Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

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“Calculating the Price Per Pound of an Incarcerated Black Man’s Flesh,” by Ricardo Cortés

In 2000, I was struck by a simple infographic in Wired magazine comparing earnings between several major industries. I was surprised by the low ranking of movies with respect to their command of popular culture. Moreover I was moved by how the bar graphs told a story; I tore out the page and taped it to my studio wall. Five years later, as I was formulating the idea of an illustrated book about coffee and drug prohibition, I read that coffee was the second most-traded commodity after oil. It seemed fantastic that coffee was that popular. I began to research the trails of several interrelated commercial, cultural, and political behemoths, and I imagined ways to compare them . . .


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