Quakebook: Writing and Design for and by Japan

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A Twitter-sourced e-book raises money for earthquake relief without the consumerist pitfalls of posters and t-shirts

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The March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan are among the greatest natural disasters in modern history, affecting thousands of lives in unspeakably gruesome ways. While we've been skeptical of designers, writers, and other creators flacking their work as a way to "help" Japan by donating a small portion of the proceeds while trying to sell large volumes of posters or t-shirts or novels--such schemes tend to feel like piggybacking on tragedy, disaster-washing, if you will--a new e-book by and for Japanese earthquake survivors tells a beautifully different story.

2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake, also known as the #quakebook project, was put together in a little over a week by a team of professional and citizen journalists who met on Twitter and set out to raise money for the Japanese Red Cross earthquake and tsunami relief efforts in a thoughtful way that puts their strengths and talents to use. They collected essays, artwork and photographs from people all over the world--from ordinary people, from victims of the disaster, from journalists who covered it, from prominent writers like William Gibson, Barry Eisler, and Jake Adelstein, who created original work for the book, and even from Yoko Ono, who captures the tragedy and turmoil of the moment in a poignant essay titled "Awakening"--and published them in an anthology, the full proceeds from which benefit disaster relief efforts in Japan.

"The idea for this book came out of desperation, desperation to do something for a country on its knees. As I write this, intense aftershocks still force me out onto the street with my daughter in my arms, even though we live far from the hardest-hit areas of the country, and far more comfortably than the thousands in refugee shelters."

#quakebook featuring Scala & Kolacny Brothers and Kings of Leon from Quakebook on Vimeo.

The book features 87 narratives, eyewitness accounts and essays covering--with raw and moving candor of lived experience--beauty, bravery, distance, escapism, God, morality, harmony, remembrance, and everything in between.

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"Those of us who live in Japan are in a state of war. But not a war against a nation, or even nature. We are fighting defeat, worry and hopelessness. The question is: Are we strong enough to overcome? [F]or the many people around the world who care deeply about Japan, this book is a snapshot of a nation in crisis, told by the people affected, in their own voices."

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Besides the beautiful story of how the book came together and the profound bittersweetness of its goal, what makes the project unique is that 100 percent of the $9.99 you pay goes directly to the Japanese Red Cross Society. It's the product of the sheer creative altruism of those involved, and of those choosing to support it--I urge you to join me amongst them.


This post also appears on Brain Pickings.
Images: Quakebook

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Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings. She writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

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