Afﬂicted and Beloved Brothers: The meeting which sends you this letter, is a meeting of runaway slaves. We thought it well, that they, who had once suffered, as you still suffer, that they, who had once drunk of that bitterest of all bittercups, which you are still compelled to drink of, should come together for the purpose of making a communication to you.
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By Fred Pearce | America’s iconic nuclear landscape is the Nevada National Security Site, a fenced-off and largely deserted tract of sand, cactus, and Joshua trees that is bigger than Rhode Island. Once, when America was testing its atomic bombs here, it was the site of high jinks and revelry. Everything new and exciting in America was labeled “atomic,” and Nevada was the place to experience the cutting edge of the new age.
By this time, having arrived to man’s estate, and hearing the scriptures commented on at meetings, I was struck with that particular passage which says : “Seek ye the kingdom of Heaven and all things shall be added unto you.” I reflected much on this passage, and prayed daily for light on this subject—As I was praying one day at my plough, the spirit spoke to me, saying “Seek ye the kingdom of Heaven and all things shall be added unto you.”
It’s a clear-cut case of PTSD: Post-Traumatic Societal Disorder. The centuries-long trauma wrought by our nation’s history of slavery requires intensive therapy, because everybody is affected. Even our author, Daina Berry, said, “We are still living in the aftermath of slavery. It’s the stain on our flag and the sin of our country. Once we recognize this, face it, study it, and acknowledge the impact it has on all Americans, then we will be in a position to determine how we can move forward.” One of the ways to come to terms with it and move forward is to take in the full history, unabridged—free of sugar-coating, mythmaking, and claims of “American exceptionalism.”
1619, a year to go down in infamy like 1492. 400 years ago this month, a ship reached a coastal port in the British colony of Virginia, carrying more than twenty enslaved Africans. Stolen from their homes, these men and women were sold to the colonists in what would become known as the United States. The Atlantic Slave trade would feed this vicious cycle of reducing Africans to commodities through the brutal bondage of forced labor and sexual coercion, the repercussions of which we live with centuries later. How do we as a country reckon with and heal from this history? We asked some of our authors to reflect on this and share their remarks below.
It’s probably no surprise to hear that I, like much of the staff at Beacon, have always been a book nerd. My mom loves to embarrass me by recalling all the times she would check on me during childhood playdates, only to find me steadfastly ignoring my friends in favor of getting in one more chapter. It wasn’t until I landed a job at a local indie bookstore when I was seventeen that I became interested in the work that goes into transforming a person’s idea into a book on a shelf (shout-out to An Unlikely Story for continuing to indulge my coffee and book addictions after all these years!).
By Helene Atwan | Like so many thousands, hundreds of thousands of others, I was deeply saddened by the news of Toni Morrison’s death. Like others, I had been moved and changed by reading her work over many years. And like hundreds of others, I was fortunate to have worked with her oh so briefly over the years, once as a publicist at Knopf, when Song of Solomon was coming out. She still worked at Random House as an editor in those days and would take the elevator up to visit us at Knopf.
By Helene Atwan | Like most of us living in the US, I was sickened by this weekend’s news of shootings in El Paso and Dayton. Coming into work, feeling so stricken by these events, I was heartened by the fact that I could turn to a group of colleagues and immediately begin talking about what kind of resources we could offer in the wake of these senseless tragedies. I feel, as I often do, heartened to be working in an environment where it is our job to try to create these resources.
Another legend gone. And more than a legend, she was a force! Novelist, editor, professor, and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison died on August 5 at age eighty-eight. Pick any book from her bibliography, and you will be mesmerized by her command of prose, her power to conjure up the ambience and lived-in feeling of Black communities and their heroines and heroes to the finest, vibrant detail. She was Black love, Black resilience, and Black brilliance personified. There won’t be another writer like her.
The patriarchy is going down! Why? Because last week, we had the immense pleasure of having feminist giant Mona Eltahawy, author of The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls, for a visit at the office! We couldn’t wait to meet her in person and can’t stop talking about her book. Her many many fans and followers on social media can’t stop talking about it, either. Eltahawy is fed the hell up with the patriarchy, and in her book, she calls on all women and girls to embrace the qualities they’ve been trained to avoid: to be angry, ambitious, profane, violent, attention-seeking, lustful, and powerful.
