Beyond the Pencil (Skirt): Meet Alyssa, Arielle, and Uzoamaka, The American Reader|
Stepping inside the office of The American Reader, a monthly literary journal, is like a voyage back into 1950 – an old record player on the floor, candles on the mantle, books stacked high in the corners. Levo visited with three young women behind the publication, including co-founder Uzoamaka Maduka, (while sitting on plush velvet couches) whose personal styles clearly reflect the journal’s classically modern sentiment. The three Princeton graduates spoke to Levo about having a vision and launching a publication dedicated to reestablishing the role of literature in the conversations of Generation Y.
Names and Job Titles: Uzoamaka Maduka (aka Max), Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder; Alyssa Loh, Digital Editor; Arielle Patrick, Director of Publicity.
Degrees at Princeton: (UM) B.A. in Religion, Certificate of Proficiency in Visual Arts (Filmmaking); (AL) BA in English Literature, Certificate in Creative Writing; (AP) Department of Classics (Ancient Greek and Latin Literature and Language).
Brief Overview of The American Reader: The American Reader is a monthly journal of fiction, poetry, translation, and criticism directed towards readers aged 22-35. TAR is dedicated to reestablishing the role of literary discourse in the conversations of members of Generation Y.
How did the three of you originally connect and launch The American Reader? (UM): The project arose from a conversation between Jac Mullen (the Executive Editor and Co-Founder) and me. As for us three: I was close with Arielle at college, and we stayed in touch after I graduated. I knew she would be a perfect communicator of the Reader‘s mission. Alyssa and I met briefly in a creative writing atelier when she was a freshman and I was a senior. I was impressed by her then, and she impressed me again when we got together for tea years later in the West Village. The rest is history.
The American Reader “aims to fill a void in Gen Y’s cultural landscape.” Explain the void that was detected and how TAR is fulfilling it:
Often when people speak about a supposed decline in literariness among younger generations, people will say that young readers lack an attention span or that young writers lack talent. We’re trying something else, something that has a little more faith in our generation: we’re taking a closer look at the the editorial and publishing industry that links author to reader. We’re trying to figure out what our generation needs, and to help literature find a place again in daily culture.
The American Reader is available both in print and digital – do you think Gen Y is reverting to printed publications? We don’t believe our generation ever abandoned print. Instead, the content of certain print publications seemed to reflect the sensibilities of an older generation. Our generation is ambidextrous in terms of media. We can use everything—what is more, we like using everything.
Your office style in a few words:
UM: Dilapidated frat bro + turban.
AL: Comfortable but presentable – I once had to attend a last minute meeting in Converse (never again).
AP: Milly. Ralph Lauren. Maggy Frances (designer of Arielle’s plaid skirt, camel blazer, and dress in the below photos).
UM: Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Louise Bourgeois, and Sophia Loren.
AL: Kristen Stewart. I’d live in a leather jacket if I could.
AP: My mom.
Typical workday at TAR: Meetings, correspondence, and administrative duties during the day interrupted by food deliveries. Brief dinner uptown. Then editing at a cafe downtown (for a change of scenery).
Most used office gadget:
UM: Muji planner.
AP: Stress ball.
Office décor: Books, mess, and Mid-Century modern.
E-mail or snail mail? E-mail at the pace of; and with the consideration of—snail mail.
Work out regimen:
UM: Cycling along the Hudson in spring, summer, and fall. In the winter, I expand.
AL: I live in a four-story walk up. Does that count?
AP: I try to walk everywhere, avoiding cabs or the subway.
Day at The Met or day at the spa? The Met. (Unanimously).
Favorite bookstore: McNally Jackson in Soho.
Recommended book/literary piece for Gen Y women:
UM: Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry; The Black Swan by Thomas Mann.
AL: A 1981 anthology titled “This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color,” edited by Cheríe Moraga.
AP: On Beauty by Zadie Smith.
In 10 years…:
UM: I’m always the last to know.
AL: Writing fiction and non-fiction, maybe, but I’ve finally stopped trying to guess.
AP: Hopefully running my own corporate and public affairs-focused PR firm.
Words of wisdom for young women professionals:
UM: Speak if you have something to say, zip it if you have something to learn!
AL: It can be daunting to walk into a room—of industry colleagues or anyone else—when you don’t recognize yourself in any of the people present. But you can make space. Things change.
AP: Show up early, leave late.
*Say hello to The American Reader on Twitter @ReaderMagazine.