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New England Literary News

Father figure

Sara Faith Alterman was 12 years old when she discovered the cache of pornographic books her father had written tucked away on a high-up shelf in their suburban Boston home. They weren’t discussed for 25 years, not until Alterman’s father lost his job in his mid-60s, and started showing some worrying behavior. In her sharp, tender, loving new memoir, “Let’s Never Talk About This Again” (Grand Central), Alterman, a writer and producer for “Mortified,” tells the story of her father’s secret career, coming to terms with it as an adult as her father is diagnosed and declines with Alzheimer’s disease. Alterman balances the squeaminess with self-deprecation and humor, moving between vulnerability and poised funny storytelling. After her wedding, Alterman’s father says he was inspired to write a new book. Alterman asks what it’s called, and receives an answer no daughter would ever want to hear: “The Naughty Bride: An Indecent Wedding Night Guide,” and goes on to explain that it’s “so virgins understand how to please their men.” Alterman helps navigate her father’s decline from across the country in San Francisco while starting her own family. There are crushing scenes and excruciating awkwardness, and a depth of heart, sensitivity, and respect in this sharp-warm exploration of the importance of uncomfortable conversations and how love can still happen after them. Alterman will discuss the book at a virtual event through the Harvard Book Store on Thursday, July 30, at 7 p.m. Visit harvard.com to register.


Poems of the everyday

The poems in Amanda Lou Doster’s debut collection, “Everything Begins Somewhere,” attend to the small moments, the minor sadnesses, the short distances that turn out, always, to be the major ones. Winner of the Northfield-based Slate Roof Press Chapbook Award, the collection carries a warmth and sharp focus, with attention on the natural worlds outside and inside our houses: herons and moss and October, Xanax and sleepless nights and the dissonance of loving. “I love what falls apart,” she writes. Doster, who lives in Montague, wades into the mysteries of language and faces the questions it can’t ever answer: “I can’t decide if the mudflat is / generous or insane,” and “I found that all languages — even this one — / are fogs that cannot explain themselves.” There’s a sense of seething in the quiet, as with “highways and wind chimes and everything else that makes noise / when nothing is happening.”


Maine books

The Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance recently announced the winners of the 2020 Maine Literary Awards, given to writers in Maine (seasonal residents included). Jason Brown’s collection of linked short stories, “A Faithful but Melancholy Account of Several Barbarities Lately Committed” won the fiction category. Poet Kristen Case won the poetry category for her collection “Principles of Economics.” Maureen Stanton’s “Body Leaping Backwards” won for memoir. Jane Brox took the nonfiction category with “Silence,” and the John N. Cole Award for Maine Nonfiction went to Michael Norton for “Chasing Maine’s Second.” Arisa White’s “Biddy Mason Speaks Up” won the Young People’s Literature award; and Charlotte Agell took the children’s category with “Maybe Tomorrow?” For a complete list of winners, visit mainewriters.org.

Coming Out

“Trouble the Saints” by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Tor)

“Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson (Random House)


“The Butterfly Lampshade” by Aimee Bender (Doubleday)

Pick of the Week

Nefertiti Akamefula at the Brookline Booksmith recommends “Sweet Days of Discipline” by Fleur Jaeggy (New Directions): “Pleasure (and repulsion) is a driving force in this novel set against the backdrop of the quiet Appenzell, at a Swiss all-girls international boarding school. Jaeggy’s teenage narrator is driven by visceral urges and emotions, many of which she doesn’t totally understand, with a very deep-seated desire to act out in aggression; to dominate; and, in the narrator’s own words, ‘to conquer.’ ”

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Wake, Siren.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.