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Letters of Politics, Pandemics, and Place

by Amy Irvine and Pam Houston

Irvine Headshot 2020.JPG


AMY IRVINE is a sixth-generation Utahn and long-time public lands activist. Her memoir, Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land, received the Orion Book Award, the Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award, and the Colorado Book Award. Irvine teaches in the MFA program of Southern New Hampshire University. She lives and writes off the grid in southwest Colorado, just spitting distance from her Utah homeland.

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When the state of Colorado ordered its residents to shelter in place in response to the spread of coronavirus, writers Pam Houston and Amy Irvine—who had never met—began a correspondence based on their shared devotion to the rugged, windswept mountains that surround their homes, one on either side of the Continental Divide. As the numbers of infected and dead rose and the nation split dangerously over the crisis, Houston and Irvine found their letters to one another as necessary as breath. Part tribute to wilderness, part indictment against tyranny and greed, Air Mail: Letters of Politics, Pandemics, and Place reveals the evolution of a friendship that galvanizes as it chronicles a strange new world. 

October 2020 | Nonfiction essays | 978-1-94-881438-6 | $15.95 | 163 pp

Cover art by Claire Taylor



“An affecting collection of candid, heartfelt letters that stands as a testimony to the sustenance of friendship in frightening times.”


Air Mail is the record of an epistolary friendship forged in a time of political peril, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. These letters are pure outpourings of deep thought and daily life. Houston and Irvine reveal the ferocity of women who have made their lives in the wilderness and by the pen, the depths of wisdom hard-won, survival and what it cost, and all of this in a language where horse hooves can be heard thundering.”
CAROLYN FORCHÉ, author of In the Lateness of the World

“This epistolary exchange, which becomes a friendship, and then a fierce and loving sistership, reminds us that solidarity, by which maybe I really mean love, emerges in conversation—in listening, in asking, in sharing, in wondering, in sorrowing, in raging, in attempting, in dreaming. In dreaming together, with each other, and for each other. This takes practice, and it takes care. Pam Houston and Amy Irvine’s Air Mail is evidence of that practice. It is evidence, and a seed, of that care.”
ROSS GAY, author of The Book of Delights


“Pam Houston and Amy Irvine bring rivers and mountains and valleys onto the page and into your heart, reminding you how you are still part of a body that matters. They bring the beauty of animals and trees, the hum of motherhood drumming up from the very ground, the hard truths and difficult days of violence and virus woven through with what’s left in us: fight, resilience, and astonishingly, song. This book is fierce love in motion.”
LIDIA YUKNAVITCH, author of The Book of Joan

"A sharp read with a natural literary chemistry ... a perfectly timed book with all of the good questions included to read and discuss with others."



PAM HOUSTON is the author of the memoir, Deep Creek: Finding Hope In the High Country as well as two novels, Contents May Have Shifted and Sight Hound, two collections of short stories, Cowboys Are My Weakness and Waltzing the Cat, and a collection of essays, A Little More About Me. She teaches in the Low Rez MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, is Professor of English at UC Davis, and cofounder and creative director of the literary nonprofit Writing By Writers. She lives at nine thousand feet above sea level near the headwaters of the Rio Grande. 

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