One of the undercurrents of the migration narrative is the story told by the objects of exodus, that economy of objects transformed by the trip itself—relics of a former life that are sold or hidden away; keepsakes that molder, heirlooms pored over ritually, a subtle history inherited. All of which raises the question: If forced to flee your country, what would you take with you?
The German word heimat has no direct English equivalent. The closest analogue is “homeland,” but even that fails to capture the particular way in which the German people integrate a sense of place with national identity, and the degree to which that identity is passed from one generation to the next.
As a child of the 1980s, artist Nora Krug belongs to a generation that, while separated by decades from World War II and the Nazi regime, nonetheless inherited the sins of the Holocaust, a generation whose “paralyzing guilt,” as Krug describes it, was ingrained through cultural and academic ritual—through school field trips to concentration camps, rhetorical analyses of Hitler’s speeches, and an unspoken agreement to erase words such as ethnic, race, and hero from its speech.
Somewhere along the way, still early in his career as a book designer, Jon Gray began to grapple with the fact that he just couldn’t get fonts to do what he needed them to do. He couldn’t get the letters to behave. So he set aside prepackaged typefaces and began lettering titles by hand, and in doing so discovered a style that has made him one of contemporary literature’s most esteemed illustrators.
One big expectation of the murder mystery is that the payoff includes some answers, that eventually we learn the truth. The best payoffs are layered, too, so that the revelations include not just who did the deed but how and why—what the motive was, offering a bit of insight into our own natures.
Land grabs and blood feuds, ambushes and priests on the run: Few periods are as unhinged as the thirty-five years Genoways covers in his current work, a chronicle of the tequila industry that homes in on the period between the beginnings of the Mexican Revolution and World War II. Genoways says that the process of assembling Romo’s story was typical of the research for the book overall. Traditional sources have been spotty at best: Journalistic oppression, by both the government and powerful families, runs deep in Mexico, riddling newspapers with frustrating silences; and decades of political instability meant that official documents were either not kept or destroyed.
It began, as so many cultural inquiries do, with some confusion about Michael Jackson. The summer of 2014, Mira Jacob’s son (we’ll call him Z) was obsessed with the singer, which is to be expected of a six-year-old who knows what’s what. But any path into Jackson’s story, especially for a child of color (Jacob is Indian American; her husband is Jewish) invariably ends up in the territory of disconnect, the before and after of his complexion, making the pop star’s story, like the larger American one, a bit difficult to explain. What began with an obsessive imitation of the backstep from “Beat It” led to heavy rotation on the family turntable, with albums strewn across the room. “And then it was obvious,” Jacob recalls, “because Michael’s face is so big on those albums. You can see his skin get lighter. So of course Z begins to ask: Who is this person? How did this thing happen? Will it happen to us?”
When Two Ponds Press, a fine-art press that produces limited-edition monographs, approached poet Richard Blanco and photographer Jacob Hessler in early 2014 for a theme on which to collaborate, it didn’t take them long to agree on a purpose. Blanco had spent the previous year working on several commissioned occasional poems and had been exploring the role of poetry in public discourse, “the idea of the civic-minded poet—the poet as the village voice, a poetry of social conscience.” Hessler, who uses large-scale landscapes to explore similar ideas of artistic responsibility, shared Blanco’s values and concerns. In light of recent schisms in American political life—eruptions over marriage quality, racial strife, and police violence, for instance—they landed on the idea of boundaries and borders. As Blanco puts it, they sought to examine, through image and verse, “narratives that are manipulated to separate—to divide and conquer. We wanted to investigate and expose those narratives that run counter to the idea of our shared humanity.”