The Mandorla Letters: for the hopeful (Hardcover)
Afrofuturist memoir on jazz, collaboration, and the search for collective well-being
Part memoir, part manifesto, part Black speculative novella, The Mandorla Letters: for the hopeful blurs boundaries between this world and an imagined future whose overlapping wisdoms make cooperation with our natural environment a central concern for collective thriving. Extending her ongoing musical project Mandorla Awakening, Nicole Mitchell Gantt explores inequity, the musical legacies of jazz, creative music, and intercultural collaboration to guide readers toward an alternative society that disrupts binaries, hierarchies, and western ideas of progress. Paying homage to artists, musicians, and writers who have inspired her, Mitchell Gantt opens channels for artistic proliferation that are integral to the collective survival of our planet.
Nicole Mitchell Gantt is an award-winning creative flautist, conceptualist, and composer. She is a former chairwoman of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and founder of the Black Earth Ensemble. The Mandorla Letters is her first book.
"Epistolary speculation as memoir; performance document as romance; theory of collaborative composition as extended koan; notebook of a return to native land as otherworldly exit visa—The Mandorla Letters: for the hopeful is unfathomably rich in praise and mourning and morning and impossible arising in devoted grounding and emphatic sounding."—Fred Moten, author of In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition
"The Mandorla Letters: for the hopeful is an astonishing literary accomplishment by one of our contemporary jazz greats. Through experimental jazz thought, Mitchell Gantt brightens the possibilities for who we, as humans, might become."—Dawn Lundy Martin, Toi Derricotte Chair in English and director, Center for African American Poetry and Poetics, University of Pittsburgh
"Nicole Mitchell Gantt’s soulfully inventive guidebook for bold, positive futures is alive with the songs of ancestors, the courage of self-creation. Part memoir, part spectral-cosmic jazz and blues tale, epistolary and remarkably candid, free, this wildly original work offers fresh layers of meaning no matter when and where you enter."—Sheree Renée Thomas, author of Nine Bar Blues: Stories from an Ancient Future
"Nicole Mitchell Gantt has penned an Afrofuturist masterwork, unearthing her musical lens and process through a multivoiced narrative that invokes cosmic identity. A nonlinear weaving, she maps her imagination through the prism of critical thought, experience, and ancestral inspirations that brings her music to life. This is a must-read for those seeking to understand the star seeds through which Black Experimental Music and creativity at large is born."—Ytasha L. Womack, author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci Fi and Fantasy Culture
"This stunning new literary work illuminates the importance of archival in sound, archival in art, and in life. It is necessary to place our compositions, our performances, and our exchanges on this musical journey inside the afrofuturist architecture of our own making. As Black women it is imperative that we continue to be explicit and bold in our truth telling, our love, and creation."—Camae Ayewa aka Moor Mother, cofounder of Black Quantum Futurism
"The Mandorla Letters contains all the luminosity and human consciousness necessary for gaining critical insight for navigating the current cultural landscapes. This exquisite and imaginative work—part testimony, part collective memory—is essential for a new survival work-song. Part cultural analysis and criticism, part memoir of younger years, and part visionary radical self-reflection on the possible, Professor Gantt, as musician, composer, poet, and teacher, gives us a book that is truly revelatory."—Haki R. Madhubuti, author of Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous? and Taught By Women: Poems as Resistance Language