A Q&A with Caroline LightOrdinarily, the duty to retreat obligated you to first try to avoid a violent confrontation before meeting force with force, unless you were threatened in your home. Starting in Florida in 2005, Stand Your Ground laws have granted some people an exemption from criminal prosecution when they claim to have killed another person in self-defense, as long as their fear of the deceased can be seen as “reasonable” in court. In some jurisdictions, SYG laws make it very difficult for police to arrest someone in the wake of a deadly encounter, because they must first establish evidence that the killing was not in reasonable self-defense.
Welcome to Beacon Broadside, the blog of Beacon Press!
Want to receive all of our new posts by email? Subscribe below.
By Aviva ChomskyThe rise in undocumented workers over the past several decades has gone along with a rise in the invisible, exploited labor that they perform. The generally unacknowledged work that they do is a crucial underpinning to the standard of living and consumption enjoyed by virtually everyone in the United States. But, clearly, an economic system that keeps a lot of people unemployed and another group trapped in a legal status that restricts them to the worst kinds of jobs does not really benefit everyone.
By Lisa KotinI will never understand how lovers can buy one another chocolate for Valentine’s Day. If I eat chocolate, the last thing I want to do is to get romantic. I just want to hole up in the bathroom with my box of sea salt caramels and my nuts and chews. Door locked. Lights off. So not even I can see myself going down on the goods.
By Rashod OllisonIt was February 1988, and I was in the fourth grade, the new kid at Fair Park Elementary in central Little Rock. I was nervous, of course, because I was the new kid. And nobody wants to be the new kid. But unlike previous classroom situations, I wasn’t the only black face in the place. There, in Mrs. Charlotte James’ orderly room, I was surrounded by kids who looked as though they could have been my cousins—black and brown faces staring back at me sans the entitled icy glares I usually got from white kids in Hot Springs. Also, Mrs. James was black, as stately and no-nonsense with her pearls and round glasses as the Baptist church mothers who silenced me with a stern look whenever I was disruptive in the Lord’s house. She was my first black teacher, and I was “so excited” like the Pointer Sisters.
By Carole JoffeMany who celebrated the success of the recent worldwide Women’s Marches—record-breaking numbers, wonderful esprit, and their peacefulness—were also gratified by the significant participation of men in the women-led events. This widely noted involvement of men in the marches prompted me to think of another important example of men supporting the aspirations of women, but one less noted today: the role of Black men in the struggle for abortion rights before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide. These men played crucial roles in key legal cases, introduced pioneering pro-choice legislation, and as doctors, made sure women could get this essential care.
Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to express my strong opposition to the nomination of Jefferson Sessions for federal district judgeship for the Southern District of Alabama. My longstanding commitment which I shared with my husband, Martin, to protect and enhance the rights of Black Americans, rights which include equal access to the democratic process, compels me to testify today.
By Lynn HallThe accomplishment of climbing one of the Seven Summits changed my entire psyche going into the publication of Caged Eyes. During the three weeks between summiting and book publication, my outlook has been very different. There have been a few harder days of panic and somatic upheaval, but overall I’m much more focused on my successes and the journey which brought me to this destination. I’m much more focused on my original intention of the book: dismantling cultures of shame and silence.
By Sharon Leslie MorganWhen Dr. Carter G. Woodson created “National Negro Week” in February, 1926, my oldest uncle was a newly conceived embryo. Louis Nicholson would emerge into the world in October of that year, born into a society in which African Americans were a mere six decades into freedom from 264 years of enslavement. “Jim Crow” was the law of the land. Black people were being segregated, terrorized, and lynched—even in his hometown of Chicago. Woodson chose February as the celebration date for “Negro History Week” because it coincided with the birthdays of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and “The Great Emancipator” Abraham Lincoln.
I’ve been in publishing since about 2000, so a lot has changed! At that point, company websites were just becoming the norm, but direct sales on those sites and content management systems definitely weren’t. Remember a time when social media didn’t exist? I do. We’re much more connected to readers than ever before. I spend a lot of my time working online, so these are some of the things that really stand out for me. There’s so much that has stayed the same, too, but one thing that really sticks out right now is that people continue to turn to books to fulfill basic needs, like finding comfort and solace in others’ experiences. Or to understand a different point of view or find ways to move forward in a difficult time. I worked in publishing in the post-9/11 world, and now we’re in the Trump era, and books continue matter.
By Nicholas DiSabatino“Is there anybody out here tonight still feeling the Bern?” Labor journalist Steve Early called out this question to a group of over eighty-five people at his Porter Square Books event in Cambridge, MA, on the evening of January 25, coyly referring to the foreword from Senator Bernie Sanders for his new book, Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City.
