fb-pixel Skip to main content
NEW ENGLAND LITERARY NEWS

A new book on raising boys, a poetry project in Boston via Venezuela, and a hybrid memoir of immigration

Arrowsmith Press has published a collection of the work of 90-year-old Venezuelan poet Rafael Cadenas.
Arrowsmith Press has published a collection of the work of 90-year-old Venezuelan poet Rafael Cadenas.Ángela Bonadies

Bringing up boys

“Boys aren’t born rapists,” writes clinical psychologist Bobbi Wegner in her clear-eyed first book, “Raising Feminist Boys: How to Talk with Your Child About Gender, Consent & Empathy” (New Harbinger) in which she offers tools for parents and caregivers on how to instill values of equality, self-awareness, empathy, and the confidence to recognize and speak up against injustice. Wegner, a lecturer at Harvard Graduate School of Education and a supervising psychologist at Boston Behavoiral Medicine, balances clinical research and studies with her own experiences raising two sons and a daughter, giving thoughtful, practical exercises and suggestions for how to raise boys into equality-minded men. “Push through the discomfort, awkwardness, and not knowing,” she urges; the temporary squeamishness of uncomfortable conversations has the power to yield important and lasting results. Wegner empowers parents by reminding them that parenting is an agent in social change, and she demonstrates ways to be aware of what you’re modeling to your children, and how to be alert to your own biases to help raise “boys who have enough self-awareness and security to not hurt themselves or others.” Throughout, she emphasizes the importance of imagining another’s perspective, in this warm, deeply researched, and practical book, an ideal read for Father’s Day.

Advertisement



Venezuelan verses

Nidia Hernández, originally from Venezuela and now based in Boston and the director of the multimedia poetry project La Maja Desnuda, invited a number of writers, translators, and poets to translate the work of 90-year-old Venzuelan poet Rafael Cadenas. The anthology, “The Land of Mild Light,” published earlier this month by the Medford-based Arrowsmith Press, gathers a wide selection of the award-winning poet’s work, with translations by Robert Pinsky, Rowena Hill, Forrest Gander, Jon Lee Anderson, Carolyn Forché, and others. The poems are intimate, sensual, political. “It is not magic, I have simply forgotten nothing except that I exist / without you,” he writes. The collection, which also includes the original Spanish, offers English-speaking readers a deep look at this Latin American poet. “The light / brings me dead dolphins. / Your scent wins back tumult.” There are lines of quiet power and intensity, like this, an exceptional description of a liar: “He lives amid procrastinations, sharpening his ability to lose sight, overlooking, looking obliquely, hiding evidence, altering the facts, making other versions, adding to everything his dark salt.”

Advertisement



Memoir of movement

Rajiv Mohabir’s “Antiman,” out this week, won the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. The hybrid memoir traces Mohabir’s family’s movements from and between India, Guyana, Canada, and the U.S. as he tries to explore, with a lush lyricism, the ways this criss-crossing web of inherited cultures shaped his own identity as a gay poet. “I wanted to sit in the un-understanding of my Aji’s songs,” he writes, “to learn them to piece my own broken self together.” He threads songs and poetry, dialect and lessons throughout. “We were warm inside drinking tea and sugaring ourselves”; “The day bit the skin with a hint of ice”; “Home is the scrape of the trashcan against the / raked pine needle copper.” With a poet’s rhythms and thrilling attunement to how to bend and play with language, Mohabir tells a rich and layered story of sexuality, family, culture, and what it is to come into your own.

Advertisement



Coming Out

Migratory Birdsby Mariana Oliver, translated from Spanish by Julia Sanches (Transit Books)

Filthy Animalsby Brandon Taylor (Riverhead)

The Works of Guillaume Dustan, Volume 1by Guillaume Dustan, translated from French by Daniel Maroun (Semiotext(e))

Pick of the Week

Roxie Mack at Broadside Books in Northampton, Massachusetts, recommends “The Gift of Rain” by Tan Twan Eng (Hachette): “Permeated with the sounds and scents of Malaya, with its jumble of Chinese, British, and Malay cultures, this extraordinary novel is . . . set in the late thirties, when Japan is invading China and working its way toward Malaya. The novel combines sensuous specificity with a calm clarity that may owe something to the spirit of aikido that pervades the narrative.”

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