Beacon Press: Craft and Conscience
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Craft and Conscience

How to Write About Social Issues

Author: Kavita Das

The first major book for writers to more effectively engage with complex socio-political issues—a critical first step in creating social change

Writers are witnesses and scribes to society’s conscience but writing about social issues in the twenty-first century requires a new, sharper toolkit. Craft and Conscience helps writers weave together their narrative craft, analytical and research skills, and their conscience to create prose which makes us feel the individual and collective impact of crucial issues of our time. Kavita Das guides writers to take on nuanced perspectives and embrace intentionality through a social justice lens. She challenges writers to unpack their motivations for writing about an issue and to understand that “writing, irrespective of genre or outlet, is an act of political writing,” regardless of intention.

The book includes essays from a fascinating mix of authors, including James Baldwin, Alexander Chee, Kaitlyn Greenidge, George Orwell, Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz, Gaiutra Bahadur, Jaquira Díaz, and Imani Perry. By including Das’s own perspective and those of the featured writers about motivations and approaches to writing about fraught social issues, this book both demystifies the process of engaging social issues on the page, and underscores the intentionality and sensitivity that must go into the work.
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“Through concise language and well-chosen excerpts, Das delivers a one-of-a-kind writing guide that’s pitch-perfect for her niche. Activists ready to put pen to paper won’t want to miss this.”
Publishers Weekly

“Das’s rare gift is her ability to demystify a subject of so much anxiety and debate.”
—Ali Sharpe, LIBER

“A fascinating and forceful guide to stepping up and speaking out on the page.”
—Susan Shapiro, author of The Byline Bible and The Book Bible

"Brilliant! A must-read for anyone who cares deeply about social and political issues and wants to make their own voice heard. Kavita Das’s Craft and Conscience aims to bring out the inner activist in your writing—whether you’re an emerging writer or an established one—by showing you how to articulate your motivations, by showcasing essays from masters of the genre, and by analyzing what forceful, well-thought arguments are made of."
—Laurie Gwen Shapiro, author of The Stowaway

"An instructive guide for writers hoping to move the needle, Craft and Conscience gathers some of our best contemporary writers, like Alexander Chee, Kaitlyn Greenidge, and Nicole Chung, while Kavita Das's steady voice introduces prospective writers to critical writing in our dystopian era."
—Matthew Salesses, author of Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping

"For writers seeking guidance on how to write about social justice with compassion and insight, Das curates an eclectic mix of essays by authors who’ve long contemplated the immense struggles facing humanity, while proffering a thoughtful way of bearing witness to the world that can help them get there."
—Tanaïs, author of In Sensorium: Notes for My People and Bright Lines

"Kavita Das’s book is part how-to, part call to action. It is 100 percent lyrical and passionate and will resonate with anyone who is compelled to share and transform narratives that reflect the world. Filled with prose and practicality from some of the greatest writers and thinkers of our times, Craft and Conscience feels like the action plan we always intend to put in place after our fiery salons, dinner parties, and community gatherings. It is more needed than ever."
—S. Mitra Kalita, founder and publisher of Epicenter NYC and cofounder of URL Media

"In Craft and Conscience, Kavita Das constructs a vocabulary, a methodology, and an ethics for socially engaged writing, while bringing together a staggering range of writers and issues. In the process, Das makes a profound and compelling argument for why this kind of writing matters and the radical, transformative power it holds. This book has restored my faith in the written word."
—Lacy M. Johnson, author of The Reckonings

"Kavita Das has assembled a vital primer on writing with purpose, a guidebook that our turbulent times demand. In addition to her own insightful essays, she has compiled an impressive roster of dauntless thinkers who don’t hesitate to share necessary and even troubling truths. These essays not only address the role of writing in exposing tyranny and injustice but also provide glimpses of a world where love and equality shape our lives."
—Jabari Asim, author of We Can't Breathe

"This is the book I wish I’d had when I was starting out! What a joy to have it now. Kavita Das orients us with great precision to the many contradictory considerations that nonfiction writers face, from how we enter the story to how we balance dramatic elements and historical context. I found myself reading and nodding in agreement, thinking: yes, that’s exactly right!"
—Daisy Hernández, author of The Kissing Bug

"'Writing with conscience' is sometimes pitted against 'good writing' as though the two cannot mean the same thing. Das blows up this false equivalency. Craft and Conscience is so clear, accessible, and profound, I wondered how a book on these themes had not existed before. The answer: it needed Das, who combines her unique skills as reader and writer to demonstrate how great writing always sees deeply into the human heart. As a teacher, Das breaks down precisely how and why such writing—across race, gender, and class—reverberates, inspiring and challenging us to do our best and most intentional work. A book of phenomenal intelligence, generosity, and wisdom, and indispensable for the classroom and for anyone who wants to make words matter."
—Marie Mutsuki Mockett, author of American Harvest

