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.
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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.
We were hoping Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would hold out through November. After serving twenty-seven years on the nation’s highest court, she passed away on September 18. She was eighty-seven. A legal, cultural, and feminist icon and champion of gender equality, she was an inspiration, a bastion of strength and courage. We asked some of our authors to reflect on her legacy and share their remembrances here.
By Paul Ortiz | The reconfiguration of racial capitalism in the early twentieth century hinged upon the exploitation of agricultural workers who were fired, deported, or driven into cities when they tried to organize in defense of their interests. Local governments, growers, and vigilantes in the Sunbelt counties stretching from Orange County, Florida, to Orange County, California, put the hammer down on agricultural laborers seeking to achieve independence. Employers and their enforcers ruthlessly suppressed Mexican, Chinese, Sikh, Japanese, Indian, Italian, white, and African American farmworkers seeking to organize.
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.
A Q&A with Angela Chen | A world without compulsory sexuality doesn’t mean desexualizing everything. It means removing the “compulsory” part. It means removing pressures and presenting more ways of how to live. It means more choice. People will be able to choose what they want—a lot of sex, no sex, and so on—without pressure or shame or judgment and without feeling like they need to explain themselves to doubters.
By Alan Levinovitz | The value of inclusiveness, like fairness, is written into the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) official constitution. One of the organization’s primary goals is “to strive to ensure that no gender, race, religious, political or other kind of unfair discrimination exists, continues to exist, or is allowed to develop in Athletics in any form, and that all may participate in Athletics regardless of their gender, race, religious or political views or any other irrelevant factor.” That gender shouldn’t affect one’s ability to participate in athletics is now taken for granted, but only after overcoming centuries of pseudoscientific sexism arguing that women were naturally unfit to compete.
A Q&A with Vicki Mayk | What really drew me to the story was Owen Thomas, the young man who is at the center of my book. When he died by suicide in April 2010, I was invited to join a private memorial page that friends set up for him on Facebook. The way that everyone talked about him—from his teammates at his high school near Allentown, PA, and at the University of Pennsylvania to friends, former teachers, casual acquaintances—was mesmerizing. They told stories about him being a warrior on the field and one of the kindest humans off the field.
By Pamela D. Toler | The Chinese heroine Hua Mulan is one of the oldest and most enduring examples of a woman who becomes a warrior because of her role as a daughter. Scholars have argued for centuries over whether or not Mulan was a historical figure. At some level, it doesn’t matter as far as piecing together her story is concerned. The available information about her life is scarce to nonexistent, even by the often-shaky standard of what we know about other women warriors of the ancient world.
A Discussion with Thomas Norman DeWolf and Sharon Leslie Morgan | I absolutely feel like there should be reparations. But I feel they do not have to take the form that people immediately think about, which is, “Write me a check.” Because if you write a check, you’re absconding. You’re not really engaging the process. I think that it takes many forms. The best form would be investing money in repairing the damage, not as much to individuals as to people on a societal level.
A Q&A with Hilary Levey Friedman | I have never competed in a beauty pageant, but my mother was Miss America 1970, so pageants have always been a part of my life. My mom and I are different and we our own people—for example, I am a bookworm and she was not the best of students—but studying pageants has been a way for me to think how our lives and generations are similar, yet different. The way I got started studying beauty pageants was when I did a paper in a sociology class about why mothers enroll their young daughters in beauty pageants after the murder of JonBenét Ramsey.
By Lori L. Tharps | In 2016 my book about colorism, “Same Family, Different Colors: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families” was released. In that book, I wrote about how colorism manifests in Asian American, African American, Latino, and Mixed-Race Families. While I have been tangentially writing and talking about colorism as long as I have been talking and writing about Black hair, writing “Same Family, Different Colors” forced me to deep dive into skin color politics and history on a global scale. Needless to say, I have a much deeper understanding about this insidious, discriminatory social construct we call colorism.
A Q&A with Sumbul Ali-Karamali | I grew up Muslim and bicultural (Indian and American) in a time and place where I happened to be the only Muslim most of my acquaintances knew. So I got saddled with answering all their questions! Not only did I become good at answering questions about Islam in a way that those around me could understand and relate to (starting in elementary school!), but I also found I really loved coming up with answers that built bridges between my religious-cultural community and theirs. The questions I got were never addressed in the media and still aren’t.
President Ronald Reagan won over voters with his Midwest wholesomeness, his rehearsed charisma forged from years as a B-movie actor, and more importantly, his “old-fashioned” American pride. His sense of American pride appealed massively to white conservatives, as well as converts to Republicanism, and threw obstacles in the path of civil rights legislation. His racist policies were devastating for Black and Brown Americans during his presidency, and the effects still resonate today.
By Philip Warburg | In his newly released $2 trillion energy and infrastructure plan, Joe Biden set a nationwide goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035. Solar power figures prominently in his plan, but it’s not clear whether low-income households will share in this historic opportunity. With racial injustice and economic inequality gaining long-overdue attention, we need to look at the gap between established homeowners who have solar power on their homes and people living in more modest circumstances who can’t afford this climate-friendly investment.
This summer, the uprisings for racial justice and the marches for Black lives have been heartening. And believe me, we need something to root for during our pandemic timeline. This wake-up call to reckon with systemic racism and to dismantle it—and there have been many before—is ringing loud and clear. Now we need that same momentum to carry into the classrooms—all virtual please!—with the same gusto. Because schools are part of the system, too.
A Q&A with Mark Warren by Stephen Abbott | The school-to-prison pipeline refers to a systemic problem that disproportionately affects students in low-income communities and communities of color. It often begins with zero-tolerance discipline, where children, and particularly Black and brown children, are suspended and often expelled for minor behavioral infractions. Once they’re expelled, they’re not in school learning, and they’re often out on the streets where they get caught up in the juvenile criminal-justice system—that’s the pipeline.
By Kavita Das | America, “the land of the free, and the home of the brave” has long been a beacon to people around the world who journeyed to this country seeking freedom from political, cultural, or religious tyranny. We tout ourselves as a country where everyone is free to be who they are and live out their ideals. But America’s brand of absolute freedom can be lethal. Our red, white, and blue banner of freedom cloaks selfishness and greed.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | Pressed by a relentless working class movement, the Seattle City Council on July 6 adopted a first-time-ever tax on Amazon and other big businesses that will bring in at least $214 million a year to fund affordable housing, Green New Deal projects, and union jobs. The win was a stunning turn of events: just two years earlier, Amazon, the Chamber of Commerce, the corporate-backed mayor, and several business-oriented labor leaders forced the city council to rescind a newly adopted tax on big business of only $47 million a year.
A little over half a century ago, zero federal laws made it illegal to discriminate against disabled people. Today’s accessibility accommodations in buildings and services were nonexistent. We have disability rights activist and supreme badass Judy Heumann to thank for sparking a national movement for the protection of disabled peoples’ rights that led to the creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And it benefits everyone.