Imani Perry is having a moment in the limelight, and we hope she’s relishing every minute of it. When she first came to our offices to talk about her biography on Lorraine Hansberry, Looking for Lorraine, we knew it was going to be special. Fast forward to this year’s PEN/America Awards, and we delighted in seeing just how special her book is. She won the PEN America/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for biography!
By Mary Collins | I have a transgender son, Donald Collins. Let’s start by erasing the D and make that onald Collins just to show how distorted this sentence becomes with that one edit, with that one irrational erasure. Let us now move on and erase onald and only use Collins, because the Trump Administration wants to define gender solely on the basis of genitalia at birth.
By Daisy Hernández | My mother carried me in her arms on my first trip to Colombia. I was eight months old. She stuffed me in a fluffy pink snowsuit, and we took a picture with the pilot. On my second trip, I was a toddler. Mami couldn’t carry me because I wouldn’t let her. Already hell bent on freedom, I scampered up and down the plane’s carpeted aisle as it made its way from New York City to Colombia. On my third trip, I ran away from my mother at the airport in Bogotá, leaving her with the baby sister in the stroller, careening past adults with worried foreheads, and not even stopping when I spotted the men in uniforms, the rifles in their hands. I didn’t know about the civil war or the drug war, and the Avianca flight getting blown up in the air and killing all 107 people onboard was a few years into the future. It was 1982. I barreled toward the line of familiar voices past the doors: my primas and tías and tíos. An uncle who drove a school bus had brought it to the airport filled with everyone to pick us up.
By Emily Powers and Bella Sanchez | Imani Perry’s Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry is a watershed biography of the award-winning playwright, activist, and artist Lorraine Hansberry. If people know anything about Lorraine (Perry refers to her as Lorraine throughout the book, explaining why she does so), they’ll recall she was the author of A Raisin in the Sun, an award-winning play about a family dealing with issues of race, class, education, and identity in Chicago. Lorraine’s extraordinary life has often been reduced to this one fact in classrooms—if she is taught at all.
By Charlene Carruthers | Unapologetic is an offering to our ancestors, my family, our movement, and the generations who will hold the struggle for Black liberation to come. I began writing this book over five years ago as a personal exploration of freedom, liberation, and movement building. Much like my life in general, where I landed in the book is both far away from and close to where I began. I was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago to parents whose own parents migrated from the Deep South. Their ways of talking, eating, and dealing with life still live in my body and in the choices I make.
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 Charlene Carruthers | Our national and local work focuses on various issues that impact Black LGBTQ people. For example, our Washington, DC chapter is leading a campaign, within a coalition, to end the criminalization of sex work. This issue disproportionately impacts Black trans women (whether they engage in sex work or not), queer people, and gender-nonconforming people. We have always done our work in the tradition of radical Black feminist and LGBTQ movements.
By Carlos A. Ball | The Supreme Court’s recent ruling involving the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple reminds me of its decision almost fifty years ago to reverse Muhammad Ali’s conviction for refusing to be inducted into the Army. In 1967, when Ali was the professional heavyweight boxing champion of the world, he refused to join the Army on the ground that he was a conscientious objector. At the time, federal prosecutors claimed he was not entitled to the exemption from military service because his objections to fighting in the Vietnam War were not sincere.
Sandra Bland. Rekia Boyd. Decynthia Clements. Chikesia Clemons. Mya Hall. These Black women’s lives and others have been tragically cut short because of police brutality and the criminal justice system. This level of violence hasn’t stopped. It’s time to take a stance. During this year’s #SayHerName National Week of Action to End Violence Against All Black Women and Girls (June 11 through 17), Beacon Press is pleased to announce that all profits from this week’s sales of Andrea Ritchie’s groundbreaking Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color will be donated to Black Youth Project 100.
By Richard Blanco: Here, sit at my kitchen table, we need to write this together. Take a sip of café con leche, breathe in the steam and our courage to face this page, bare as our pain. Curl your fingers around mine, curled around my pen, hold it like a talisman in our hands shaking, eyes swollen.
