How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays

Alexander Chee (Mariner Books / Bloomsbury, 2018)

The covers of both the American and U.K. editions of Alexander Chee's critically acclaimed How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays are decorated with photobooth photos.

Designed by Christopher Moisan, the covers use one photo, in the U.S. edition, and four four-shot strips in the U.K. edition, showing a younger Chee. In a piece on Literary Hub, Chee and Moisan give a little background on the choice to use the photos, and Chee even names the spot where the U.S. cover shot was taken: the Deadwood bar in Iowa City, Iowa.

Chee: "There were a number of vintage photos of me that we were thinking of using, and I came across this one from a series that I took at the Deadwood bar in Iowa City, when I was getting my MFA at the Iowa Writers Workshop. I took them to make stationery for letters to my boyfriend at the time, who was getting his MFA in Arizona—we sent each other these love letters that were like zines."

Moisan: "I have a stack of photobooth shots of myself with and without friends hidden away in a box. They truly were the selfies of the 1990s! When Naomi offered Alex’s collection as a possibility I was eager to try using them on the cover in some way. They speak to the era, they speak to autobiography, and they speak to self-presentation. I could only think of highlighting the single and singular photo we selected with strong color. "

Contributed by Brian

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