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A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler offers a blueprint for a creative life from the perspective of award-winning science-fiction writer and "MacArthur Genius" Octavia E. Butler. It is a collection of ideas about how to look, listen, breathe--how to be in the world. This book is about the creative process, but not on the page; its canvas is much larger. Author Lynell George not only engages the world that shaped Octavia E. Butler, she also explores the very specific processes through which Butler shaped herself--her unique process of self-making. It's about creating a life with what little you have--hand-me-down books, repurposed diaries, journals, stealing time to write in the middle of the night, making a small check stretch--bit by bit by bit. Highly visual and packed with photographs of Butler's ephemera, A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky draws the reader into Butler's world, creating a sense of unmatched intimacy with the deeply private writer.
There's a great resurgence of interest in Butler's work. Readers have been turning to her writing to make sense of contemporary chaos, to find a plot point that might bring clarity or calm. Her books have become the centerpiece of book-group discussions, while universities and entire cities have chosen her titles to anchor "Big Read," "Freshman Read," and "One Book/One City" programs. The interest has gone beyond the printed page; Ava DuVernay is adapting Butler's novel Dawn for television. A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky brings Octavia's prescient wisdom and careful thinking out of the novel and into the world.
A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky will be beloved by both scholars and fans of Butler, as well as aspiring writers and creatives who are looking for a model or a spark of inspiration. It offers a visual album of a creative life--a map that others can follow. Butler once wrote that science fiction was simply "a handful of earth, a handful of sky, and everything in between." This book offers a slice of the in between. (Angel City Press)
Lynell George is an L.A. based journalist and essayist. She has had a long career in L.A. journalism as staff writer for both the Los Angeles Times and L.A. Weekly -- focusing on social issues, human behavior and identity politics as well as visual arts, music and literature. She's an arts and culture columnist for KCET| Artbound and has taught journalism at Loyola Marymount University and is also a Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities Fellow and a USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellow (2013). She is also the author of After/Image: Los Angeles Outside the Frame, and No Crystal Stair: African Americans in the City of Angels, a collection of features and essays drawn from her reporting. She won a 2017 GRAMMY for her liner notes "Otis Redding Live at the Whisky A Go Go.
Dana Johnson is the author of the short story collection In the Not Quite Dark, forthcoming from Counterpoint in August 2016. She is also the author of Break Any Woman Down, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and the novel Elsewhere, California. Both books were nominees for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, Callaloo, The Iowa Review and Huizache, among others, and anthologized in Watchlist: 32 Stories by Persons of Interest, Shaking the Tree: A Collection of New Fiction and Memoir by Black Women, and California Uncovered: Stories for the 21st Century. Born and raised in and around Los Angeles, she is a professor of English at the University of Southern California.