Last year, when the Pew Research Center asked Americans where they got information about the election, local newspapers were at the bottom of the list. (Cable news and social media ranked highest.) With ad revenues declining and circulation plummeting, many small papers now lack the resources to aggressively cover city and state government, much less to help readers understand how national politics affects their communities. What’s more, since the inauguration, mayhem at the White House has all but drowned out other stories, the daily revelations requiring constant vigilance. Such conditions can inspire helplessness — a fire burns in Washington, and all we can do, it seems, is watch.
To illuminate how Americans are contending with this unprecedented reality, our correspondents offer dispatches from cities and towns across the country. From immigration courts in Tucson to the homeless camps in Honolulu, Hawaii, thirteen writers and artists record the uncertainty, desperation, and hope that pervade their hometowns. Though the news from Washington portends calamity, these stories remind us not to neglect our own back yards, where the stakes are just as high.
Francisco Cantú is a former U.S. Border Patrol agent. His first book, The Line Becomes a River, will be published next year by Riverhead Books. Cantú is the recipient of a 2017 Whiting Award.
Edwidge Danticat is the author of many books, most recently The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story (Graywolf Press).
Lydia Davis’s translation of Proust’s Letters to His Neighbor appeared this year from New Directions. She is currently assembling her first collection of essays.
Lisa Elmaleh is a photographer based in Paw Paw, West Virginia. Her first book, Everglades, was published last year by Zatara Press.
Spike Johnson is a photographer based in Houston.
Steve Mumford is an artist based in New York City and Tenants Harbor, Maine.
Zora Murff is a photographer based in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a co-curator of the Strange Fire Collective.
Chad Ress is a photographer based in Ojai, California. His first book, America Recovered, will be published next month by Actar Publishers.
Marilynne Robinson’s most recent article for Harper’s Magazine, “Save Our Public Universities,” appeared in the March 2016 issue. Her most recent book is The Givenness of Things.
Celia Talbot Tobin is a photographer based in Missoula, Montana.
Paul Theroux is the author of more than fifty books, including, most recently, Mother Land (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). His story “Our Raccoon Year” appeared in the May 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine.
Jesmyn Ward is an associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University. Her novel Sing, Unburied, Sing was published last month by Scribner.
Anna Wiener works in technology and writes about Silicon Valley.