I feel like so many people I’ve spoken to who work in publishing have always known they wanted to be a part of this industry, but that’s definitely not the case for me! When I was in high school, I thought I wanted to pursue some sort of health science career, but then I had the classic “I don’t know what I want to do with my life” freak-out just before it was time to apply to schools. My mom encouraged me to think about the subjects I truly enjoyed studying, and those were always my English and Latin classes. I ended up connecting with a family friend who works in publishing, and she was the person who showed me how much you really can do with an English/Liberal Arts degree!
By Lori L. Tharps | I’m coming at you live and in-person from the sunny south of Spain. It is absolutely gorgeous her—clear blue skies, radiant sun, palm trees, flowers flaunting every color from the deepest purple to the sharpest pinks. We’re currently staying with el esposo’s family and they live in a beautiful home that is within walking distance of the beach, plus they have a swimming pool in the backyard. So, yes, I’m living in paradise. But everything that glitters is not quite gold.
By Deborah L. Plummer | The recent vote of the House to condemn Trump’s tweets underscores the deep political and racial divide that exist in the United States. Many Americans find it appalling that there is even confusion and believe his tweets to be blatantly racist. Yet Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell stated that the President’s remarks were not racist, and most Republicans saw nothing wrong with his remarks. New polling even suggests that Republicans actually like Trump more, following these tweets.
It’s time to bring out the cake and blow out the candle! Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility has spent one full year on the New York Times Best Seller List! This has been an incredible year for DiAngelo, her book, and Beacon. White Fragility is only a year old and has been a bestseller since it went on sale!
A Q&A with Alexandra Minna Stern | I wrote Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate to bear historical witness to disturbing and reactionary political and cultural changes that were afoot in the United States in the mid-2010s. Specifically, I became interested in how and why eugenic ideas from the early 1900s, including race suicide—repackaged today as white genocide—were making a comeback and being disseminated by what came to be called the alt-right. Once I started writing the book, I became more and more interested in understanding the transnational dimensions of the rise of populist nationalism, and how this connects to the resurgence of white nationalism in the United States.
By Christian Coleman | Do you want to play a game? No, not the one in the Saw movie franchise. Let’s play the word association game. Come now. It’ll be fun! Peanut : Butter. Instagram : Celebrity. Identity politics : Divisive. Wait. Let’s back up. Divisive? That word has been coming up lately when presidential candidates make identity politics a talking point in public discourse. At an LGBT gala in Las Vegas, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay candidate, said identity politics have created a “crisis of belonging,” leading us to get “divided and carved up.” Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has criticized identity politics for focusing only on the endgame of diversity—another word with contentious associations and dubious meanings depending on who’s defining it—and neglecting the needs of working people.
By Jacy Reese | One roadblock that is probably slowing down mainstream acceptance of plant-based products, even artisan ones, is labeling. When the California Department of Public Health inspected Schinner’s production facility, the agent saw that the product was labeled only according to flavor, such as Aged English Fresh Farmhouse. It couldn’t be categorized as cheese, so the agent asked her for the actual name of the product. Schinner, on the spot, decided to call it a cultured nut product.
The summer solstice has graced us with its yearly cameo. Time to bask in the warmth and light (and that charming humidity when it gets here) of longer nights! Which means more time to enjoy reading outside! Our staff has some recommendations for the season. Now, we know what you’re thinking: You already have a to-be-read pile that’s about ready to topple over and bury you up to your ears. But another recommendation won’t hurt. Trust us. After you’ve dug yourself out of your book avalanche, you’ll thank us later.
By Philip Warburg | For all their ideological differences, progressives and conservatives share an aversion to dealing with global population growth. Progressives commonly argue that privileged white people from the Global North shouldn’t meddle in the reproductive politics of poorer nations. To many in this camp, efforts to slow population growth conjure up past coercive efforts to limit fertility in places like India, with its forced sterilization programs dating back to the 1970s, and China, with its recently modified one-child policy.
Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots. We reached out to some of our authors to reflect on the impact of this landmark and turning point in the centuries of queer history in America and the ongoing fight for queer equality. We share their statements with you below.