I’ll never forget meeting Sid Mintz, who passed away last month. I was a young(ish) book editor at Beacon Press, hoping to develop our anthropology list. Why not start at the top? Years earlier, Sid had transformed the fields of both history and anthropology with the publication of Sweetness and Power, which was no less than a retelling of the rise of capitalism through the story of sugar. Sid invited me to lunch at the Baltimore Museum of Art. I was nervous.
Click here to sign the petition demanding better working conditions for the Boston Globe delivery workers.
If you live anywhere near the Boston area, you’ve probably heard or read something about the Boston Globe’s recent delivery debacle. Since the newspaper contracted with a new delivery company starting December 28, the entire delivery system collapsed, and subscribers have been puzzled and furious that their daily newspaper has vanished with little explanation and little hope for restoration any time soon.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber speaking at a Moral Monday rally. Photo credit: Flickr user twbuckner
The Third Reconstruction, written by the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, is out today. In his memoir, Reverend Barber tells the stirring story of how he helped start a state-by-state movement—uniting black, white, and brown; rich and poor; employed and unemployed; gay and straight; documented and undocumented; religious and secular—to bridge America’s racial divide. Only through such a diverse fusion movement, he argues, can we make progress toward ending racial and economic injustice. The Third Reconstruction is as much a blueprint for community activism as it is an inspiring call to action from one our most compelling grassroots organizers. At the end of the book, Reverend Barber provides fourteen steps for building a social justice movement.
Headquarters for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Cacophony
Two polarized positions mark the ongoing debate in the United States over gun violence, mass killings, and armed citizen militias, such as the militias that seized federal land in Oregon on January 2. These positions rest on the text and interpretation of the Second Amendment of the US Constitution: A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The gun lobby and its constituency argue that the Second Amendment guarantees the right for every citizen to bear arms, while gun control advocates maintain that the Second Amendment is about states having a militia, emphasizing the language of “well regulated,” and that this is manifest in the existing National Guard.
Today, we wish a Happy Publication Day to writer, director, and performance artist Lisa Kotin and her darkly humorous memoir My Confection! In My Confection, Kotin tells her coming-of-age tale through her sugar addiction and binge eating. We caught with up her to ask about the impact of her writing on her relationships with food, her family, and her recovery, the impetus of sharing her story, how she sought help to get well, and the healing process.
My Confection and your previous performance pieces draw on your experiences with food and with your family. How has writing and performing helped or hindered you in repairing your relationships with both?
Since the age of five, performing my plays has been one of the best ways for me to express myself to my family. Some years ago I performed my show “Beyond the Fridge” in Santa Barbara. This was by far my most personal show, about my struggle with sugar and self-image. While I could never talk to my parents directly about my struggle, it was very freeing to express it to them from the stage. In all my shows, they never took the material personally. They loved my work, which really helped repair a lot of my old scars. After all I went through with my addiction, with my body, with sugar, as an audience they were able to watch, listen and appreciate me. The inherent fourth wall of theatre and the fact that I was playing a character helped them easily digest the material, whereas the written word may have been tough for them to swallow. I don’t think I would have been able to publish My Confection while my parents were still alive. And while my siblings have always enjoyed my shows, I understand this is a tougher view for them. After my sister Lauren, with whom I have the best, most honest relationship, read the book, I was shocked to hear her say, “I had no idea how much pain you were in.” She also wanted me to know that, regarding the part where I am bingeing on cake and my mother asks me to “save some for Lauren,” according to my sister my mother was always telling her to "save some for Lisa.” (Because don’t we all know, there are two sides to every story.)
2015 has been, to say the least, rather momentous, and continues to be as it draws to a close. We at Beacon Press are so grateful to our brilliant authors who have offered their time and insights to analyze and comment on this year's events. Their posts—with topics ranging from race to cultural or class dynamics and to the environment—have been, if you will, a true beacon for the Broadside. Before we bid farewell to 2015, we would like to share a collection of some our most-read posts. This list is by no means exhaustive. Make sure to peruse our archives. You can expect to see more thought-provoking essays and commentary from our contributors in 2016. Happy New Year!
What’s your News Years resolution? To read more books, of course! But where to start? Why not with our bestsellers? For your perusal, we’ve put together a list of our bestsellers this year. We are so thrilled that some of these titles that have appeared on best-of lists, have won and have been nominated for awards! You can get these titles, as well as all our other titles, for 30% off using code HOLIDAY30 through December 31st. You still have time. Check out our website.
In an odd way, every day is like Christmas around here in Rawalpindi. The lights we put up once a year in the States are part of my everyday landscape in Pakistan. Red, blue, yellow and green lights are festooned outside the enormous wedding halls that dot the landscape of life here. Weddings are very very big, three-day affairs over here, draining families of their savings and quite possibly Pakistan of its electricity grid. No expense is spared either on the part of the family or on the part of the people who operate the wedding halls. At night, coming back from Islamabad, sometimes I look through the haze of traffic and see the blinking lights decorating the wedding halls, announcing yet another Pakistani wedding! It’s just another day of Christmas.
