Is the coast clear? Any instances of blackface or diversity snafus on the horizon to mar Black History Month? Any of that nonsense to call out? Only last year and the year before did rashes of both spread in news headlines. But not this year. We’re conditioned to anticipate them like clockwork, but it’s a relief not to see them. Too soon to call it? Anyway, this year’s Black History Month is starting on a more auspicious note.
Give yourself a round of applause for running the marathon and sadistic obstacle course that was 2020! Or a glass of wine. Recollect yourself and recuperate with your self-care regimen if you have one. This year ran us so ragged we may not be in any mood to look back in annoyance, exhaustion, or terror. But this is one of those car wrecks worthy of a size-up so we can take stock of the issues that blew up in 2020. That way, we can recommit to learning about them in the New Year to set the nation back on course to the society we want. The top read blog posts on the Broadside are a good, and hopefully less painful, way to do that.
It’s a kneejerk reaction to imagine what James Baldwin would say about the state of things in the US when the anniversary of his death comes every December 1. Especially now. Much like how the issues that folk legend Odetta sang about are still, sadly, relevant today, so it goes for the issues Baldwin wrote about in “Notes of a Native Son.” Which is why our director, Helene Atwan, says it remains so potent a text to go back to.
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.
First, the American Dirt snafu. Now this? Barely into the beginning of Black History Month, we had a teachable moment. Yes, that kind of teachable moment. To celebrate the month, Barnes & Noble Fifth Avenue announced the launch of their Diverse Editions. Alice in Wonderland, Romeo and Juliet, The Secret Garden, and nine other classic novels—“classic” meaning, of course, older works of fiction from the white literary tradition, as though other cultures don’t have longstanding literary traditions of their own, tut-tut—would have custom designed covers, each one illustrating the main characters with multiethnic backgrounds.
With a book on the New York Times bestsellers list, it’s been an amazing year for Beacon. Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility has been on the list for twenty-four weeks in a row! This may be a record for us. It just goes to show you how the need for Robin’s critical analysis of whiteness and white supremacy isn’t fading any time soon. But White Fragility wasn’t our only bestseller this year. We’ve got such classics as Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred as well as recent books, like Jeanne Theoharis’s A More Beautiful and Terrible History and Charlene A. Carruthers’s Unapologetic, keeping Robin’s book company in this roundup. Check out all our bestsellers!
Are you ready for the holiday season and on the hunt for gifts to inspire someone in your life? Our holiday sale is back! Save 30% on everything at beacon.org through December 31 using code HOLIDAY30. This year, Beacon Press is also donating 10% of our web sales in December to Unitarian Universalist Assocation Disaster Relief Fund to the help the communities in California recover from the wildfires. Here are our holiday picks for the year. Drum roll, please
By Rashod Ollison: When I first read James Baldwin at about age sixteen, I didn’t quite understand everything in Notes of a Native Son. But I knew the powerful prose was important and that I would return to it. Baldwin at that point had been dead for close to a decade. I’d come across a dog-eared paperback of Notes of a Native Son in the public library, where I worked after school. I imagined Baldwin a robust man whose presence was as commanding as his work. When I saw pictures of him as I began to explore more of his writing in college, his pronounced features—his intense globular eyes, his ingratiating gap-toothed grin—clarified something about his work for me. He always saw well beyond the surface unlike any other writer of his generation or any other writer since.
Graduation is a rite of passage that takes us either to the next step in education or our first step in a career. As a stage of new beginnings, it can be a time of uncertainty, but it’s also full of potential for growth. Graduation this season, though, seems particularly marked by uncertainty because of our charged political climate. And graduates are pondering what their own future holds in store for them. That got us thinking about what guidance our authors can give for those moving on to the next chapter of their lives.
2016 is a year that speaks for itself. It’s been a rough and tumultuous one, culminating in a divisive presidential election that has many people afraid of what’s in store for the country once the new administration takes office on January 20. When we’re in need of wisdom and guidance during troubling and unpredictable times ahead, we turn to our authors, who continue to offer their time and insights to give us perspective and commentary on the condition of our world. Our blog, the Broadside, wouldn’t be what it is without them. As always, we’re so grateful to them. We’ll need their thought-provoking essays as we head into 2017. Before the year comes to a close, we would like to share a collection of some of the Broadside’s most-read posts. Happy New Year!
A Q&A with Rich Blint | Baldwin’s consistent and insistent interrogation of how the mythology of race, class, and power operates in America to blind and divide us is singular in its analytical depth, sweep, and emotional power. His work reads as a kind of prophecy simply because he was clear about how profoundly dangerous it has always been for Americans not to confront the truth about the violent racial history of the country. His work must be read as testimony, as, yes, a secular witnessing to the serious perils of indulging in the American fiction of “whiteness” and its purported superiority.
For the 90th anniversary of his birth, we remember the miracle and the conundrum of James Baldwin: the teen preacher turned humanist; the resolutely American expatriate; the voice of rationality for a generation on the edge of revolt; a probing intelligence, unsatisfied by facile or convenient truths. Baldwin was never easy to place in a box, which is exactly why he remains so important to us today.
A young Mexican immigrant discovers a new and profound sense of self, identity, and understanding in James Baldwin's classic text 'Notes of a Native Son.'
Eboo Patel writes about a James Baldwin essay that helped guide him as an activist and writer.
James Baldwin (1924-1987) was a novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic, and one of America's foremost writers. His essays, such as "Notes of a Native Son" (1955), explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in...
Fifty-Five Years Ago Today... Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin Yes, this publicity hit is from February 26, 1958, but we didn't have a blog (much less the not-to-be-missed Beacon Buzz report) back then ... The New York...
Browse our African American titles: General Interest | African American History | Fiction and Poetry | Black Women Writers All month long, Beacon Press is offering 20% off and free shipping on all African American Studies titles purchased at Beacon.org....
The authors of Gather at the Table embark on their West Coast tour.
A roundup of suggestions for your new (or old) e-book reader.
The latest media hits and mentions for Beacon books and authors.