What a difference a year makes. Book banning is back—and it’s on steroids. Is it a coincidence that it’s all the rave—more like rage—during Black History Month? The pearl-clutchers have assembled and are targeting not only books dealing with sex and gender but also books featuring Black themes and US history. It’s a predictable flex. A tired flex.
It’s a rough way to begin the new year, mourning an author and an intellectual powerhouse. Lani Guinier, legal scholar, champion for voting rights, and the first woman of color appointed to a tenured professorship at Harvard Law School, joined the ancestors on January 7. She was seventy-one. Although heartbroken about her passing, we remain honored to have published her work, including “The Tyranny of the Meritocracy,” which she wrote to provide a clear blueprint for creating collaborative education models to strengthen our democracy rather than privilege individual elites. May she rest in power.
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!
Back-to-School season is tinged with precariousness this year. While Delta variant cases surge, many schools are reopening and resuming in-person classes. Even though the Biden administration announced plans to offer COVID booster shots in September, the fact remains that conditions at institutions of learning aren’t safe or fully resourced. We asked some of our authors what they would like folks to be aware of on the education front as students and educators return to the classroom. And given our pandemic reality, we also asked them how they think schools could take this opportunity to re-envision themselves for a better, post-COVID future.
The townspeople have clutched their pearls and fetched their pitchforks to raise hell against the new boogeyman du jour allegedly stomping the horizon. Do we dare speak its name? That boogeyman is . . . Critical Race Theory. White conservatives don’t want its antiracist agenda infecting children’s minds. The backlash is no different from the time when our former white supremacist in chief called for teaching “patriotic” histories.
New Year, New Attempted Coup. Just as we were celebrating the triumphant results of the Georgia runoff election, the insurrection at the Capitol began. And we looked on with anger and weariness. Not disbelief, though. Less than a month before his Twitter account was suspended, the tyrant in chief rallied a mob of low-bar Civil War cosplayers for the “big protest” on January 6. It would be foolhardy to claim we did not see this coming a mile away after four years of a president inciting violence and race-baited backlash in white nationalists and scores of his other supporters. Here’s what our authors had to say about it.
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.
By Paul Ortiz | I wrote An African American and Latinx History of the United States because I believe that history has an indispensable role to play at a time when many of our leading politicians are again invoking anti-Latinx and anti-Black hatred in order to garner votes. I was born in 1964. I grew up in the 1970s, a time of “backlash” against the Mexican American and African American civil rights movements. Politicians like California’s Pete Wilson, Arizona’s Joe Arpaio, and New York’s Donald Trump rose to political power by blaming immigrants and African Americans for society’s problems.
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.”
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
Graduates across the country are heading off to new adventures and new stages of their education or careers. If you’re looking for the perfect book this season for the graduate in your life, check out our graduation gift guide with recommendations from our catalog. Remember that you can always browse our website for more inspiration titles.
By Paul Ortiz: When migrant laborers, Nuyoricans, Chicana/os, Afro-Cubanos, Guatemaltecos, and immigrants from every part of earth united on May Day in 2006, they protested immigration restriction measures that threatened their families, their livelihoods, and their dignity. The testimonials featured on picket signs, in interviews, and on the Internet and other venues opened a window into the resurgence of working-class political culture. The demonstrators vigorously expressed their opposition to US House Resolution 4437.52. Latinx workers restored the age-old faith that racial capitalism had tried to drown out, that labor was the true source of the nation’s wealth.
Black History Month is the time that connections need to be made between the ancestors of Black heritage and the living inheritors. As educator Christopher Emdin wrote on our blog, the stories of past battles should never be told as if they are over or conquered. The stories are alive and playing out today. The connections are more powerful when they’re grounded in the context of history. In the spirit of Emdin’s observations, we’re offering a list of recommending reading to bridge the past with the present.
By Paul Ortiz: Racial capitalism is an economic system first theorized by Cedric Robinson building upon the work of the radical sociologist Oliver Cromwell Cox. As historian Robin D. G. Kelley noted, Robinson argued that capitalism in its earliest and subsequent iterations was dependent upon and entwined with “slavery, violence, imperialism, and genocide.” Through the twenty-first century, capital continues to generate “racial differences” between sectors of the working class in order to better exploit workers.
In a time when the United States has taken halting steps towards normalizing relations with Cuba, the Cuban solidarity movement has much to teach us. Oppressed people have long created linkages across national borders even when governments have sought to restrict contact.
Historian Paul Ortiz outlines the linked histories of African Americans and Latinos.
Arizona’s New Laws: An Attempt to Secure Cheap Labor?