the museum of americana

a literary review

Introduction by Editor Justin Hamm

 
Friends,

Normally, I’m just not the letter-from-the-editor type. I like to think that the work we publish speaks for itself and that anything I might say as a way of introduction would be clumsy at worst and unnecessary at best, so I just try to stay out of the way.

Here I will make an exception only because the concept behind this issue is so important to me.

Last fall, after a reading in Springfield, Illinois, my wife and I found ourselves in a funeral home-turned-brewery with Quiddity International Journal editors John McCarthy and Jim Warner. We talked about good beer and recounted some highlights of the reading, and eventually the conversation turned to one of my favorite subjects, the Midwestern United States. We speculated a lot about why Midwestern literature had never garnered the same attention or reputation as, say, Southern literature, why Midwestern writers were “regionalists” (pronounced, usually, with a subtle dismissiveness) while their peers from below the Mason-Dixon line were “Southern writers.”

There was no lamenting the state of Midwestern literature, though. Instead, Jim, John, and I all agreed that there had been a shift, at least among poets and writers we knew, toward wearing the label of regionalist as a badge of honor rather than a mark of shame. Excellent journals like Midwestern Gothic were even showcasing the phenomenal work coming out of the region exclusively. Jim and John were looking for content for their next radio show, and so the three of us hatched an idea for a collaboration: Quiddity would produce a radio show (stay tuned for links) on shifting attitudes toward the Midwest and regionalism and the museum would curate a collection of Midwestern-themed work for its next issue.

We’re happy to open that collection to you today.

The idea of this project is not to define the region—which we knew could never be done—but rather to showcase its many rich possibilities, to let readers and other writers know that good work in and about the Midwest is being made right now.  We aren’t so much trying to change the minds of people who might already have decided that the Midwest is boring and backward; we want to appeal to people who haven’t considered the Midwest much at all. We want to show them how interesting it can be as a setting, as a subject. And we want to celebrate the writers who, as I said before, wear their regionalism proudly.

We haven’t captured all the voices or experiences or commentary on the Midwest. But we hope we have a good variety of them. I want to thank all the editors for their amazing work on this issue. When I came to them with this idea, they had in some cases already begun to put together work for the next issue. Here I was proposing that we push that work to a future issue and open a brand new reading period. In short, a lot more work. But they all embraced the idea with enthusiasm, and I can’t thank them enough.

I also want to thank John and Jim for being both idea guys and follow-through guys. A lot of times an idea will sound great and plans will get made, but nothing will ever happen. John and Jim make things happen.

To our contributors, Midwestern writers who, like me, care enough about the region to make it an important aspect of their art: thank you for trusting us with your work and allowing us to collaborate with you to bring it to our readers.

And finally, to our readers: thank you for your ongoing support. I hope between what we’ve done and what Quiddity has done, there is something worthwhile for you to think about here.  When you’re done taking in the issue, I hope you’ll drop as a line at themuseumofamericana@gmail.com and tell us what you think.

Happy reading,

 
Justin Hamm
Editor