This will be our second summer with our favorite global party-crasher, the pandemic. (Leave already, Pandy! We want to get on with our lives.) Seems like a lifetime ago when this started, huh? Except this season, the rollout of vaccines is making outdoor time under the sun a little freer and a little less fraught with worry. Although still nowhere near the comfort and safety level we need, some of us may make to the beach. Others may make it as far as their backyard. Wherever you set your beach blanket or beach chair, vaxxed and masked, we have some audiobook suggestions for the occasion.
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.
This year’s theme for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Service. Beacon Press views their writers as leaders, charting the way to a better future with uncovered histories, cultural commentary, and more. Which is why, as AAPI Heritage Month wraps up, we’re putting the spotlight on the work of our Asian American writers. The following list of recommended reads—by no means exhaustive—honors their work and contributions to our society and American history at large.
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.
By Marga Vicedo | “You are being emotional,” someone may tell you during a conversation. It is not a compliment. It usually means you are being irrational or at least unreasonable. The underlying assumption is that you are not thinking clearly because you are letting your emotions interfere with your reasoning. This belief is not only prevalent in daily interactions. The separation between cognition and affects has a long history in philosophical and scientific approaches in the Western world. The emotional and cognitive realms are often seen as separate, if not opposed to each other.
By Laura Erickson-Schroth and Laura A. Jacobs | Many transgender people have been marginalized from a young age. Children and adolescents who demonstrate gender variance can be harassed by their peers simply for dressing in the “wrong” garment or for having a hairstyle that more closely matches norms for the “other” gender. Teachers often refuse to acknowledge students’ trans identities and insist on referring to individuals by their birth names and pronouns, something most transgender and gender-nonconforming people find to be an aching nullification of their identity.
By David Freedlander | Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did something unheard of in politics: she skipped town. While the Crowley forces were holding a big rally on a rainy Saturday, Ocasio-Cortez was thousands of miles away at the US-Mexico border to protest the Trump administration’s child separation policy. It led to striking visuals that rocketed around social media of Ocasio-Cortez pleading with guards at the gate, but it seemed suicidal politically. It was Ocasio-Cortez’s idea, and no one tried to talk her out of it.
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!
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!
By Jeanne Theoharis and Brandy Colbert | What you learned about Rosa Parks in school was a myth. Much of what is known and taught about her is incomplete, distorted, and just plain wrong. Because Rosa Parks was active for sixty years, in the North as well as the South, her story provides a broader and more accurate view of the Black freedom struggle across the twentieth century. Jeanne Theoharis and Brandy Colbert show young people how the national fable of Parks and the civil rights movement—celebrated in schools during Black History Month—has warped what we know about Parks and stripped away the power and substance of the movement.
By Helene Atwan | When Beacon was founded, in the mid-1850s, two burning issues of the day were abolition and women’s suffrage. Here, as we transition from Black History into Women’s History Month, I’m feeling so proud of our lasting tradition of publishing biographies that celebrate Black lives and women’s stories, and often both.
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.
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.
By Judith Ortiz Cofer | On a bus trip to London from Oxford University where I was earning some graduate credits one summer, a young man, obviously fresh from a pub, spotted me and as if struck by inspiration went down on his knees in the aisle. With both hands over his heart he broke into an Irish tenor’s rendition of “Maria” from West Side Story. My politely amused fellow passengers gave his lovely voice the round of gentle applause it deserved. Though I was not quite as amused, I managed my version of an English smile: no show of teeth, no extreme contortions of the facial muscles—I was at this time of my life practicing reserve and cool. Oh, that British control, how I coveted it.
We were hoping Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would hold out through November. After serving twenty-seven years on the nation’s highest court, she passed away on September 18. She was eighty-seven. A legal, cultural, and feminist icon and champion of gender equality, she was an inspiration, a bastion of strength and courage. We asked some of our authors to reflect on her legacy and share their remembrances here.
A Q&A with Angela Chen | A world without compulsory sexuality doesn’t mean desexualizing everything. It means removing the “compulsory” part. It means removing pressures and presenting more ways of how to live. It means more choice. People will be able to choose what they want—a lot of sex, no sex, and so on—without pressure or shame or judgment and without feeling like they need to explain themselves to doubters.
By Pamela D. Toler | The Chinese heroine Hua Mulan is one of the oldest and most enduring examples of a woman who becomes a warrior because of her role as a daughter. Scholars have argued for centuries over whether or not Mulan was a historical figure. At some level, it doesn’t matter as far as piecing together her story is concerned. The available information about her life is scarce to nonexistent, even by the often-shaky standard of what we know about other women warriors of the ancient world.
A Q&A with Hilary Levey Friedman | I have never competed in a beauty pageant, but my mother was Miss America 1970, so pageants have always been a part of my life. My mom and I are different and we our own people—for example, I am a bookworm and she was not the best of students—but studying pageants has been a way for me to think how our lives and generations are similar, yet different. The way I got started studying beauty pageants was when I did a paper in a sociology class about why mothers enroll their young daughters in beauty pageants after the murder of JonBenét Ramsey.
There is no other way to put it. The start of this year’s Pride Month was painful. We can’t stop thinking of the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and of too many before and after them. Witnessing modern-day lynch mobs during a pandemic is soul-crushing. Do not be tempted to say the upheaval happening now is “unique” or “unprecedented.” Because it is not. The US has centuries of history inflicting violence and death on Black bodies. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his “The Other America” speech, “the riot is the language of the unheard.” And the US has not listened since the days of slavery and settler colonialism. So the protests and riots rage on.