This issue features an interview and a review about non-fiction books that reach across class and racial divides and witness the complications and consequences of inequality in America. We also offer a review of a poetry collection that crosses time and geography to explore the cultures and circumstances observed by a travelling poet.
In Poetry Editor Robbie Gamble’s discussion of the forthcoming collection Gallery of Postcards and Maps: New and Selected Poems by Susan Rich, he characterizes the book’s pieces as “broad arcs of geography and history observed in exquisite detail, not from an outside distance, but rather from within, where echoes and whispers and the convoluted yearnings of the human heart can all be contained and heard.” They are heard in “Ghazal for the Woman from Vitez,” which includes the lines “I ask for the toilet, and she shows me the bedrooms, bombed/ by neighbors who should have known how to use words.”
Melanie Brooks (Writing Hard Stories) interviews Julia McKenzie Munemo about her 2020 memoir The Book Keeper. In her introduction, Brooks observes that Munemo “confronts a family past that intertwines with the narratives of her marriage and the fear-laced reality of raising black-bodied boys in America.” She also notes that The Book Keeper “adds another intelligent voice to the broader cultural discussion on the barriers to racial progress in this country.”
Non-Fiction Editor Richard Hoffman reviews Prosperity Gospel: Portraits of the Great Recession, a collaboration by writer Keith Flynn and photographer Charter Weeks that documents the effects of the Great Recession on the people of Appalachia living near Ashville, North Carolina. As Hoffman tells us, this book could be considered alongside the work of James Agee and Walker Evans in the non-fiction classic, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, as these current-day visual and verbal portraits of struggle, resiliency, and strength reflect “the respect and openness both Flynn and Weeks brought to this project.” Furthermore, Hoffman tells us, “the authors are not ascribing the fortunes of their subjects to good or bad luck … they lay blame squarely where it belongs: on structural inequities that reached catastrophic proportion in the lives of these individuals.”
I hope you find these discussions as evocative as I do.
Brenda Sparks Prescott