Welcome to Pipe Wrench No. 8

Download some podcasts and stop by the Dunkin’ for a big coffee: we’re going on one hell of a road trip. Mexico. Mormons. A search for truth, faith, connection, autonomy. Contradictions? They abound!

Welcome to Pipe Wrench no. 8, The Road Trip Issue.

My favorite stories to read are the ones where I learn about something new, get to chuckle a few times, replenish my stores of dinner party trivia, have my dander raised a bit, and am given the opportunity to navel gaze.

By that measure, our feature story — this whole issue, in fact — is the sine qua non. Did you know that there’s a vibrant Mormon tourism industry in Central America? Did you know the “Mesoamerican Theory” posits that many of the events recounted in the Book of Mormon took place in Guatemala and southern Mexico? Do you have a handle on what it means to reimagine the history of Central America’s Indigenous civilizations?

An illustration of a round, carved stone head out of which protrudes a candlestick holder. Instead of a flame, there is a stylized yellow silhouette of the angel Moroni blowing a long horn, as is seen on top of Mormon temples. The illustration has a bright red background.
The art for this issue: so good, y’all.

I didn’t.

But also: have you ever had someone else try to define you? More importantly: have you ever done it to someone else? Assumed that your way of thinking, believing, acting in the world was The Right Way? Do you have a handle on what it means to coexist in a world where competing stories constantly need to be understood and reconciled with one another?

Do you have a handle on the stories you tell about yourself?

Do we have answers to all these questions in Pipe Wrench no. 8? Goodness no; we’re a magazine, not a cabal of philosopher wizard kings. What we do have are a lot of great stories that approach these questions from a range of angles, so you (we) can start to figure it out for your (our) selves. Emily Fox Kaplan’s feature on her Mesoamerican road trip. Art and archeology scholars Darren Longman and Catherine Nuckols-Wilde on the impact of Mormonism on Mesoamerica and vice versa. Laurie Penny and Liz Bucar thinking through how we tell stories about the other and live together in a world where more people than ever are sharing theirs. Breai Mason-Campbell, Brittany Romanello, and Sara Benincasa telling their own stories about faith transitions, faith disillusionment, and finding what needs fixing. Soraya Roberts wondering why we’re so unwilling to protect the earth for future stories.

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If other media help you think through these issues, we’ve got those, two. Michael Ventuolo-Mantovani’s mind-expanding playlist. Ana Hurtado’s atmospheric short stories, and their shocking emotional punch. Samuel Cheney’s flowing poetry, which pulls you along like a current. And Axel Rangel García’s syncretic art for the feature story, symbols layered over symbols to create something entirely new.

There’s a lot to think about. But also a lot to enjoy — beautiful writing, beautiful art — because a journey should be fun. We don’t go on road trips together for the painful tedium. We go for the adventure, and the company.

(Speaking of journeys: the publication of Pipe Wrench no. 8 marks two full years of Pipe Wrench! Bananas. Two years ago, there was a placeholder website that said we were coming soon. Today, we’ve published eight amazing issues, been a National Magazine Award finalist, been deemed officially awesome, and paid out tens of thousands of dollars, happily and on time, to writers and artists around the world. If you wanted to help us stick around for the next two, we wouldn’t be sad about it.)

I can’t end this note without a huge thank you to The Sunday Long Read! They’re our publishing partner for Kaplan’s feature story, and without that, the rest of this issue wouldn’t exist. If you don’t already get their weekly newsletter curating the best in journalism you should rectify that immediately — and look out for their next podcast episode, an interview with Kaplan on the reporting and writing of her piece.

Welcome! And as always, thanks for being here.

Michelle Weber, editor in chief