Today marks the beginning of Black History Month, a time to recognize the achievements, contributions and sacrifices made by Black Americans and the numerous ways they have shaped America. To celebrate, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture will be offering free virtual programming, including book discussions (with Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award Winner and Director, Boston University Center for Antiracist Research) and programs for young readers. The museum will also host a Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon, in which participants will create and edit Wikipedia pages for Black STEM professionals, highlighting the community impacts they have made.
It’s a privilege to educate ourselves about racism instead of experiencing it. Let’s listen, learn, and join hands today and every day to end racism in our lifetimes. One way to start is by reading books by black and minority ethnic writers. We are actively seeking submissions in this category, and encourage anyone who has a story to tell to visit our Submissions portal.
Send us your words.
Books by black and minority ethnic writers at Propertius Press may be found in our Bookstore and wherever books are sold. Thank you for visiting!
As busy as we all have been this month, it’s no wonder the holidays crept up on us. However, it is our hope that you will be looking forward to a healthy, safe, and happy time with family and perhaps a few close friends. Here’s to quiet moments, and lots of reading.
Every one of us has a love story within. Do you dare to share?
We are accepting submissions for the next Short Story Anthology! This collection, that takes its title from a line in Sextus Propertius’s Book I, Love Poems to Cynthia, evokes the mystery and tension of romance. Stories may evolve along a theme of romantic love, in all its rawness, oddity, and power, although this does not have to be the primary focus of the story.
We will make final selections for the Anthology by the end of April 2021. This collection is scheduled to be published in the summer of 2021. Winning authors will receive a free copy of the digital and print Anthology, discounts on additional copies, and a pro-rata share of the net proceeds from sales of the book, which will be available wherever books are sold.
We’ve made the decision to extend the deadline for submissions to our inaugural Poetry Anthology, Spheres and Canticles, from the end of this month to January 31, 2021. The anthology will be released in April, during National Poetry Month.
Please do check out our submissions portal, and send us your words!
Originally known as Decoration Day, the event now called Memorial Day in the US first honored those who died in the American Civil War. It is widely believed to have sprung from the Appalachian tradition of cleaning family gravesites and decorating them with flowers, emblems, and memorabilia on a day set aside when the weather warms up in Spring. These events grew to include gatherings at the cemetery where families would sing, pray, and sometimes even serve a home-cooked picnic dinner among the graves. According to the US Veteran’s Administration, it was not until after World War I that celebrations on Memorial Day were expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. Congress declared the day a national holiday in 1971. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.
This Memorial Day may be quieter than in former years. Solitude and reflection on the weighty cost of war are always appropriate. Perhaps we will want to have a quiet picnic with a book, read aloud in the soft space of time spent with a loved one or ancestor who has gone beyond: Communion of the highest order, we think.
There is a deeply meaningful memory set down by David W. Blight about the first Decoration Day, which happened in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865. It was celebrated not by grieving Civil War soldiers’ widows, but by 10,000 free blacks, who affirmed their freedom and sense of belonging within the newly recreated United States; and because they felt it was the right thing to do, re-interred thousands of Union prisoners of war on an old racecourse, a classic symbol of southern wealth and privilege. Not surprisingly, when the annals of history are consulted, little record remains of this first celebration. Read more about this meaningful event and the brave individuals who conducted it here.
Freedom, of course, isn’t free. There will probably always be instances of one individual’s or group’s wish to dominate over another, or all the rest of us. Quiet, resilient, strong, and yes, stubborn resistance and dedication such as was shown by black men, women, and children in Charleston on May 1, 1865 may be, in the end, the most steadfast of struggles. By definition, it is also the most difficult to counteract, which makes it one of the best.
Violence is never the answer, as we all know. It’s a good time to remember this, as we honor those who went before, in their struggles for belief and protection of those beliefs. Let’s not give over to mindless celebrations vaunted by “giant corporations, which make guns, bombs, fighter planes, aircraft carriers and an endless assortment of military junk and which await the $100 billion in contracts to be approved soon by Congress and the President,” as Howard Zinn admonishes in his 1976 classic essay. He correctly states, “Let the dead of past wars be honored. Let those who live pledge themselves never to embark on mass slaughter again.”