This year, according the lunar calendar, the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed falls on Christmas Eve. There is a little village that has gotten subsumed into the larger city where I live. Here, the villagers go wild with lights in honor of the prophet. Each night, new lights are strung until, the night before the prophet’s birth, the entire village erupts in a brilliant blaze of art in lights. Color coordinated arches, side streets ablaze in a riot of different colors, a blue light street, a purple light street. Last night, some friends took me to see how the show for the prophet was progressing. The fish wallahs were still cleaning fish, brought in from the Indus yesterday, in their stores while the electric light wallahs were suspended over the streets on ladders like the lights they were hanging.
MU students protest inside Jesse Hall after report of racism, October 6, 2015. Photo credit: Flickr user KOMUnews
“There are – there are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to, to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less – a slower-track school where they do well.
“One of – one of the briefs pointed out that – that most of the – most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re – that they’re being pushed ahead in – in classes that are too, too fast for them.”
Justice Antonin Scalia’s words during the Supreme Court’s revising of the Fisher v. University of Texas case of affirmative action have been rattling around the insides of many who work and study on college campuses. His words caused outrage, but in fact, they are representative of the widespread and erroneous belief that campuses are apolitical locations of merit and ability. His words are racist because they absolve and therefore further the bedrock of institutionalized racism on college campuses. And these words are echoed in the limited ways that higher education currently has responded to students’ accounts of racism.
COP21 in Paris, 30 November 2015: From left to right: Mary Robinson, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Change Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, UK Gregory Hunt, Minister for the Environment, Australia President Joko Widodo, Indonesia President Ali Bongo Ondimba, Gabon President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, Colombia Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Canada Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Norway Tine Sundtoft, Minister of Climate and the Environment, Norway Gabriel Vallejo López, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Colombia. Photo credit: Flickr user Statsministerens kontor
As the applause rang out in Paris, the French foreign minister and climate conference chair, Laurent Fabius, declared the deal he had just gavelled through was a “historical turning point.” From Al Gore in the front row to the back of the hall, everyone seemed to agree. Even normally cautious climate scientists were beaming.
So what has the world signed up to in the Paris Agreement? Will it choke off wild weather and usher in a world of climatic calm? Or is this a false dawn as we burn our way to a hotter, more violent world? I was there throughout, but I am still wondering if we have all been sold a false vision of the future.
There he goes again. Last week Justice Antonin Scalia spoke plainly on his misgivings about affirmative action. Afterwards, his commentary was a constant subject at holiday cocktail parties in Washington, DC where I live. Abigail Fisher’s case challenging the University of Texas’ use of affirmative action was back before the Supreme Court for the second time in three years. At the oral argument, to audible gasps, Scalia clumsily engaged in “mismatch theory,” speculating that African-American collegians would be better off attending “less-advanced,” “slower-track” schools where they might achieve more because classes are not “too fast for them.”
Since then several commentators have cited extensive social science research discrediting this theory. The evidence points to the exact opposite of Scalia’s intuitions. For students of all backgrounds, graduation rates and long-term success improve with the selectivity of the college they attend. More importantly, as I argued in Place, Not Race, affirmative action candidates, with their lower standardized tests scores, have been found to come closest to meeting universities’ professed mission statements about cultivating leaders who use their educations to give back to society.
Islamophobia has reared its ugly head again. As author and journalist Linda K. Wertheimer noted in her previous post, education about world religions couldn’t be more important in today’s climate. Education about other religions comes not only from the classroom, but also from the life stories of others. In his book Acts of Faith, interfaith leader Eboo Patel writes about the time he spent with his devout Muslim grandmother in India. In this excerpt, he recounts the invaluable lesson his grandmother gave him in what his faith stands for.
In The Jew in the Lotus, Rodger Kamenetz writes that many young people view religion as an old man saying no. Growing up, my “old man” was a woman—my grandmother, with whom I was now staying in Bombay. She would come to the States every few years and live with my family, occupying the living room from midmorning to early evening watching Hindi films. I avoided her as much as possible. “Are you saying your Du’a?” she would ask if she caught me before I managed to reach the back staircase. If she woke up earlier than usual and saw me at the breakfast table before I left for school, she would say, “Are you giving your dasond?” referring to the tithe that Ismailis give. She was disappointed that I had no close Ismaili friends when I was a teenager. “You will marry an Ismaili, right?” my grandmother would ask, catching my arm, as I was sneaking out. I am embarrassed to say it now, but I dreaded her visits and did my best to avoid her.
Sixty years have passed since the Montgomery Bus Boycott. We at Beacon are commemorating the anniversary of this milestone in civil rights history with a series that highlights key events and players in the boycott’s timeline. The first entry in our series is an excerpt from Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, Dr. King’s account of applying the large-scale nonviolent resistance movement that desegregated the Montgomery buses. Rosa Parks has just been arrested for not giving up her seat on the Cleveland Avenue bus. Once the news reaches Dr. King and the proposal of a boycott starts floating around, he, along with a number of others, knows it’s time to act.
