11 Essential Women to Read for International Women’s Day (and Beyond)

Happy Women’s History Month to all the incredible women who have made our national story, and to all the innovative women who are continuing to make our story. In celebration, here is a list of eleven women novelists, comic and graphic artists, essayists, and activists who are creating heartrending, essential stories that you can read now. Pro tip: many of them have books coming out this year, so you can dig into their backlist titles AND have something hopeful to read in 2017.

  1. Rebecca Solnit: Dubbed the “Philosopher Queen” by ELLE Magazine, Rebecca Solnit solnitwrites approachable, intelligent pieces on motherhood, “mansplaining” (a term she coined), politics, gender binaries, and more. Her indie bestselling title Men Explain Things To Me is also now available in Spanish as Los hombres me explican cosas. In the floodbreak of the 2016 election, her title Hope in the Dark resonated with folks across the country, building to the March 7, 2017 publication of The Mother of All Questions, where she writes lines such as “Liberation is always in part a storytelling process: breaking stories, breaking silences, making new stories. A free person tells her own story. A valued person lives in a society in which her story has a place.”
  2. davisAngela Davis: Davis has been woke before anyone knew what that meant, and she’s still writing about it. With decades of thoughtful activism under her belt, Angela Davis has a depth of experience so essential for today’s people when it comes to our dialogue: race, gender, prison rights. If this doesn’t have you interested, read this: in 1969, President Ronald Reagan requested that she be barred from teaching at any university in the State of California because of her membership with the Communist Party. She was part of the Civil Rights Movement and tied to the Black Panther Party. Her Freedom Is A Constant Struggle hit multiple indie bestseller lists in 2016, but you can’t stop there—dig into her older titles, and you’ll find gold: The Meaning of Freedom and Other Difficult Dialogues is a collection of her speeches on racism, community, freedom, and politics, and she’s a bit of a Frederick Douglass expert, having penned additional essays for an expanded version of Douglass’s masterpiece: Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written By Himself.
  3. Arundhati Roy: If you don’t know this incredible novelist for her, well, novels, you’re arundhati-roylikely not paying attention. But as Signature noted in a long piece in early February, instead of riding on her fame for her first novel, The God of Small Things, in the last four years, Roy has become something of a political activist, writing about “power and powerlessness,” including India’s 1998 nuclear testing and its efforts to become a nuclear superpower, the American bombing of Afghanistan, fascism in India, and her ponderings on meeting with Edward Snowden. Before grabbing a copy of her new novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, read her searing works of nonfiction: Capitalism: A Ghost Story, Field Notes on Democracy, The End of Imagination, and Things That Can and Cannot Be Said. In her newest title available April 11, The Doctor and the Saint, Roy strips down the cultural sainthood of Gandhi and examines some of the uncomfortable and controversial truths about the political thought and career of India’s most revered man.
  4. Valeria Luiselli: If you thought 2016 was rough, you have bookends of Valeria Luiselli to remind you of the goodness of 2015, and look forward to 2017. Mexican born Luiselli wowed almost everyone who read The Story of My Teeth in 2015. The New York Times called her story of the traveling auctioneer Gustavo (Highway) Sánchez Sánchez “deeply playful,” and her novel addressed ideas about art and objects, even tmhieas the hilarity of Highway’s tooth collection of the famous (Plato, Petrarch, and Virginia Woolf included) ensued. But in 2017, Luiselli is taking on immigration, and there’s nothing fictional about this. Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions is available starting March 28, and is Luiselli’s record of conversations with undocumented Latin-American children facing deportation. This essential book humanizes these young migrants and highlights the contradictions of the American Dream, and the fear and racism so prevalent for the people who try to make this their home. More Luiselli titles to add to your list include Faces in the Crowd and Sidewalks.
  5. gabrielle-bellGabrielle Bell: “Quiet, pensive cartoonist creates fantastic, heartrending cartoons that stun world” could be the headline for Bell’s artistic career so far. Bell grew up in an isolated rural community, and then took art classes at community colleges, working dead-end retail jobs while she started her career as a cartoonist. Her titles include The Voyeurs, Truth Is Fragmentary, and her first full-length graphic memoir Everything Is Flammable publishing April 18 from Uncivilized Books. Whether you’re into graphic novels or not, make time for Everything is Flammable: spanning a single year, Bell tells the story of returning from New York to her childhood home in rural Northern California to help her mother put her home and life back together. In the narrative, Bell keeps acknowledging her issues with anxiety, financial hardships, memories of a semi-feral childhood, and her always tenuous relationship with her mother. Don’t take my word for it: Alison Bechdel (Fun Home) is also a fan: “Bell’s pen becomes a kind of laser, first illuminating the surface distractions of the world, then scorching them away to reveal a deeper reality that is almost too painful and too beautiful to bear.”
