Tom Hallock is Associate Publisher at Beacon Press.
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
We launched Beacon Broadside because we wanted to amplify the
voices of our authors, and to provide them with a way to connect their work to
the events of the day. Beacon Broadside required that we develop a “new mind”,
as we explored a different way for Beacon to fulfill its mission and engage
with readers, investing in something whose return would not be financial. Jessie
was the perfect midwife, creating a lively, timely and thoughtful blog that has
done all these things.
After six rewarding years here at Beacon Press, I am departing as Blog Editor and Digital Content Developer as of mid-August. When I arrived here in 2007, I had answered an ad looking for a part-time editor for a new blog at Beacon Press, one that would be less about flogging books and more about expanding Beacon's mission in the online world. At the time, Beacon had a website, email newsletters, and a MySpace page. Now, Beacon has accounts at Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Scribd, Pinterest, GoodReads, and LinkedIn, and our web team always has a keen eye on trends in the digital world. It's been gratifying to be here during this time of growth, to have spearheaded the use of video at Beacon, to have helped grow our following on Twitter, and, especially, to have worked with a group of authors I believe are truly the best of the best.
I'm departing in order to concentrate on a couple of creative projects of my own as well as to grab a bigger chunk of time with my family. As I prepare to leave, I am excited for the work ahead at Beacon: our marketing department will continue to grow and adapt, always within Beacon's overall mission to build a better world through good books.
Are you in New York for BookExpo America? Here's the low-down on how to connect with Beacon Press to meet our authors, get your hands on some galleys of upcoming books, and chat with Beacon publicists, editors, and other cool folks.
See below for more info on some of the authors and books we'll be featuring in Booth #2742.
For the second year, BookExpo America will open to the public for Power Reader Hours, Saturday, June 1st from 9am-1pm. Power Readers will have the chance to pick up copies of books at Beacon Presss booth #2742 that examine social issues such as interfaith cooperation, immigration reform, reproductive rights, and marriage equality. Come visit us and Read for Change!
Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town by Mirta Ojito Featured Galley Giveaway at Beacon Press booth 2742 Thursday, May 30th, 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Mirta will be at the booth signing copies of Hunting Season starting at 10:30 am.
"An account that is as unflinching as it is important. Both an incisive reconstruction of a heartbreaking murder and an unsparing diagnosis of a national malady . . . with HUNTING SEASON Ojito has done truth an invaluable service. Extraordinary." —Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Labeled a "domestic terrorist" by the McCain campaign in 2008 and used by the radical right in an attempt to castigate Obama for "pallin' around with terrorists," Bill Ayers is in fact a dedicated teacher, father, and social justice advocate with a sharp memory and even sharper wit. Public Enemy tells his story from the moment he and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, emerged from years on the run and rebuilt their lives as public figures, often celebrated for their community work and much hated by the radical right. In the face of defamation by conservative media, including a multimillion-dollar campaign aimed solely at demonizing Ayers, and in spite of frequent death threats, Bill and Bernardine stay true to their core beliefs in the power of protest, demonstration, and deep commitment. Ayers reveals how he has navigated the challenges and triumphs of this public life with steadfastness and a dash of good humor—from the red carpet at the Oscars, to prison vigils and airports (where he is often detained and where he finally "confesses" that he did write Dreams from My Father), and ultimately on the ground at Grant Park in 2008 and again in 2012.
Lauren Slater’s rocky childhood left her cold to the idea of ever creating a family of her own, but a husband, two dogs, two children, and three houses later, she came around to the challenges, trials, and unexpected rewards of playing house. Boldly honest, these biographical pieces reveal Slater at her wittiest and most deeply personal. She describes her journey from fiercely independent young woman to wife and mother, all while coping with mental illness. She tells of a chemical fire that rekindled the flame in her ailing relationship with her husband; she reflects on her decision to have an abortion, and then later to have children despite suffering from severe depression; she examines sex, love, mastectomies, and how nannies can be intrusive while dogs become family. Beautifully written, often humorous, and always revealing, these stories scrutinize the complex questions surrounding family life, offering up sometimes uncomfortable truths.
It was lunch time, and several members of the Beacon Press staff headed out in a chilly April drizzle to Boston's Downtown Crossing--not for a tasty sandwich from Falafel King, but to take part in World Book Night. Each staffer had signed up to hand out twenty free books to perfect strangers walking by on a busy street corner. Director Helene Atwan summed it up by saying, "Lots of different people going in and out of the subway were puzzled, skeptical, and finally, curious and grateful. A wonderful way to spend the lunch hour. We're all already looking forward to World Book Night 2013."
