In 2011, my family was in a major car accident. We were hit head-on by a man in the throes of a heart attack. It took three years to recover from our injuries, and a couple more to deal with the aftereffects of trauma. When I finally returned to the world-as father and husband, friend and brother, writer and citizen-it became clear that our society was in its own traumatized state-reeling from the string of police shootings of unarmed African Americans, stunned by yet one more mass shooting. The people around me were displaying all the signs of PTSD-jumpiness, irritability, numbness-and, concordantly, my interactions out in daily life were becoming more dysfunctional, at times downright hostile. Us against them. Red vs. blue. Black vs. white. Rich vs. poor. That we were living in a progressive town inside a conservative county in the Mountain South only made things more volatile. I decided that if we were all living in a fractured society no longer recognizable, then it was up to me to re-engage in it. I would enter into encounters with people as conscious as possible of the potential divides and misunderstandings between us. I started with my neighborhood and town, then moved out into the counties around us, then traveled further out into the country. My goal: to connect.
Sebastian Matthews is the author of a memoir, In My Father's Footsteps, and two books of poetry, We Generous and Miracle Day. His hybrid collection of poetry and prose, Beginner's Guide to a Head-on Collision, won the Independent Publisher Book Awards' silver medal. Matthews is also the author of The Life & Times of American Crow, a "collage novel in eleven chapbooks." His work has appeared in or on, among other places, the Atlantic, Blackbird, the Common, Georgia Review, Poetry Daily, Poets & Writers, the Sun, Virginia Quarterly Review, and the Writer's Almanac. Matthews lives in Asheville, North Carolina. Learn more at sebastianmatthews.com.