We’ve so loved passing the essays in A Measure of Belonging around our small, open office for the last few months as we edited, ordered, and built this book with editor Cinelle Barnes. After living with a book and working to shape it, it was time to craft a cover and share it as a package with our readers. This is one of the best parts of our job. We’re so excited to reveal the cover for A Measure of Belonging: Twenty-One Writers of Color on the New American South.
Cover design for an anthology provides an interesting challenge. You’re looking for an image that feels both specific and all-encompassing of a central throughline in the book. The essays here revolve around experience: what is it like to be a Southerner of color, to live, work, feel, and exist in a space where belonging and identity are often contested? Of course, there are twenty-one different answers in this book. These writers are answering the question: Who is welcome? I looked for images that might evoke that idea.
I knew a couple of things going in: I wanted bold, graphic color, but I also wanted a certain softness or vulnerability. I looked at a lot of topographic maps, looking for a way to evoke a sense of place, of searching for home, with texture. It was important to me to work with an artist of color. In my internet snooping I discovered John Mata, an illustrator and designer located in Dallas, Texas, whose work has appeared on and in NPR, Herb Lester, ESPN, The Washington Post BrandStudio, and more.
In John’s work I found exactly what I was looking for: something that popped off the page, that felt original and bright. When I reached out about working with him, as asked about the piece that became our cover image, a pair of reaching hands. I love that the image is red white and blue, and that inside the softer gesture of the hands is this complicated swirl in bold colors. We worked over a lot of ways to fit our subtitle in, and played around with a poster vibe with the staggered, heavy block text, to hint at the the way identity and belonging have become so politically charged.
Director Meg Reid, editor Cinelle Barnes, and I have gone back and forth on how to make this book stand out in this current moment, with a publication date right before the election. When we picked up Cinelle’s project, we felt it was the right book for our current moment. Working with John to harness the energy of those reaching hands, it feels, hopefully, that we’ve stumbled on the right cover for the right time, too.
A Measure of Belonging:
Writers of Color on the New American South
Edited by Cinelle Barnes
Hub City Press
Published October 6, 2020