  6. Bae Suah: If you’re trying to diversify your reading list, look no further than this baesuahheavy hitting Korean writer, who has recently been translated into English. In Korean, her name is “Suah Bae,” and she started writing stories as a hobby. The stories took on lives of their own, and now she’s been translated into English multiple times (thank goodness!). A Greater Music follows a young Korean writer as she evaluates her romance with her rough and tumble metalworker boyfriend, and her deep feelings for her past lover, a woman named M. Her most recent title, Recitation, explores the emigrant experience through the ideas of memory and personhood. Read more about Bae Suah in this interview from 1 Brooklyn with her rockstar translator Deborah Smith (who also translated Han Kang’s Man Booker Prize winning The Vegetarian), and stay alert for her collection of short stories, North Station, publishing from Open Letter this October.
  7. janemaiJane Mai: If chic comics, feminism, and Instagram game had a love child, it would probably be Jane Mai. Mai is a freelance illustrator and comics artist from Brooklyn, and her “autobio with a bite” See You Next Tuesday is relatable for any twenty-something female. She doesn’t just tell her own story. On May 16, her collaboration with An Nguyen and Novala Takemoto So Pretty/Very Rotten: Comics and Essays on Lolita Fashion and Cute Culture publishes, and you won’t find a better cultural critique in comic form.
  8. Carmen Boullosa: This Mexican writer is a literary heavenspowerhouse: poet, novelist, and playwright, Boullosa is the trifecta, and her work is more relevant than ever. Her first novel translated in English is Texas: The Great Theft, which reimagines the 1850 Mexican invasion of the United States (complete with colorful ranchers, cowboys, and dancehall girls). She views border history through distinctly Mexican eyes, which couldn’t be a more critical perspective in our current dialogue. Lucky for us, Boullosa is still writing. Her title Before is part revenge novel, part ghost story, and all coming-of-age. Her newest title Heavens on Earth publishes June 20, and beautifully challenges the primacy of recorded history, transcending the barriers of time through vivid, urgent prose.
  9. Sofia Samatar: Of all the writers on this list, Sofia Samatar could be the one whosesamatar college writing class you’d most like to take. This Somali-American professor and writer creates incredible fantasy worlds in her novels A Stranger in Olondria and The Winged Histories, and her first collection of short stories, Tender, is out April 11 from Small Beer Press. When asked why she writes fantasy, Samatar had a lot to say, “I’m this person from a mixed background, you know, Somali and Swiss-German Mennonite, that you don’t see a lot of, and that it maybe encourages me to imagine other ways of being.” Cliff note: her fiction is replete with strong female characters.
  10. Bernice McFadden: Her latest novel, The Book of Harlan weaves a young musician’s bernicejourney through jazz, Harlem, Paris, and life in a Nazi concentration camp. Bernice McFadden won the NAACP Image Award for The Book of Harlan, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg in her oeuvre. The author of nine critically acclaimed novels (pro tip: get a copy of Gathering of Waters immediately), McFadden started out adult life thinking she wanted to work in fashion (obviously, she’s still got the style—check out her NAACP award photos). After years of bouncing around to different big-industry jobs, McFadden landed on a year of unemployment, which launched her love of writing, and the world is better for it. Loving Donovan, Nowhere Is a Place, and The Warmest December are more required reading from this lifetime storyteller.
  11. Ursula K. LeGuin: LeGuin deserves many awards for her 87 years of life, many for her writing, many for her informed, gracious perspective on current events, including a recent letter to the editor explaining the difference between science fiction and ursulaalternative facts, which Entertainment Weekly covered in February. Since she started writing, LeGuin has been bucking the male stereotypes of the fantasy world, and winning awards doing it (including multiple Hugo awards, a Newberry Medal, a PEN award, a World Fantasy Award, and a National Book Award). The New Yorker covered her life and work in an in-depth feature last October, titled “The Fantastic Ursula K. LeGuin.” For a deep reading experience of LeGuin, check out Words Are My Matter: Writings about Life and Books, 2000-2016, with a Journal of a Writer’s Week.

