Pen & Ink - Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them

Author(s): Isaac Fitzgerald; Wendy MacNaughton; Cheryl Strayed (Introduction by)

Adult Non-Fiction

Every tattoo tells a story, whether the ink is meaningful or the result of a misguided decision made at the age of fourteen, representative of the wearer's true self or the accidental consequence of a bender. These most permanent and intimate of body adornments are hidden by pants legs and shirttails, emblazoned on knuckles, or tucked inside mouths. They are battle scars and beauty marks, totems and mementos.

Pen & Ink grants us access to the tattoos-and the stories behind them-of writers Cheryl Strayed and Roxane Gay; rockers in the bands Korn, Otep, and Five Finger Death Punch; and even a porn star. But it also illuminates the tattoos of the ordinary people living in our midst-from professors to thrift store salespeople, cafe owners to librarians, union organizers to administrators-and their extraordinary lives.

Curated and edited by Isaac Fitzgerald, who sports twelve tattoos himself, each story "is like being let in on . . . secrets by . . . strangers who passed you on the street or sat across from you on the train" (Strayed) and features Wendy MacNaughton's gorgeously rendered full-color illustrations of the tattoos on black-and-white drawings of the bearer's body. At its heart, beneath its colorful skin,Pen & Ink is an exploration of the decision to scar one's self with a symbol and a story.


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"Together, [these pictures and stories] do the work of great literature-gathering a force so true they ultimately tell a story that includes us all." -Cheryl Strayed, from the Introduction

Oh my god, this gorgeous, gorgeous book. It will, like its subject, alter you permanently. We sometimes forget: each tattoo has its story. Many are lovingly recorded here - from the wicked to the profound to the ridiculous. This gorgeous, gorgeous book perfectly chronicles the stories that we wear on our skin. Colin Meloy, Lead Singer of The Decemberists For anybody who ever looked at a stranger's tattoo and wondered why?, Pen & Ink offers a gorgeous, hilarious, and moving Because. In its pages, the most amateurish, outlandish, and bizarre tattoos become portals into their owners' lives and dreams. In the process, they become beautiful. Peter Trachtenberg, author of Seven Tattoos In Pen & Ink, Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy MacNaughton have captured the fascinating stories people secret beneath their skin, how they have marked their skin and why. The revelations in this remarkable collection are, in turns, poignant, charming, heartbreaking, and honest. Like tattoos, these stories leave an impression that will linger. Roxane Gay New favorite Tumblr. Maria Popova, @brainpicker, on the Pen & Ink blog Reveal[s] the often hilarious, sometimes poignant stories behind these permanent remnants of our fleeting opinions, passions and phases. O, the Oprah magazine, on the Pen & Ink blog The second my eyes met the beautiful drawings I was in love. on the Pen & Ink blog Inspired ... Drawn in a whimsical, tender style, MacNaughton's portraits are captivating in their intimacy ... Without judgment or regret, this emotionally raw collection, featuring an introduction by Cheryl Strayed, explores how we find permanence in an impermanent world. Publishers Weekly Kitschy, hipster ... MacNaughton's drawings are lovely ... The book is charming ... enchanting. This is a title that readers can leaf through a little at a time, savoring the illustrations, or perhaps devour in one sitting. Library Journal

Isaac Fitzgerald is co-owner of The Rumpus and books editor at BuzzFeed. Visit him at and follow him @isaacfitzgerald. He lives in New York City. Wendy MacNaughton is a New York Times bestselling illustrator whose books include Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology, and whose work has appeared in places like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Lucky Peach, and Print Magazine. Visit her at and follow her @wendymac. She lives in San Francisco, CA.

General Fields

  • : 9781620404904
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing USA
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing USA
  • : 0.53
  • : October 2014
  • : 216mm X 181mm
  • : United States
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Isaac Fitzgerald; Wendy MacNaughton; Cheryl Strayed (Introduction by)
  • : Hardback
  • : 1
  • : English
  • : 391.6/5
  • : 144
  • : Color illustrations throughout