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Books distributed by the Chicago Distribution Center

184 pages | 5.5 x 8.5 | © 2024

ISBN (pbk): 978-1-946724-75-5

ISBN (ebook): 978-1-946724-76-2

Published May 2024

Mettlework

A Mining Daughter on Making Home

Jessica E. Johnson

In the weeks after her first child is born, Jessica E. Johnson receives an email from her mother that contains artifacts of the author’s early childhood: scans of Polaroids and letters her mother wrote in mountain west mining camps and ghost towns—places without running water, companions, or help. Awash in love and restlessness, Johnson begins to see how the bedrock images of her isolated upbringing have stayed with her, even when she believed she was removing herself from their logic.

As she copes with the swirling pressures of parenting, teaching at an urban community college, and a partnership shaped by chronic illness, Johnson starts digging through her mother’s keepsakes and the histories of the places her family passed through, uncovering the linked misogyny and disconnection that characterized her childhood world—a world with uncomfortable echoes in the present and even in the act of writing itself. The resulting journey encompasses Johnson’s early memories, the story of the earth told in the language of geology, bits of vivid correspondence, a mothering manual from the early twentieth century, and the daily challenges of personal and collective care in a lonesome-crowded Pacific wonderland. Mettlework traces intergenerational failures of homemaking, traveling toward presence and relationship amid the remains of extractive industry and unsustainable notions of family.

 

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About the Author

Jessica E. Johnson is the author of the book-length poem Metabolics, the chapbook In Absolutes We Seek Each Other, and is a contributor to the anthology Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology, Poetry. Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in Paris Review, Tin House, New Republic, Poetry Northwest, River Teeth, Diagram, Annulet Poetics, Southeast Review, and Sixth Finch. She teaches at Portland Community College and cohosts the Constellation Reading Series at Tin House.
Jessica E. Johnson
Photo Credit: Becca Blevins

Praise for Mettlework

In Jessica E. Johnson’s Mettlework we encounter the weight of inheritance—of being a daughter, a new mother, and the legacy of mining that is never far from the author’s mind. Emotionally and geographically wide-ranging, rich in history and the weight of work that unmakes the world, Mettlework is a story of how our families—who they are, what work they do—shape us even as we hope to create new stories of what family and home can and could be.”
Taylor Brorby, author of Boys and Oil: Growing Up Gay in a Fractured Land

Mettlework is a precise, lyrical, and searching memoir that interrogates how we love the people who came before us even as they ruined the very land we live on. Johnson has a poet’s heart and an oral storyteller’s magnetism.
Emma Copley Eisenberg, author of Housemates and The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia

In Mettlework, we learn about mining as a practice and as labor to maintain one’s livelihood, but we are also given a lens into the mining of our own stories—from our family histories to motherhood—and how we go about creating a life and home for ourselves. With prose that is luminous and rhythmic, Johnson invites us in to see what routes lead us to the life we have today.”
Natalie Lima, essayist and professor of creative writing at Butler University

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