 

Three More Books You Actually Can’t Miss for WHM:

Rad American Women A-Z: A new classic, Rad American Women A-Z has spent time on the New York Times Bestseller list, been excerpted on Buzzfeed, inspired Halloween costumes, and is genuinely loved by librarians nationwide. If you don’t have a copy (or know another female who doesn’t) it’s high time you picked up a copy of this.

The Crunk Feminist Collection:  From prison abolition, to beauty parlor politics, to Rihanna, The Crunk Feminist Collection brings essays from the Crunk Feminist Collective together in print for the first time. With essays like “Sex and Power in the Black Church” and “Dating with a Doctorate (She Got a Big Ego?)” there’s very little that the Crunk Feminists won’t cover. Self-described as “critical homegirls,” the authors tackle life stuck between loving hip hop and ratchet culture while hating patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism. This published in January, so get your copy now!

And the Spirit Moved Them: The Lost History of America’s First Feminists: Written by activist Helen LaKelly Hunt, this takes modern feminism back to its roots before the suffragettes. Before Seneca Falls, black and white women joined forces at the 1837 Anti-Slavery Convention in the first instance of political organizing by American women, for American women. These women challenged slavery and the patriarchy, and they created a blueprint for today’s intersectional feminism. With a foreword by the legendary Cornel West, this book is sure to make waves, and remind us where we’re coming from.

 

 

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Rebecca Solnit Trilogy Makes Required Women’s History Month Reading

Rebecca Solnit, a long-time activist and author, burst into public consciousness in 2008 by coining the term “mansplaining” in an essay about men’s tendencies to interrupt women with a patronizing “well, actually. . .” The essay was originally published in Men Explain Things to Me. With its conversational tone and ability to make feminist theory accessible and hip, the book quickly became required reading for women everywhere. After the 2016 election, another Solnit title resurfaced in relevance: Hope in the Dark offered those frustrated and anxious about the election results a guide to persevering in the face of oppression. The book, an updated version of the one originally printed during the Bush Administration, saw a massive spike in sales, and by February 9, 2017 had hit a record six regional bestseller lists.

With her monthly Harpers column winning the 2017 Ellie Award in the “Columns and Commentary” category on February 7, and an ELLE Magazine profile dubbing her “the philosopher queen” (on stands now!), Solnit has continued to prove that the feminist movement is far from losing steam. If that wasn’t enough, Men Explain Things to Me (now available in Spanish as Los hombres me explican cosas) also hit the ABA Bestseller list on February 9, coming in at #34 in the Trade Paperback Nonfiction category for the ninth week.

The Women’s Marches internationally drew crowds totaling almost 5 billion, and the rights, tenacity, and history of women are at the forefront of national and international minds. Solnit has impeccable timing as her third book, The Mother of All Questions, hits stands March 7.

Stay tuned to hear Rebecca Solnit on Democracy Now! March 24 or March 28!

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William Grill’s Wolves of Currumpaw Wins Ragazzi Award in Nonfiction

In the news flood of politics, violence, and human rights struggles filling our days and minds, what could we possibly have to learn from one of the founding pioneers of the Boy Scouts, Ernest Thomas Seton? Quite a lot, including lessons on compassion and caring for each other and our wild world, and the beautiful necessity of learning from our mistakes.

