Electric Literature is pleased to reveal the cover for Annell Lopez’s debut short story collection, I’ll Give You a Reason, which will be published by Feminist Press on April 9th, 2024. Lopez is the winner of the Louise Meriweather First Book Prize.
The Ironbound is a large, multi-ethnic immigrant neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey, filled with characters rich in pride, history, and culture—if not money. The vibrant stories in I’ll Give You A Reason, the debut short story collection by Annell Lopez, are a love letter to this place, and its people. Concerned with questions of race, identity, connection, displacement and belonging, the characters who move through this collection are thoughtful, compelling, and unforgettable. Look for the grieving widow who finds herself bear hunting with a near stranger on her first date after her husband’s death, or the unhappy wife who reconsiders her mother’s rituals and love spells in comparison to her own lackluster romance. Then there’s the college student who discovers a porn star with the same name, and obsesses over the young woman for her freedom, and her comfort in her own skin.
Annell Lopez’s characters dive deep into the biggest stuff of life: religion, body image, sexuality, Blackness, gentrification, and they do so during times of great political unrest.
Here is the cover, designed by Brooke Houghton, with art by Layqa Nuna Yawar.
Lopez is especially proud of how the cover speaks to the many realities of living in Newark. “I wanted the cover of I’ll Give You A Reason to represent Newark and to speak to the themes of immigration, belonging, and hope found in the collection. I’ve been a fan of Layqa Nuna Yawar’s work for a long time. When I came across a New York Times piece highlighting Layqa’s murals at the newly revitalized Newark Airport, I knew I wanted him to create the artwork for my book. As an immigrant who once arrived in the United States through the Newark Airport, I felt personally connected to his work. Seeing the Black and brown faces on those murals made me feel seen.”
Lopez adds that she and Yawar actually met up in person—at a coffee shop in the Ironbound—to discuss his artwork, and her cover. “He asked me about the book, my growing up in Newark, and my immigration journey. He let me speak for long stretches of time while he—alternating between notes and sketches—jotted down ideas on his iPad. I talked at length about the book, the liminal spaces we inhabit as immigrants, the grief I feel, the baggage I still carry, and how Newark is so dear to my heart.”
Yawar is most proud of the authenticity this cover represents. “This cover comes from conversations and moments of overlapped lived immigrant experiences, specifically from people in and around Newark. To all the diaspora here, this art collaboration is for you.”