Note: We wound up redesigning the cover after getting tons of great feedback from our publicity/marketing team and distributors! You can see the new cover here.
The team at Redwood Press did such a fabulous job on the cover design for my forthcoming book Strike Patterns! I want to take some time to go over these design elements and what they mean for the book.
Strike Patterns is a fictionalized memoir of my fieldwork in Laos with explosives clearance teams and bombed villages. These communities were covertly bombed by the United States during the Secret War in the 1960s and 1970s. A "strike pattern" is the pattern of debris, craters, explosives, and violence left behind by an airstrike.
Orchids: At first glance, the orchids are barely recognizable as flowers. The blooms appear like the map of a dangerous and unfamiliar territory. In Chapter Two, the main character spots an arboreal orchid while she is embedded with an explosives survey team:
In the crook of the forked trunk, an orchid bloomed a long spray of tiny white flowers, falling like a pearl necklace. I had positioned myself so that I could see the orchid—I didn’t think Channarong had noticed the flower. Life didn’t get recorded on these maps; only death, a dot for each explosion that had killed someone in the village. The orchid was absurdly beautiful, pure chance, a little frivolity among the severe work of the survey team. It didn’t belong on any of his survey maps.
Orchids are a symbol of resilience: what life looks like in these militarized landscapes. Orchids grow everywhere in Laos!
Orange: The deep, muted orange is a reference to the robes of Theravada Buddhist monks. Early in the book, the main character asks about this color:
"Why do monks wear orange?” I asked in Lao.
“The orange color reminds them of death.” Chantha was holding a few spheres of marigold. I’d asked a child’s question, and she’d had an answer ready. [...] “Orange is the color of dying leaves when the season changes. For this reason, this flower is used at a lot at festivals and funerals. Happy or sad, it reminds us that everything ends.”
Many monks' robes are hand-dyed. There is no single orange color at the temple, but a spectrum of subtle shades: chili, apricot, papaya, marigold, tiger stripe, amber, saffron, burnt orange, umber, clay.
Maps: The patterns of orchid blooms against the black background remind me of the maps used by explosives clearance teams to record their projects, and before that, maps used by bomber pilots to orient their strikes.
Clearance teams often host community mapping events where residents create a shared map of the contamination in their village. Clearance teams use conventional Euro-American map styles: The kind of map with a compass rose and scale marker in the lower right corner. Familiar to me, but often very foreign to Lao residents. In Chapter Ten, clearance technicians teach residents what the lines and symbols mean:
The village council was unfamiliar with cartographic symbols. Vanida patiently taught them that roofed rectangles stood for houses, parallel lines for roads, and arrows for compass directions, etc. An older councilwoman drew the school symbol sideways, finding the red belltower (a shape that reminded me of American pioneer schoolhouses) difficult to interpret.
I attended several of these community mappings during my fieldwork. Village maps were often heart-rending and startlingly personal. Each red dot marks the site of a bomb, a death, an injury, or an explosion.
I'm absolutely in love with this cover and so excited to share this book with you! It is an intense, but ultimately hopeful book and I think this design expertly balances danger/optimism. I hope that you enjoyed this little behind-the-scenes peek at the cover design.