The Bologna Ragazzi Award, one of the most prestigious children’s international book awards, has just thrown its weight behind a quintessentially American book that tells the story of Ernest Thomas Seton’s life- changing meetings with a certain wolf. The Wolves of Currumpaw, a modern illustrated retelling of Seton’s classic story “Lobo, The King of Currumpaw,” is by the young artist/writer William Grill and was announced as the winner of the Bologna Ragazzi Award for nonfiction on February 16, with the awards ceremony to follow during the Bologna Children’s Book Fair from April 3-6.  The Wolves offers a story of young Seton exploiting the wilderness of the American West for his own gain, until a certain wolf tragically teaches Seton that the wildness has heart, and part of Seton’s job is to protect it.

This beautiful picture book is not Grill’s first headline-maker: his 2014 title Shackleton’s Journey was a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and also made Grill the youngest winner since 1960 of the UK’s Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration (the equivalent to the Caldecott Medal in the US).

The Wolves of Currumpaw has garnered its own following, including a Junior Library Guild selection, a Guardian Best Children‘s Book 2016 selection, and rave reviews in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times Book Review, and Brain Pickings, where Maria Popova said of the book, ” Grill tells the story without a sentimental gloss over the jarring cruelty that was a matter of course in the Old West. But what emerges is an essential reminder that we can’t reasonably judge one era by the moral standards of another; that, above all, so many of our ethical principles have emerged from the disquietude of their opposite—a sentiment echoed in the contrast between Grill’s soft, sensitive illustrations and the brutality of the killings, both by the wolves and of the wolves.”

There you have it, folks: a lesson from Ernest Thomas Seaton that, the Bologna Ragazzi committee agrees, more than stands the test of time.

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Colleen Dunn Bates celebrates 10 years of Prospect Park Books

Looking for a small press that focuses on authors outside the mainstream? Look no further than Prospect Park Books, based in Pasadena, California. Celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, Prospect Park Books’ founder, publisher, and editor Colleen Dunn Bates writes about her experience and doles out some sound wisdom for Literary Hub in a post published November 8th.

The long game aspect of the business frustrated Bates, but has given her a new understanding of publishing and patience, especially the accompanying learning curve: “It takes years to build a backlist, to find and build relationships with talented authors, designers, and staff, and to learn how to make budgets and forecast sales with at least a shred of realism.” However, the love of books and authors drives Prospect Park to keep publishing truly remarkable books.

“We never would have had our #1 bestseller, the debut novel Helen of Pasadena, if I hadn’t said, impetuously, passionately, and (at the time) foolishly, ‘What the hell, let’s go for it!'” Helen of Pasadena follows a wife and mother from (you guessed it) Pasadena whose life changes when her cheating husband gets killed by a parade float. Prospect Park has also fostered a relationship with author Michelle Brafman. author of Bertrand Court and Washing the DeadBertrand Court gives a close-up view of life in a suburban cul-de-sac, while Washing the Dead  deals with a woman confronting her family’s past after her mother’s death. Says the Washington City Paper about Bertrand Court: “Subtle and convincing… Brafman’s book works best in the way these characters interconnect from story to story, maintaining the reader’s interest as a novel should.”

Prospect Park publishes fiction as well as gift and cookbooks; Little Flower Baking  is a perfect example of one of their excellent cookbooks, a baking cookbook that won the Southern California Independent Bookseller Award for Best Nonfiction and has Leite’s Culinaria raving about the plum crumble pie, “a mutant combo in the best possible way.” This is a great gift for the holidays!lfbaking_cover_small

What final piece of advice does Bates give about the small press world? “Every book is our baby, every author is our family member, and there will never be enough hours or dollars to do everything possible to make it succeed. But we try anyway. Because we cannot imagine doing anything else.”

Indeed.