On December 1, 1955, an attractive Negro seamstress, Mrs. Rosa Parks, boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus in downtown Montgomery. She was returning home after her regular day’s work in the Montgomery Fair, a leading department store. Tired from long hours on her feet, Mrs. Parks sat down in the first seat behind the section reserved for whites. Not long after she took her seat, the bus operator ordered her, along with three other Negro passengers, to move back in order to accommodate boarding white passengers. By this time every seat in the bus was taken. This meant that if Mrs. Parks followed the driver’s command she would have to stand while a white male passenger, who had just boarded the bus, would sit. The other three Negro passengers immediately complied with the driver’s request. But Mrs. Parks quietly refused. The result was her arrest.
Massachusetts, considered a leader in education reform, has set itself apart by rejecting the Common Core test to develop its own to measure student progress. The catalyst for creating a new one came from many sides, including parents who didn’t see the point of their children taking a national test. Alfie Kohn argues, however, that standardized testing itself is the problem, not just with any particular test. As he explains here, scores do not reflect students’ actual intelligence or reasoning skills. This blog post appeared originally on his website.
It can’t be repeated often enough: Standardized tests are very poor measures of the intellectual capabilities that matter most, and that’s true because of how they’re designed, not just because of how they’re used. Like other writers, I’ve relied on arguments and research to make this point. But sometimes a telling example can be more effective. So here’s an item that appeared on the state high school math exam in Massachusetts:
Given that chimpanzees are humankind’s closest relatives, it only seems logical that they should merit our special respect. Yet these intelligent creatures—capable of making and using tools, having strong social and family bonds, and mirroring us in so many ways—seem to continuously suffer from our actions. Anthropocentrism has always been an enemy of chimpanzees, and sadly, because of it, chimpanzees have been deemed as “acceptable stand-ins” whenever we run into something we view as unethical to do to ourselves.
Medical experimentation is a perfect example. There are literally hundreds of chimpanzees in US laboratories that, if they could speak, would tell of being anesthetized hundreds of times, of repeated liver biopsies, blood draws, and darting, and even of living in isolation for decades. The end-result for many has been permanent traumatization, leading to self-mutilation, bizarre behavior and anxiety. Until now, lab scientists have justified the sacrifice of these chimpanzees, saying their use is essential to saving or improving the lives of thousands of humans.
In some ways, the profile of Robert Lewis Dear, the man who was arrested for a shooting rampage at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on Friday, is similar to that of the other six individuals who have been charged with abortion-related murders in the past two decades. But unlike them, Dear does not appear to have a history of public involvement with the organized anti-choice movement. Though several sources, including an ex-wife, told the New York Times that he was staunchly against abortion, another former partner said that “It was never really a topic of discussion.”
Three people were dead and nine others treated for gunshot wounds. Even as Robert Lewis Dear, the white man who, on November 27 2015, allegedly laid armed siege to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs was taken into custody, social media posts—from progressive advocates, pundits, and some politicians—immediately characterized his actions as “domestic terrorism.”
What does it mean for liberals and progressives to embrace a “terrorism" frame,” that has traditionally been used by the Right—and is so fraught and over-determined in our post-9/11 political climate? What are the intended and unintended consequences of demanding that the government respond to violence against women’s health care providers with the same zeal it employs in its so-called “War on Terrorism”?
“China farms tigers? Why didn’t I know that?” This is the most common comment I hear when I talk about China’s industrial tiger farms and my book Blood of the Tiger, which was rereleased today in paperback.
“Yes,” I reply, “they farm them ‘just like cows and pigs.’ That’s how a Chinese government official described it to me during my first visit to China back in 1991.”
Tirmizi Family with Linda K. Wertheimer. From left to right: Hadia, mother; Wertheimer; Rahim, youngest son; Zain, eldest son; Ali, father. Photo source: Linda K. Wertheimer
#Notinmyname. Hadia Tirmizi, the mother of a student profiled in my bookFaith Ed., posted that Twitter hashtag on her Facebook page last week in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris. She is Muslim, lives in Wellesley, a Boston suburb, and knows the backlash that can follow when terrorists are identified as Muslims.
The same week she posted her statement against the terrorists, she also posted photos of her family celebrating her youngest son’s tenth birthday and photos of her and her husband, both physicians, on a vacation to Paris in a past year.
Dina Gilio-Whitaker riding the waves. Photo source: Dina Gilio-Whitaker
This blog appeared originally on Gilio-Whitaker's site RumiNative.
At first glance, using the terms surfing and indigeneity (as in “Indigenous”) in the same sentence may seem like a non-sequitur, something that doesn’t connect or make sense. Yes, it makes sense in the context of Hawaii given that the modern sport of surfing as we know it emerges out of Native Hawaiian culture. But what does surfing have to do with American Indians? Quite a bit as it turns out, based on research and writing I’ve been doing for several years now.