Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods
“Informational Readings” vs. Books: What Common Core Curriculum Misses

Beacon Authors on the Boston Marathon Bombings and Aftermath


Beacon Press calls Boston home. While we are all back at work this week, we mourn the lives lost in the bombings and the pursuit of the suspects, and our thoughts are with their loved ones and the victims still recovering from their injuries in our area's hospitals. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino have set up a fund to help those most affected by the bombings: One Fund Boston

We have found words of comfort and valuable analysis from our authors in the days since the Marathon bombings. 


Scott Korb (Light Without Fire) and Suhaib Webb (Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center) co-wrote this piece for the New York Times answering attacks against American Islamic communities by Rep. Peter King and others: 

Mr. King’s hypothesis, and the widespread surveillance policies already in effect since 9/11, assume that the threat of radicalization has become a matter of local geography, that American Muslims are creating extremists in our mosques and community centers.

But what we’re learning of the suspects, the brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, suggests a different story, and one that has itself become familiar: radicalization does not happen to young people with a strong grounding in the American Muslim mainstream; increasingly, it happens online, and sometimes abroad, among the isolated and disaffected.

[Read the rest at NYTimes]


For those looking for assistance speaking with their kids about violence and tragedy, we encourage you to read this excerpt from Children Who See Too Much on Scribd. The book's author and founder of the Child Witness to Violence Project, Betsy McAlister Groves, spoke with the Harvard Gazette about how to talk to kids about the bombings:

“Children take cues from their parents about how to make sense of all kinds of events in the world,” said Groves. She urged parents to assess their own feelings, and then determine what they will say and how they will say it before having a conversation with their kids. “I think that parents need to just give themselves permission to collect their own thoughts.”

Honesty is critical, she added, noting that opening a dialogue with children signals that it’s OK to discuss a difficult subject. “If parents take the initiative to bring it up, it makes the topic less scary to start with.’”

[Read the rest at Harvard Gazette]


At Guernica, Rafia Zakaria (whose book The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan is forthcoming from Beacon Press next year) wrote why attacks in America are "far more indelible in the world’s memory" than bombings in other places where they happen more frequently:

There may be fewer victims and less blood, but American tragedies somehow seem to occur in a more poignant version of reality, in a way that evokes a more sympathetic response. Within minutes American victims are lifted from the nameless to the remembered; their individual tragedies and the ugly unfairness of their ends are presented in a way that cannot but cause the watching world to cry, to consider them intimates, and to stand in their bloody shoes. Death is always unexpected in America and death by a terrorist attack more so than in any other place.

It is this greater poignancy of attacks in America that begs the question of whether the world’s allocations of sympathy are determined not by the magnitude of a tragedy—the numbers dead and injured—but by the contrast between a society’s normal and the cruel aftermath of a terrorist event. It is in America that the difference between the two is the greatest; the American normal is one of a near-perfect security that is unimaginable in many places, especially in countries at war. The very popularity of the Boston Marathon could be considered an expression of just this. America is so secure and free from suffering that people have the luxury of indulging in deliberate suffering in the form of excruciating physical exertion; this suffering in turn produces well-earned exhilaration, a singular sense of physical achievement and mental fortitude. The act of running a marathon is supposed to be simple, individual—a victory of the will over the body, celebrated by all and untouched by the complicated questions of who in the world can choose to suffer and who only bears suffering.

[Read the rest at Guernica]


Eboo Patel (Sacred Ground) asserts in the Huffington Post that, in the wake of bombings, interfaith action matters more than ever:

In America, just about everyone is some sort of hyphenated hybrid of race, religion and ethnicity/nationality. Irish-Catholic-American, African-American Pentecostal, Jewish-American secular Humanist, and so on. As Walt Whitman said, "I am large / I contain multitudes."

When interfaith cooperation is done well, it not only helps people from different faith and philosophical backgrounds get along, it creates space for the diverse identities within each of us to become mutually enriching rather than mutually exclusive. When interfaith events raise the question, what do I have in common with people of different religious and national identities, the natural internal dialogue that ensues is: What do my own diverse identities have in common with each other?

