Columbus, Ohio, is a place whose identity centers on its supposed lack of identity—an American “every place” that has launched countless chain dining concepts. Enter the contributors to this wide-ranging volume, who are all too happy to fight back against that reputation, even as they recognize it as an inevitable facet of the ever-growing city they call home. “Maybe we’re not having trouble designing a definitive identity,” writes Amanda Page in her introduction. “Maybe we are a city that is constantly considering what it will become.”
Race, sports, the endless squeeze of gentrification, the city’s booming literary and comics scenes, its reputation as a haven for queer life, the sometimes devastating differences in perspective among black and white, native and transplant residents—and more than one tribute to Buckeye Donuts—make this anthology a challenging and an energizing read. From Hanif Abdurraqib’s sparkling and urgent portrait of Columbus’s vital immigrant culture as experienced through Crew games to Nick Dekker’s insights into breakfast as a vehicle for getting to know a city to the poetry of Maggie Smith and Ruth Awad, the pieces gathered here show us a Columbus
far more textured than any test marketer could dream up.