By Ben Mattlin | Here’s what I know going in: Christina, sixty-two at the time we speak, is a professor of English and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies at Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut, and author of the memoir A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain. In October 2003, she suffered a severe bicycling accident—a twig got caught in one of her spokes, sending her flying. Yes, a twig. “My chin took the full force of the blow, which smashed my face and broke the fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae in my neck,” she writes. “The broken bone scraped my spinal cord.”
By Mary Collins: I never expected my trans son, Donald, whom I battled with over his medical decisions during his transition in high school and college, would ever agree to pen a collection of essays with me that explored our painful emotional journey—nearly failed journey—as a family.
By Donald Collins: One of my favorite photos of all time is a bewitching 1970 image of a young queer person reclining on the edge of a fountain. Her large coat is pulled down to her forearms, splayed dramatically beneath her. She’s wearing flared slacks, boots, a white tunic-like shirt, and a medallion. Her dark hair is short and boxy; she’s giving photographer Kay Tobin a familiar, clever smile. You can probably see the photo on this page, but it feels almost more meaningful to describe it. I also have a history-crush on her.
Women’s History Month not only celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political accomplishments of women. It reminds us that history is in the making, at this very moment, as the fight for intersectional gender equity continues. We must engage with the struggle to make the just society we want a reality. To that end, we offer the following list of recommended reading from our catalog for your perusal.
By Ginny Gilder: Oh, ye Olympians, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways: I love thy exuberance, thy unalloyed passion, and unabashed desire to excel. I love thy seizing of the moment and the spotlight to showcase thy best. I love thy allowing, nay, inviting me to glimpse the size of your hearts, to cherish your boldness, and to embrace the offering of your humanity, its unique expression and exercise. I love that you somehow make my expression and pursuit of my own humanity, albeit far removed from the venue of sport, snow or ice, and likely with less superior skill and less relentless determination, seem possible and worthy of pursuit.
By Brando Skyhorse and Lisa Page: In June 2015 a surprising number of Americans stopped to gawk at a thirty-seven-year-old “African American” woman named Rachel Dolezal who, after an almost decade-long act, was outed by her parents as a white woman who chose to pass as black. The national response, culminating in a Today show appearance, was extreme. Some were outraged by her deception, while others drew parallels between her right to live her “truth” the same way Caitlyn Jenner embodies hers. Rachel—or “#BlackRachel” as she trended online—never once “broke character.”
By Michael Bronski: Charley Shively, one of the pivotal figures in the Gay Liberation Movement, died Friday, October 6 at the Cambridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Home, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He had been a resident since June of 2011, suffering from Alzheimer’s. He would have been eighty on December 8, 2017. At the 1977 Boston Gay Pride march, Shively became infamous for his burning of the Bible—as well as his insurance policy, Harvard diploma, and teaching contract—as a protest against oppressive institutions.
By Laura A. Jacobs: MYTH: Incorporating transgender people into the armed forces will cause upheaval, inhibit camaraderie, and be a financial burden. REALITY: This would be interesting to study if it did not rely on outdated, narrow-minded rhetoric. Identical arguments were made against inclusion of gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers, but the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has not decayed our troops. Nor did the integration of people of color generations before.
By Kay Whitlock | Here’s a thought I keep coming back to during this tradition month of Pride celebrations (and protests by some LGBTQ folks against the growing corporate influence and welcoming of strong police presence in Pride celebrations.) It’s not my thought alone. Any number of people—activists, organizers, scholars—have, over many years, voiced something similar. Let’s center criminalized transgender, gender nonconforming, and queer folks in the moral, cultural, and political imaginations and agendas of movements for LGBTQ liberation. Especially criminalized queer communities of color.
By Rev. Elizabeth M. EdmanPeople are going about their business with big, black smudges on their foreheads. My queer lens kicks in: “They’ve come out of the closet—as Christian.” Then the lightbulb moment: “What if progressive Christians could make ourselves visible on Ash Wednesday as both Christian AND queer-positive?” I make a note on my phone and set an alarm to go off in January.