We've loved hearing stories from other givers, and must admit that it gives us a particular thrill to hear about people giving away Kindred by Octavia Butler--Beacon's literary contribution to the project.
At the Silver Spring Metro station, Politics and Prose floor manager Susan Skirboll had a pretty straightforward strategy for her giveaway approach: “I’ll try to look respectable and not like a total freak.”
Skirboll calls the story she selected — “Kindred,” by the late science-fiction writer Octavia Butler — a book “everyone should read.” Though it contains a little bit of science fiction and fantasy, “it’s done in a way that’s kind of believable,” Skirboll said. “It talks about the slavery experience in a way I had never read before.” --Washington Post
And on Twitter...
Have given out my 4th copy of Kindred by OctaviaButler for #wbnamerica & am excited that #4 is drinking her coffee and reading the book!!!! -- @misscecil
Learned during #wbnamerica: let them see what you're offering. know your book. saying "it's one of the best books i've ever read" helps. -- @corpuslibris
Our favorite story, hands down, involves a very unconventional delivery vehicle. (Photos by Shmuel Thaler of the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Used by permission.)
Handing out free books to surfers while paddling out in waters off Cowell Beach doesn't seem logical.
But Hilary Bryant made it look easy, if not natural, Monday when the wet-suit clad vice mayor took several copies of the novel "Kindred" into the surf wrapped in Ziploc bags. Not green - she knows - but how else could she keep the books dry?
"They were very appreciative," Bryant said of the effort, which was part of the World Book Night celebration in the U.S. and Europe. "It was easier to start the conversation on the water than on the cliff. You have a captive audience." --Santa Cruz Sentinel
And now onto our staff and their experiences at Downtown Crossing in Boston.
Tom Hallock: Associate Publisher and Director of Sales and Marketing
Pictured right: Helene Atwan, Director of Beacon Press, with Tom Hallock.
So how did World Book Night, or World Book Lunchtime, go for you?
It was great, just great. We went to Downtown Crossing, the historic heart of the Boston retail district. There were a lot of people there at lunch time. There used to be a lot of retail bookstores there: a Globe Corner Bookstore, a Lauriat’s, a Barnes and Noble and a Borders—none of them are there now. And we just thought it would be a place where we would find some people who are not exposed to books regularly, and we were right.
People would come up with wary looks on their faces. I think maybe they thought we were handing out religious tracts or political propaganda or something, and we would assure them that they were really good books, and people got really excited about it.
In a sense, you were espousing the religion of reading.
Exactly, and I think we got a lot of converts.The best thing was seeing the expression on people's faces change as you got into the conversation, and you could see them open up to the idea that a stranger was about to hand them a book that they would really enjoy reading.
How do you feel about Kindred by Octavia Butler being included in the giveaway?
We were really proud of that and so glad thatCarl Lennertz and the people at World Book Night made it possible for Kindred to be part of the program. It's a great book that can be read by all ages, and it‘s been wonderful to hear stories from around the country about people introducing it to new readers.
Marcy Barnes, Production Manager
Pictured right: Kate Noe, Will Myers, and Marcy Barnes.
There were a couple of really enthusiastic people who came up to us, and a lot of people were really grateful. To choose people to give books to, I basically just chose anyone who wasn't wearing headphones. I wasn't thinking, "Is that a reader or not a reader?" I felt that it was more a celebration of reading and saving books, and a lot of people were really appreciative of the concept.
Ryan Mita, Digital Marketing Assistant
Here’s what went through my mind, and what happened while I was giving away World Book Night Books:
I thought giving away books on a wet, windy day would be a difficult, but it wasn’t!
I gave a jeweler something to occupy his interest on his lunch break.
I interested a groups of teenagers in picking up a book.
I felt really good sharing a great book with strangers and supporting an activity I love to do.
Will Myers, Editorial Assistant
It was nice to see people light up when they were given a free book. We had the World Book Night lanyard, so I think people thought we were from Oxfam or something along those lines. But once they knew we weren't asking for an email address, they were less suspicious.
At the Lambert's outdoor fruit stand--they were big boosters of World Book Night, and they were cheering us on. They kept asking, "Do you have this book? Do you have this book?" That was cool. It was a great experience, and I would absolutely do it again.
Kate Noe, Production Assistant
I got involved because my friend works for a counseling center for young mothers, and she was really excited for World Book Night because she was able to get free books for these young women who don't ever read. So she inspired me to reach out, too.
