It’s with enormous pleasure (and a l’il uber fan over-enthusiasm) that we introduce today’s 5+5 interviewee: up-and-coming author, activist and brilliant essayist Brit Bennett. Bennett’s debut novel, The Mothers has stirred readers around the world with its richly wrought characters and enthralling narrative. It’s no wonder this recent Riverhead Books release is a New York Times bestseller. Another reason it’s well recognized? The incredible book cover it inspired, exquisitely rendered by the tremendously talented team at Riverhead Design Labs, and subsequently issued by yours truly as limited-edition art prints (shown below). We’re so grateful for the opportunity to offer this spectacular artwork in frameable form, not just because we truly believe the design deserves a platform of its own, but also because it’s an outright honor to do anything in proximity to a literary force like Bennett.
Below, Bennett’s poetic inclinations and idiosyncratic voice come through clear as a bell, as does an appetite for art that fosters a heightened sense of awareness—of space, people and place. Read on for the author’s hot takes on five favorite 20x200 editions, her coffee table tome of choice, how she sees statues as a metaphor for writing, and more. – Team 20x200
5 Perfect Picks1) Juke Joint, Melrose, Louisiana by Marion Post Wolcott
The color and personality of the juke joint drew me in. I love imagining the types of people you might find inside.
2) USE YOUR WORDS by Paper Jam Press
I always hang typographic prints above my writing desk and this is exactly the type I would hang there—bold, a little snarky, but also a good reminder to express yourself.
3) Washington, D.C. Government charwoman by Gordon Parks
This is an iconic photograph that ironically evokes another iconic image in order to reveal the mistreatment of black laborers.
4) Apart Typewriter by Todd McLellan
I love the sense of movement and explosion, which is how the process of writing often feels.
5) Gas station. Kern County, California by Dorothea Lange
The sign is sort of funny but there's a sense of populist anger that feels incredibly relevant.
5 Q's + 5 A's
1) What's your favorite museum?
Maybe an obvious choice but I loved visiting the Louvre. I went years ago, remember dragging my friends to look at all the marble statues. I weirdly love statues because, I think, they remind me of writing. Taking a huge slab of an idea and finding the personality and character in there.
2) What's your most coveted coffee table book?
I don’t have a lot of coffee table books but I love Los Angeles: Portrait of a City edited by Jim Heimann. It’s a photography book about the city, from the first known photo of LA to now. My dad is from LA, and I live there now, so the book is a cool way to get to know the history of the city in a new way.
3) Do you prefer a single statement piece or a salon wall?
A single statement piece allows for open interpretation. I think it speaks louder when it stands alone.
4) If you could be reincarnated as an artist, who would you want to be?
Jean-Michel Basquiat. C’mon, it’s Basquiat. He died way too young.
5) Your recent essay for Vogue about Trump's first year was accompanied by an iconic Gordon Parks' photograph from his Segregation Story series. There are so many contemporary artists and photographers creating similarly compelling work that deals with the social and racial injustices of our current political climate. Who's making the work you're drawn to most?
I love Kara Walker—she mixes beauty and brutality and even humor in her work, which offers the viewer a fresh way of seeing injustice.
The 411 on Brit Bennett
Born and raised in Southern California, Brit Bennett graduated from Stanford University and later earned her MFA in fiction at the University of Michigan, where she won a Hopwood Award in Graduate Short Fiction as well as the 2014 Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers. Her work is featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and Jezebel. She is one of the National Book Foundation’s 2016 5 Under 35 honorees.