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A novel set in Havana, a new set of poets laureate for Massachusetts, and the return of the Nantucket Literary Festival — with a virtual Juneteenth panel

Dariel Suarez's new novel takes place in current-day Havana.Catalina Piedrahita

Cuban memories

Dariel Suarez’s taut and propulsive debut novel, “The Playwright’s House” (Red Hen), set in present-day Cuba, begins with Seguey’s father, an acclaimed theater director, getting arrested under shadowy circumstances. Seguey, a lawyer who ascended out of the grimmer conditions in which he and his brother Victor grew up, sets about trying to figure out what’s happened, and what he can do to solve it. In the process, he begins to operate on his own accord, “forced himself to act instead of calculate, to viscerally take a stance.” Suarez, author of the award-winning short fiction collection “A Kind of Solitude” and education director at Grub Street, makes Havana’s texture palpable, its streets, rooftops, sodas, its energy, contradictions, and the everpresent force of its politics. Suarez is especially acute in bringing the intensities and complexities of sibling relationships to life. Seguey, with a troubled relationship with his brother, observes the intimacy of his wife and her sister having an argument: “Love did not allow half-measures, incomplete truths. What a luxury it was, the ability to passionately and freely articulate and dispute and be heard. The ability to be close and feel close to your family.” Suarez, with subtle force, gets at who is acting and who is watching, within a family, a city, a country, and a culture. Suarez will read and discuss the book in a virtual launch on June 14 at 7 pm through Porter Square Books. Visit to register.


Poetic news

The Academy of American Poets recently announced its Poets Laureate for 2021. Twenty-three poets across the country will represent cities and states, tasked with helping bring poetry to the communities they serve. In Massachusetts, Magdalena Gómez, author of “Shameless Woman” (Red Sugarcane), and co-editor of “Bullying: Replies, Rebuttals, Confessions, and Catharsis” (Skyhorse) will serve as Poet Laureate of Springfield. She’ll be teaming up with Springfield public libraries and working with youth poets in the area through in-person and virtual workshops leading to performances of the original poems. Lloyd Schwartz, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and author of “Little Kisses” (University of Chicago), was selected to continue as Somerville’s Poet Laureate, leading his monthly “Let’s Talk About a Poem” discussion group. He’ll also launch a poetry and translation prize, organize visits to assisted living facilities to read poems, and commission local musicians to put students’ poems to music. Each poet laureate is awarded $50,000.


A virtual Juneteenth

The Nantucket Book Festival is hosting a virtual discussion to commemorate Juneteenth, the day marking the end of slavery in the United States. The holiday is celebrated on June 19, and the festival’s panel discussion will take place on Thursday, June 17 at 7 pm. Hosted by Mitchell S. Jackson, author of the acclaimed “The Residue Years” (Bloomsbury) and “Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family” (Scribner), the panel brings together Deesha Philyaw, award-winning author of “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies”; Keisha N. Blain, historian and author of “Set the World on Fire”; Imani Perry, professor and author of “Breathe: A Letter to My Sons”; and Atlantic staff writer Clint Smith, author of “How the Word Is Passed” and the poetry collection “Counting Descent.” Instead of a weekend-long event, this year, the Nantucket Book Festival is offering a series of virtual events, and will return next summer, running June 16-19 in 2022. To register for the Juneteenth event, and to see the rest of the virtual programming, visit


Coming Out

The Confession of Copeland Caneby Keenan Norris (Unnamed)

Everything Now: Lessons from the City-State of Los Angelesby Rosencrans Baldwin (MCD)

The Dead Girls’ Class Tripby Anne Seghers, translated from the German by Margot Bettauer Dembo (NYRB)

Pick of the Week

Jacob Fricke at Hello Hello Books in Rockland, Maine, recommends “Cities I’ve Never Lived In” by Sara Majka (Graywolf): “Shimmering with the otherwise, Majka’s debut collection follows the wanderings of characters on the margins of society with clear memories of where they once were and where they might have been. Full of alternate lives, missing persons, and mistaken identities, the book shows how we can all be haunted by what we have left and what never arrived.”