“Insightful, inquisitive, and full of vivid photographs, this powerful work is as beautiful as it is galvanizing.”
“Captioning the Archives is an inspired work of total liberation. To be Black in this world is to be constantly calculating the escape velocity from our generational traumas. The father-daughter bond that hollers as a joyful testimony from these pages is a precise healing—a prescription. Go get you some!”
—Natasha Marin, conceptual artist and curator of Black Imagination
“Captioning the Archives conveys Lester Sloan’s living mastery of one of the most complicated mediums of our time. Sloan is a great storyteller whose visual voice is distinct amidst the artifacts of a life, beautifully lived. In such nuance, we are asked how to see ourselves in the lens of the mind and the world. These photographs blur perception yet also work with an accuracy that reveals Sloan’s devotion to his craft. In this rich meditation with his gifted daughter, author Aisha Sabatini Sloan, we find ourselves in a narrative of discovery and revelation. Sloan’s photographs are necessary instruments of history, as is the palpable sensation of love between himself and his daughter. Together, they have collaborated to form a powerful reckoning of both power and wonder. Each memory is an image, a story, a medium through which we can glimpse a greater continuum of our lives. Here, you will find both family and imagination suspended in a marvelous sequence of call and response as Lester Sloan and Aisha Sabatini Sloan bring us through a history that belongs to us too.”
—Rachel Eliza Griffiths, photographer and author of Seeing the Body: Poems
“Captioning the Archives gifts us the unique opportunity to learn about Lester Sloan’s rich photographic career through the intimate experience of a storytelling father and his curious daughter. As we imagine Mr. Sloan dusting off his archives from a bygone era, we are reminded why photography is such a powerful medium; not only do photographs provide a poignant history lesson by capturing fleeting moments in time, but they also create an archival document to revisit and reveal the often-astonishing circumstances embedded in their backstories. The love and mutual admiration between Lester Sloan and his daughter, noted writer Aisha Sabatini Sloan, makes the ‘captions’ a particular pleasure to read. I felt as though I was in the room with them, and genuinely honored to be there.”
—Holly Andres, photographer
Praise for Borealis (Coffee House Press):
“A landscape has never felt so real to me, so like life.”
The book reads like a diary of meandering observations and traumas all against the backdrop of Lorna Simpson’s candescent “Ice Series” and actual glaciers. While this is not a traditional art book—a genre whose existence aims to shirk constructs of tradition—I consider this an art book in the way it holds art as a guide for looking at oneself. Think Moyra Davey’s curious associations in Index Cards with the subtle tone of disquiet, calling forth Valeria Luiselli’s Sidewalks. It is an exquisite, spare, and fascinating journey of a book.
“There’s a push and pull to the movement of [Sloan’s] ideas that engaged me completely. Structurally, this beautifully fragmented essay creates space for the reader to sit with the thoughts and images which engage Sloan. . . . Rigorous essays shake up memory, history, and what we consider the knowledge we possess.”
—Lauren LeBlanc, Observer
“As aurora to her titular borealis, Aisha Sabatini Sloan bends and flashes with belletristic dexterity and a quietly big-sticked insistence upon her own agency. ‘I forget what’s a thing to say,’ she writes, even as her unique geometries of syntax, set against the book’s glacial blocks of white space, elicit revelatory ways not just to say a thing but to see it. Through dexterous collaging of art, literature, correspondence, music, overheards, skylight colors, and intellectual flexes set against a prison’s visiting-room wall, Borealis resists bindings of genre or collective propinquity. Instead, Sabatini Sloan’s conversational architectures of space illuminate landscape as internal experience whose vastness, she finds, forces her to become her own friend.”
“Teems with satisfying complexity. . . . Sloan has that rare ability to convey the astonishment of an insight at the instant of its arrival. . . . Not much happens on this trip. And yet everything happens. The body travels while the mind wanders and the sensation is that of roaming freely—the valorization of landscape as an interior experience.”
—Lisa Hsiao Chen, The Rumpus
“A meditative journey to Homer, Alaska. . . . No one lands in such a unique setting without a darn good story of how and why. This is stunning. Sloan’s prose is breathtaking as she explores the wilderness.”
—Courtney Eathorne, Booklist
“Negotiating between the spaciousness of her environment and the strictures of history and identity, she frames travel as both fraught and illuminating.”
“Borealis is an absolutely beautiful meditation on the cohabitation of linguistics and space, specifically interrogating the confines of being perceived. Weaving art and experience together, Aisha Sabatini Sloan complicates landscapes—both the physical understanding of place and the more difficult-to-pin-down landscape of one’s lived experiences. With intimacy and care, Sloan writes her own lifetime of art-making and what we might learn from the art and landscapes of others. Borealis is a delight and a truly stunning work.”
—Kaitlynn Cassidy, Seminary Co-op Bookstores
Praise for Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit (1913 Press):
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, author of How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America
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, author of Negroland
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, author of The Argonauts
Praise for The Fluency of Light (University of Iowa Press, 2013):
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, author of Between Panic and Desire
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, author of The Wedding Dress: Meditations on Word and Life
As I sit writing as a still new 75 year old, I’m so glad I’ve lived, in spite of how scary our world is at times, to see shreds of promise rise before my eyes, hopeful happenings like Arab Spring, gays marrying, and Occupy. I love anything that keeps hope alive. That being said, I just read the most inspirational memoir, The Fluency of Light, by Aisha Sabatini Sloan.
—Ernie McCray, San Diego Free Press