This year’s theme for Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month is Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope. It invites Hispanic and Latinx communities to reflect on how good our tomorrow can be by holding onto resilience and hope. The following books from our catalog wouldn’t be here without our authors’ sense of hope, be it the hope of a better future embodied in the text or the hope that the book will reach the reader who needs it. In each one, you will experience stories of resilience in the face of seeking justice, of crossing borders and carving out a space for one’s self in an uninviting country, adding to the complexities and contradictions of the United States’ narrative. One of these books is for you. Happy Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month!
By Christian Coleman | It was a long wait before Gayl Jones broke her years of silence. When Toni Morrison first discovered her, she said “no novel about any Black woman could ever be the same after this” upon reading the manuscript for “Corregidora.” It was published in 1975 when Jones was twenty-six. She followed up her debut novel with “Eva’s Man” and “The Healing.” But then after “Mosquito,” which came out in 1999, we wouldn’t hear from one of the greatest literary writers of the twentieth century for twenty-two years.
By Joan Murray | Last week, I got a call from a stranger. She was an elder at a church planning a remembrance ceremony for the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and asked if I’d read a poem. It was a poem I wrote on an Amtrak train four days after the attacks, and when I read it on NPR four days later, it became something of an anthem. Thousands of people from all over the world wanted copies: A factory owner in the Midwest wanted to read it to his workers; a Maryland police sergeant wanted to read it to her officers before they went on duty; a Canadian physician wanted to read it at a conference. People said they needed the poem.
By Jon Hale | Last week, the State Board of Education in Florida allowed parents to apply for vouchers and enroll in a different school if their children were subject to “COVID-19 harassment.” The policy enforces Governor Ron DeSantis’ anti-masking directive. His order protects parents’ “freedom to choose” whether to mask or not, despite an alarming rise in COVID cases in the state. The order also threatened to withhold funding if school boards did not comply with the law.
By Peter Jan Honigsberg | Daniel A. Medina’s excellent article on Mohammed al-Qahtani, the would-be twentieth al Qaeda terrorist hijacker, identifies an important long-term problem that all presidents have faced since al Qaeda terrorists crashed planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. Does due process apply to Guantánamo? As Medina points out in discussing al-Qahtani’s case, the Biden administration has not taken a stance on this question.
By James Baldwin | I cannot guess what Alex Haley’s countrymen will make of this birthday present to us during this election and Bicentennial year. One is tempted to say that it could scarcely have come at a more awkward time—what with the conventions, the exhibition of candidates, the dubious state of this particular and perhaps increasingly dubious union, and the American attempt, hopelessly and predictably schizophrenic, of preventing total disaster, for white people and for the West, in South Africa.
By Ben Mattlin | On July 25, 2021, a day before the thirty-first anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), the New York Times Magazine published a story about the proliferation of ADA litigation. “The Price of Access” was the headline of the print edition; the online version, which had appeared a few days earlier, was titled “The Man Who Filed More Than 180 Disability Lawsuits.”
A Q&A with Aviva Chomsky | The United States has tried to remake Central America in its own (US) interests and in the interests of US corporations, time after time. During the 1970s and 80s, Central Americans rose up in protest against a system that dispossessed peasants from their land in favor of big plantations and export agriculture enforced by US-supported militaries and police. Nicaraguans won their revolution in 1979, toppling the US-supported Somoza dictatorship.
By Leigh Patel | On Friday, June 4, the remains of two Black girls, Delisha and Katricia “Tree” Africa, were to be collected from the home of physical anthropologist Alan Mann, an emeritus professor associated with both the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University. Delisha and Tree were members of the Black liberation community in Philadelphia known as the MOVE. On May 13, 1985, Philadelphia police officers fired thousands of shot and grenades at 5:30 in the morning, peppering the row house where this communal organization resided.
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.
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.
By Aviva Chomsky | Joe Biden entered the White House with some inspiring yet contradictory positions on immigration and Central America. He promised to reverse Donald Trump’s draconian anti-immigrant policies while, through his “Plan to Build Security and Prosperity in Partnership with the People of Central America,” restoring “US leadership in the region” that he claimed Trump had abandoned. For Central Americans, though, such “leadership” has an ominous ring.
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.
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.
By Yaba Blay | The US Census reveals much about the country’s perspective on race. It counts people according to how the nation defines people, and historically, those people counted as Black have been those people with any known Black ancestry. Blacks are defined by the one-drop rule. No other racial or ethnic group is defined in this way, nor does any other nation rely upon this formula; the one-drop rule is definitively Black and characteristically American. It should make sense then that the origins of the rule are directly linked to the history of Black people in the United States, and as such, our discussion of the one-drop rule begins during the period of colonial enslavement.
By Alex Zamalin | Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter of the long-running television serial, The West Wing, prefers flair to substance. His characters talk fast and sound like civics teachers. But it’s not clear, beyond aspirational quotes, what they offer. The same is true in this acceptance speech. During his Golden Globes acceptance speech for writing the Netflix film, “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Sorkin quoted one of the film’s character’s, Abbie Hoffman, saying, “‘Democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat. But it’s something you do. You participate. If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles.’ I don’t need any more evidence than what happened on Jan. 6 to agree with this.”
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 Julian Bond | The next songs are traditional songs from the standard hymnal and church repertoire that have been altered to become Freedom Songs, this one from the height of the Birmingham movement in 1963. It is based on the parable of the lost sheep. The singers are Carleton Reese and the Alabama Christian Movement Choir, and the song is a traditional gospel song with new words. As you listen, you’ll hear the leader, Carleton Reese, open with the call, “Oh Lord, I’m running,” and the choir will respond, “Lord I’m running, trying to make a hundred.”
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.
By Julian Bond | We are going to listen today to several Freedom Songs, all of them taken from a three-record set “Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom Songs 1960–1966”—all of them should blow your mind. The set was compiled by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Director of the Smithsonian’s Program in Black American Culture. You will hear her voice on some of these songs and will remember her from the movement in Albany, Georgia. She is best known as the Founder and Director of the singing group Sweet Honey in the Rock. In the liner notes, she says the “music culture of the civil rights movement was shaped by its central participants: black, Southern, and steeped in oral tradition.”