A Q&A with Leigh Patel | As someone who has a deep love of learning and teaching, places of formal education have often brought me some amount of heartbreak. We have absolutely stunning teachers because they are also learners, and students who teach as they continue to learn. However, much of education, and glaringly so in higher education, has been shaped by mythologies of who is smart, intelligent, deserving, and more recently in higher education, what to do to bring in money. I often say to my students that they have been told lies about society in their K-12 education and that they’ve come to love those lies.
What are you in the mood for? Some global history? Historical dark fantasy? Literary fiction? Graphic memoir? These books are what some of our staff have been reading this summer and they come highly recommended. If you need any ideas for what to read by the pool, on the beach, or by the breeze of the A/C, check out what we have to say about them.
A Q&A with Stephanie Pinder-Amaker and Lauren Wadsworth | As people who hold marginalized identities, we often have been the “only” or the “pioneer” in our workplace. As a result, we frequently experienced not only identity related aggressions but consistent requests to train those around us on how to be more culturally aware and responsive. Neither of us started our careers aiming to be “diversity experts,” but like many with marginalized identities, we continued to be called upon, and eventually embraced the role.
Raise your hand if you’re going to Pride this year! 2020 has been voted off the island. More importantly, we missed Pride. As we strut our stuff under the sun, let’s not forget why we have the parades in the first place. The queers, drag queens, and trans women—especially the folx of color—who fought back against police violence. The fight for LGBTQ rights has never stopped since the Stonewall uprisings. Whether it’s the fight for self-acceptance and self-expression, for the right to marry, for the right to use the bathroom aligned with your gender identity, for affordable access to HIV medication, for the abolition of violent and oppressive systems, there’s always a fight.
Hats off to all students graduating this season! Because whew! This is no easy time to finish up school. The ideal graduation ceremony would be outdoors, filled with the company and applause of loved ones. Most will be held online, some outside within the parameters of social distancing. It won’t be the same, and frankly, nothing has been since March last year. But isn’t that what graduating is all about? Growing into the next new phase, whatever that phase happens to be? Before we get all misty-eyed and sob into our masks, here’s a list of recommended reads for the occasion.
A Q&A with G’Ra Asim | Toni Morrison’s aphorism is definitely germane to the genesis of this book. As I write about in the chapter “Evidence of Things Unscene,” I started working on “Boyz” in a grad school MFA workshop. At first, I was trying to write essays on punk and straight edge in a less overtly personal way. The feedback I got from my instructors and classmates was that the “I-character” in my essays was difficult to fully imagine or believe. That led me to a larger idea: for the most part, we all walk around with our own IRL dramatis personae of what kind of people we think exist in the world.
A Q&A with Eric Berkowitz | My UK publisher was proposing ideas for new projects, none of which seemed likely to hold my—or the public’s—interest very long, until one or another censorship/free speech issue popped up. I think it was the censorship of “drill” music—a hardcore rap genre—there, along with the inevitable battles and accusations. It struck us that every time an issue like this comes up, it’s as if it was for the first time.
Beacon Press supports our authors, the Asian and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and all those fighting against American xenophobia and hatred. This violence is not new. It has a long history in this country. We know that recent acts of violence are rooted in the same white supremacy and hate that take the lives of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color. We remain committed to publishing resources to help dismantle the systems of white supremacy, hate, and toxic masculinity. #StopAsianHate #EndWhiteSupremacy
A Q&A with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz | It was the first time a filmmaker showed interest in the book. I never imagined that any filmmaker, even if they loved reading the book, would be interested in using it in a documentary. But Raoul Peck is not any ordinary filmmaker. I have long admired his work. His first documentary, from 1989, was “Lumumba: Death of a Prophet,” which is about the first president of the former Belgian Congo colony that won its independence in 1960 and was then assassinated with CIA involvement.
Where would we be without the leadership of extraordinary women who chose to challenge the societal status quo? This year’s theme for International Women’s Day was Choose to Challenge. As Women’s History Month draws to a close, we’re highlighting books from our catalog to celebrate the inspiring women who saw the need for change, and took action for equality!
