A Q&A with W. J. Herbert | A woman meditates on her impending death and the crisis her species has created in the original version of this manuscript which contained only fossil and specimen poems. “Do these creatures ever answer your speaker’s questions?” asked friend and fellow poet Tim Carrier. They don’t, I told him. He said: “But your readers need a way in.” I wasn’t sure what he meant but, in my heart, I knew he was right: we need to care deeply about the speaker.
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.
Beacon Press is proud to announce the expansion of its poetry program, adding new voices to those of the press’s renowned poets—including James Baldwin, Mary Oliver, Sonia Sanchez, and Richard Blanco—who have been an essential part of the press’s catalog. The new series is called RAISED VOICES and will serve the overarching goal of representing marginalized voices and perspectives in poetry. The series authors will offer books that affirm progressive values, give voice to many identities, are accessible to a wide readership, and celebrate poetry’s ability to access truth in a way no other form can. Beacon plans to acquire about three new titles for the series each year.
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 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.