Mary Uthuppuru received ‘Best Binding’ for her work based on Interpreter of Maladies. This award was given at the opening reception for the second edition of One Book, Many Interpretations exhibition at the Chicago Public Library in 2011. A total of ten titles were chosen by the CPL, a handful of bindings were created for each title and the award for ‘Best Binding’ was awarded to one binding for each title.
Housed in a beautifully shaped slipcase are nine individual books. Each book is bound in the Bradel binding style with handmade paste cloth. Details explained below are hand stenciled. Titles are stamped in gold.
This piece is so complex; you divided Interpreter of Maladies into nine books, which can be arranged two different ways to create either a map of India or the United States. I’ve never read these short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, what inspiration did you find within the text to execute the binding in this manner?
This was my first competition binding and it was a perfect book for me because I have an intimate look into the content of Lahiri’s subject matter. Interpreter of Maladies is a compilation of nine stories featuring Indian people both in India and the United States as they deal with cross cultural issues and in some cases, the westernization of India. While the stories are about a specific culture, Lahiri writes them in such a way that they speak to a more universal experience.
My husband is the son of an Indian father and a Japanese mother who moved to the United States for college in the 1960s. They moved here at a time when communication and travel is nothing like it is today. Letters were written and silences between phone calls were very long if at all possible. My first memories of visiting them were the numerous maps throughout the house. After a while it became clear that when you move to a new country with your family on the other side of the world, especially at the time that they did, there is comfort in looking at a map and seeing the two places a little closer together. It is this element that helped me tie the content of Interpreter with what became familiar to me.
Since the stories take place in India and the United States I wanted both maps to be a part of the design. However, I didn’t want to overload the books with too many design features. Having the maps only appear one at a time as simple line drawings inset in the cover was the perfect solution. Additionally, I wanted the ability to create an intense color similar to marigolds, a flower present in various aspects of Indian culture, so I created paste cloth for my cover material. This also allowed me to easily stencil guides for arranging the maps into both configurations without which would make it nearly impossible for the viewer to figure out their order.
This shuffling of book covers and rearranging them to create the two countries helped reinforced the difficulty of the themes in the book: life is a challenge, and when you move to a new place or what once was familiar changes, you have to make adjustments…and it can be difficult.
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Below are images of the map blueprints and how the covers can be arranged to create both the United States and India.