Multiculturalism and West End Press

“For the women on the Dread Road of this earth, carrying the starved and poisoned children”

— Meridel Le Sueur, 1991

U.S. Literature took on new dimensions after the Second World War, reflecting both the political realities of the Cold War and the social pressures of American domestic life. Worldwide competition between capitalism and communism was embodied in mounting hostility between two nuclear superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union.

At the same time, postwar pressures produced a drive for racial and social equality in the U.S. that was reflected in the educational, intellectual, and creative spheres of society.

New political divisions, especially over U.S. conduct of the war in Vietnam, catalyzed a new generation of radical resistors by the end of the 1960’s.

Along with these changes came demands for freedom of expression, a relaxing of moral constraints, and sometimes a new “life style” activism including communal living, drug use, and vehicles of cultural expression from mystical gurus to protest music.

Cherrie Moraga and California

Heroes and Saints and Other Plays by Cherríe Moraga

In 1984 West End met working-class Chicana lesbian feminist Cherrie Moraga at a book fair in Minneapolis. Since that time, we have published four drama collections written by Moraga: Giving Up the Ghost, 1987; Heroes and Saints and Other Plays, 1994; Hungry Woman and Heart of the Earth, 2002; and Watsonville and Circle in the Dirt, 2002. These plays have sold nearly 25,000 copies. Beyond this, she has kept the press energized with her remarkable wit, stamina, collective spirit, and intellectual acuity.

The Girl by Meridel Le Sueur

Also in 1984, John Crawford of West End Press left the Midwest where he had lived for seven years and returned to his hometown of Los Angeles. As a result of a year’s sojourn there and elsewhere in California he eventually published books of poems by California multicultural authors Nellie Wong, Bill Oandasan, Wendy Rose, Naomi Quiñonez, Michele T. Clinton, Julia Stein, Sesshu Foster, and Russell Leong. Several years later, first-time editors Clinton, Quinonez, and Foster compiled an anthology, Invocation L.A.: Urban Multicultural Poetry, for West End Press. This was the first poetry anthology from Los Angeles to prominently feature multicultural writers and a majority of women.

Life is a Fatal Disease by Paula Gunn Allen

New Mexico: More Multiculturalism

In 1985, West End relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Added to the multicultural list were a number of Southwestern writers. With the help of UNM professor Patricia Clark Smith, they included Native American poets Paula Gunn Allen, Luci Tapahonso and Laura Tohe, and Chicano poets E. A. Mares, Jim Sagel, Lisa D. Chavez and Levi Romero.

What the Fortune Teller Didn’t Say by Shirley Geok-lin Lim

In addition, between 1983 and 2003 West End has published other books by nationally recognized multicultural writers including Jimmie Durham, Shirley Geok-lin Lim, Adrian C. Louis, Duane Niatum, Diane Glancy, Luis Alberto Urrea, Arlene Biala, nila northSun, Lance Henson, and Joseph Bruchac, Michele D. Gibbs, and Erika Wurth. We also published an experimental novel by Meridel Le Sueur, The Dread Road, in 1991; it reflects a Southwestern multicultural background and continues to impress as part jeremiad, part terrible prophecy of a polluted and irradiated environment in the making.

The relationship between multicultural, ethnic, and working class writing has always existed in America, and other works published by West End Press in the period 2000-2008 reflect a good deal of working class ethnicity. These include Julia Stein, Walker Woman; Stephen Haven, The Long Silence of the Mohawk Carpet Smokestacks; Anya Achtenberg, The Stone of Language; Michael Henson, Crow Call; and Gerald McCarthy, Trouble Light. We also published Refusing Despair, collected writings of cancer victim Teresa Anderson, in 2008.