"This compendium is a brilliant and kaleidoscopic must-read for writers. Das gathers up a wide-ranging and whip-smart array of thinkers while serving us a feast of timely advocacy and learning."
—Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of World of Wonders

"A gift to writers and justice seekers everywhere! Craft and Conscience is a handbook for how to wield words to shape culture and inspire change. Insightful, practical, and empowering. Thank you, Kavita Das!"
—Valarie Kaur, civil rights leader and author of See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love

"Craft and Conscience is that rigorously researched and lushly written ‘how-to’ book that every single human who has dared to write needs in our lives. Kavita Das does heavy lifting here, of course, but I'm most taken by the way Das never sacrifices dynamism for structure or tradition. Rarely do we get books that encourage readers to reconsider how we read and write, and how we approach the acts of reading and writing. The book is really about preparation as much as execution, and I found that intellectually and soulfully invigorating."
—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

Foreword, by Mira Jacob
Introduction

CHAPTER 1
Why We Write: Interrogating Our Motivations for Writing About Social Issues


· “Why I Write,” by George Orwell
· “Autobiographical Notes,” from Notes of a Native Son, by James Baldwin
· “Ellaji and Lakshmiji,” by Kavita Das

CHAPTER 2
How We Are All Connected: Understanding the Relationship Between the Writer, Reader, and Subject


· “Tramp,” by Kavita Das
· “Jyoti’s Rainbow,” by Kavita Das
· “Black and Blue,” by Garnette Cadogan
· “Football, Free on the Streets,” by Garnette Cadogan

CHAPTER 3
Diving In Deep or Casting Wide: Considering Context Versus Narrative to Shape Our Stories


· “Red Ink of Revisionist History,” by Kavita Das
· “Selective Perception of Disinformation,” by Kavita Das
· “Introduction: This Land,” from An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
· From “Fear” in Breathe: A Letter to My Sons, by Imani Perry
· “How Could I Write About Women Whose Existence Is Barely Acknowledged?” by Gaiutra Bahadur

CHAPTER 4
Writing from Outside In or Inside Out: Reporting, Personal Narrative, or a Hybrid Approach


· “COVID-19 Vaccine: What White Conservatives Can Learn from Black Americans,” by Kavita Das
· “A Virulent Privilege,” by Kavita Das
· “La Otra,” adapted from Ordinary Girls, by Jaquira Díaz
· “The School-to-Prison Pipeline Is Getting Worse for Black and Brown Girls,” by Jaquira Díaz
· “99 Years After the Tulsa Race Massacre, an Artist Reflects,” by Crystal Z Campbell

CHAPTER 5
Staking a Claim: Writing Opinion Pieces (Op-Eds)


· “The Anti-Vaxxer Threat amid a Pandemic,” by Kavita Das
· “Tolerance Has a Fatal Flaw. This Is the Solution,” by Kavita Das
· “Stories of Transracial Adoptees Must Be Heard—Even Uncomfortable Ones,” by Nicole Chung
· “The Specter of Caste in Silicon Valley,” by Yashica Dutt

CHAPTER 6
Are You the Right Storyteller for This Story?: Understanding Cultural Sensitivity and Avoiding Cultural Appropriation


· Introduction and Conclusion from White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue . . . and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation, by Lauren Michele Jackson
· “Who Gets to Write What?” by Kaitlyn Greenidge
· “How to Unlearn Everything: When It Comes to Writing the ‘Other,&rsrquo; What Questions Are We Not Asking?” by Alexander Chee
· “Who Gets to Write About Whom: Examining Authority, Authenticity, and Appropriation in Biography,” by Kavita Das

CHAPTER 7
Ripple Effects of Making Waves: Implications (Good and Bad) of Writing About Social Issues


· “Writers Shouldn’t Romanticize Rejection,” by Kavita Das
· “Recovering My Fifth Sense,” by Kavita Das
· “There Is No One Way,” by Alice Wong
· “Stepping on a Star,” from We Wear the Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America, by Gabrielle Bellot

Conclusion
Acknowledgments
Recommended Resources
About Kavita Das, Author
About Mira Jacob, Foreword Writer
About the Contributors
Notes
Permissions

Craft and Conscience

ISBN: 978-080704649-4
Publication Date: 10/4/2022
Size:5.5 x 8.5 Inches (US)
Price:  $18.95
Format: Paperback
Availability: In stock.
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