Hot Off the Shelf: Aftermath: Explorations of Loss and Grief
If you've been watching the publishing industry and the book projects on Kickstarter, you've probably noticed a rise in the number of anthologies being published. There's The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward, Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, edited by Roxane Gay, and other anthologies big and small about every topic imaginable.
As an avid reader (and writer) of nonfiction, I'm loving it! So I was super happy when Aftermath: Explorations of Loss and Grief arrived in my mailbox.
Before I even started reading, I noticed the quality of the publishing. For a paperback book, the cover is on thick, cottony paper and the lines across the front and the title are letterpressed. Inside, the pages are thicker and softer and the font looks––for lack of a better word––professional.
With Big 5 publishers, readers expect top-notch aesthetics and design, but I've seen enough small presses half-ass covers in Microsoft Paint that I always appreciate when indie publishers take time to make a beautiful vessel for the stories they've so carefully chosen. Then I realized that the publisher, Radix Media, in addition to publishing is a printing business and it all made sense.
As someone who's also interested in business and entrepreneurship, I couldn't help appreciating how smart Radix is for using their multiple talents and diversifying their income streams. The reality is that many indie presses struggle and anything that can be done to mitigate risk is wise.
Once I started reading Aftermath, I saw why the stories in the book warranted such a good vessel to carry them. Like the design, the stories are beautiful. They're a blend of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art, which I found intriguing. Most of the anthologies I come across are either all fiction or, more likely, all nonfiction. I worried that would make the book feel thrown together, but each piece complemented the others extremely well. They worked in concert.
I can honestly say there wasn't a single piece I didn't like, though there were some pieces that really stood out to me:
"Five O'Clock at the Carnegie Library" by Becca Borawski Jenkins (fiction)
"Baking Day" by Mei Davis (fiction)
"Escape Strategies" by John Walters (fiction)
"The Wounds We Wear" by Joy Kennedy-O'Neill (fiction; my #1 favorite)
"Horace Wilbur's Paint Brushes" by Alex DiFrancesco (fiction)
"Harlem Gentrification" by Adrienne Christian (poetry)
"Getting It Down" by Anna Schott (nonfiction)
"Savegames" by Andy Connor (nonfiction; #2 favorite)
Another reason I was super impressed with Aftermath is that although it's about grief and loss, it's not heavy or depressing. Every story manages to tug at your heartstrings without making you want to put the book down. Actually, I couldn't put it down, which is really saying something when you're talking about a book on more serious topics like grief and loss.
Real talk, I don't have any complaints. It's one of the best anthologies I've come across.
You can buy your own copy of Aftermath here and I hope you will! (That's not an affiliate link, in case your curious. I just like the book.)
They're planning on publishing more books, which I assume includes more anthologies, so if you're a writer, check out their submission guidelines and consider sending them something. They've got good taste!