A Q&A with Alexandra Minna Stern | I wrote Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate to bear historical witness to disturbing and reactionary political and cultural changes that were afoot in the United States in the mid-2010s. Specifically, I became interested in how and why eugenic ideas from the early 1900s, including race suicide—repackaged today as white genocide—were making a comeback and being disseminated by what came to be called the alt-right. Once I started writing the book, I became more and more interested in understanding the transnational dimensions of the rise of populist nationalism, and how this connects to the resurgence of white nationalism in the United States.
By Christian Coleman | Do you want to play a game? No, not the one in the Saw movie franchise. Let’s play the word association game. Come now. It’ll be fun! Peanut : Butter. Instagram : Celebrity. Identity politics : Divisive. Wait. Let’s back up. Divisive? That word has been coming up lately when presidential candidates make identity politics a talking point in public discourse. At an LGBT gala in Las Vegas, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay candidate, said identity politics have created a “crisis of belonging,” leading us to get “divided and carved up.” Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has criticized identity politics for focusing only on the endgame of diversity—another word with contentious associations and dubious meanings depending on who’s defining it—and neglecting the needs of working people.
The summer solstice has graced us with its yearly cameo. Time to bask in the warmth and light (and that charming humidity when it gets here) of longer nights! Which means more time to enjoy reading outside! Our staff has some recommendations for the season. Now, we know what you’re thinking: You already have a to-be-read pile that’s about ready to topple over and bury you up to your ears. But another recommendation won’t hurt. Trust us. After you’ve dug yourself out of your book avalanche, you’ll thank us later.
A Q&A with Sharon Lamb | I don’t know whether it was inspiration or necessity. I wrote this book because I had to. When I would come home from a parent interview or an observation during a visit with a mother who maybe could lose her child, I had to get my thoughts down on paper. And I couldn’t write up my report in that dry, impersonal, professional style. I needed to express the enormity of what I was witness to that day.
A Q&A with Michael Bronski | The idea for YA versions of books in Beacon’s ReVisioning American History series largely came from educators and librarians. My editor, Gayatri Patnaik, and I learned that teachers were looking for resources, and Gayatri suggested we answer their call with a young reader’s edition. With support from the Fund for Unitarian Universalist Social Responsibility, senior editor Joanna Green reached out to educators, librarians, and adapters, who generously and enthusiastically collaborated on this effort. At the moment, Beacon is releasing my book A Queer History of the United States for Young People as well as Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People. There have been, in the past five years or so, a surge in YA nonfiction publishing, particularly adaptations of adult non-fiction for younger readers. So, the time seemed right, and the fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall seemed to be perfect timing.
A Q&A with Angela Saini | For me, this is a book that has been bubbling since I was a child. I became a journalist in the first place because I became involved in antiracism movements at university while studying Engineering. But the time for this book was now, with the rise of the far-right and ethnic nationalism around the world. I wanted to put the rise of intellectual racism in historical and scientific context.
A Q&A with Sasha Pimentel | I learned early on that a poet doesn’t start a poem, nor a book, with an idea. Following ideas stunts a poet from following associations in repeating sounds (rhyme, anaphora, assonance, etc.), or repeating imagery, which is how language startles us into the territory of the unexpected. Which is often where a poem will most dare, or risk.
A Q&A with Dominique Christina | When I got into poetry, I was just trying to expel my own ghosts. No lofty notions about saving the world or addressing the ills therein. I just didn’t want to get off the planet with all of those skeletons hanging on my neck. I realized pretty quickly, though, that my personal traumas reflected my/our historical traumas, and in that regard, whatever medicine I am offering to myself, I am also hoping to speak into the dis-ease in such a way that there is balm enough for all of us.
A Q&A with Dominique Christina | I started writing when I was a senior in undergrad. I whimsically elected to take a creative writing course solely because the man who taught the course was a professor I would see on campus walking around in tye-dyed shirts and Birkenstock sandals with uncommercial hair. He was profane and funny, and I thought I would enjoy being in a classroom with him. What I did not know was that his course would change the trajectory of my life. He refused to let me hide in the writing which I fully intended to do. He insisted on authenticity and transparency and confession, and I found myself, for the first time really, having permission to say things I thought I would die with.
We are shocked and heartbroken. We learned of the sad news that our author, Rashod Ollison, passed away on October 17 from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was forty-one. He graced our catalog with his coming-of-age memoir Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues, and Coming of Age Through Vinyl. In his singular, flavorful writing voice, he brought to life his story of growing up Black and gay in central Arkansas during the eighties and the nineties. Back when we asked him if he had an audience in mind for his memoir, he said he didn’t think anyone would want to read it.