I would definitely do it again, but it was frustrating being rejected. Going up to strangers and having them ignore you... But those moments when people were curious and wanted to learn more, that was cool.
Crystal Paul, Assistant to the Director
Pictured right: Helene Atwan, Ryan Mita, and Crystal Paul.
I'm glad that we were handing out Junot Diaz and Zeitoun—multicultural literature that is applicable to everyone. I think it's great that there were such a wide variety of authors and types of books, because it encourages you to reach out to all kinds of people. And I was excited that Kindred was part of World Book Night. I love Octavia Butler.
I've always said that books sort of raised me. I grew up in a house where there wasn't a strong parental figure, so I turned to books not because I just wanted stories or escapism. But, literally, because I was looking for how I'm supposed to live life, the things I'm supposed to do. A lot of young adult literature in particular is about these orphan children, and then I started reading Sci-Fi. Octavia Butler was one of the first authors I read-- Xenogenesis which is now called Lilith's Brood And it was about a black woman going out into the world and being abducted by aliens. Basically, just completely abandoned and on her own, and how she navigated this totally new world.
This year's PEN Hemingway winner, Teju Cole for Open City. But a tough choice, so many great books this year, and especially so many great first novels, including the Hemingway finalists, Amy Waldman's The Submission and We Are Taking Only What We Need by Stephanie Watts, and of course The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht.
From Senior Publicist Caitlin Meyer:
All three finalists were great picks, but I’d have gone for Swamplandia! Karen Russell’s writing is a dream. Given that she’s just 30, and this was her first novel, and that she’s a woman, I would have liked to see her beat the odds and walk away with the prize.
Production Coordinator Beth Collins chafes against the Pulitzer's temporal and geographical constraints:
I don’t read a lot of fiction and I usually don’t read things when they first come out. I’m usually a few years behind. For example, my favorite work of fiction that I read in the past year was by A Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoetby David Mitchell which was published in 2010, but he’s not American so he’s not eligible.
I thought it was fantastic for Binocular Vision, a short story collection, to receive high honors from so many. I've been reading it a story at a time over the last month, loving that I'm able to approach each piece individually, but it works as a collection as well.
Brittany Weippert in Business Operations throws out the Pulitzer guidelines and throws in her recommendations for Chuck Palaniuk's Choke and How I Became Stupid by Martin Page. Add your own favorite reads in the comments!
Yes, the unthinkable happened on Sunday, and the New England Patriots lost (by a derrière) to the New York Giants. Our sadness at watching Tom Brady's last second Hail Mary pass hit the turf was mitigated by our excitement at promoting two books for Other Press throughout the week. Our #pubbowl wager, which came with lots of good-natured trash-talking and humor, had the publisher whose home team lost (that would be us) on the hook to promote two of the other publisher's titles for a week on the web, featuring the two titles on their web site and promoting the titles across social media platforms.
With the approaching 6:30pm kickoff of Super Bowl XLVI between the New England Patriots and the (soon to be weeping in their locker room) New York Giants, the publishing world celebrates another great matchup off the gridiron. Boston's Beacon Press and New York's Other Press are teaming up for a special web promotion: the publisher whose home team loses (Beacon's New England Patriots or, if the Patriots are abducted by aliens, Other's New York Giants) will promote two of the other publisher's titles for a week on the web, featuring the two titles on their web site and promoting the titles across social media platforms. In addition, the publisher whose team brings home the trophy will give away a selection of its books to a handful of winners selected from online entries, and both publishers will use their web presences to endorse the giveaway.
The classic New York-Boston sports rivalry struck the publishers, both independent presses, as a ripe opportunity to engage in some fun, harmless, book-loving competition. (Also, it seemed to Beacon Press an easy way to let Tom Brady help earn it some free publicity.) Beacon Press is an independent publisher of serious non-fiction and fiction, emphasizing religion, history, current affairs, political science, gay/lesbian/gender studies, education, African-American studies, women's studies, child and family issues and nature and the environment (as well as a few sports books). Other Press is an independent publisher of novels, short stories, poetry, and essays from America and around the world-non-fiction and fiction-that explore how psychic, cultural, historical, and literary shifts inform our vision of the world and of each other.
“It seems to me that what the Pentagon Papers really demonstrated 40 years ago was the price of that practice,” he said. “Which is that letting a small group of men in secret in the executive branch make these decisions — initiate them secretly, carry them out secretly and manipulate Congress, and lie to Congress and the public as to why they’re doing it and what they’re doing — is a recipe for, a guarantee of Vietnams and Iraqs and Libyas, and in general foolish, reckless, dangerous policies.” -- Daniel Ellsberg in the New York Times, June 8, 2011
Rev. Robert N. West, UUA President, and Senator Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) hold a press conference on Nov. 5, 1971 concerning Beacon Press' publication of "The Pentagon Papers" and ongoing harassment of the UUA by the FBI. Photo courtesy Robert N. West.
