City Lights in conjunction with the Asian American Writers’ Workshop celebrates the publication of
Craft and Conscience: How to Write About Social Issues
By Kavita Das
Published by Beacon Press
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.
Kavita Das has taught nonfiction writing at the New School and Catapult and has written about social issues for ten years. Previously, she worked in the social change sector for fifteen years, addressing issues ranging from community and housing inequities to public health disparities and racial injustice. Das is also the author of the biography Poignant Song: The Life and Music of Lakshmi Shankar. Find her online at kavitadas.com and on Twitter (@kavitamix).
Praise for Craft and Conscience
“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.”
“Das’s rare gift is her ability to demystify a subject of so much anxiety and debate.”
—Ali Sharpe, LIBER
“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. . . . Rarely do we get books that encourage readers to reconsider how we read and write. Intellectually and soulfully invigorating.”
—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
“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.”
—Valarie Kaur, civil rights leader and author of See No Stranger
“Das constructs a vocabulary, a methodology, and an ethics for socially engaged writing, while bringing together a staggering range of writers and issues. . . . This book has restored my faith in the written word.”
—Lacy M. Johnson, author of The Reckonings
“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
“Kavita Das has assembled a vital primer on writing with purpose, a guidebook that our turbulent times demand.”
—Jabari Asim, author of We Can’t Breathe
“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
“Brilliant! A must-read for anyone who cares deeply about social and political issues and wants to make their own voice heard.”
—Laurie Gwen Shapiro, author of The Stowaway
“Kavita Das orients us with great precision to the many contradictory considerations that nonfiction writers face. . . . I found myself reading and nodding in agreement, thinking: yes, that’s exactly right!”
—Daisy Hernández, author of The Kissing Bug
“A fascinating and forceful guide to stepping up and speaking out on the page.”
—Susan Shapiro, author of The Byline Bible
“An instructive guide for writers hoping to move the needle.”
—Matthew Salesses, author of Craft in the Real World
“Kavita Das’s book is part how-to, part call to action. . . . It is more needed than ever.”
—S. Mitra Kalita, founder and publisher of Epicenter NYC and cofounder of URL Media
“For writers seeking guidance on how to write about social justice with compassion and insight.”
—Tanaïs, author of In Sensorium
The Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW) is devoted to creating, publishing, developing and disseminating creative writing by Asian Americans, and to providing an alternative literary arts space at the intersection of migration, race, and social justice. Since there founding in 1991, they have been dedicated to the belief that Asian American stories deserve to be told. At a time when migrants, women, people of color, Muslims, and LGBTQ people are specifically targeted, AAWW offers a new countercultural public space in which to imagine a more just future. Visit https://aaww.org/ to learn more.
This event is made possible by support from the City Lights Foundation. To learn more visit: https://citylights.com/foundation/