I am struck by the irony that the event which has finally pushed me to step out of the long, overgrown shadows in this space is the news of a dearly beloved publication stepping into its twilight.

Books & Culture will always have a sentimental significance to me. My first published words appeared there. I’m choking up remembering.

The story goes…

Once upon a time in the Twitterverse, a guy with generic name, no profile blurb, and only books for a profile picture retweeted a blog post I wrote about my tenth anniversary. I had no idea who he was, but thanked him for sharing and moved on with my life.

Some time later, after writing a tweet gushing over Jen Pollock Michel’s Teach Us To Want, this same guy tweeted asking if I would be interested in writing a review of it for Books & Culture.

Who was this booked man?

I googled.

Jaw-drop.

I reread the tweet.

I re-reread the tweet.

I sent a screenshot of the tweet to multiple writer-friends asking, “Do you think he’s asking me to review for B&C?! Or, is he just asking if the book should be reviewed for B&C?”

I timidly and roundabout-ly message John.

And I land my first paid, published piece.

I have to be careful not to prematurely eulogize John here. He is alive and (I hope) well(ish), considering, and is much more than this wonderful publication which was entrusted to his care. I don’t pretend to know him well, or at least as well as anyone I’ve had the pleasure of conversation and coffee with a couple times. And yet, there is something of John which is Books & Culture.

In trying to pinpoint the overlap of the two for me, I think I’ve landed that it is in the sense of seeing where each excel. As a complete unknown, I felt seen by John; who was I to be published among academics? But this sense of seeing always ran over into the newsprint pages. B&C is (I have replaced “was” because it’s just too soon and I’m not ready yet)… It is a collection of seers curated by curiosity. Here, next to my morning tea, I have read about books that I wanted to read and books I wanted to read because I read about them in Books & Culture. I read about topics that interested me and topics that never would have interested me until reading them in Books & Culture. I will miss the opportunity to steep with my tea in the magic of words penned by writers well-matched with books.

Again, the sense of seeing involved in matching a writer and a book tugs at me.

I remember being halfway through a novel John had given me to review and wondering how he had pegged me. Somehow this was the exact story I needed in this season. I would have blushed at the vulnerable, transparent feeling–am I that obvious?–but even then I knew it was that John’s gift was that precise and special. And I felt blessed to have witnessed it firsthand.

I count myself among the many hoping and praying for a Lazarus-esque resurrection. Lord, if only you would call it out! B&C has been part of calling me out to new thinking, and waking up my brain to lead me into my quiet time for a while now. This seems fitting as reading has led me to worship most of my life. I expect many readers who enjoyed Books & Culture could say the same.

With greatest affection for B&C (and sincerest thanks, John),

–Aleah