Finishing my last year of undergrad, I had the intention of becoming a high school teacher of Spanish and French. The pedagogy courses I took, however, convinced me that I didn’t want to teach after all. On top of that, I had to pay my way through college on my own, and when you’re competing in the Student Debt Olympics, year after year, you reconsider taking on a job that would barely cover rent and the cost of that luxury called food. I had to think of something else.
A Q&A with Crystal Fleming: Usually my girlfriend and I celebrate Pride together, but she happened to be out of town. So, this year I celebrated pride by attending the march in New York City with a group of girlfriends and going out for dinner afterwards. We had a wonderful time. I came home to a gorgeous bouquet of flowers sent from my lady, so in that way, she was still part of my celebration.
A Q&A with Fred Pearce: Nuclear scandals and disasters have been a recurring theme of my life as an environment journalist for several decades. But they seemed to have fallen off the radar. Old news, but definitely not fake news. Then I was commissioned to visit the heart of Britain’s nuclear industry, both military and civil, at a remote spot on the northwest coast of England called Sellafield. I was profoundly shocked at what I found, from the mile-after-mile of coastal mud that qualifies as radioactive waste to the world’s largest stockpile of plutonium, sitting inside a warehouse and wide open to terrorist attack. I set out to explore the world’s hidden legacy of nuclear fallout and debris, and this book is the result.
A Q&A with Marcus Eriksen | Plastic can entangle wildlife, but much of the harm comes from ingesting micro plastics. Single-use products that leave our land are shredding in the oceans to form microplastics the size of grains of rice or smaller. These absorb other pollutants, like pesticides and industrial chemicals, in high concentrations. The literature is showing that these chemicals then migrate into the bodies of marine life when ingested. Plastic is proving to be a vector for pollutants to get into the food chain, which much of humanity harvests to feed itself.
By Christian Coleman: There was one story Octavia E. Butler wouldn’t write. Reveling in science fiction/fantasy for an openness she saw lacking in other genres, Butler gave us gene-trading extraterrestrials, psionically powered mutants, a genetically engineered vampire, a reluctant time traveler forced to visit the brutal past of American slavery. But during her three-decades-long career as a novelist and short story writer, she never gave us a ghost story. She didn’t believe in ghosts. Raised as a born-again Baptist, Butler stopped believing in the afterlife and a celestial caretaker by age twelve. “Somehow you’re supposed to believe and have faith but not worry about having any evidence to support that belief and faith,” she said in a 1988 interview. “That just doesn’t work for me, and I never went back.” Coincidentally, at age twelve she began trying her hand at science fiction.
We’re excited to be marching in Boston Pride this year! Will we see you there tomorrow? You’ll see us in bright blue shirts emblazoned with “Publishing with Pride,” handing out buttons and postcards with links to PDF samples of select LGBT titles from our catalog. And it looks like the weather will be cooperative this year, too. A sunny Pride is the best Pride. Those of us you will see in the parade, staff members and authors, would like to share with you the reasons why we’re marching. Happy Pride!
A Q&A with Angela Saini: I was asked to write a piece about the menopause for a newspaper a few years ago, and I decided to look into the controversy around the evolutionary explanations for why women experience it when it is so rare among other species. It turned out to be an enormous scientific and gender battleground, and that prompted me to explore other controversial areas of science around women. Once I got started, the topic became an obsession. Writing this book has utterly changed the way I think about myself, the place of women in the world, and science.
A Q&A with Marianne Leone | My mother was a singular, irrepressible individual. Her wake, held in the working class area of Newton where I grew up called “The Lake,” was like a celebrity’s, with people from all walks of life telling stories about her. I wanted to tell her story, too, and the idea for this memoir, like my first book, grew out of an essay I had written called “The Official Story.” My mother was an immigrant who had come to the States to escape fascism under Mussolini and an arranged marriage. With my mother, there was the “official story” of her emigration, and the real story that I didn’t learn until years later, which I told in the book.
A Q&A with Will Myers: I had read Elie Wiesel’s Night and The Diary of Anne Frank as a young reader, but unfortunately it wasn’t until I was an adult that I read Man’s Search for Meaning. So when I began thinking about a young readers edition of the book, I was really excited to think about what it would be like to encounter the book as a young reader. I was interested in the possibilities of approaching the book with a young reader’s eyes and seeing the book from a different perspective.
A Q&A with Tanya Erzen | I taught a college course on women and citizenship in US History in a women’s prison in 2003 in New York City, Bayview Correctional Center. The prison has since closed and will house a women’s organization that works on global women’s issues. I noticed that during that time, the majority of people I saw coming into the prison, aside from family members and loved ones of those incarcerated, were religious volunteers, and I became curious about the presence of religious groups inside. It was around that time that a colleague sent me an article about Florida transforming its state prisons into faith-based character institutions. Since I write about evangelicalism and religion in general, I wanted to explore how people in prison experience the presence of so many religious groups.