Saturday 26 September 2015

Make Mine an Indie: Graywolf Press

Welcome back to the Make Mine an Indie series. Each week (except last week when I was away for the weekend and forgot!) I highlight a different independent publisher as inspiration for 2016 being my year of buying from independent bookshops and publishers, and in the hopes that you will discover some amazing new books and authors. Most of the series focuses on UK based publishers, as that's where I am, but every few weeks I've been taking a little trip across the pond and today's publishers hail from Minnesota. 

I first discovered Graywolf last year during Nonfiction November when a lot of people were reading Leslie Jamison's The Empathy Exams which had won the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and since then I've seen their titles talked about a lot of places. They're a favourite of Kim over at Sophisticated Dorkiness and for good reason!

Graywolf publishes poetry, novels, short stories, memoirs, essays and nonfiction. It was founded in Port Townsend, Washington in 1974 and its first publications were limited edition poetry chapbooks, produced on a letterpress and hand sewn. Since then their books have won many awards and in 2006 it completed its Advance Fund Campaign - a campaign where funds are raised from individuals to support editorial and marketing initiatives, and through which the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize was launched.

I love nonfiction but I always struggle to actually read it; I have shelves of it sitting upstairs glaring at me, so I'm hoping that highlighting Graywolf this week and exploring their website and catalog(ue) a little more plus the inspiration of Nonfiction November coming up again will help to inspire me!

As ever, here are some of their titles that I'm most excited to read:

On Immunity: An Innoculation by Eula Bliss

From the Graywolf Press website:

Image result for on immunityOn becoming a new mother, Eula Biss addresses a chronic condition of fear—fear of the government, the medical establishment, what is in your child’s air, food, mattress, medicine, and vaccines. She finds that you cannot immunize your child, or yourself, from the world.
            In this bold, fascinating book, Biss investigates the metaphors and myths surrounding our conception of immunity and its implications for the individual and the social body. As she hears more and more fears about vaccines, Biss researches what they mean for her own child, her immediate community, America and the world, historically and in the present moment. She extends a conversation with other mothers to meditations on Voltaire’s Candide, Bram Stoker’sDracula, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Susan Sontag’s AIDS and Its Metaphors, and beyond.On Immunity is a moving account of how we are all interconnected—our bodies and our fates.

I've read so much amazing stuff about this book from favourite bloggers and the topic sounds incredibly interesting to me. I've had my own kids vaccinated against all the stuff they're 'supposed' to have been vaccinated against and I honestly didn't think too much about it but it looks like this title will be set to change that!

Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age by Sven Birkerts

From the Graywolf Press website:

Image result for changing the subject art and attention in the internet ageIn 1994, Sven Birkerts published The Gutenberg Elegies, his celebrated rallying cry to resist the oncoming digital advances, especially those that might affect the way we read literature and experience art—the very cultural activities that make us human.
After two decades of rampant change, Birkerts has allowed a degree of everyday digital technology into his life. He refuses to use a smartphone, but communicates via email and spends some time reading online. In Changing the Subject, he examines the changes that he observes in himself and others—the distraction when reading on the screen; the loss of personal agency through reliance on GPS and one-stop information resources; an increasing acceptance of “hive” behaviors. “An unprecedented shift is underway,” he argues, and “this transformation is dramatically accelerated and more psychologically formative than any previous technological innovation.” He finds solace in engagement with art, particularly literature, and he brilliantly describes the countering energy available to us through acts of sustained attention, even as he worries that our increasingly mediated existences are not conducive to creativity.
It is impossible to read Changing the Subject without coming away with a renewed sense of what is lost by our wholesale acceptance of digital innovation and what is regained when we immerse ourselves in a good book.

Anybody who knows me will see why this appeals. I'm in a constant war with my addiction to technology and my life is a ridiculous seesaw of entirely screen free and totally screen dependent. Of course I'm extremely interested to read about Birkerts' experience with how tech changes us. 

Empty Chairs by Liu Xia

Image result for empty chairs liu xiaEmpty Chairs presents the poetry of Liu Xia for the first time freely in both English translation and in the Chinese original. Selected from thirty years of her work, and including some of her haunting photography, this book creates a portrait of a life lived under duress, a voice in danger of being silenced, and a spirit that is shaken but so far indomitable. Liu Xia's poems are potent, acute moments of inquiry that peel back to expose the fraught complexity of an interior world. They are felt and insightful, colored through with political constraints even as they seep beyond those constraints and toward love. 

I don't read too much poetry anymore but I do enjoy it once I do. Liu Xia is the wife of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Liu Xiaobo and I don't know anywhere near as much as I should (or really anything) about the situation, so this is a place to start. 

Graywolf have a whole lot of backlist titles I want to immediately add to my tbr as well. You can check them out on their website and also follow them on twitter.

Find the rest of the publishers featured in the Make Mine an indie series here.

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