Hello, Friends of LARB,
I’m writing you from Minneapolis, where I am attending the Association of Writers & Writing Programs’ annual conference. I’ve had the chance to hear some amazing new work from some of The Offing‘s contributing editors and staff, including: Rachel McKibbens, Tarfia Faizullah, Ladan Osman, and Danez Smith, to name a few. And I’ve been able to attend some illuminating panels spearheaded by the likes of Dawn Lonsinger, Eduardo C. Corral, Chris Abani, Claudia Rankine, Diane Seuss, and Jane Wong.
Earlier today, I participated in a panel titled “From Poverty to Poetry,” which questioned the sounds and silences that emerge from poverty and how class and families of origin affect the way writers interface with the literary world. I privately considered how highly influential my grandmother, a storyteller with only a fifth-grade education, was to my development as a writer. She’d often regale our small family with rich tales of the resident ghosts from her Deep South upbringing. We would sit, rapt at her feet, hanging onto her every syllable. I remembered those tales before approaching the podium, and I silently hoped for my grandmother’s gracious (and unlikely) eloquence. The other panelists, who surely had their own rituals, generously shared details of their childhoods in working-class homes. Across the board, we agreed that struggle was not an enemy, but a welcome muse.
In the publishing world, we’ve seen the value of a different sort of struggle: a struggle to present the best work from the finest writers of all backgrounds, to give a worthy platform for those who may be marginalized or alienated in the literary world – and to open roads for new readers. We aren’t building an audience for ourselves, but for those writers who toil in the dark for their hard-earned words. And to those who’ve helped us in the past, toward this goal, we thank you again and again.
The best models that we’ve found for making this work possible are collaborative: writers, editors, non-profits, volunteers, foundations, and corporate sponsors supporting the work together. And we atThe Offing and the Los Angeles Review of Bookswill continue to fundraise, to seek partnerships, and to apply for grants that help to underwrite our costs. But, in the spirit of collaboration, and perhaps most of all, we need you – our readers. Every contribution you make to this endeavor broadens and deepens the literary community, one diverse voice and experience at a time.
We know there are many writers out there who listen as stories and histories are passed down to them, who want to share the beauty and dignity they find looking back – and looking within. Please consider a gift that helps us bring those writers to the fore and expand the literary landscape with their visions.
Airea D. Matthews