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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 through October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month, a time for celebrating the culture, lives, and achievements of Hispanic people all across the Americas. The month begins on September 15 in honor of the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua; Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence shortly after, on September 16 and 18. Though Hispanic people make up nearly twenty percent of the United States population, Hispanic authors continue to be ridiculously and frustratingly underrepresented in literature (this study in the Baltimore Sun says that less than one percent of all children’s books are written by Hispanic authors). It’s a statistic that becomes even more infuriating when you realize that Hispanic authors have produced some of the biggest books in the last ten years (Junot Diaz, anyone?). To counteract this inequality, we’ve compiled a list of titles by Hispanic authors from the United States to Central and South America: authors who represent the strength, resistance, and incredible contributions of Hispanic people everywhere, in genres from poetry, to literary fiction, to sci-fi, and more.

Beyond the Wall: New Selected beyond-the-wallPoems by Régis Bonvicino (Green Integer, November 2016) This is poetry at its most crucial and political, poetry that won’t let you off the hook even after you’re done reading. Beyond the Wall is the first English translation of Bonvicino’s work from 2002 to the present. Bonvicino has worn basically every hat you can wear in the literary world, from poet to translator, editor, and literary critic. His experience shows: in his poetry, he nimbly jumps between the stunning imagery of nature and the harsh realities of industrialization in urban environments. There’s a pulse to these words, a driving force that pushes you to constantly think about what you’re reading and why. Bonvicino challenges you to examine the massive role that colonialism played in developing what we think of as poetry.

Blood of the Dawn by Claudia Salazar Jiménez (Deep Vellum Publishing, Novemblood-of-the-dawnber 2016) Three Peruvian women brave the brutal and bloody military insurgence of the Shining Path guerillas in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The insurgence was the beginning of twenty years known in Peruvian history as the “state of fear.” In Blood of the Dawn, Jiménez rewrites the conflict through these women’s voices, marking how the personal can become political and vice versa. Jiménez’s prose is clear-cut and doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of the insurgence and the effects it had on the people of Peru. When this debut novel was first published in Spanish, Jiménez received the 2014 Americas Narrative Prize. Read it, and you’ll see why.

chronicle-of-a-murdered-houseChronicle of a Murdered House by Lúcio Cardoso (Open Letter Books, August 2016) is juicy familial drama at its best, rich with gossiped stories of adultery, incest, madness, and decadence. The first  English translation of Cardoso’s iconic Brazilian novel (originally published in Portuguese in the 1930s), follows the legacy of a once-proud family that blames its downfall on the marriage of its youngest son to a vibrant, rebellious, passionate woman named Nina. Cardoso’s writing is far from a fluff piece, however, meandering between plot-based narrative and deep philosophical questions in the driven-yet-pensive way that only literary fiction can. As Cardoso follows the family over the years, he hops between narrative devices from letters to diaries to confessions that will keep you reeled in until the very end.

I’ll Sell You a Dog by Juan Pablo Villalobos (And Other Stories, August 2016) followill-sell-you-a-dos an elderly man named Teo as he attempts to fend off boredom and cockroaches in a retirement home —all with a beer in hand. In his heyday, Teo was known all throughout Mexico City for his dog meat tacos, which he called “Gringo Dogs,” but that was before he lost his girlfriend to Diego Rivera and had his dreams crushed by his hypochondriac mother. Now, Teo is stuck trying to fill his days by antagonizing the literary salon that meets downstairs, flirting with the revolutionary greengrocer next door, and reading critical theory to telemarketers. When I’ll Sell You a Dog isn’t making you laugh out loud at Teo’s ridiculous antics, it’s “full of affection for art and artists” according to NPR. The novel is full of people who are die-hard believers, and it’s impossible not to root for characters who are so unapologetically passionate about their work.

the-revolutionaries-try-againThe Revolutionaries Try Again by Mauro Javier Cardenas (Coffee House Press, September 2016) tells the story of three childhood friends who reunite to transform Ecuador, and then discover that revolution isn’t as easy as it might seem. It’s political, yes (full of election turmoil, history of the Ecuadorian pro-austerity movement, and subversive radio plays), but to say it’s only a political novel would be to undercut the complexity of Cardenas’s writing. In The Revolutionaries Try Again, Cardenas explores the many facets of friendships, the things we leave unsaid, and all of the ways nostalgia acts as a fun house mirror on our memories. Cardenas’s writing crackles with wit and pop culture references (from ABBA to The Exorcist) – there’s a reason Harper’s magazine called The Revolutionaries Try Again a “high-octane, high-modernist debut.”

