An essay by Aisha Sabatini Sloan
November 2, 2021 • 5.5 x 7 • 144 pages • 978-1-56689-619-1
An intimate essay on the art of Alaskan glaciers, memory, loneliness, and Blackness in wild spaces.
In Borealis, Aisha Sabatini Sloan writes about a solitary summer visit to Alaska, observing glaciers, shorelines, mountains, bald eagles, and herself. As she studies her surroundings, the myth of Alaska—excitement, exploration, possibility—is complicated by boredom and isolation, and her attempts to set down place in writing are suffused with nostalgia and anxiety. The first title commissioned for the Spatial Species series, Borealis is a shapeshifting logbook of Sabatini Sloan’s experiences as a queer woman contemplating her Blackness in the wilderness and in the mysteries of art-making.
The Spatial Species series, edited by Youmna Chlala and Ken Chen, investigates the ways we activate space through language. In the tradition of Georges Perec’s An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, Spatial Species titles are pocket-sized editions, each keenly focused on place. Instead of tourist spots and public squares, we encounter unmarked, noncanonical spaces: edges, alleyways, diasporic traces. Such intimate journeying requires experiments in language and genre, moving travelogue, fiction, or memoir into something closer to eating, drinking, and dreaming.
About the Author
Aisha Sabatini Sloan was born and raised in Los Angeles. Her writing about race and current events is often coupled with analysis of art, film, and pop culture. She studied English literature at Carleton College and went on to earn an MA in cultural studies and studio art from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU and an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Arizona. She is the author of the essay collections The Fluency of Light: Coming of Age in a Theater of Black and White and Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit. With her father, she is the author of Captioning the Archives, a conversation through image and text. She is a recipient of the 2018 CLMP Firecracker Award for Creative Nonfiction and a 2020 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship. She teaches creative writing at the University of Michigan.
Praise for Aisha Sabatini Sloan
Praise for Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit
Winner of the 2018 CLMP Firecracker Award for Creative Nonfiction
“She’s a master time-bender. Her essay ‘D is for the Dance of the Hours,’ which I particularly love, is set in contemporary Detroit but begins in her father’s childhood. Throughout that essay Detroit today is joined, by metaphor, to a centuries-old history of opera. The essay moves across one day in Detroit, but pulls that day toward the past in a way that stretches time and reminds the reader that the past, both near and far, is always present, always palpable in our day-to-day lives.” —Eula Biss, Literary Hub
“Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit is an otherworldly meditation on the elasticity of memory, the liveliness of blackness, and possibilities of the essay. Aisha Sabatini Sloan manages to produce a collection of essays that are at once innovative, inspiring, sobering, and absolutely terrifying while daring every other essayist in the country to catch up.” —Kiese Laymon
“Dreaming, exploring, probing, confessing, Aisha Sabatini Sloan is always on the move. She crosses borders, turns fixed states of mind and heart into fresh sites of possibility and mystery. Those vast charged realities—race, class, gender, geography—become particular here, casting light and shadow on each other in startling ways. This is a luminous book.” —Margo Jefferson
“I’m so impressed by the critical lucidity of Aisha Sabatini Sloan’s Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit. Essay by essay, paragraph by paragraph, sometimes even sentence by sentence, Sloan roves, guided by a deliberate, intelligent, associative logic which feels somehow both loose and exact, at times exacting. The implicit and explicit argument of these essays is that there’s no way out but through—and maybe even no way out. So here we are, so lucky to have Sloan as our patient, wry, questing companion and guide.” —Maggie Nelson
Praise for The Fluency of Light: Coming of Age in a Theater of Black and White
“One of the most original, startling memoirs I have seen in the past ten years, Sabatini Sloan’s The Fluency of Light charts an entirely fresh course through the tangled territory of race and class in modern-day America. Each page offers fresh insight, unexpected information, crystal-clear thinking on the current cultural moment—a nation about to turn more brown than white, more mixed than ‘pure.’” —Dinty W. Moore
“The Fluency of Light makes a very valuable contribution to the literature of mixed-race identity in America. . . . She doesn’t pretend to have any solutions to the entrenched (because entirely visual) nature of racial separation, but the way she keeps going, herself, as a photographer, throughout the story underscores the message that doing art is essential to survival.” —Fanny Howe