Explore the Southwest through the eyes of local writers

“New World Coming” is co-edited by Salt Lake Tribune reporter Alastair Lee Bitsóí

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Alastair Lee Bitsóí

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In the welcome to “New World Coming: Frontline Voices on Pandemics, Uprisings, and Climate Crisis,” co-editors Brooke Larsen and Alastair Lee Bitsóí write that all of the book’s contributors have connections to the Southwest.

This was intentional: their publisher, Torrey House Press, is based in the Intermountain West (Salt Lake City, specifically), and they wanted to create a platform for people in their region.

Second, “our relationships are rooted in the Southwest,” they write. “Rather than going into communities where we have no ties, we compiled this book based on trusting and reciprocal relationships we have built over the years. … This is a book of relationships because we will need our relationships to build a new world.”

The strength of this recently published anthology is in how it unites diverse writers — Black, Native American, disabled, LGBTQ+ — as they explore the impacts of COVID-19, race and climate on their communities.

Bitsóí, who is a Salt Lake Tribune reporter and Diné from the Navajo Nation, recently spoke with the Tribune about the importance of the book’s many voices and messages.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

(Provided by Torrey House Press) “New World Coming: Frontline Voices on Pandemics, Uprisings, and Climate Crisis" features a variety of voices from the Black, Native American, disabled and LGBTQ+ communities.

What does “New World Coming” tell readers about the pandemic, race and climate?

The purpose of the anthology is to bring to light some of these injustices that have always existed in our communities. When people think of the pandemic, often they just think of the health care system. But that’s just the top layer of what is going on. The book uses the pandemic as a theme, along with Black Lives Matter, as well as the uprisings and the climate crisis, as layers that need to be talked about. If we do not do anything right now, then this could be the end of our existence. So through this anthology, these writers shed light on the complexities of what it is to be human right now.

(It) offers some solutions to go forward. We’ve got to remember we’re human. In my culture, Diné culture, as humans we’re known as five fingered people. We’re the holy earth surface people. I feel like we’ve forgotten tenderness and to treat each other well. This anthology gives people hope.

You’ve also contributed to the anthologies “Red Rock Stories: Three Generations of Writers Speak on Behalf of Utah’s Public Lands” and “Edge of Morning: Native Voices Speak for the Bears Ears.” How do those books compare to “New World Coming”?

I feel like those anthologies led up to this. Those two Bears Ears anthologies are about what land is important to the Indigenous experience. “New World Coming” has the same kind of theme. But Bears Ears is specific to that region, and “New World Coming” is inclusive of not just Bears Ears, but different living movements.

Did you face any challenges while working on this project?

Yes! I broke up with a former job, and then thought “What are you doing, Alastair? Do you move out of Utah?” Fortunately, I ended up in a situation where I was given this opportunity to heal from that experience, but also look forward. It pushed me back to what I was passionate about, which is writing, reporting and storytelling. I used that pandemic time with Brooke Larsen to form this whole experience and create this book with the contributors. I feel like I just ran away from writing and it called me back. I had to surrender to it. And this is how it happened.

What do you hope people feel when they read “New World Coming”?

It offers that hope of answering questions like, “How do we restructure our society? How do we restructure it so everyone matters?” I like this anthology because it has a lot of queer voices, gender nonconforming voices, powerful women voices, people of all walks of life. So it brings that balance back.

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