Religious extremists try to separate people's various identities and pit them against each other. The extremists that got to the young London 7/7 bombers somehow convinced them that their Muslim identity was at war with their British identity, and the former had to destroy the latter. While the facts are still coming in, this may also have been the case for the Tsarnaev brothers. It was a clash civilizations in their souls.

In a nation of hybrids, it's important to have loyalty to both sides of the hyphen. What if the Tsarnaev brothers were involved in discussions with people from other backgrounds about how their faith identity was mutually enriching with their nationality and citizenship? Perhaps they would have been less susceptible to the divide-and-destroy tactics of extremists.

[Read the rest at Huffington Post]


At her Being Both blog, Susan Katz Miller (Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family, forthcoming Fall 2013) speaks about her Boston ties and the ways that interfaith communities and families can offer solace: 

We do not need to share a conception of God in order to comfort each other. No matter our religious beliefs or lack thereof, we can still pause to sing together, meditate together, hug each other.

I write as someone who chooses to live fulltime in this “interfaith space.” Interfaith families raising children with dual-faith education experience the benefits of interfaith celebration and contemplation and mourning–the synergy, the joy, the healing of reflecting together as an interfaith community–week in and week out. And as we model interfaith love, and radical inclusivity, we hope to play some small part in preventing intolerance, alienation and violence in the world.

[Read the rest at Being Both]


At Huffington Post, Rabbi Marc Schneier (co-author of Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation about the Issues That Divide and Unite Jews and Muslims, forthcoming Fall 2013) speaks out against the tainting of American Muslims with the actions of the Tsarnaev brothers:

Since Friday (April 19), when the news broke that the likely perpetrators of the bombings, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, were Muslim, many of the top American Muslim spiritual and organizational leaders have unequivocally denounced the Boston Marathon bombings as morally repellent and antithetical to the basic values of Islam. Their passionate comments on this issue; following the hundreds of pronouncements by Muslim leaders in the years since Sept. 11, 2001 denouncing terrorism and violence need to be heard and acknowledged; especially by those who knowingly or unknowingly continue to peddle the canard that American Muslim leaders turn a blind eye to -- or even approve of -- terrorist acts committed by fellow Muslims.

[Read the rest at Huffington Post]


Wendy Kaminer (Worst Instincts: Cowardice, Conformity, and the ACLU) looked at civil liberties issues in this piece for the Atlantic:

Some of the stories we tell about the nation are delusions that cloak weaknesses and wrongs, which fester unacknowledged. David Ortiz brags that "nobody is going to dictate our freedom," and I assume he hasn't heard of the Patriot Act or warrantless wiretaps, much less the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. Dennis Lehane can be excused for declaring that "they messed with the wrong city," but don't take seriously his confidence that not much will change: "Trust me," he adds implausibly, "we won't be giving up any civil liberties to keep ourselves safe because of this."

Of course we will. We've been surrendering liberty in the hope of keeping ourselves safe for the past decade. The marathon bombings will hasten our surrender of freedom from the watchful eye of law enforcement. The Boston Globe is already clamoring for additional surveillance cameras, which are sure to be installed to the applause of a great many Bostonians. You can rationalize increased surveillance as a necessary or reasonable intrusion on liberty, but you can't deny its intrusiveness, or inevitable abuses.

[Read the rest at the Atlantic] 


On Radio Boston yesterday, Judge Nancy Gertner (In Defense of Women) and Alan Dershowitz spoke about the legal issues surrounding the Tsarnaev case: venue changes, death penalty charges, the definition of weapons of mass destruction, Miranda warnings, and more. Listen here.


On her Facebook page, Kate Whouley (Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words), reflected on the "impulse to assist, the willingness to extend oneself in the service of others who need us," exhibited by the brave heroes who helped the victims.


And from our blog archives, as a way of celebrating our hometown, we invite you to read "Beacon Authors talk about their favorite places in the Hub."