Look how fast holiday season crept up on us. Where did 2022 go? Well, now’s the time to hunt for gifts for the loved ones in your life. Save 30% on everything at beacon.org through December 31 using code SPARKJOY30!
Scroll down and you’ll see some selections to give you ideas. These books are bound to spark the joy of living your best queer life with found Ballroom family. Of stepping outside societal boundaries to embrace your inner monster. Of honing your center with mindfulness. Of getting inspired by the words of Black poets. This is just a handful of our catalog, which you can browse on our website.
Remember that USPS media mail takes 7-10 business days. Also, the Penguin Random House warehouse will be closed from December 23 to December 25 and then on December 31. So, plan accordingly while placing your orders during this time.
Finding a family like the folks in Ballroom, hand-picked and talented, a flamboyance of family, can be the precious gift that fills seemingly unfillable voids like homelessness, alienation, sorrow, the hunger to be seen—a sense of purpose.
You see, Catherine sometimes tries to kill her husband. It has been this way for years: He puts her into an asylum, thinks she’s well, takes her out again, and she tries to kill him. He puts her in another one, thinks she’s well, takes her out again, she tries to kill him: on and on. You’d think we’d learn by now; you’d think everybody’d learn, don’t you? But somehow we keep the optimism, or the pretense, bring her out, and wait. She’s like the fucking trapdoor spider.
When we begin to meditate on earth, water, fire, air, space, and consciousness outside our bodies, we recognize that these six elements are everywhere in the universe. We gradually come to see that we and the universe are one. The universe is our basis, and we are the basis of the universe. The composition and the decomposition of a body do not add or take away anything from the universe. The sun is just as necessary for our bodies as are our hearts.
—Thich Nhat Hanh
Breaking Bread: Essays from New England on Food, Hunger, and Family
Eds. Deborah Joy Corey and Debra Spark
Even if your parents wouldn’t pony up for Cracker Jack, if you were a child in the 1960s and 1970s, you were all about sugary breakfast cereals and the box prize. Only here, too, the food was rather disgusting. Who, presented with real candy, would opt for the “marshmallow treat” of Lucky Charms? Clearly, what the world needed was a genuinely tasty item in which a prize was contained. And that item, though it took till my own late-age motherhood to discover it, is the Kinder Egg.
—from Debra Spark’s “Prize Inside”
I pluck you like a bass guitar—
your left forearm my fretboard,
the ribs on your right side my strings.
I boom, boom, boom a blues pattern;
the feedback of your laughter cuts
the sound check short.
I know only one riff,
but you ask me to play it again.
—Aaron Caycedo-Kimura, from “Riff”
The Black radical imagination does not stand still; it lives and breathes and moves with the people. The best we can do is catch a glimpse of how people in motion have envisioned the future and what they did to try to realize or enact that future. But every freedom dream shares a common desire to find better ways of being together without hierarchy and exclusion, without violence and domination, but with love, compassion, care, and friendship.
—Robin D. G. Kelley
I had seen people beaten on television and in the movies. I had seen the too-red blood substitute streaked across their backs and heard their well-rehearsed screams. But I hadn’t lain nearby and smelled their sweat or heard them pleading and praying, shamed before their families and themselves. I was probably less prepared for the reality than the child crying not far from me. In fact, she and I were reacting very much alike. My face too was wet with tears. And my mind was darting from one thought to another, trying to tune out the whipping. At one point, this last cowardice even brought me something useful. A name for whites who rode through the night in the antebellum South, breaking in doors and beating and otherwise torturing black people.
—Octavia E. Butler
I hoped the wolves would remain away from any location that would become the crosshairs of their deaths. For many, the word wolf carries a dark and heavy meaning. Four letters have made them into something other than what they are and how they resonate inside the mind of many humans. Traditional Native peoples, however, have lived with wolves and recently have even requested their return to reservations. For us, the word means cooperation, a natural connection with the lives of a forest, communication, and loyalty to others. A pack of wolves also bespeaks the health of water, trees, and survival for other animals. For millennia, observation in shared territories has taught us this; the wolf is given an earned measure of respect.
There’s much talk lately of the importance of representation—If you see it, you can be it was a mantra I remember teachers making us repeat—but, until these Black women poets, I only saw slivers of myself, of creative freedom, of fearless inspiration. Writing is part of my self-care, and if I’m censored there, inside my own wondering, where else am I allowed to question freely? Writing rarely gives me answers, but it helps me articulate questions I have about the world and my own longing. It’s a safe space, with many rooms, a house Black women have tended for me.
A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories
Complied and Edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas
Why is it that lots of white people always grin when they see a Negro child? Santa Claus grinned. Everybody else grinned, too, looking at little black Joe—who had no business in the lobby of a white theatre. Then Santa Claus stooped down and slyly picked up one of his lucky number rattles, a great big loud tin-pan rattle like they use in cabarets. And he shook it ﬁercely right at Joe. That was funny. The white people laughed, kids and all. But little Joe didn’t laugh. He was scared. To the shaking of the big rattle, he turned and ﬂed out of the warm lobby of the theatre, out into the street where the snow was and the people. Frightened by laughter, he had begun to cry. He went looking for his mama. In his heart he never thought Santa Claus shook great rattles at children like that—and then laughed.
—from Langston Hughes’s “One Christmas Eve”
Within the body is its own sweet sound,
It starts as echo and fades fast.
In the bricked-up burden of bone
Two old notes repeat, both fierce.
The city curves. The brightest will
Is open. I have been here for years.
There are lights and wires; there is
Some beauty. It is almost enough.
—Colm Tóibín, from “Curves”
If stepping outside the boundaries makes you monstrous, that means monsters are no longer bound. What happens if we charge through the gates and find that living on the other side—in all our Too Muchness, oversized and overweening and overcomplicated as we are—means living fully for the first time? Then the monster story stops being a warning sign, and starts to be a guide. Draw a new map. Mark down: Be monsters here.