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 Deborah Jian Lee: My readers inspired me. So many people engaged with Rescuing Jesus not just on the page, but in real life. They told me about ways the book compelled action and change, and it blew me away. A divinity school student told me that his mom read the book and it played a part in her coming to accept his sexuality and his partner; she ended up helping plan their wedding. Pastors incorporated the book’s findings into their sermons and some said my writing inspired them to launch national initiatives to address the issues of inequality and injustice raised in the book. And I’ve lost track of how many conservative straight, cis-white men have told me that the book changed their perspective on race, gender, and LGBTQ equality.
Throughout this election cycle, we’ve seen the rise of the radical right reminiscent of the pull of ultraconservative organizations from the past; increasing calls to prevent new immigrants from entering our country; increased calls to improve gun control legislation; a resurging wave of religious intolerance against Muslim Americans; and nationwide protests imploring racial justice and economic progress. These issues and others that have made headlines in the news have become focal points in this year’s presidential debates. To help inform the conversation about these topics, we’re recommending a list of titles from our catalogue.
A Conversation with Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman and Deborah Jian LeeRev. Elizabeth Edman: Queer people model a kind of courage that is very similar to what Christians are supposed to model. Christians could learn a lot about who we Christians are supposed to be simply by paying attention to queer lives and queer experience, and this is a prime moment for Christians to listen hard to what LGBTQ people are made of.
A Conversation with Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman and Deborah Jian LeeDeborah Jian Lee: For Rescuing Jesus, I’m speaking to a range of people including Evangelicals, ex-Evangelicals, progressive Christians, the spiritual but not religious, and the Nones, who don’t ascribe to any particular religion. I write about those on the margins of Evangelicalism, namely people of color, women, and LGBTQ Christians. Oftentimes people from these communities feel disqualified from the faith and feel like they must choose between their faith and other important aspects of their identity.
When I was fifteen, I stepped into a warm bath on my church's sanctuary stage. I was a bit of an outsider—the occasionally bullied Chinese-American kid in the white suburb—and I had found a place of belonging at this Chinese immigrant church. I made a joke about how I felt the same way about my new faith as my sixteen-year-old friend felt about her new driver’s license: I had no idea how I ever lived without this. Even my pastor chuckled as he clasped my hands, preparing to dunk me. Then I heard the splash of the warm water, the muffled underwater silence and the burst of cheers as my body broke through the surface. Smiling through currents of water, I saw the congregation beaming back. I had begun my new life in Christ.
Deborah Jian Lee left the evangelical world in her mid-twenties after growing weary of the culture wars. While she remained committed to her faith, she struggled to reconcile the message of the religious right with the gospels, so her faith became a wandering, nameless thing. After returning to the evangelical world as a journalist, she sought out believers who were living out the teachings of Jesus and found a radical tribe of evangelicals thriving at the margins. Racial minorities, women, and queer Christians were carving a new path for evangelicalism—one rooted in social justice. Deborah decided to write a book for the younger version of herself—the one who mistakenly thought that being evangelical and embracing social gospel values were mutually exclusive.
Working in the creative department at a small non-profit book publisher, we are constantly brainstorming new ideas of how to get our books noticed while not breaking the bank. Perhaps surprisingly, our limitations are sometimes what help elevate our designs to a higher standard. Our department is constantly brainstorming new ways to communicate our message through a combination of digital and physical media. I have had to rely on my abilities to illustrate, draw text, sculpt, paint, photograph, and collage on covers. My favorite covers have always resulted from some sort of experimentation with media and imagery.