San Juan Noir, edited and introduced by Mayra Santos-Febres (Akashic Boosan-juan-noirks, October 2016) is an anthology of noir fiction by some of Puerto Rico’s best and brightest authors. Noir is nothing without atmosphere, and the setting here becomes a character of its own. The authors of San Juan Noir dig deep into the city, cracking open the (largely white, American) mythos of, as editor Santos-Febres says in the introduction, “sandy beaches, casinos, luxury hotels, relaxation, and never-ending pleasure—a place that satisfies all senses and appetites.” The stories within San Juan Noir stare right into the face of colonialism as they examine the gaps between the city’s rich and its poor, its residents and its constant flow of tourists, its colorful exterior and its gritty underbelly. This is noir with a bite, noir that enthralls with its dark tales even as it challenges the reader—do better, do better, do better.

transmigration-of-bodiesThe Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera (And Other Stories, August 2016) is a response to the violence in contemporary Mexico. A plague has come to an unnamed city, spreading death and destruction everywhere. Two rival crime families take advantage of the emptied streets to reopen a decades-old feud, but when the situation escalates beyond control, they call in the only person who can rebroker the peace: the Redeemer. Both families have kidnapped the children of the other, and the Redeemer must venture out into the disease-ridden streets to negotiate the return of the bodies they hold hostage. This definitely isn’t one of the lighter books you’ll read, but Herrera’s short, poetic prose “goes straight for the soul,” according to NPR, and is impossible to ignore. The Transmigration of Bodies pays homage to literary greats from Roberto Bolaño to Raymond Chandler and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as it honors all of the bodies that violent crime has touched.

Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya (Mandel Vilar Press, October 2016) is not your avewicked-weedsrage zombie novel. From The Walking Dead to iZombie, you may be groaning at the thought of even more zombie narratives. But Wicked Weeds is different. Instead of a traditional, chronological narrative, the book comes together in scrapbook form, compiled by fictional doctor Isadore Bellamy as she tries to make sense of a brutal accident caused by her (zombie) boss. The book is made up of confessions from our zombie protagonist, transcripts of police interrogations, and segments of prose. Wicked Weeds incorporates all the best parts of sci-fi, experimental fiction, traditional horror, and Caribbean literature to create what Kirkus Reviews called “a culturally resonant tale of zombie woe.”

zero-sum-gameA Zero-Sum Game by Eduardo Rabasa (Deep Vellum Publishing, November 2016) is a biting political and consumerist satire—definitely a timely and relevant pick for this fall. A Zero-Sum Game follows the high-stakes election for the presidency of a residents’ committee, where a powerful stranger threatens to use his influence to shake up the process. Rabasa uses the charged atmosphere to crack dry, wry jokes that manage to lend sympathy to both sides: those in power, who find themselves caught between empowerment and selling out, and those outside of it, who find themselves wanting to be part of a revolution. It’s complex, intense, and would be heavy were the book not so charmingly funny. VERDICT: Add to your pre-election reading list.

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Titles for the Times: Ten Books On Race, Police, and Black Lives Matter

52 years ago, Bob Dylan first recorded his monumental “The Times They Are A-Changin.'”

Come gather ’round people wherever you roam

And admit that the waters around you have grown

Accept it soon, you’ll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you is worth savin’

Then you better start swimmin’, you could sink like a stone

For the times, they are a-changin’

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land

And don’t criticize what you can’t understand

Your sons and your daughters, beyond your command

Those lyrics are eerily current, as the people around you and I are protesting with signs that say BlackLivesMatter, as police violence continues to be peeled back and exposed by social media, as “privilege,” “gentrification,” “racist,” and “immigrant” become either fighting words or words of conversation, depending on the circles in which you find yourself.

As par for the course, many independent publishers have been producing books for these conversations for years, and even more have been published this year. No matter what circle you find yourself in, these can help to soothe the argument and continue the conversation.

Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority, Tim Wise, City Lights Publishers, January 2012: Ydearwhiteamericaou could say that Tim Wise was “woke” before that term was around. In this provocative work, Wise speaks out against the assumption that white culture is the norm. Written with Obama in his first term, this book is perhaps even more relevant now w
ith the current political and social environment. As Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow says, “What Tim Wise has brilliantly done is to challenge white folks . . . to see that they have a responsibility to do more than sit back and watch, but to recognize their own role in co-creating what is either a fair, inclusive, truly democratic society or a society that is predicated on indifference towards those who are labeled as ‘others.'”

freedom

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle, Angela Davis, Haymarket Books, February 2016: Need your racial justice titles with a heavy dose of feminism and historical context? Look no further
than Angela Davis’s most recent title, where she digs into the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughought history and around the world in her essays, interviews, and speeches. BUST says of the title that, “Davis delivers a rooted history with directives for seeing modern events in context. Yes, freedom is a constant struggle, and here, Davis reminds us we have the tools to act, react, and keep pushing onward.”

 

From #BlackfromblackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Haymarket Books, February 2016: Where haven’t Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and her timely book been in the past year? Salon, Democracy Now!, the Los Angeles Times, and now required reading at Virginia Union University for all incoming students this fall are just a handful. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor teaches at Princeton University, and she analyzes the historical and contemporary ravages of racism and structural inequality, including mass incarceration and Black unemployment. She argues for the necessity of BlackLivesMatter for Black liberation.

 

Picturing Children: National Museum of African American History and Culture, Marian W. Edelman, D Giles Limited, July 2016: picturingchildrenThe Smithsonian is getting in on the conversation too: The National Museum of African American History and Culture opens to the public on September 24, and as part of the launch, the museum’s founding director, Lonnie Bunch, is overseeing the publication of a special series of photography books with photos from the museum’s collection. The fourth title in this series is Picturing Children, and it features stunning images of America’s past and present racial tension and hope are reflected in the faces and actions of children, as NPR’s All Things Considered reported on July 30.

Michelle Obama herself referenced one of the photos (a child touching President Obama’s hair) in her speech to the DNC on July 25, saying “We know that our words and actions matter not just to our girls, but to kids across this country. Kids who tell us, ‘I saw you on TV,’ ‘I wrote about you at school.’ Kids like the little black boy who looked up at my husband, his eyes wide with hope, and he wondered ‘is my hair like yours?’”

Talking Black, Talking Back, John McWhorter, Bellevue Literary Press, January 2017: Finally, we have a title that is a celebration of Black English and an argument for its legitimacy. talkingbackAs James McWhorter says, “To me, Black English is like a clockwork or an engine, a system every bit as coherent as Latin or Chinese. But to most Americans, Black English Means error.” McWhorter fights the stereotype, gives you some approachable grammar lessons, and changes our definitions of “correct language” in the process. Look for Talking Black, Talking Back from Bellevue Literary Press in January 2017.

 

The Black History of the White House, Clarence Lusane, City Lights Publishers, January 2011: Once again hitting thblackhistorye right notes, first lady Michelle Obama ruffled feathers in her DNC speech, noting that “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.” Subsequently, NPR called in Clarence Lusane, author of The Black History of the White House to comment on the first lady’s speech: “. . . what Michelle Obama was attempting to do was to draw that link to show that it isn’t just what’s going on in the White House now and isn’t it great that there’s a black family there, but there’s a much longer history that needs to be appreciated.” If you want to know the underbelly of American history that likely wasn’t blared in your high school textbook, take a look at The Black History of the White House.

The Breakbeat Poets, Edited by Kevin Coval and Quraysh A Lansana, Haymarket Books, April 2015: Spoken word and hip hop inspired poetry has sparked the BlackLivesMatter Movement with creativity and passion. As Danez Smith says in his provobreakbeatcative “Dear White America,”

“I have left earth to find a land where my kin can be safe. I will not rest until black people ain’t but people the same color as the good, wet earth, until that means something, until our existence isn’t up for debate, until it is honored & blessed & loved & left alone, until then I bid you well, I bid you war, I bid you our lives to gamble with no more.”

