“A sudden curve in the forest, and a wall of black rock rises before them. When he blinks he is startled to find what seems to be a ring of smoking cones; beside them, dark shapes of tethered horses, swaying; fires. His mother nudges him, tells him they are home. Upshaw blinks, the small lights swimming in his eyes.”
Jim Schley, the managing editor at Tupelo Press, emailed that he had saved a challenging manuscript for me to consider for my next book design project. I appreciated the warning! This is a unique book, part poetry book, part book of photographs, part novel, part autobiography. And to make things more challenging the novel is narrated by two different voices and is interspersed with the author’s autobiography. Each of these voices would need to be in a distinctive type face, as this would be the only identification we would give that the narrator had changed. The subject was fascinating. The life of two remarkable artists working at the turn of the twentieth century. One is Edward Curtis, the famous photographer of the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere. The other artist was his assistant Alexander Upshaw, a member of the Crow who had suffered Americanization in the infamous program of “indian industrial schools.” Finally, the author, Paisley Rekdal, a first generation Chinese-American, would write an account of her own experience of the challenges of racial integration in modern American society. And write some poems about it too! Oh, and don’t forget to show lots of Edward Curtis’s photographs! Typographically, I wanted a strong type family with enough variations in the individual fonts to represent each of the different voices. I found the perfect tool with Dutch designer Jos Buivenga’s type families Calluna and Calluna Sans. Buivenga had designed the very popular Museo, and I knew that his design would be solid. For Edward Curtis I used Calluna Sans. For his Crow Indian assistant, Alexander Upshaw, I chose a more rugged looking Calluna Sans Bold. And for the author, Paisley Rekdal, the real narrator’s voice, I chose the standard Calluna roman. It is a challenging book, and in spite of all of my efforts to weave these parts into a continuous whole, it takes a while to figure out just what is going on. For the cover title I used an old standby, Futura Extra Bold.
Intimate: An American Family Photo Album
Tupelo Press, 2011
Soft and hard cover, 6×9 inches