A Q&A with Robin Broad and John Cavanagh | This book is about two of the most unlikely and inspiring victories that we’ve ever witnessed or had the privilege to be part of. That these wins take place in a poorer country, one that the United States and global corporations have exploited for decades, makes the wins even more remarkable. As we celebrated the victories, we realized that by sharing the story of these wins in a narrative nonfiction book, we could also share this sense of hope with readers, including readers who may have given up hope in these challenging times.
By Christian Coleman | It’s another fest of firsts for Octavia E. Butler! The multi-award-winning author and MacArthur fellow is having a moment, or rather a series of rolling moments that’s been gaining speed over the last few years, and we hope it keeps going!
Black history isn’t just about the history-makers and big social movements. They begin as everyday people whose day-to-day experiences, inner Black life, and Black joy—this especially!—are just as much a part of Black history. Without daily life and joy, the picture narrows solely on struggle and trauma, and comes off as incomplete. We need it all.
Is the coast clear? Any instances of blackface or diversity snafus on the horizon to mar Black History Month? Any of that nonsense to call out? Only last year and the year before did rashes of both spread in news headlines. But not this year. We’re conditioned to anticipate them like clockwork, but it’s a relief not to see them. Too soon to call it? Anyway, this year’s Black History Month is starting on a more auspicious note.
“Science and technology have permeated nearly every aspect of our lives throughout the course of human history. But perhaps, never before in living memory, have the connections between our scientific world and our social world been quite so stark as they are today. . . . As new technologies take root in our lives, from artificial intelligence to human genome editing, they reveal and reflect even more about the complex and sometimes dangerous social architecture that lies beneath the scientific progress we pursue.”
It was the breather from 2020 we were waiting for. The election is over, and the Biden/Harris ticket won, no matter how many petty lawsuits the defeated opponent files. But wreckage and repair work await us. As Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said in her acceptance speech, democracy “is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it. To guard it and never take it for granted. And protecting our democracy takes struggle. It takes sacrifice. But there is joy in it. And there is progress. Because we, the people, have the power to build a better future.” Yes, we do.
It’s a kneejerk reaction to imagine what James Baldwin would say about the state of things in the US when the anniversary of his death comes every December 1. Especially now. Much like how the issues that folk legend Odetta sang about are still, sadly, relevant today, so it goes for the issues Baldwin wrote about in “Notes of a Native Son.” Which is why our director, Helene Atwan, says it remains so potent a text to go back to.
Two things come to mind this Native American Heritage Month. Compared to whites, Native Americans have been hit hard with a higher percentage of COVID cases, not to mention severe COVID outcomes. On the flip side, voters of Indigenous descent in states like Arizona helped swing the vote in favor of President elect Joe Biden and Vice President elect Kamala Harris. (You’re fired, despotic Cheeto!) Their perseverance and commitment to a democracy that frequently forgets them attest to this year’s theme.
A Q&A with Hilary Levey Friedman | The organizers could make it happen, and the contestants wanted to compete (one exception is Miss Wyoming USA, who had to withdraw due to school obligations and her first runner-up stepped in a few days before the competition started). How could they make it happen? Endeavor, which owns Miss USA, also owns UFC and manages other sporting events, and they have been successfully organizing events since May. They were able to find a network and venue—FYI and Graceland respectively—where production and contestants could be safely housed together on a timeline that worked.
Since COVID-19 elbowed its way in as a long-standing, unbidden guest, more women are losing their jobs than men. Even in our woke-ass times—we can’t wait to quit you, 2020—they’re still making reduced wages and taking on the greater brunt of childcare. For women and nonbinary entrepreneurs who are launching, funding, and growing their companies, the business landscape has been just as brutal. It shouldn’t take a pandemic to sound the alarm of gender disparity in the entrepreneurial world, an alarm we have heard but have yet to heed in earnest, but here we are. Again.