even I can see myself going down on the goods.
A Q&A with Damian Duffy | It was an honor and a privilege for John and me to be the first to adapt Octavia Butler’s work to a visual medium. It was also, in equal measure, nerve wracking, exhausting, terrifying, and humbling. It was easily the most difficult comics work either of us have done up to this point, in no small part because we felt the need to do justice to the story, honor Butler’s legacy, and produce a work that would be enjoyable to both fans of the novel and new readers.
It’s December, which means it’s time for our holiday sale! All this month, get 30% off every purchase on our website using code HOLIDAY30. This year, we’re donating 20% of all sales in December to the Water Protector Legal Collective, which provides legal support for water protection activities in resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Now, more than ever, these are titles will be timely and necessary as we transition to the new administration. Looking for a title, but don’t know where to begin? Get started with this list we put together of our bestsellers and highlights of 2016. Happy book hunting and Happy New Year!
2016 is a year that speaks for itself. It’s been a rough and tumultuous one, culminating in a divisive presidential election that has many people afraid of what’s in store for the country once the new administration takes office on January 20. When we’re in need of wisdom and guidance during troubling and unpredictable times ahead, we turn to our authors, who continue to offer their time and insights to give us perspective and commentary on the condition of our world. Our blog, the Broadside, wouldn’t be what it is without them. As always, we’re so grateful to them. We’ll need their thought-provoking essays as we head into 2017. Before the year comes to a close, we would like to share a collection of some of the Broadside’s most-read posts. Happy New Year!
A Q&A with Rich Blint | Baldwin’s consistent and insistent interrogation of how the mythology of race, class, and power operates in America to blind and divide us is singular in its analytical depth, sweep, and emotional power. His work reads as a kind of prophecy simply because he was clear about how profoundly dangerous it has always been for Americans not to confront the truth about the violent racial history of the country. His work must be read as testimony, as, yes, a secular witnessing to the serious perils of indulging in the American fiction of “whiteness” and its purported superiority.
By Daisy HernándezI don’t know how to talk to my parents these days. Mami didn’t vote for Trump, but when I told her my outrage the day after the election, she said, “The man hasn’t even taken office yet. Let him take office.” I initially took her defense to mean that like my father, she had voted for Cheetoh, since she usually follows Papi’s lead.
The results of the 2016 presidential election have left many people in shock and disappointment. In a time where people are fearing that a new administration will work to reverse much of the progress made in the last eight years, we are left wondering what the future holds. How do we continue to fight against climate change, fight for reproductive rights, LGBTQ protections, and racial and economic justice?
By Kay WhitlockIt’s much harder to admit to playing in one’s own dark gardens of fear.