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!
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: “The Canonization of Junípero Serra and the Race for Innocence”
Dunbar-Ortiz’s American Book Award-winning An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States chronicles four centuries of Native Americans actively resisting expansion of the US empire, colonialism, and the attendant structural injustices. Colonialism and its legacy of injustices, however, are still a part of the present as much as they are a part of our country’s past. In May, the new and admired Pope Francis announced the canonization of Junípero Serra, thereby venerating European colonization and genocide. Dunbar-Ortiz implores us to celebrate the insurgent actions of California’s Indigenous nations against Serra’s totalitarian order, not the oppressor.
Nura Maznavi: “Why I’m Not Fasting This Ramadan”
For Nura Maznavi, attorney, writer, and co-editor of Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex & Intimacy, Ramadan was a time when, as a child, she could pretend to be an adult. She insisted on fasting the entire month starting at the age of seven. Ramadan became more challenging as the years went on, but she never missed a day of fasting—until she became pregnant. This year, the second time around, Maznavi didn’t fast because she was nursing, and she didn’t feel bad about it. She found other ways of feeling the Ramadan spirit.
Robert L. Fried: “How to Avoid the ‘Besieged Teacher’ Trap”
When you’re a new teacher, or one with years of experience, and you’re faced with disobedient children, unfriendly administrators, shortages of supplies, and demanding parents, how do you avoid the besieged teacher trap? How do you work with the pressures and expectations of the classroom while cultivating the practice of figuring out how your students can enjoy their time together more, how they can take on the wider world with curiosity, creativity, and zest? Robert Fried, author of The Passionate Teacher, lays out the foundation for educators to become the passionate teacher they want to be, the kind who can’t wait to get into the classroom.
Robert Oswald and Michelle Bamberger: “EPA’s Study of Fracking: Media Hype and Reality”
Robert Oswald and Michelle Bamberber, authors of The Real Cost of Fracking, pored over all of one thousand pages of the EPA’s long-awaited study on the effects of hydraulic fracturing in the United States. News reports of the study claimed that fracturing was safe and did not jeopardize our water and water resources. Given the study’s wide coverage in the media, how did so many news outlets get the story so wrong? Well, as Oswald and Bamberger explain, only a select few actually read the study. Not only do they point us to specific details in the report about the dangers of fracking on our water, they also review the aftermath of the misinformation fed to the masses.
Kay Whitlock: “Atticus Is Always With Us: Reflection on Go Set a Watchman”; Michael Bronski: “When the Young Don’t Always Speak the Truth”
The publication of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman was, by and large, one of this year’s highly anticipated—and controversial—cultural milestones. Readers who had fallen in love with Atticus Finch as the heroic savior in To Kill a Mockingbird were shocked when confronted with an altogether contrary characterization of the man who had stood for racial justice. In Watchman, Lee gives us his back-story and shows Atticus as he always was, a lawyer groomed for white supremacy and racism in the Jim Crow South. Whitlock and Bronski, authors of Considering Hate, examine how and why Lee’s frank portrayal of Atticus challenges the white American literary imagination.
Texas made the headlines in October when schools across the state put some dodgy textbooks from McGraw-Hill Education on their curricula. The geography textbooks referred to African slaves as “workers” and completely downplayed slave owners’ brutal treatment of slaves with other linguistic sleights of hand. They, in effect, whitewashed American slavery history. What’s most disconcerting about this is that the textbooks were approved for Texas high schools. We at Beacon reached out to our authors who have written about American Slavery history to ask them for corrective reading. With recommendations from Mary Frances Berry, Thomas Norman DeWolf, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Anita Hill, Sharon Leslie Morgan, and Marcus Rediker, we were able to put together a robust list.