It’s ironic, that while so many are longing to safely travel these days, others are longing to stay put and continue to safely reside in their homelands. On the page, throughout last year, I travelled to twelve different cities, prompted by a local artist’s desk calendar, which inspired a variety of themed expeditions in print. But, increasingly, what interested me even more was the sense of being between places. Refugees’, emigrants’ and immigrants’ experiences embody that urgently and poignantly.
A Map Is Only One Story, edited by Nicole Chung and Mensah Demary, includes Twenty Writers on Immigration, Family, and the Meaning of Home (Catapult, 2020). “Launching remarkable writing” is Catapult’s tagline and this anthology serves as an excellent ambassador. It puts paid to the idea that all immigrants’ stories are the same. What is consistent, however, is the direct and engaging tone; throughout the volume, these writers (emerging and with multiple publications to their credit) command attention. These are personal stories, most in the first person, but culminating in Porochista Khakpour’s “Iranian America; Or, The Last Essay”, which is told as though from one part of the writer to another part of her. “Begin by writing about anything else,” she begins. “Go to the public library in your Los Angeles suburb and ask for all the great books people in New York City read, please.” (And it’s true that any essay which mentions a library immediately pulls my heart into its tentacles, but I truly enjoyed this one for so many more reasons besides.) Other favourites: Say It with Noodles (the graphic contribution by Shing Yin Khor) and Kenechi Uzor’s “This Hell Not Mine”, which ends “And if I am better off I cannot tell.” But the volume as a whole would make a great addition to your bedside table: read an essay every few days and allow the varied experiences to unfold with time and attention.