Foreword Reviews

Foreword This Week

Indie Author a Powerful New Voice for Black Lives

Most revolutions in history contain a literary component that brings powerful voices into public consciousness. What is wrong with society that needs to be fixed? What exactly are the injustices being addressed? Generations and causes of the past have had Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Václav Havel, Langston Hughes and Richard Wright. But the revolution happening today is one of consciousness, awareness that the lives and experiences of black men and women are different from those experienced by white Americans. From institutional discrimination to police brutality and mass incarceration, authors like Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow) and others are rattling the cage and drawing a wide audience. Among the new, powerful voices is that of D. Watkins, whose new book The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America “is a personal, as well as historical and sociological look, at America’s deep and deadly racism,” writes our reviewer Melissa Wuske. “As a writing professor, Watkins knows that the most powerful means for any person to tell his story is by way of his own voice.” In the FTW interview below the news, we’ll let Watkins speak for himself on what indie authors and publishers can do to help bring about a more just America.

First, the News

Back to the Future: This winter it’s all about comics that play fast and loose with history. Four of the six comics Associate Editor Allyce Amidon is spotlighting in the upcoming Winter 2016 issue engage with the past.

Breast Cancer
Bravery, Strength, and Wit: Since one in eight US women will develop breast cancer, it is little wonder that many authors have dealt with the topic eloquently. For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re highlighting some of the best independently published books on the topic.

Graphic Novels
Best Graphic Novels: From fantastical horror theme parks and zombie apocalypses to the realities of breast cancer and Alzheimer’s to the true stories of artists and musicians, these six comics represent the best offerings published this fall. Done in vastly different styles, all six gorgeous books are must-reads. Associate Editor Allyce Amidon reviews them all.

Featured Reviews of the Week

The Lizard Princess by Tod Davies. “Examining society through the lens of a fairy tale, this fantasy quest lends a hand toward making our contemporary world a little better.” Reviewed by Allyce Amidon.

Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age by Sven Birkerts. “These seventeen exceptionally well-written essays explain that an unprecedented explosion of data injures the restorative nature of certain important ways of thinking.” Reviewed by Amanda McCorquodale.

Benchere in Wonderland by Steven Gillis. “Art and the role of the artist in society meet with African politics and exploitation in this meditation on action and consequences.” Reviewed by Genevieve Shifke Ali.

Dinner Pies by Ken Haedrich and Melissa DiPalma. “Crust lovers will find crispy, gooey, or golden-brown delights in this inventive pastry cookbook.” Reviewed by Rachel Jagareski.

Mourner’s Bench by Sanderia Faye. “An inspiring mother-daughter tale set in the Civil Rights era Deep South, with religious overtones and headstrong characters.” Reviewed by Meg Nola.

D. Watkins

The country, and the world, are getting a glimpse into black lives due to high-profile stories like Freddie Gray and Ferguson. Have we finally arrived at a moment in history when there is at least understanding, if not solutions?

D. Watkins
D. Watkins
The Beast Side
I think more people, especially ones outside of these communities, are becoming aware; however, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Positive solutions will require progressive people working tirelessly on every front, from high-level politicians to community organizers. We have to realize that this is everyone’s battle.

Our reviewer writes: “His one human voice flies in the face of the dehumanization of racism. His voice is intelligent and righteously irate, eschewing squeaky-clean diction in favor of fervor, and always eloquent and honest.” When you write with such a strong voice, who do you imagine is reading?

Hopefully everyone! Johns Hopkins University taught me how to write in a dense academic voice that isn’t accessible to many. I know that there are a disgusting number of adults in our country reading on a third-grade level, and I want them to be able to read my work. So the trick for me is to create literature-worthy pieces that are true, but making them accessible to everyone.

Part of your message is the power of writing and reading in attempts to counter injustice and ignorance. We obviously agree. What can indie publishers and authors do to help?

Indie publishers can continue to find diverse writers to tell their stories; many times these were the only publishers willing to tell the stories from people outside of mainstream America. So I would tell indie authors to keep writing, because their voice is important, their stories need to be heard, they come with a unique perspective.

What book is on your nightstand (or in your e-reader?) right now?

Right now, Ten Little Indians, Clockers, Fight Club, A Mercy, Manchild in the Promised Land, The Gambler, and The Idiot; my reading list is pretty extensive.