Pages: 296 Size: 7x9
Illustrations: 107 full color photos
Ames Hawkins’s These are Love(d) Letters is a genre-bending visual memoir and work of literary nonfiction that explores the questions: What inspires a person to write a love letter? What inspires a person to save a love letter even when the love has shifted or left? And what does it mean when a person uses someone else’s love letters as a place from which to create their own sense of self?
Beginning with the "simple act" of the author receiving twenty letters written by her father to her mother over a six-week period in 1966, These are Love(d) Letters provides a complex pictorial and textual exploration of the work of the love letter. Through intimate and incisive prose—the letters were, after all, always intended to be a private dialogue between her parents—Hawkins weaves her own struggles with gender, sexuality, and artistic awakening in relation to the story of her parents’ marriage that ended in divorce. Her father’s HIV diagnosis and death by complications related to AIDS provide the context for an unflinchingly honest look at bodily disease and mortality. Hawkins delicately and relentlessly explores the tensions in a father-daughter relationship that stem from a differently situated connection to queer identity and a shared struggle with artistic desire. In communion with queer and lesbian writers from Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf to Alison Bechdel and Maggie Nelson, Hawkins pushes exploration of the self with the same intellectual rigor that she critiques the limits of epistolarity by continually relocating all the generative and arresting creative powers of this found art with scholarly rhetorical strategies.
Exquisitely designed by Jessica Jacobs, These are Love(d) Letters presents an affective experience that reinforces Hawkins’s meditations on the ephemeral beauty of love letters. As poetic as it is visually enticing, the book offers both an unconventional and queer(ed) understanding of the documentarian form, which will excite both readers and artists across and beyond genres.
Like many poets and readers of my generation, I value letters as a kind of sacred interstice in which conversation and collaboration become finessed by the gravity of time and the interruption or enabling of the most romantic of government subsidiaries: the post office. It is no small task, but Hawkins acts as a sort of Virgil through the various levels of These are Love(d) Letters—theoretical, figurative, projective, and personal—so that we, as readers, are never left alone with these letters, nor with the question of what they might mean. This guidance, as well as the author’s smart vulnerability, is a great generosity and one that threads itself throughout. This book will stay with me for a long time.
– Meg Day, author of Last Psalm at Sea Level
Ames Hawkins renders the inheritance of a parent’s love letters into a queer palimpsest of legacy, knowledge, and experience. Letters as collections. Letters as raw theory. Letters as family tracings. Letters as identity archive. This book is essay art at its most exquisite, a brilliant new standard for artifact-based nonfiction.
– Barrie Jean Borich, author of Apocalypse, Darling, and Body Geographic
Hybrid, multiform, queer, and truly polyphonic, Ames Hawkins’s These are Love(d) Letters recollects her enigmatic gay father through a packet of love letters that he wrote to her mother. Curious bequeathings, the ecology of stamps, and a history of companion texts drawn from a larger literary archive of queer love-making through letters form the backdrop to this book’s foremost aim: ‘how to transport yourself and others toward bliss.’ The combination of Hawkins’s lucid prose and Jessica Jacobs’s inspired design set a new bar for critical-creative writing and cross-over art. An immensely stirring and utterly unpredictable book.
– Mary Cappello, author of Life Breaks In: A Mood Almanack
In a work both academic and intimate, Ames Hawkins charts the materiality of desire in the written word, the body of the letter, and the body of the beloved. Hawkins invites the reader along on a lyric exploration of love, the process of ‘mak[ing] sacred what would otherwise be random.’
– Valerie Wetlaufer, author of Mysterious Acts by My People