Any biologist will tell you that a species cannot survive, long-term, in a monoculture. New, fresh genetic material is necessary to make it robust and able to fend off disease, bad weather, or genetic mutation.... The same can be said for a nation and its literature. Without the influx of fresh DNA, fresh cultural perspective, new stories from different traditions, literature can be stuck in a monoculture, in a formula, leading to stagnation and a crisis of imagination.
So writes Foreword Reviews Executive Editor Howard Lovy in his citation for bestowing on Restless Books their Publisher of the Year Award! We’re no biology majors, but this commitment to cultural exchange and staving off imagination starvation lies at the heart of what we do. And if DNA means Diversity Needs Advocates*, then we’re happy to be those advocates when it comes to literature. We are particularly excited and humbled to be recognized by Foreword Reviews, which has long been a champion of independent publishing.
I first became fascinated with Restless Books a couple of years ago, when practically out of nowhere, a new genre came to America that I had never heard of before. Cuban Science Fiction. At first, it did not make sense to me that those living in a dystopia would also enjoy reading about dystopia. Since November 8, 2016, I understood. It’s the same reason, I suppose, that Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has seen a surge in popularity lately.
We were committed to these projects long before November, but both of them now seem more relevant than ever, given the current administration’s hardline stance against open relations with Cuba and open borders with the world at large (not to mention its proposal to defund the National Endowment for the Arts). We don’t consider ourselves a political publisher. But when the political winds shift toward isolationism and the rejection of other cultures and languages, then championing immigrant writing and publishing international literature in translation become crucial acts of resistance.
As our publisher Ilan Stavans wrote in a provocative article for Foreword Reviews called “Against Narrowness: Indie Publishing's Diversity Offers Response to Tyranny”:
My conviction, especially now, is that the next few years will be characterized by terrible strife, but also by cutting-edge, magisterial literature emerging from unexpected places. Independent publishers in the United States and elsewhere are positioned to take crucial risks in making room for those voices.
We are proud to stand with Foreword Reviews as we continue to champion marginalized voices, giving them the spotlight they deserve. Thanks again, guys! We’ll continue to man the fort. Read the full announcement here, and listen to Ilan Stavans discuss immigrants and the 2016 election in Foreword Review’s inaugural podcast.
*It doesn’t. Please don’t use this post as a study guide for your biology class exam.