So pack a basket, and take a book to the cemetery for a solitary meal with those who’ve gone before, and perhaps share a song and lay some flowers. Or we can read of peace, in quiet understanding, in our homes where those of us who consider such things important continue to self-isolate and care for our families. Here are a few ideas, including recent offerings, that in the coming weeks may help pave the way toward a different way of thinking about your brave new world.
“You just here for the summer?” David said. “What are you doing?”
“One month. I was in a kibbutz for two weeks and I’ve been touring. Next week I’m going home. This is my last stop.”
“So what do you think of Israel?”
“It’s very nice.”
“What do you do at home?”
“I’m at Ohio State. I’m going into my junior year.”
“Yes. How old are you?”
“I’m twenty too.”
“No, twenty, too.”
“I see.” It made her laugh. “When do you finish the army?”
“Then what’ll you do?”
“I don’t know. Work, I guess.”
“I don’t know. With my hands, I guess. Fixing things.”
In this sweet novella by Fred Skolnik set in the 1960s, a young American coed and an American-Israeli soldier meet at a café in Jerusalem, enjoy each others’ company, and fall in love. Upon her return to America, they begin writing letters back and forth. Eventually they meet again. Their story is sweet, simple, and breathtakingly beautiful, but in the background, the unrest in Israel foreshadows and finally demands the ultimate sacrifice. This is a tragic love story set just before the Six-Day War involving two young Americans — and representing, in effect, the tragic end of the Zionist dream itself, perhaps too fragile in its purity and innocence to endure.
Like all of our books, this wonderful novella will be available on March 16, 2020, in both ebook and paperback, wherever books are sold.
Fred Skolnik is the editor in chief of the 22-volume 2nd edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica, winner of the 2007 Dartmouth Medal, and also the author of six novels, three under the pen name, Fred Russell. A collection of his short fiction, Americans & Other Stories, was published by Fomite Press in 2017. He lives in Israel.
We are actively seeking fiction and non-fiction written by and about black and minority ethnic persons and issues, including children’s literature, essays, memoirs, biography, creative non-fiction, poetry, and works that may not fit into any one genre.
You can now pre-order your print or digital copy of the fantastic new novel by Adam Phillips, Something Like My Name. Pre-orders allow you to receive your copy at a substantial discount and before many online or brick-and-mortar dealers have the book in their stores. Books will begin shipping next week, and if you order now, we waive the shipping charges!
Adam Phillips has written a treasure, wide-ranging yet focused, intricate in thought, simple in language. Something Like My Name takes its title from the James Tate poem, Manna, which describes a moment of ineffable beauty and reassurance. Set in northern Idaho, the concurrent struggle of two young men to figure out their paths in life is filled with dark humor, encounters with odd characters, high times, revisiting old mistakes, and death itself. Raw, edgy, and powerful, it will appeal to readers who enjoyed books like Donald Ray Pollock’s Knockemstiff, Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, and Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn. Told in a series of somewhat rambling, linked episodes similar to Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson, with the incisive, gritty detail and unflinching tension of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, and touches of an almost demented, tragic hilarity that echoes William Kennedy’s Ironweed and Rick Moody’s The Ice Storm. You will find yourself shaken and stirred by the personalities in this story, by who they are and what they become, and the ending, while perhaps foreseen, is nevertheless surprising and satisfying.
Phillips, an Idahoan who has taught at the university level as well as at-risk eighth graders, has some ready familiarity with the absurdities and life challenges illustrated in his story. About the book, he says, “I wanted to demonstrate that this story, the quest to ascribe some type of meaning to yourself and your life, is really the only story that has ever existed, and that each one of us, from the first sentient caveman to the last post-apocalyptic survivor, is possessing and directing a localized version of this same story. To execute this purpose, throughout the book I’ve placed threads of themes and details and characters from some very old very well-traveled shared stories, having spent several years studying the archetypal hero stories, the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, and the Babylonian and Mesopotamian myths that both Bibles are based on. Readers familiar with any of these sources will recognize the satanic and angelic forces tugging at the protagonists’ souls, the shrouded curses and augers, the bolts of vengeful wrath and beams of benevolent favor. I’ve woven these epic shadows into the sometimes decrepit lives of my earnestly seeking but imperfect protagonists in order to represent the ubiquity of the collective quest.”
Something Like My Name will be available in both ebook and print in our Bookstore and all major online and retail outlets, wherever books are sold. It will be released on January 20, 2020.