By Marga Vicedo | A two-and-a-half year old girl sits on the floor. Her mother lays besides her, making random marks with a brush and paint on a piece of paper. She is hoping her little girl, Jessy, will imitate her. Unlike most children her age, Jessica has shown little interest in imitating her siblings or her parents. She seems content playing alone, placing some set of objects carefully in rows. Jessica did not start to use the brush and paint herself that day with her mom; but, remarkably, she did so three days later, on her own. From then on, her mother made sure Jessy always had paper, crayons, and paints. These tools would open up a new world of experiences and interests for Jessica.
What are you in the mood for? Some global history? Historical dark fantasy? Literary fiction? Graphic memoir? These books are what some of our staff have been reading this summer and they come highly recommended. If you need any ideas for what to read by the pool, on the beach, or by the breeze of the A/C, check out what we have to say about them.
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.
A Q&A with G’Ra Asim | Toni Morrison’s aphorism is definitely germane to the genesis of this book. As I write about in the chapter “Evidence of Things Unscene,” I started working on “Boyz” in a grad school MFA workshop. At first, I was trying to write essays on punk and straight edge in a less overtly personal way. The feedback I got from my instructors and classmates was that the “I-character” in my essays was difficult to fully imagine or believe. That led me to a larger idea: for the most part, we all walk around with our own IRL dramatis personae of what kind of people we think exist in the world.
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 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.”
It was not so long ago when we said goodbye to renowned poet, novelist, playwright, and performer Ntozake Shange. Two years ago, we received news that she had passed while working with her on what is now her first posthumous book, “Dance We Do: A Poet Explores Black Dance,” her tribute to those who taught her and to her passion for rhythm, movement, and dance. It’s also a personal history and celebration of Black dance, featuring stunning photos along with personal interviews with Mickey Davidson, Halifu Osumare, Camille Brown, and Dianne McIntyre.
By Gustavus Stadler | I knew that when my book came out, I would inevitably be asked questions like, “What would Woody Guthrie do today? Where would he stand on this issue? What would he think of this candidate or that elected official?” I’m mostly accustomed to writing about topics at least several decades distant from the present, and I try hard to honor the otherness of the past, rather than portray it as a simpler version of the now. Plus, responses to such questions so often depend more on the projections of the answerer than on historical evidence.
By Linda Hogan | The story of this land is ancient. The red earth, crags, and canyons were once an inland sea. I imagine the currents when this mountain basin was ocean, water swaying as the moon became full or as wind moved it, swaying. Within the water, a shining circle of fish, many lives all thinking and moving as one. Sea animals hid inside stone caves and indentations that now, so many years later, shelter canyon wrens and swallow nests, once protecting numbers of indwelling bats.
By Angela Chen | I distrust narratives, always have. The child too shy to open her mouth and captivate others with story became the science journalist who fetishized data instead, fond of talking about how stories can stand in the way of justice—just look at how a blond girl suddenly kidnapped can receive so much more attention and care than all the less photogenic children who live every day in difficult conditions.
A Q&A with Michael Torres | Larry Levis has been the biggest influence. Though, I don’t think I intentionally went to his work for metaphors. I just loved the way another, surreal world could blossom from within the real world of the poem. I’m always fascinated at the point in which an image or description sinks into a deeper space.
Be Proud of Your Past, Embrace the Future. That’s this year’s theme for Hispanic Heritage Month. In times like these, the theme is a manifesto to live by. The books in our catalog about the lives and contributions of Hispanic/Latinx communities attest to it.
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.
Can you taste it? The taste of joy when quarantine ends, the panic shopping eases up, and we can get on with the new reality of civilian life. The coronavirus pandemic will change the way we live. However the new reality takes shape, we’ll be ready and eager to get back outside. Not to mention delirious with relief. Until then, safety first. But at least we have plenty of books to turn to as resources and for escape during quarantine!
By Melanie Brooks | In the last couple of weeks, as the story of novel coronavirus has continued to shroud the globe and taken central stage in the news, I’ve uncharacteristically turned to Twitter for the latest headlines. Bite-sized pieces of information concerning the climbing numbers of cases and deaths, the state of the curve, the plummeting economy, the revised lockdown stats, and the conflicts in management at the state and federal levels are all I can digest amidst the restless charge of uncertainty lighting up my nerves.
1. Under a sexual sky you coughed swords