You don’t know Rosa Parks. Not really. Not the way you know about Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Unless you have read Jeanne Theoharis’s NAACP Image Award-winning “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,” you are familiar with Parks’s Cliff Notes claim to civil rights fame taught in school and not much else. Until Theoharis’s biography was published in 2013, there was no serious footnote or book about her. Let that sink in. Six decades of activism, and not a single book! And more recently, there hadn’t been a feature documentary made about her either. Until now.
Talk about an affront to human life. In a bait-and-switch tactic to push the Right’s anti-immigrant message, FL Governor Ron DeSantis paid to send 50 migrants like cattle on an airplane from San Antonio, TX, to Martha’s Vineyard, MA. The migrants were told they’d land in Boston, where they could get expedited work papers. On top of that, hundreds of thousands of people across Puerto Rico are waiting for water and power to be restored after Hurricane Fiona knocked out power lines and collapsed infrastructure with massive flooding. A rough way for Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month to start.
A Q&A with Remica Bingham-Risher | I actually never contemplated writing a book of nonfiction. When I started interviewing Black poets I admired, I did imagine that one day, I’d compile all those interviews. But those would be testaments to the things they were doing in the craft; it wouldn’t have much to do with me. So, it’s interesting that, over time, all the things they taught me kind of melded into this hybrid text, but I couldn’t have imagined it for myself. I’m very grateful.
Who’s your favorite people’s historian, and why is it Howard Zinn? He’s ours, too, and today, August 24, he would have turned one hundred. He wore many hats: social activist, professor, author, and playwright. He meant so much to us here at Beacon Press. Going through the books we published of his, including his memoir, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train,” we get a little misty eyed. To celebrate his hundredth birthday, we pulled some beloved quotes that showcase his life’s worth of wisdom and insights on hope, the politics of writing history, the power of social movements, nonviolence, class, race, education, and much more.
Nobody wanted long COVID on our collective pandemic Bingo card, but there it is. In her “The Daily Show” interview, OG disability rights badass Judy Heumann told Trevor Noah that the likelihood of his acquiring a disability, temporary or permanent, was statistically high. He took her statement as a threat in jest, but there’s truth in that for us.
A Q&A with Imani Perry | I believe that Lorraine is having a well-deserved extended period of recognition. I am also thrilled that “A Raisin in the Sun” is reportedly returning to Broadway in the fall. But I’m still holding out hope that her other work, especially “Les Blancs” and “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window,” will be produced more frequently.
It’s raining men, and not the ones The Weather Girls sang about. They’re raining on Pride parades with violent intent. A U-Haul truckful of members from the white supremacist group, Patriot Front, was arrested before they could disrupt a Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Proud Boys stormed a Drag Queen story hour at a library in San Lorenzo, CA. Baptist ministers in Idaho and Texas went viral for calling on the government to execute gay people. Cancel all the hallelujahs for them.
By Brittany Wallace | I remember when I first heard about “Breaking Bread.” Contrary to what movies would have you think, the publishing process takes at least a year, sometimes two or three. When I started at Beacon in September 2021, we were already abuzz about our summer 2022 list—publishing speak for “forthcoming books.” Our director and the book’s in-house editor, Helene Atwan, brought “Breaking Bread” up in an all-staff meeting. She talked about how two years-long friends, Debra Spark and Deborah Joy Corey, gathered up to seventy essays from renowned and beloved food writers for the collection.
It’s flying graduation caps season! We’re not post-pandemic, but graduates are embarking on a world stage that looks different from what it was two or three years ago. Some of those differences are alarming.
By María de los Angeles Torres | After a contentious campaign that ignited strong debate specially among Pedro Pans—Cuban children who came to the US unaccompanied in the early sixties—Governor DeSantis of Florida is poised to sign a new law effectively banning shelter for recent unaccompanied immigrant minors in the state fleeing violence in their homeland.