Forty years ago this month, the New York Times began publishing excerpts from what has been popularly referred to as "The Pentagon Papers," and officially known as "the Report of the O.S.D. Vietnam Task Force." The papers, which were smuggled out of the RAND corporation by Daniel Ellsberg, were published a few months later by Beacon Press as the Senator Gravel Edition of The Pentagon Papers: The Defense Department History of United States Decisionmaking in Vietnam. The story of their publication is a gripping tale, one that involved heroic stands by Ellsberg, Senator Mike Gravel, Beacon Press director Gobin Stair, and UUA President Robert West against immense pressure from the Nixon administration.
It has taken four decades for the government to officially release the papers. We aren't worried here about the new, "official" publication affecting sales: the five volumes-- a whopping 7,000 pages-- have long been out of print, and were never a commercial "success." In fact the cost of producing the books combined with the associated legal fees was a huge financial burden for the press. Loans from the Unitarian Universalist Association and a significant donation from the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, combined with smaller donations from supporters and from other publishing houses (led by a $2,500 donation from Random House), helped allay the enormous expense. But the reasons for publishing the papers were never financial:
In 2002, during an interview with Susan Wilson in preparation for Beacon’s 150th anniversary, Stair referred to The Pentagon Papers as “a test of our purpose,” before concluding, “We were publishing what needed to be published." (From "Beacon Press and the Pentagon Papers" by Allison Trzop)
We aren't sure why it took forty years for the government to declassify these papers, but we look back at that moment in the history of Beacon Press with great pride. Subpoenas, FBI investigations, and even calls from President Nixon himself deterred neither Beacon Press nor the Unitarian Universalist Association from doing what was right, and it is our goal today to function by the same principles that guided those brave decisions.
Today's post is from Tom Hallock, Associate Publisher of Beacon Press.
Last week, Beacon announced a change in its distribution from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to Random House Publisher Services which will be effective July 1, 2010.
It's a big change and one we’re excited about. The new partnership encompasses all formats and channels. Random House will be selling Beacon books, audios, eBooks and audio downloads to US, Canada (as of 1/1/11), and other English language markets. We will also have the support of Random House in the academic, library, school and special sales areas. We think this new partnership will serve our authors and their books-- and enable us to reach a wide audience through a variety of channels in a variety of formats. We also think this will enable us to focus on building our lists and exploring the new publishing and marketing opportunities of the digital age.
Although we won't start shipping books until July 1, our work with RHPS started in December and it's been exciting to see things take shape. We launched our fall 2010 list, including our first graphic book (an adaptation of Geoff Canada's Fist Stick Knife Gun), at sales conference last week. We've already started working with our new distributor on Book Expo, ALA, and the London Book fair and are especially excited about their support in bringing Eboo Patel (Acts of Faith) to the Freshman Year Experience conference in January 11.
The change also means we’re saying goodbye to two distributors who have served us well over the past decade. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has been with us-- and looked out for our interests-- through some tough times, including the recent economic downturn. They helped us launch Michael Patrick MacDonald's All Souls, Meredith Hall's Without a Map and many new titles by Mary Oliver including her first audios. We'll miss having a distributor across the Boston Common, with whom we could talk through the issues of the day over lunch at the Beacon Hill Bistro. We'll also miss working with Beth Ineson and the all the great reps at HMH. We leave with a sense of gratitude to them and to Gary Gentel, Laurie Brown and the HMH management team for all they've done for the press in the past ten years.
We'll also be saying goodbye six months later to our wonderfully independent Canadian distributor, Fitzhenry and Whiteside. Among the things I have loved about working with them is that I can always get their President, Sharon Fitzhenry, on the phone and that I was greeted at the door by their resident cats. (It reminds me of my days at FSG when a monstrously ill-tempered cat named Maizy inhabited the sales and marketing floor. The Fitz cats always treated me well, however.) And I want to give special thanks to Fitz's Michael Davis who educated me about many things Canadian and did yeoman’s work on our list.
We enter this period of change with a sense of excitement and optimism about the future. We think technology is giving us ways to reach new readers and fulfill our mission in new ways. And we feel like we've found the right partner for these times in Random House Publisher Services.