With poems by Ocean Vuong, Danez Smith, Kevin Coval, Chinaka Hodge, Aracelis Girmay, and so many more, The Breakbeat Poets is your anthology for the times. They can’t stop, nor will they.

The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment That Changed the World, Dave Zirin and John W.
Carlos, Haymarket Books, February 2013:
With the Rio Olympics over and American media obsessing over the embarrassment of Ryan Lochte, a johncarlosbook about an Olympian taking a stand decades ago, doing something that matters, might be what you need. From the 200-meter run medal podium in 1968, John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s Black Power Salute incited controversy, career fallout, and stirring visual reminder of the times. In his book co-written with Dave Zirin, John Carlos gives the details behind that moment and how it affected his life. And Carlos is still talking today. On August 18, he told NPR’s Morning Edition, “If you’re famous and you’re black, you have to be an activist.”

racismThe ‘R’ Word, Kurt Barling, Biteback Publishing, May 2016: Is the word “racism” even something we can continue to use? What good is it doing us? Kurt Barling, professor of journalism at Middlesex University in London explores the notions of racism and oppressor language in our changing world.

 

 

Writing On The Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Edited by Johanna Fernandez, Mumia Abu Jamal, City writingonLights Publishers, June 2015: The last title to round out our list comes from a writer currently serving his time in prison for being convicted of the murder of a police officer in 1981. Journalist and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal has perhaps the most unique perspective on violence, racism, and the police force. In Writing on the Wall, he delivers 100 previously unpublished essays on community, politics, Rosa Parks, Ferguson, and more. In the words of Cornel West, “[Mumia Abu Jamal’s] writings are a wake-up call. He is a voice from our prophetic tradition, speaking to us here, now, lovingly, urgently. Black man, old-school jazz man, freedom fighter, revolutionary—his presence, his voice, his words are the writing on the wall.”

 

 

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Will Evans of Deep Vellum Tells The Rumpus “Translators are the missing link”

It’s hard to imagine a day in the life of Will Evans. He almost singlehandedly runs Deep Vellum—one of the few publishing houses in the country that publishes exclusively translated works. He is integral to building and connecting the emerging literary community in Dallas, where he is also opening an independent bookstore called Deep Vellum Books.

“I met Will at the Dallas Book Festival, where he was clearly in his element as a force of literary energy…engaging in conversation continuously with a community that had its hooks in him, and vice versa,” writes Graham Oliver in his introduction to the interview with Evans for The Rumpus, published August 24.

Since its founding in 2013, Deep Vellum has published works from award-winning authors spanning the globe, including Sergio Pitol’s The Art of Flight, Lina Meruane’s Seeing Red, and Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s Tram 83. “I have to round out the world. I haven’t published from everywhere yet,” Evans says. “I need a Japanese book, a Turkish book, an Italian book, a German book. For me, one of the reasons I choose books is based on diversity and diversity comes in all those forms: language, region, country, gender, etc.”

As a non-profit organization, Deep Vellum eGrambraces a publishing philosophy that is “about connecting authors and readers.” Deep Vellum addresses the desperate need for more international books. Evans says, “Translators are that missing link.”

Though Deep Vellum often faces skepticism from members of the publishing industry as a translation publisher based in Dallas, Evans is confident in their mission. “I’m hungry,” he says, “I’m voraciously waiting for these books, so if I can create some of that sense in myself, maybe I can create it in readers too.”

Within Dallas, Deep Vellum is gaining traction and becoming a key figure in the city’s developing literary community. “I set up Deep Vellum to be Dallas-specific because no one took Dallas seriously in Dallas, let alone anywhere else,” Evans says, “but in Dallas at least, the conversation’s changed, and I’m not taking all the credit, but I’m trying to be a part of it…Part of my identity for Deep Vellum has been Dallas on purpose, to help make Dallas a better place to live, to make it more of the place I want to live.”

Coming out this month from Deep Vellum is Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi, and translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman, a harrowing novel exploring the violent reality many native Mauritians live that the tourists never see.

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