Bring out your flower bouquets and your brunch reservations! This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and we’re bringing the books to take you into the weekend and beyond. These books show how every kind of mother needs to be valued and supported in the catch-all societal stew we call the US. Mothers of color. Immigrant mothers. Mothers who become parents at a young age. Mothers separated from their families because of incarceration. Mothers challenging the medical establishment about misconceived notions of disability.
Remember those minutes-long social media videos of folks quarantine clapping for frontline workers? And for the medical staff and carers looking after droves upon droves of COVID patients? Do you also remember that most of the ones getting the applause were women? If our global health crisis has made one thing clear, it’s how much we depend on—and take for granted—the recognized and unrecognized work women of all cultures do to keep societies going.
By Keisha N. Blain | In 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech on the power of voting. King argued that access to the ballot would allow Black Americans to remake society without having to wait for federal support. He argued that voting was a solution for the many challenges Black Americans faced. King’s speech also addressed the 1954 Brown Decision. In the aftermath of Brown, local school districts and politicians continued to resist the attempts to desegregate schools nationwide.
By Nancy Rubin Stuart | Everyone knows Benjamin Franklin was a scientist, an inventor, and a diplomat, but did you know he also had the makings of a great romance advice columnist? The founding father was well suited to that job because of his wide experience with women. That may explain why he penned a letter in 1745 to a single man about the best way to sate his sexual impulses outside marriage. Ben’s advice? Sleep with an older woman instead of a young one.
What a difference a year makes. Book banning is back—and it’s on steroids. Is it a coincidence that it’s all the rave—more like rage—during Black History Month? The pearl-clutchers have assembled and are targeting not only books dealing with sex and gender but also books featuring Black themes and US history. It’s a predictable flex. A tired flex.
A Q&A with Jeanne Theoharis | I think people assume that they know her. Even many people who know Rosa Parks wasn’t just a simple seamstress who accidentally walked into history don’t realize how much of her history—the militancy of her early activism in Montgomery, her activism in Detroit, her work in the Black Power movement—is still largely unrecognized.
By Pamela D. Toler | Cathay Williams (more or less 1844–1892) was the first African American woman known to have served in the United States Army—a two-year stint in which she passed as a man. Born a slave near Independence, Missouri, she was a “house girl” on the Johnson plantation in Cole County, near the Missouri capital of Jefferson City, when the Civil War began. After General Nathaniel Lyons’s troops captured Jefferson City, which had become a rebel stronghold, the Eighth Indiana Volunteer Infantry claimed Williams and other escaped or displaced slaves as “contrabands.” She traveled with the regiment for the rest of the war, working as a laundress.
You’ve heard the news. Now’s the time to jump on your holiday book buying. Supply chain delays are affecting many industries, including the book industry. Some new books you’ve been waiting for may not make it to bookstores in time for the holiday, and hot sellers may be sold out by December and not reprinted in time. On top of that, what’s thrown a wrench into the works is—wait for it—the pandemic. Who saw that plot twist coming? (We’d probably be in less of this mess if everyone got vaccinated, but hey, let’s not digress.) So, gifts you would typically start buying in December may not be available.
By Christian Coleman | Break out the confetti and the champagne! We’re having a double celebration for civil rights activist Desmond Meade! First, he has been named a 2021 MacArthur Fellow! Secondly, it’s the first-year anniversary of his book, “Let My People Vote: My Battle to Restore the Rights of Returning Citizens.” The MacArthur Foundation selected him to join this year’s class of Fellows because of his work to restore voting rights to 1.4 million formerly incarcerated citizens in Florida and to remove barriers to their full participation in civic life.
This year’s theme for Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month is Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope. It invites Hispanic and Latinx communities to reflect on how good our tomorrow can be by holding onto resilience and hope. The following books from our catalog wouldn’t be here without our authors’ sense of hope, be it the hope of a better future embodied in the text or the hope that the book will reach the reader who needs it. In each one, you will experience stories of resilience in the face of seeking justice, of crossing borders and carving out a space for one’s self in an uninviting country, adding to the complexities and contradictions of the United States’ narrative. One of these books is for you. Happy Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month!