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.”
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.
1. Under a sexual sky you coughed swords
No, I don’t feel death coming. I feel death going: having thrown up his hands, for the moment. I feel like I know him better than I did.
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.
By Helene Atwan: Is it only in April that we’re supposed to appreciate poetry? After all, as this April in New England is proving beyond a doubt, it is the cruelest month. But maybe that’s why we need poetry . . . Now, more than ever, we’ve discovered that we need poetry not just to delight and uplift us, but to teach us, to show us.
By Sasha Pimentel: I didn’t know that my poetry collection For Want of Water had been selected as winner for the National Poetry Series for a good week or two after Gregory Pardlo had chosen it, but that was my fault. I’d spent the summer with my family in Sonora and had turned my phone off. When we returned to the United States, I was walking through the airport when the caller ID from “Princeton, NJ” flashed on my phone, and I answered it because I was curious what sort of telemarketing came from Princeton. It was Beth Dial from the National Poetry Series. I remember plugging my unphoned ear with my finger to hear her through the terminal’s noise. I couldn’t believe it.
By Louis RoePoetry collections are a bit of a fantasy cover project for me. They’re an opportunity to think in a different visual language from Beacon’s usual nonfiction catalogue, inviting a relationship between image and text built on reflection and, hopefully, subtlety. Sasha Pimentel’s poems in her forthcoming collection For Want of Water carry this poise on their own particularly well: they reveal only as much as you’re ready to see, but they also ignite a desire to pursue and peel.
By Helene AtwanAh, April. No, it’s not the cruelest month at all; in fact, it’s the month when we celebrate poetry, and given all the other things that are going on in our country at the moment, it’s a gift to be able to turn to the comforts and joys that poetry offers. For Beacon, though, poetry isn’t just about offering those gifts. We view poetry as an important and effective voice for addressing issues of social justice, for underlining the importance of a community devoted to equity and building a just society. Another way, a very compelling way, of speaking truth to power.