Walking and talking books
Amherst, Massachusetts’s history is studded with literary luminaries, and a new self-guided walking tour shows the sites and homes of the writers who lived and worked there. The Amherst Writers Walk highlights 14 writers, curated by the UMass Pubic History Program and the Amherst Historical Commission, and rose out of a public history class taught by Jon Olsen at UMass. The tour leads you to the obvious stops: to Emily Dickinson’s house on Main Street, where you can see a lock of her red hair, and Robert Frost’s on Sunset Ave. And it highlights feminist journalist Mary Heaton Vorse; Noah Webster, of the famed dictionary; as well as Norton Juster, author of the iconic fantasy adventure book “The Phantom Tollbooth.” On Pleasant Street is the site for poet and novelist Helen Hunt Jackson. On Boltwood Ave at the Boltwood Inn, find the sign for Shirley Graham Du Bois, and out of town, there’s a sign for Elaine Goodale and Charles Eastman who wrote about social justice for Native Americans. Two more self-guided walks are in the works: one to honor children’s book writers and illustrators, and another to point out notable contemporary writers. For more information, visit amherstma.gov/writerswalk.
A Native book list
In celebration of Native American Heritage Month this November, the Boston Public Library has created a first-ever “Native Lives, Native Stories” book list, which includes 63 titles published within the last year which are written by Native and Indigenous authors or focused on Native culture and history. Some of the books include “A History of My Brief Body” by Billy-Ray Belcourt, “Iwígara: American Indian Ethnobotanical Traditions and Science” by Enrique Salmón, Christoph Strobel’s “Native Americans of New England,” Linda Hogan’s poetry “A History of Kindness,” and N. Scott Momaday’s “The Death of Sitting Bear,” among other novels, histories, memoirs, kids’ books, and poetry collections. The library is also running a series a talks throughout the month including David J. Silverman discussing his book “This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving” on November 18 at 6 pm; Kyle T. Mays discussing his “An Afro-Indigenous History of the United States” on November 29 at 6 pm; and a book group discussion on Tommy Orange’s polyphonic novel “There There” on November 17 at 10:30 am. For more information on the book list and these events, visit bpl.org.
For trans kids
“Whenever I have to do something scary, my dad always says, ‘Take deep breaths and count down from five.’” That’s what Calvin does in a new picture book before he tells his parents that he’s not a girl, he’s a boy, “a boy in my heart and in my brain.” “Calvin” by Boston area LGBTQ+ rights activists Vanessa and JR Ford and illustrated by Kayla Harren, tells the story of the courage required to live as you truly are, and the love and support offered, by his family, his pals at school, his teachers. Over the summer, Calvin makes a transition: he cuts his hair, gets a new wardrobe, and changes his name. Nerves about going back to school as a boy give way when he sees his new name on his cubby and his desk, and his young friends are just as curious about whether he remembered his jump-rope for recess. The Fords are founding members of the Human Rights Campaign’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council, and the warm, welcoming, positive book is based in part about raising their own trans child.
“Generations” by Lucille Clifton (NYRB)
“Indigo: Arm Wrestling, Snake Saving, and Some Things in Between” by Padgett Powell (Catapult)
“Look for Me and I’ll Be Gone” by John Edgar Wideman (Scribner)
Pick of the Week Sarah Shahzad at Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine, recommends “And I Do Not Forgive You” by Amber Sparks (Liveright): “Sparks’s first book firmly establishes her as a font of weird ideas incandescently expressed: the stories in this collection are concerned with ghosts, and history, and women’s anger, thwarted ambition, and desperation. Written in a knowing, nearly jaded tone, the stories are too cool to take themselves seriously, so much so that when the impossible happens, when escape is in sight, and an ending could be happy, they seem themselves taken aback.”