By Enrico GnaulatiWith Trump’s ascendancy to the White House, I have become inundated with clients using therapy time to process their shock, disbelief, dismay, and outrage. I live and practice in perhaps the bluest of the blue states, California. Many of my clients are liberally-minded writers, artists, college students, professors, and movie-industry folks who typically are drawn to therapy as a cherished space to address questions of personal meaning, value, and purpose in their lives. In the consulting room, they prefer to keep the focus on their personal lives and refrain from discussing politics. However, given Trump’s personae and policies, “the political” has truly become “the personal” for many of my clients, and therapy a place to confront the emotional effects of his rise to power, as well as realize the need to get more politically involved.
By Louis RoeLife as Jamie Knows It is one of the first covers I designed for Beacon, and still one of the covers I’ve presented the most ideas for (only a handful are pictured here). Michael Bérubé provides his reflections on raising his son, Jamie, who has Down syndrome, as his son transitions into adulthood. Several important moments in their relationship take place at a public pool, which is why I was drawn to a blue palette. I also wanted to convey a sense of peeking into this young man’s life and identity; he isn’t summed up by any single part of him, least of all an irregularity in his chromosomes. One of my favorite elements of this cover is a sample of Jamie’s art in the bottom-right corner of the cork board.
By Jay WexlerAs someone who has written a book about the “odd clauses” of the Constitution, I always find it exciting when some weird and heretofore unnoticed clause starts grabbing some of the nation’s headlines. This time it’s the so-called Emoluments Clause of Article I, Section 9 (I think it should be called the “Presents Clause” but I’ll get to that), which prohibits anyone holding “any Office of Profit or Trust” from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” The news media has been reporting for well over a month that Donald Trump’s extensive business network puts him in danger of violating this clause; and on Monday a group of extremely prominent legal experts filed suit in federal court claiming that Trump has already violated this constitutional provision.
By Meryl StreepWhen we think about our days in school, we often recall a particular teacher who made the most difference in our lives. For me, it was my music teacher, Claire Callahan. I was in high school and thought she was inconceivably old—something like twenty-four. She was a guitar student of Andrés Segovia. She didn’t have enough money for her lessons, so she came to my suburban school in New Jersey and taught music. She was absolutely amazing. Teachers perform major miracles in America, daily. My interest in public education comes from the respect I have for what teachers do and is very personal.
A Q&A with Daina BerryMy goal was to show how enslaved people developed an understanding of themselves as tradable goods alongside a sense of their personhood. I wanted to walk the reader through this process using enslaved people’s voices to tell their side of the story. My goal was not to write about them but with them in mind through their testimonies. Enslaved people were not props on a stage; for me they were the lead actors and actresses of this drama.
Donald Trump gets sworn in today as commander in chief. His approval rating speaks to the myriad doubts, concerns, and fears many have about what he and his administration will do during his term in the White House. We reached out to a few of our authors to ask if they wanted to share what they want Trump to know, understand or beware of. On Inauguration Day, we share their responses with you.
By Tom HallockWe, as publishers, have important work to do in protecting an open, democratic society that is now under increasing threat. The threat has been growing after decades of disturbing illiberal trends: the growth of corporate power, a widespread anti-intellectualism, the rise of social media echo chambers, pervasive racism, and partisan attacks on the nature and purpose of government. Now we are about to inaugurate a president whose election is a product of these trends, a man whose public statements have been true only fifteen percent of the time according to Politifacts and who regularly disparages science, expert advice, the media, and his critics. As Robert Reich points out, these are the tactics of demagogues. In the face of these threats, publishers have urgent work to do.
Yesterday, we released labor activist Steve Early’s Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City. In Refinery Town, Early tells the story of Richmond, California, once a prototypical company town, dominated by the Chevron Corporation, with one of the highest homicide rates per capita in the country. Its jobless rate was twice the national average. Beset by deindustrialization, poverty, pollution, poorly funded public services, drug trafficking, corruption in City Hall and more, Richmond’s largely nonwhite, working-class citizens came together to rise against the status quo and corporate power.
By Jeanne TheoharisWhile Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks are typically associated with the South, both spent a great deal of their lives challenging the racism of the Jim Crow North. Yet this part of their history is repeatedly ignored. Parks described the Detroit she moved to in 1957 as the "Northern promised land that wasn't" and spent the next four decades challenging the segregation and inequality endemic to the city.
By Wen StephensonSome of you have heard me say this before. I’ve said it many times, and I’m going to keep on saying it, because it’s true: Given what scientists know, and have known for decades, about climate change—indeed, given what Exxon Mobil has known for decades about climate change—to deny the science, deceive the public, and obstruct any serious response to the climate catastrophe, is to ensure the destruction, the eradication, of entire countries and cultures; and the suffering and death of untold millions of human beings. There’s a word for this. These are crimes. And they’re not just financial crimes. They’re not just crimes against shareholders. They’re crimes against humanity.