The following is an excerpt of remarks made by Helene Atwan, Director of Beacon Press, at an event held Wednesday to celebrate The King Legacy, a new partnership between the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. and Beacon Press. Beacon will print new editions of previously published King titles and compile Dr. King's writings, sermons, orations, lectures, and prayers into entirely new editions, including significant new introductions by leading scholars.
Beacon Press traces its origins to the 1820s when the American Unitarian Association was founded and immediately began publishing books that reflected the Unitarian mission. By 1854, Ralph Waldo Emerson's cousin George had collected money to start a formal publishing program, and the AUA Press began that year, initially largely with collections of sermons, but volumes which included, to quote historian Susan Wilson, "eloquent writings on such topic as temperance, women's rights…, and the abolition of slavery." By the time it was renamed Beacon Press in 1902, the legacy of enlightened, liberal religious thought that informs the list today, and which you'll see reflected in the sampling of books on display here, was firmly engrained.
Which is why we were so convinced that Beacon would be the perfect publishing home for the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have been rereading and listening to Dr. King a lot of late (as you might imagine) and what surprises me most is how current his thinking is, how he seems to be speaking not from the 1950s or 60s but from the post 9/11 era, even from the Obama era. What he has to say to us in an age of globalization, in a so-called "post-racial" age, is as valid and in some respects more urgent in a world where 25,000 children die in poverty every day; in a world where American soldiers are killing and dying in an unjust war, in a world where too many people are judged daily by the color of their skin, or the name they give their God, rather than the content of their character.
As Senator Edward Kennedy has remarked, "Much of Dr. King's broad and powerful message is in danger of being left behind, as new generations come to know him only through history and see him more as myth than man. His life and great works are still relevant to the complex realities of today's social problems and if we allow the richness of his example to recede, we lose the opportunity to learn from him. There is still so much to learn from walking in his path."
Helene Atwan speaking at Wednesday's event announcing The King Legacy.
It's our plan to illuminate that path with brilliant books. This agreement is brand new, obviously, and we've just begun to dig into the archives, so to speak, so I can't give you the exhaustive list of books we hope to publish over the years. But I can tell you that we will start by bringing back into print three books that Dr. King saw published in his lifetime and which have been unavailable for over a decade. The first is Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. King's account of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a book which should be read not only for it's historic value, but for what it teaches us about community activism. Like all of the books in the King Legacy, Stride will have a new introduction, which will not only place the book in its historic perspective, but will describe how the book speaks to the 21st century. Acclaimed King scholar Clayborne Carson will edit and introduce this volume. And I'm delighted to say that Dr. Carson has agreed to be General Advisory Editor for the entire series. We will also bring back into print Where Do We Go From Here, which was first published in paperback by Beacon Press in 1968, and are thrilled to announce that we will have an introduction by Dr. Vincent Harding for that volume. Dr. Harding was a close associate of Dr. King and is the author of many works about him. Finally, we have a new edition of Trumpet of Conscience, Dr. King's stirring orations originally delivered just 6 months before his death. All these books, along with a new hardcover edition of Strength to Love, will be published on Dr. King's birthday next January.
After that, many new volumes will follow. Books that will collect Dr. Kings writings and orations on the subjects of peace and nonviolence; on poverty and global economic justice; on God and the role of religion in society; on all of the subjects which were so central to his work. And in issuing these new volumes, we hope to keep the message fresh and accessible for new generations, so that they, too, can learn from walking in his path.
At an event held yesterday afternoon at the Unitarian Universalist Association headquarters in Boston, Beacon Press announced its new partnership with the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr., "The King Legacy." Beacon will print new editions of previously published King titles and compile Dr. King's writings, sermons, orations, lectures, and prayers into entirely new editions, including significant new introductions by leading scholars. This partnership brings together the legacy of one of the most important civil rights and social justice leaders in the world with one of the oldest and most respected independent publishing houses in America.
The event featured former chair of the Civil Rights Commission Mary Frances Berry, Unitarian-Universalist Association President William Sinkford, poet Sonia Sanchez, literary agent Michele Rubin (who through Writers House facilitated the agreement with the King Estate), and Beacon Press director Helene Atwan. You can read more about the announcement on the websites of Beacon Press and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
The first three titles in the King Legacy series will be published on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in 2010:
Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. The classic story of nonviolent resistance in America, the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955–1956.
The Trumpet of Conscience. Five lectures delivered by Marting Luther King Jr. in 1967 that reveal his most introspective reflections and last impressions of the movement.
Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community. King's analysis of the state of American race relations and the movement after a decade of U.S. civil rights struggles.
Today's post is from Tom Hallock, Associate Publisher at Beacon Press.
