Last December, my 88-year-old grandmother finished her memoir, Letters to My Dad That I Never Wrote, an intensely personal series of unwritten letters to her late father. This edition was set in a binder so family could add their own letters and use it as a living document, but I thought it was important to have a finished and resolved edition that could be passed down through the family.

As I read the book last year, I was struck by the urban-rural dichotomy of her early life; she moved from the city of Dubuque to the countryside around it and back again for college. I designed a double-gatefold package with maps of greater Dubuque, her family farm, and Iowa. Stories, poems, and siblings’ contributions are also packaged in the versos of gatefolds, visually set apart as if included in letters.

Every photograph in the book can be removed, passed around, and placed back into the book. The photos were printed separately and placed in the book with reusable glue dots, sometimes overlaid on the text to add a layer of visual dimension and symbolize the photos’ enclosure within the letters.

There’s something inconsistent and impersonal about sending such an intimate book to a printer and receiving a faceless product in return, so I trimmed, folded, glued, and bound the book myself. It all came together at the last minute—the glue set just hours before I left to visit my grandparents for Christmas—but I managed to put together what will hopefully be a lasting object to carry an important part of our family’s history.

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