July 3, 2018 · freelance

Failed Pitches #2: Atlantic and Slate

Dear ____,

Arthur Flowers is a writer, performer and teacher at Syracuse University. About ten years ago, he came to India as a part of the Jaipur Literature Festival. There, he met Gita Wolf, the editor of award-winning indie publishing house Tara Books. Tara Books are makers of exquisite illustration-heavy books featuring the work of India's folk artists. Maria Popova of Brainpickings is a huge fan.

Flowers and Tara Books clicked. In 2012, they brought out I See The Promised Land, a graphic novel biography of Martin Luther King jr. The illustrator was a traditional painter whose community (the Patuas) have been doing this kind of thing for generations. Chitrakar (the painter) had never heard of MLK before the book. His illustrations reinterpret the story using idioms of oppression that he understands. The crazy thing is that they never even met once! Tara Books coordinated it entirely. (Video of Flowers performing from this book.)

Again in 2016, Flowers and Tara Books collaborated on retelling of the Brer Rabbit tales. This was illustrated by another traditional artist from a completely different tradition. Again, they never met! The book was also released with music - an album that featured Flowers telling his stories accompanied by classical Indian musicians. I met Flowers when he came down to record with these musicians. The book (and the album) are extremely beautiful - just as works of art. And it's testament to Tara Books that they can manage this alchemy without the artists even meeting.

I would like to tell the stories of these books and the people who made them in about 2000-2500 words.

My name is Thomas Manuel. I'm an Indian journalist based in Chennai. I've written for The Nib, The Wire, 3QuarksDaily, Nature Index, etc. I've already spoken to a lot of the people in the story, including Flowers and Gita Wolf. I also saw Flowers perform live the last time he came to Tara Books. It was magic.

Here is Failed Pitches #1: Public Books.

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