Since the advent of language we have understood our world, and passed that understanding from one generation to the next, through story and song. From the Aboriginal stories of the Dreamtime to the Original Instructions of the Ojibwe, and from the Mayan Popol Vuh to medieval bestiaries, the imaginative expression of human experience offers essential tools for reflection on our relationship to the world around us.
Today, however, the stories that have guided human interaction with ecosystems for millennia are steadily disappearing, as cultural and linguistic diversity disappears at a pace matching the loss of biological diversity. In response to this trajectory, and with the understanding that literature has been a source of cultural transformation throughout modern history, Milkweed Editions launched the Seedbank series of books.
This new series of world literature expands Milkweed’s publishing program to bring ancient, historical, and contemporary works from cultures from around the world to American readers. Just as repositories around the world gather seeds to ensure biodiversity in the future, Seedbank gathers works of literature from around the world that foster conversation and reflection on the human relationship to place and the natural world—exposing readers to new, endangered, and forgotten ways of seeing the world.
“Milkweed’s Seedbank series is one of the most exciting and visionary projects in contemporary publishing. Taking the long view, these volumes run parallel to the much-hyped books of the moment to demonstrate the possibility and hope inherent in all great literature.” —STEPHEN SPARKS, POINT REYES BOOKS
The K’iche’ creation myth of The Popol Vuh is thousands of years old, one of the only epics indigenous to the Americas. By turns poetic and lucid, sinuous and accessible, this verse translation—the first of its kind, and the first in the Seedbank series—breathes new life into an essential tale.
From cartographer Tim Robinson comes the second title in the Seedbank series, a breathtakingly intimate exploration of one beloved place’s geography, ecology, and history. Footstep by footstep, moment by moment, Robinson takes readers deep into this storied Irish landscape, from the “quibbling, contentious terrain” of Bogland to the shorelines of Inis Ní to the towering peaks of Twelve Pins.
Nau’s greatest joy is to visit the sea, where whales gather every morning to gaily spout rainbows. Then, one day, she finds a man in the mist where a whale should be: Reu, who has taken human form out of his Great Love for her. This Seedbank series novel is at once a vibrant retelling of the origin story of the Chukchi and a timely parable about the destructive power of human ego.
In the high Altai Mountains of northern Mongolia, the nomadic Tuvan people’s ancient way of life is colliding with the pervasive influence of modernity. And for Dshurukawaa, a young shepherd boy, this means loss—of his siblings, of his grandmother, and of his beloved dog, Arsylang. Rooted in the oral traditions of the Tuvan people and their epics, the first novel in Galsan Tschinag’s saga—reissued as a Seedbank title—weaves the timeless story of a boy poised on the cusp of manhood with the tale of a people’s vanishing way of life.
Ojibwe tradition calls for fathers to walk their children through the world, sharing the ancient understanding “that we are all, animate and inanimate alike, living on the one pure breath with which the Creator gave life to the Universe.” In this intimate series of letters to the six-year-old son from whom he was estranged, Richard Wagamese fulfills this traditional duty with grace and humility, describing his own path through life—separation from his family as a boy, substance abuse, incarceration, and ultimately the discovery of books and writing—and braiding this extraordinary story with the teachings of his people, in which animals were the teachers of human beings, until greed and a desire to control the more-than-human world led to anger, fear, and eventually profound alienation.
At once a deeply moving memoir and a fascinating elucidation of a rich indigenous cosmology, For Joshua is an unforgettable journey.