The Indie Bound Red Box, The American Bookseller Association’s monthly In-store Action Kit, contained a flyer this month for a remarkable idea: Genocide Prevention Month. The ABA is teaming up with Genocide Prevention Month, a group of survivors and survivor advocates “to make sure history does not repeat itself.” Mitch Kaplan (owner of Books and Books in Coral Gables Florida), writing for the program, described his store's efforts to hold a commemoration event with genocide survivors in April and to organize a table display of books about genocide. A list of notable titles compiled by the ABA is available at www.bookweb.org/files/open/pdf/genocideprevention.pdf. The list includes general titles about genocide and others about Armenia, Bosnia, Cambodia, Darfur, Rwanda and the Holocaust.
Perhaps what's most remarkable is the underlying idea that independent booksellers have the power to bring a global concern to the attention of their communities-- and to create the kind of awareness that might help prevent such things from happening again. When I taught English in Beijing China fifteen years ago, I met an extraordinary pair of booksellers who were survivors of the Cultural Revolution. They had been branded rightists, sent to prison and, when they were released, opened a bookstore. It was their response to the chaos that had engulfed their lives. They wanted to create a space in which Chinese readers could find books about the world and create a new culture in which such a destructive mass movement could never again take root. They called the store San Wei, three flavors, a term used in the Qing dynasty to identify the three most important categories of books: history, poetry, and philosophy.
I thought it was a powerful and appropriate response. Genocide Prevention Month is a chance for all of us, as writers, publishers and booksellers, to exercise this same kind of power. It’s a chance to bring change to the world in one of the oldest ways-- by the sharing of stories.
Today's post is from Alexis Rizzuto, an assistant editor at Beacon Press.
As soon as we walked through the front doors of Boston Arts Academy, the energy and creativity were palpable. Earlier this month, a delegation of Beacon Press staff (Director Helene Atwan, Associate publisher Tom Hallock, Director of Publicity Pam MacColl, and myself) went to experience the BAA, a public arts high school under the direction of founding headmaster Linda Nathan, firsthand. All of us, having already read about the faculty, students, activities, and principles of the BAA, were thrilled to see them all in action.
The BAA belongs to the Boston Public School system, but as a pilot school enjoys a more freedom than most public schools in curriculum and scheduling. Students from the city of Boston audition for the 140 spots available each year, and are selected for their passion and commitment to seriously pursuing their chosen art form (music, theater, dance, visual arts). The students are trained as scholars as well as artists, and an astounding 94% of them are accepted to college (compared to 50% on average district-wide). Linda writes that the secret to the school's success lies in asking the right questions and listening as all players grapple with the answers. This process has led to practices such as developing a school-wide set of Shared Values, supporting the teachers by giving them time to discuss ideas in a professional learning community, opening doors to college through offering help with the application process, and being open about ethnic and economic differences in students' backgrounds.
These aspects of the school were all demonstrated as we walked through the hallways and into the classrooms and studios of the BAA. The hallway walls were covered not only with some impressive work from the visual arts students and stills from theater productions, but also a bulletin board filled with kudos to students "caught in the act of shared values"—in other words, those who had done good deeds in keeping with the school's ideals of responsibility, integrity, and respect. Another wall displayed the photos of graduates with the names of the colleges to which they were accepted. In studios we saw dance students going through exercises at the barre and heard music students warming up their voices, and in classrooms we observed SAT prep, offered by the school to make sure students who might not otherwise have access to this instruction wouldn't be at a disadvantage.
Beacon is now selling several hundred books a month via Amazon's Kindle program--Man's Search For Meaning, Sowing Crisis, and Kindred are among our best-selling titles in the Kindle store. So far, we have one resident devotee of the elegant e-reader: Sales Assistant Sara Hatch. Beacon Broadside asked her a few questions about Kindle and what she's using it to read.
Tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
At Beacon, I work with our marketing department on Sales, Ebooks, and help with updates to our website. I’m a graduate of Boston University with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism. I grew up in Connecticut and have lived in Boston, D.C., and London. I’ve written for several publications including Roll Call and the New London Day. I got my start in publishing at MIT Press. In my spare time, I read and watch movies and TV on my computer.
How long have you had a Kindle?
I’ve had it for about a week now.
Speaking as a consumer--and not as an employee of a publishing house--do you think that the $9.99 price for a new book is a good value?
