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Beacon Press Announces the Promotion of Gayatri Patnaik to Director

Gayatri Patnaik
Photo credit: Catherine Campbell

In the wake of Helene Atwan’s retirement announcement, Beacon Press is delighted to share that Gayatri Patnaik, who has been with the press for two decades, has been appointed as the next Director, effective July 30, 2022.

Beacon, a 168-year-old Boston-based independent, nonprofit publisher, is a department of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Announcing the appointment, UUA President Susan Frederick-Gray and Executive Vice-President Carey McDonald said, “The hiring process has only affirmed our high level of confidence in Gayatri’s leadership. We believe unequivocally that she is the right choice for Beacon’s next Director.” Helene Atwan, who led the Press for twenty-six years, added, “Hiring Gayatri was the best decision I ever made. I am just thrilled to have her taking over. The press simply could not be in better hands.”

At a time when the book publishing industry is again reckoning with a diversity crisis among staff and in the voices they publish, Beacon, which has long held a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion within its staff as well as among its author representatives, is proud that a queer woman of color will be leading the press for the first time in its history. 

Twenty years ago, Patnaik, who is Hindu, felt called to work at Beacon. “I wanted a publishing home where I could grow intellectually and bring my full self as a Brown, queer immigrant,” she notes. “I wanted to publish books I felt connected to and be part of a movement bigger than myself. I found all that and more at Beacon, through our books and through the richness of the community—our visionary authors, generations of talented Beacon staff, and the UUA. I am grateful for Helene’s support and incredibly honored to lead this historic press.”

Patnaik (she/her) has a master’s degree in anthropology from The New School for Social Research, over twenty-five years of experience in book publishing, and previously held editorial positions at Rob Weisbach Books/William Morrow, Routledge, and Palgrave before moving to Beacon, where she has been Editorial Director, and most recently, Publisher. Patnaik has expanded and diversified Beacon’s list by acquiring 200 books and publishing folx from BIPOC, queer, and immigrant communities.

Patnaik has published award-winning authors including Imani Perry, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Cornel West, Kate Bornstein, Jeanne Theoharis, and Marcus Rediker. She has developed books in “The King Legacy,” a series by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and has created and launched three robust series, including “Queer Action/Queer Ideas,” as well as the acclaimed “ReVisioning History” series, which powerfully reframes history by centering the experiences of those from historically underrepresented communities. Patnaik delivered the commencement speech at her alma mater, Goshen College, in 2019 and was awarded the Editorial Excellence Award by the Biographers International Organization in 2020.