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Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them by Isaac Fitzgerald, illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 144 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them by Isaac Fitzgerald, illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton and introduction by Cheryl Strayed, is fantastic for those who are interested in not only body art but personal stories.  Some of the stories behind the tattoos illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton are silly, while others are sad and some are inspiring.  The illustrations are colorful and fantastic, though readers may almost prefer to see photos of the stunning art work of the tattoos.  But that’s a minor complaint given the personal stories behind the tattoos.  It is not just that the tattoos tell a story but that these tattoos contain memories for their bearers.

Isaac Fitzgerald says in the preface, “My tales of driving trucks through small Massachusetts towns, drunk and with no license, made me who I was.  I learned that people define you by your stories.”  And in many ways, it is not just your stories that others use to define you, but it is also how you define yourself.  Tattoos are an expression of those stories and those memories you hold dear and choose to share, and those tattoos and memories also can define you.

From the introduction by Cheryl Strayed, “Each of the stories is like being let in on sixty-three secrets by sixty-three strangers who passed you on the street or sat across from you on the train.  They’re raw and real and funny and sweet.  They speak of lives you’ll never live and experiences you know precisely.  Together, they do the work of great literature — gathering a force so true they ultimately tell a story that includes us all.”

Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them by Isaac Fitzgerald, illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton and introduction by Cheryl Strayed, could become a series of books with other tattooed professionals, students, and non-professionals that provide a look into not only the variety of people who get tattoos but the various reasons that people get tattoos.  How these individuals feel about their tattoos now is irrelevant to why they were added to their bodies in the first place — whether a tribute to a loved one or a passion for an unwritten future.

About the Author:

Isaac Fitzgerald has been a firefighter, worked on a boat, and been given a sword by a king, thereby accomplishing three out of five of his childhood goals. He is co-founder of Pen & Ink, co-owner of The Rumpus, and the editor at BuzzFeed Books.

About the Illustrator:

Wendy MacNaughton is an illustrator and a graphic journalist based in San Francisco. Her documentary series Meanwhile tells the stories of communities through drawings and the subject’s own words, and is being published as an anthology by Chronicle Books in 2014. She’s illustrated two other forthcoming books: Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology, by Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton (Bloomsbury, 2013) and The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Wine, by Richard Betts (Houghton Mifflin, 2013).

She has degrees in fine art/advertising and social work from Art Center College of Design and Columbia University. When they let her, she likes to talk with students at Art Center College of Design, and she is an artist in residence at Intersection for the Arts.

About the Introduction Writer:

Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild, will be published by Knopf in March 2012. It will also be published in Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Italy. Her novel, Torch (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) was a finalist for the Great Lakes Book Award and was selected by The Oregonian as one of the top ten books of the year by writers from the Pacific Northwest. Strayed’s writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, Allure, Self, The Missouri Review, Brain, Child, The Rumpus, The Sun and elsewhere. The winner of a Pushcart Prize as well as fellowships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, her essays and stories have been published in The Best American Essays, The Best New American Voices, and other anthologies. She holds an MFA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. She’s a founding member of VIDA: Women In Literary Arts, and serves on their board of directors. Raised in Minnesota, Strayed now lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, the filmmaker Brian Lindstrom, and their two children.

74th book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.

  • Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

    This sounds really interesting, though I would have preferred to see the actual tattoos.

  • bermudaonion(Kathy)

    I’m not a tattoo person but I love personal stories and I love that cover so I’d like to give this book a try.