New England Literary News

Group read

The Boston Book Festival recently announced its 10th annual selection for its One City One Story program, which places a single short story in a number of locations around the city in both English and Spanish. This year’s selection is “The Book of Life and Death” by Grace Talusan, author of the acclaimed memoir “The Body Papers” (Restless), and the Fannie Hurst Writer-in-Residence at Brandeis. Established local writers are invited to submit and one story is selected as a focal point of discussion for the book festival, this year running virtually between Oct. 5 and 25. This year’s story follows a migrant worker who lands in the United States, and keeps close to her home and family by keeping a series of scrapbook albums. “After making these books for twenty years, I know that despite the best and worst, life goes. . . . The grieving laugh again,” Talusan writes. The selection committee cited the story for its “potent and resonant themes of privilege, identity, migration, and belonging.” Talusan immigrated here from the Philippines, and for the first time the story will also be translated into Tagalog. The story will be distributed in early September at libraries and some area bookstores. Prior authors whose stories were selected for the program include Ciera Burch, Kelly Link, and Tom Perrotta. For more information, visit bostonbookfest.org.


Verse, underfoot

Now and then there’s benefit to keeping your eyes on the ground, as when you come across a poem imprinted in the cement on the sidewalk while strolling the streets of Cambridge. The city recently announced its 2020 winners of the sixth annual Sidewalk Poetry project, selecting five poems out of over 90 submissions from Cambridge residents. The winning poems and poets include “Stay” by Anne Dane, “Double Walker” by Laura Deford, “When the Lotus Bloomed” by Peter Levine, “One-Lane Two-Way Street (AKA Ode to Howard Street)” by Brian MacPherson and Caroleen Verly, and “This Morning’s Reprieve” by Sarah Anne Stinnett. Runners-up included work by Charles Coe, Lisa DeSiro, Elizabeth Flood, Marjorie Jacobs, and Madeline LaFarge. In her ode to bookstores, Dane writes of “Flocks of little word-birds / Flying out your door.” And Walker writes of the little girl splashing puddles living inside the old woman with gray hair. As of now, there are 24 poems stamped on the sidewalks of the city; a map can be found at cambridgema.gov/arts.


Poems of nightfall

Poet Anne Elezabeth Pluto inhabits the dusky in-between spaces in her fifth collection of poetry, “The Deepest Part of the Dark” (Unlikely Books). She investigates the death of her mother, the death of a former love, the foreign grave of a long-buried multi-greated grandfather. “The dead sleep/ easily, grouped/ in threes, they do not/ mind us,” she writes. A simplicity and matter-of-factness is balanced with moments of delicate lyricism in lines saturated with haunt and located often at the shift to winter. She writes of an encounter with a family of raccoons; in these poems, “The night world was always open.” And in Pluto’s darkness exists a heat and glow, as when the “long lure of love burns/ celestial in the dark/ to domesticate the night,/ each star numerous/ in its power to assail us/ now, in our charter of rebirth.”

Coming out


“Luster” by Raven Leilani (FSG)

“The Death of Vivek Oji” by Akwaeke Emezi (Riverhead)

“Guillotine” by Eduardo C. Corral (Graywolf)

Pick of the week

Val Arroyo at the Brewster Book Store recommends “The Line Tender” by Kate Allen (Dutton): “The book takes place over the course of one summer in Rockport, Massachusetts, in the early 1990s. Five years after the loss of her mother — a marine biologist who studied great white sharks — 12-year-old Lucy Everhart lives with her father and spends most of her days putting together a field guide to native species with her best friend, Fred.”

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