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Cheers to Helene Atwan on Her Retirement and 26 Years at Beacon! — Part 2

Celebrating Helene Atwan’s retirement party in New York, NY. L to R: Amy Caldwell, Helene, Michael Reynolds (Europa Editions), Elinor Lipman, Pamela MacColl, Bridget Marmion
Celebrating Helene Atwan’s retirement party in New York, NY. L to R: Amy Caldwell, Helene, Michael Reynolds (Europa Editions), Elinor Lipman, Pamela MacColl, Bridget Marmion. Photo credit: Mollie O’Mara

The threshold is upon us. The end of our time with Helene Atwan as our director is coming up. We’re all wishing her the happiest retirement! It has been an amazing twenty-six years, and Beacon won’t be the same without her. So many amazing authors she brought into the fold! So many amazing books—including her love of poetry—she brought to the catalog! Several of our authors gathered here to congratulate her and to thank her. Along the way, we’ll take a trip down memory lane with photos.


With Boston authors


Dear One!

So sad to hear this. You’ve done such amazing work. And I will be forever grateful for how much you believed in the inaugural memoir.

But SOOOO HAPPY that you will still be working with me on the new and selected.

I don’t think I can do it without you.
—Richard Blanco, How to Love a Country


I’m so grateful that I got to work with you through the writing of the book. Thank you for believing in me and this project!
—Jasmine Brown, Twice As Hard


What sad and happy news! Sad for me, because I have loved working with you, and having a relationship with Beacon has been one of the most rewarding professional relationships. As you know, it was my first choice for my first book. From Baldwin to Gayl Jones to Robeson, to be part of a Boston house for my work has always been important, and that has only been exceeded by knowing you and being grateful for how well you’ve treated me and my work.

And it’s happy news as well, because you have certainly earned after twenty-six years all the best time to be yours—in Boston, California, wherever you are. I’m very happy for you and I am raising a glass in your honor. Would love to do so in person one day. So, yes, you are never saying goodbye to me. And I look forward to seeing you in person when the time comes.
—Howard Bryant, Full Dissidence


HELENE ATWAN, you are amazing. Thank you for being such a strong supporter for my work.
—Christopher Emdin, Ratchetdemic


You’ve done such wonderful things at Beacon. I am so honored to be part of your legacy and that you took a chance on me. It is something that has held me up in very dark times.
—Laila Halaby, Once in a Promised Land


With MLK III and Rev Barber


Dear and beautiful Helene,

I am of two feelings about this. One is to congratulate you for retiring. The other is being so sorry to see you leave, but after 26 years I know how much you deserve it, having published incredible books and worked very seriously to bring in your chosen authors.

Of course, we will all miss you. I hope to remain in touch before that time and then after you leave.

With my warmth,
—Linda Hogan, The Radiant Lives of Animals


You’ve really been so kind to me . . .

If it weren’t for your own kindness! Let your kindness be known!

Let your editorial expertise be known! I appreciate everything you’ve done.

Crying out to you, dear Helene, was far better than to cry to anybody else, even those who claim they know and love me most.

—Gayl Jones, Palmares


I will always remember with delight our collaboration on Ma Speaks Up! Thank you so much for that time. You have been such a force at Beacon. It’s hard to picture the place without you!
—Marianne Leone, Ma Speaks Up


I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to work with you on Pregnant Girl. You believed in me and in the project when so many others didn’t, and I can’t thank you enough.
—Nicole Lynn Lewis, Pregnant Girl


With Bill Ayers and Cornel West


First, a huge congratulations on a superb twenty-six years.

You’ve taken Beacon Press to incredible heights. It’s going to take me some time to digest, because I have no template for book publishing without Helene.

I’m so very touched by your words now, and the prodigious investment of your energy and enthusiasm over all the books.
—Danielle Ofri, When We Do Harm


Dear Helene,

You have been so good for my “business,” but even more as a true friend. I hope we dance together for a long, long time.

Much love,
—Mary Oliver, New and Collected Poems: Volume One


My dear sister,

The Collected Poems could not ever have been done without you. Much love to you,
—Sonia Sanchez, Collected Poems


My dearest Helene,

Truly delightful meeting, so good to see your beautiful, smiling countenance and that you were able to meet Karim. You’re a sweetheart, Helene. You’ve been so consistent in your thoughtfulness. Means so much.

As always, my love and deep respect,
—Gloria Karefa Smart (James Baldwin’s sister)


With Roger Wilkens and Robin DiAngelo


It is sad and shocking that you are moving on. I remember that conversation we had in New York at that poetry event what must be eight years ago.

You were so kind and enthusiastic when I sent you the poems. It has been a pleasure and a privilege working with you.
—Colm Tóibín, Vinegar Hill


Congratulations, Helene! Wow, twenty-six years! What an achievement! Glad to hear that you’ll still be working with Beacon in some capacity. Thank you for truly making me feel like a part of the press. It’s been an honor to work with you and Beacon. This experience has changed my life.
—Michael Torres, An Incomplete List of Names


Wow! Congratulations!

It’s an honor to be a bookend to your brilliant career, and I love the possibility of remaining in your orbit through other adoptee initiatives! I’m so grateful for you and all that you’ve built at Beacon Press. With immense gratitude,
—Angela Tucker, “You Should Be Grateful” (forthcoming in Spring 2023)


My dear sister,

What a great force for good you are and have been at Beacon! I guess all good things must come to an end! My God, how blessed we all are to work with you!!!
—Cornel West, Race Matters 


With Anita Hill and Lani Guinier

Celebrating Helene Atwan’s retirement party in New York, NY. L to R: Amy Caldwell, Helene, Michael Reynolds (Europa Editions), Elinor Lipman, Pamela MacColl, Bridget Marmion Mollie O’Mara