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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Mirror Mirror Mirror

Sorry once again for the late post — internet troubles again, this time at home — all fixed now. I hope on a holiday weekend you’ll have time to read a Friday post even if it arrives late. At ALA I picked up two totally different books with similar titles in, in a sense, conceits — and in their totally dissimilar excellences they led me to think about our moment. One is Marilyn Singer’s much-honored book of poetry, Mirror Mirror Surely you’ve seen the many starred reviews — and it deserves it. Singer uses a form she calls “reverso” where the same (or essentially the same) poem read from first line to last reflects one point of view, and then, with the lines reversed, so the last is now the first, reveals a totally different POV. She applies the form to familiar fairy tales — Cinderella, Jack and the Bean Stalk, Ruplestilskin, etc. — often to great effect. The form is eye-poppingly clever, and works perfectly to tell one story from two angles of vision.

The other book is Jeannie Baker’s new book Mirror which is not out yet. This book has facing text in English and Arabic: two lives depicted in papercut out illustrations, one in Australia, the other in Morocco. You turn back the parallel left and right pages as you go through the book, seeing in setting, image, even color and texture, the differences and echoes of the two kinds of lives. This is brilliant use of design, color — thoughtful bookmaking. These two we can proudly say show the wonders of crafting books for young readers — where we experiment in form, while staying close to our readers. But I think there is something else here of interest to all of us.

The mirror form suggests links — even between opposites. And there is something true about that in our moment just now. We are not just aware of ourselves, our beliefs, our history, our nation — but also of lniked, distant, parallel other. In this moment of conneciton mirroring, echoing, connecting is an essential truth of our time. That is why I am so against state history, even pure national history, or the history of just one ethnicity or group. Right now we now enough to link histories and interconnect them — as these two wonderful books due. History does not just reflect who we are (the old phrase, winners right history), rather history connects us to others, who may be very different. That is the thrilling possibility of our moment — and which these two book make clear.