What is a 'Geographical Alphabet'?

According to the computer ‘geographical’ is not a word. But I felt it was an adjective I had to create to really get at the heart of my alphabet book. It started with the idea that my book above all else is about a specific place, a specific geographic site within Tucson. To visualize this idea I decided to put the letters of my book into geographical order, North to South. The letters appear in the book as they would appear to you as you walk from downtown Tucson towards south Tucson. I remember staunchly defending the non alphabetical layout of my book with a professor at the U of A. “But the reader’s won’t understand why the letters aren’t in alphabetical order” she whined. “The book is about a journey THROUGH the south side of Tucson, I want my readers to go on a visual journey south! That’s the point!” I argued. I decided the best way to help my readers to understand the concept, was to use my illustrative skills to visually communicate the idea.

And here we are. You are looking at a map of the area of Tucson that I documented in my book which pinpoints the location for each letter featured in the book. Just as the letters appear North to South on the map, so the letters unfold as you flip front (north) to back (south) in my book.

The more I’ve delved into my project the more the idea of ‘cultural geography’ has made it’s way into my process. I wanted to showcase the distinct visual identity that the communities in the south of Tucson have created. The vibrant streets in my book are a result of Mexican settlement and habitation in the south side of town. A trip down the streets in my book will feel like you have been transported to Mexico, the colors, the sounds, and the smells. Now, I’d like to avoid romanticizing the south side of Tucson. The reality is that this area is economically depressed and in much need of attention by the City of Tucson and respect from the rest of Tucson. Businesses here are surviving through the patronage of the south side community and alot of hard work. I hope to use this blog to talk about the community, the stories of resilience, and the characters who are behind the businesses featured in my book.

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