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.
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.
Still kicking two years in, COVID brought out the worst from the nation’s populace: racist brutality against marginalized communities. This year’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month commemorates the victims of the 2021 spa shootings as well as all other Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders lost to anti-Asian violence during the pandemic and throughout history. This violence is a form of erasure. As historian Catherine Ceniza Choy writes in her forthcoming addition to Beacon Press’s ReVisioning History series, “This positioning of Asians in opposition to American identity and experience is perhaps most powerfully expressed through the erasure of their long-standing presence in the United States and their contributions to its various industries.”
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.
By Tourmaline | I was a preteen when the first edition of “Transgender Warriors”—the foundational text by the late, great Leslie Feinberg—was published in 1996. It came into the world at a pivotal time for me, providing the life-changing context that would help me to understand who I was and who came before me. Context that, before this book, could only be found scattered in disparate places, passed down in whispers and folklore, or translated and excavated from bigoted depictions of historical trans figures deemed deviant by the status quo.
By Bev Rivero | In the early evening on the first Thursday in March, an excited crowd of invitees gathered at the Museum of the Moving Image to celebrate the first three titles honored by the new Science + Literature program from the National Book Foundation. In addition to the excitement of chatting in person with book folks, the event was a great start to Women’s History Month, as all three books are authored by women.
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.
By Ricky Tucker | This was one of the first images my friend and “And the Category Is . . .” photographer Kareem Worrell developed while I was writing the book—and it became an aspirational photo. The audacity of Lee, the central figure, drove my urge to match in tone his ferocity in the first few chapters. To, like Ballroom, unapologetically hold accountable the public appropriation of this unique culture, AND to elevate to divine status the unwavering love that is its foundation. In short, this photo is the epitome of the chapter “Werk.”
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.
We did it! We made it to the finish line of another plague year! Just a few more weeks left. Even though it’s not New Year’s Eve yet, uncork some bubbly to celebrate. We earned it. Our big wish for the new year: no more COVID variants. Delta, Mu, Omicron . . . Worst. Upgrades. Ever. Before we slam the door on 2021, we need to applaud and thank our authors and staff for the blog posts they wrote for the Broadside.
A Q&A with Cynthia B. Dillard | The inspiration for this book? I think it is the other way round. This book has inspired me. It has literally been writing me all of my life! It is the story of what happens when teachers have the opportunity and the audacity to (re)member their stories and their culture. It is about how the awesome power that experiences with the African continent opens a space for Black folks and fills in the blank of our often anemic education. I was inspired by all of this to write the book I wished I could have read as I was growing up: As a Black woman, as a teacher, as a leader.
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.
By Christian Coleman | You know who ranks supreme on our list of national treasures? Poet, educator, and activist Sonia Sanchez! Know this if you haven’t known it already. Ms. Sanchez has just won another lifetime achievement award, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize. Two years ago, she won the Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Award. The Gish Prize is given each year to “a highly accomplished artist from any discipline who has pushed the boundaries of an art form, contributed to social change, and paved the way for the next generation.” This has Ms. Sanchez written all over it.
By Laura Erickson-Schroth and Laura A. Jacobs | The belief that transgender people are recognizably distinct from nontransgender people assumes that there is something we can pick out about a transgender person’s clothing, body shape, or speech that “gives them away.” It assumes that trans people never escape their “essential” gender assigned at birth—that they are never “really” a part of the gender with which they identify.
By Perpetua Charles | Two years ago, my partner and I took a small getaway to Portland, ME. To feel confident on this trip, I was going to need my best early spring outfits and my trusty travel makeup bag. At the time, my natural curls were cropped close to my head, and to be honest, the stylist had done the cut a little lopsided. Unbeknownst to me, I’d also been struggling with the effects of an undiagnosed GI issue. But it didn’t take long into our first afternoon there to discover that my makeup bag didn’t make the trip with me. Dread and panic set in. My partner, a white, straight, cisgender male, had trouble understanding why I was briefly spiraling over this realization. In the moment, I couldn’t find the words to explain what I innately knew. In a city like Portland, I was going to stick out. Without makeup, I was going to stick out even more.
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.