You’ve read our classics, such as Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., and James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son; and many of you know our current list, featuring books by Cornel West, Lani Guinier, Anita Hill, and Christopher Emdin—books that speak to the condition of the world, and add to our understanding of urgent social issues. Whether it’s the environment or race, cultural or class dynamics, we publish all our books with a purpose. Now you can meet the people who work at Beacon Press in our blog series “Beacon Behind the Books.” Each month, we’ll introduce to you a member of our staff and give you a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on at our office.
For the month of October, we introduce you to our editor, Rachael Marks!
What drew you to publishing, Rachael? How did you find your way to Beacon?
I thought I’d continue in academia but realized in grad school that I didn't like teaching, so faced with student debt and with no idea how to channel my love of books and my interest in social justice, I considered a number of different careers before I noticed an opening at Beacon Press. I’d been a longtime fan of Beacon and jumped at the chance to work as an editorial assistant. Needless to say, publishing was the right career path.
What do you find most rewarding?
Celebrating a book’s on sale date. We work closely with authors to develop and edit a book, so it’s exciting when a book that you’ve been living with for over a year is out in the world. A big part of that is seeing how happy our authors are.
You’ve attended conferences related to your field. Tell us about those experiences and how they add to your work.
I acquire for our education list, and over the past years I’ve found it profoundly important to attend conferences, lectures, and visit classrooms to learn firsthand what’s happening on the ground. The teachers, students, parents, and organizers that I’ve met help me stay informed about what issues we need to shine a light on.
What current/upcoming projects are you excited about?
In light of the relentless attacks on public education and because everything Secretary DeVos says fills me with rage, I’m particularly excited about a few upcoming education books. Deb Meier and Emily Gasoi’s These Schools Belong to You and Me, Linda Nathan’s When Grit Isn’t Enough, and Twenty-First-Century Jim Crow Schools by Raynard Sanders, David Stovall, and Terrenda White all argue that privatization and market-based reforms aren’t a viable solution and that it’s imperative that we fight for our public schools.
Another book I’m excited about is White Fragility by antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo. DiAngelo coined the term "white fragility” in 2011 to describe defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially. These include emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors like argumentation and silence. Sound familiar? The recent presidential election exposed deep racial divides in the US, and I’m excited because White Fragility will help people to better understand white supremacy and racism.
Finally, one last book I want to mention is Michelle Oberman’s Her Body, Our Laws, which will be out in January. Oberman is a legal scholar who also happens to be a terrific storyteller, and in this book she offers a fresh look at the battle over abortion law.
What are you reading right now?
I have a few books in rotation now. Elena Ferrante’s Days of Abandonment, Álvaro Enrigue’s Sudden Death, and Sigrid Undset’s Kristen Lavransdatter (translated by Tiina Nunnally). I reread Kristen Lavransdatter each fall/winter and try unsuccessfully to convince others to read it.
In an alternate universe, what career would you have?
I’d love to work on a farm, rescue animals, and make cheese.
Hobbies outside of work?
Woodworking! I’ve always loved tinkering and building things, and my biggest regret is that I didn’t take shop class in high school. A few years ago I decided I wanted to learn how to whittle. Since then, I’ve expanded my repertoire and bought a small used bandsaw for my apartment; however, my main love is spoon carving. You might be surprised to learn that there is an enthusiastic community of spooncarvers around over the world. In fact, there’s even an annual gathering called “Spoonfest.” It’s like for Lallapoolza for spooncarvers. I haven’t been yet, but I’ll make it out there one day.
I tend to listen to comedy and history podcasts. My favorite is Comedy Bang Bang. Especially any episode with Paul F. Tompkins. To say that I’m a super fan is an understatement.
Name three non-office items on your desk and their significance to you.
I have a beautiful drawing of my dog, Beowulf, a feisty twelve-year-old Chihuahua, that was gifted to me by a colleague’s wife, Kelley Bennett. I also have a few gifts and trinkets from friends and colleagues, including a picture of Tina from Bob’s Burgers and a fetching Jeff Goldblum lapel pin.
Last but not least, I have a copy of Alice Childress’s Like One of the Family signed by Roxane Gay. We first published that book in 1986 (it was originally printed in Paul Robeson’s newspaper, Freedom) and reissued it in 2016 with a beautiful new cover by Louis Roe and a powerful foreword from Roxane Gay. That particular reissue remains near and dear to my heart.
About Rachael Marks
Rachael Marks joined Beacon Press in 2010 and acquires in education, with a special interest in educational equality and democracy; cultural environments of urban, suburban, and rural educational settings; issues of difference, diversity, social justice, and alliance building.