A lot of the books I've bought aren’t $9.99, more like $5 or $6 dollars, which is a nice value. I think if it's a brand new hardcover and you can get it for $9.99, it's a steal. Books are so expensive, and they're my one extravagance, so it's nice to be able to spend $5 or $6 dollars on a book that would cost me $7 or more in a store. I can also carry several books around with me at once, which is good for me since I generally don't read just one book at a time.
What books do you have on your Kindle?
I have the collected works of Shakespeare, Jane Austen and sixteen Dickens novels. They have relatively cheap collections of several authors like that. It cost me about $7 total for all of those, a great deal. I also have two books by Charlaine Harris from the “Sookie Stackhouse” series (which is the basis for the HBO series “True Blood”) and a sample of a book by Kim Harrison, another fantasy writer. You can download a sample from any book on Kindle for free, which is a really nice feature.
Has using the Kindle made your bag lighter, or do you still carry a bunch of traditional books around?
I’m not sure if my bag will ever be light but I definitely don’t carry as many books any more.
Have your reading habits changed?
I don't think they've changed. I think it’s a lot easier to read on my morning commute since the Kindle is a lot less cumbersome. I have a 45 minute commute both ways so I can get a lot of reading down.
Do you have any Beacon Press books on your Kindle? Not yet, but I hope to put some on at some point. I can email manuscripts straight to my Kindle—an awesome feature.
Today's post is from Reshma Melwani, Beacon’s Foreign Rights Assistant. Since joining Beacon a little over a year ago, Reshma has overseen countless translation deals; this post explores some of her more inspiring deals and their significance in today's world. When she’s not selling foreign rights for Beacon, Reshma works as a freelance writer in Boston.
During his inauguration, President Barack Obama spoke of the strength of our "patchwork heritage," describing America as "a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers... shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth." Weeks later, these words still reverberate within me.
Perhaps, because, like my country, I too am a product of a "patchwork heritage"-- purposefully shaped by many cultures, molded by many languages.
I spent monsoon summers in Bombay, watching my aunts bargain for glass bangles and silk saris at bustling bazaars. I enjoyed warm winters with my maternal grandparents in Indonesia. Rather than a bowl of cereal, I woke up to a steaming bowl of spicy fried rice topped with an over-easy egg. I cherish my memories of lazy afternoons in Spain, taking a siesta on the cool tile floor alongside my paternal grandparents.
I've worshipped in Catholic churches, Islamic mosques, and temples both Hindu and Buddhist. I've grown up with an agnostic mother, a meditating father, and everything else in between. I am who I am precisely because of my "patchwork heritage."
But even in my day-to-day life in Boston, as a foreign rights liaison at Beacon Press, I see President Obama's words materialize. I bear witness to the steps the international publishing community is taking to embrace other cultures and promote tolerance.
At first, the woman in front of me jumped a bit when I popped my head over the seatback and said, "Would you like me to autograph that?"
We had just taken off from Charlotte, on a connector flight from Boston to Hilton Head, and her movement had caught my eye when she pulled a copy of Dark Tide from her bag and settled in to read. When I asked the question, she glanced quickly from me to the book and back to me again, and said, "No – you're not…are you?" But there's no author's photo on the paperback, after all, so she wasn't entirely sure. I whipped out my driver's license to convince her I wasn't a stalker, and more importantly, that I was who I claimed to be. "Wow, this is great," she said. "I love the book and you're coming to speak to my book club." Of course, I responded, and named the town and date, further verifying my identity. Now we were friends. She introduced me to her husband, and after we landed, we took pictures at the airport so she could e-mail them to her book-club colleagues. When I spoke to the club a week or so later, the story of our meeting had made the rounds.
When the 90th anniversary of the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 occurs on January 15, Dark Tide will be close to celebrating its own five-and-one-half year anniversary. The blink-of-an-eye passage of time is astounding enough to me, but even more amazing (and gratifying) has been the book's continued popularity and appeal. I have been truly blessed and humbled by the chord it has struck with readers, and my book-club friend on the plane was representative of the enthusiastic response Dark Tide has generated. I have made more than 150 appearances on this book alone since its publication, and at least 40 book clubs have selected it as their choice. In the winter and spring of 2009, the Massachusetts cities of Beverly and Medford will be reading Dark Tide as part of town-wide reading programs, bringing to six the number of communities that have selected the book for this honor.
Today's post is from Jeremy Adam Smith, senior editor of Greater Good magazine and author of The Daddy Shift, forthcoming from Beacon Press in spring 2009. He blogs about the politics of parenting at Daddy Dialectic.
One night at dinner a cynical relative challenged me on my choice of career: Why bother to write books and articles? We were talking about my current project, on the communities that straight and queer parents build together. He asked: Whose mind do you hope to change? Will it make any difference? Who reads books these days, anyway? They were thinking especially of hardcore members of the religious right, who will never read a book like that, and if they do, they will likely reject what it has to say out of hand.
These were good questions. I surprised myself by having some answers. My first thought is that, on the most personal level, none of that matters. I like to tell stories and, for a combination of personal and political reasons, this is the story I want to tell right now. If two people want to hear the story, I'm happy with that. If two hundred thousand want to hear it, even better.
How many I reach is, of course, partially a function of how good a job I do, along with timing, marketing, and many other factors. And I also get existential satisfaction out of the job, because it is a job, and not a well-paying one; still, the process of putting words together and striving to improve my skills gives me pleasure, albeit of the tortured sort. Why, I'm not sure.
Beyond those personal reasons, however, there are people out there who readily agree with me but who need to hear these stories told to them, so that they can think through problems with another mind (as I have many times, through the medium of books) and so that they can feel connected to something larger than themselves.
Gobin Stair, former Director of Beacon Press, died last Wednesday, November 26, at the age of 96. Stair joined Beacon initially as Production Manager before taking over as Director in 1962, a position he held until his retirement in 1975. The books published during Stair's tenure speak to his courage and convictions as a staunch advocate of free speech and essential inquiry.
While Beacon published many important books during Stair's years at the helm—including works by Victor Frankl, Mary Daly, Herbert Marcuse, and Paul Robeson—it is perhaps the publication of the Senator Gravel edition of the Pentagon Papers: The Defense Department History of United States Decisionmaking on Vietnam that brought him the most scrutiny and acclaim. The 7,000 page Pentagon Papers "documented the lies and cover-ups used by the U.S. government to maintain the war in Vietnam and public support of that war," and were read by Senator Mike Gravel into his Senate subcommittee records before being turned over to the Washington Post and New York Times and excerpted in both papers ("A Brief History of Beacon Press," by Susan Wilson, available in full here). Publication of the complete Pentagon Papers was logistically and legally daunting—the papers ultimately constituted a four-volume set and were published in spite of governmental efforts at suppression. Richard Nixon even called Stair at home to discourage against it, but the call from the President had the opposite of its desired effect, as Stair later recounted that being "told by Nixon... not to do it, convinced me before I had [completely] decided, that it was a book to do." (Quoted in "Beacon Press and the Pentagon Papers" by Allison Trzop, available in full here.)
Beacon Press was enriched by Gobin Stair's term as Director, and his leadership during the Vietnam War era made Beacon a vital voice for freedom of the press and the movement to end to the war. All of us at Beacon Press are grateful for his legacy and mourn his passing.
Portrait by Edward Nute, used with permission of the photographer.
Today's post is from Amy Caldwell, Executive Editor at Beacon Press.
This year's American Academy of Religion conference took place in Chicago, home of Barack-mania, and while the academy wasn't claiming divine foresight for discerning back in 2000 or so that this would be the place to be in 2008, a few folks thought the unseasonably warm and sunny weather was clearly a sign of divine favor. The scholars of AAR decidedly tend towards the Democratic Party, and a general feeling of guarded optimism and excitement suffused the conference. At the beginning of outgoing president's Emilie Townes' plenary address Saturday night, cries of "Yes We Can" even briefly erupted from the crowd.
Which is not to say that everyone is sanguine about the outcome of the election. In his opening remarks at a session on the effects of the "War on Terror" on American Muslims, Omid Safi, chair of the AAR's study of Islam section and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, described a propaganda DVD that has recently appeared in the mailboxes of voters in swing states. Entitled "Obsession," the message of this DVD is that Muslims are the second coming of the Nazis, that 2008 is equivalent to 1938, and that we must rise up and stop them. The DVD was distributed in copies of the New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education delivered in the Midwest. In contrast to this disturbing incitement to violence against innocent Americans, Safi tartly noted that ritually stating, at any public event, "we hate and decry terrorism" has become a virtual sixth pillar of Islam for American Muslims.
In the run-up to tonight's Vice Presidential debate, which will be hosted by Gwen Ifill, we're seeing an slight uptick in traffic from conservative blogs linking to her cousin Sherrilyn Ifill's post on The Relevance of Nooses and Lynching in the Age of Obama. For those of you who clicked through to read the entire post, then stuck around to see what else we talk about here, welcome.
"Neither of us wanted a divorce. We thought we'd be soulmates, forever and forever. But we couldn't afford to go to doctor any more and couldn't afford medication." Long-married couples divorce in order to get necessary health care.