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A powerful story collection on life as a young man of color; authors receive creative writing grants

Marjan Kamali of Lexington was one of the local recipients of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship grant for creative writing.David E. Lawrence

Songs of boyhood

Four questions prompted the work that makes up “Lift Ev’ry Voice: Narratives and Poems on Manhood” (826 Boston): “What is it like to be a young man of color in America”; “How do you see yourself in the world?”; “What do I see when I look at the world?”; “How does the world see me as a young man of color?” The resulting collection, written by the Becoming a Man Scholars at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School, showcases a forceful, moving, and deeply felt examination and exploration of what it is to move through the world in this unsteady moment as a young man of color. “We all just skeletons / Fell asleep in science but I still be in my element / The girls who like me heaven-sent,” writes Aenaon Rodriguez. Rain reminds us “that skies bleed / In concrete jungles too,” writes Durane West. Thomas Thermidor writes of being raised by a resilient mother; Isaac Madera-Cepeda discusses how art-making allows him to explore his identity. Questions of justice, racism, inequality are addressed with verve and wisdom, as is other young-adult way-finding: “Although I am a kind person and hate to see animals killed, I wouldn’t mind that BBQ chicken, so I’m conflicted,” writes Tyler Caravalho. Hope and truth are stirred in a heavy, potent mix. As Kevin Ross writes, “America, not a day goes by when you don’t miss a beat. You find a way to let me know I’m Black.” A virtual launch will take place Thursday, January 27 at 4 pm. For more information, visit 826boston.org.


Delicious verse

The Edible Anthology of Poetry got its start in 1980. Peter Payack, a “conceptual anarchist, science fiction poet, sky artist, and first Poet Populist of Cambridge, Mass.,” crammed lines of poetry by local poets into fortune cookies. The 7th edition is available now, with micro poems inside fortune cookies, packaged in classic Chinese food takeout boxes. The box is available at the Grolier Poetry Bookshop and includes poems by Somerville poet laureate Lloyd Schwartz, the late owner of the Grolier Ifeanyi Menkiti, former US poet laureate Robert Pinsky, poet and translator David Ferry, as well as Gail Mazur, Louisa Solano, Martha Collins, Joyce Peseroff, Diana Der-Hovanessian, Tracy K. Smith, Kathleen Spivack, Sam Cornish, Erica Funkhouser, and Sappho, among others. As noted on the box, ingredients include “1 grated DeWitt Henry”; “1 crunchy Mark Pawlak”; “1 minced Dan Wuenschel”; with other ingredients including “inspirations, Visions and Dreams.”


Local grantees

The National Endowment for the Arts recently announced its list of individuals who will receive creative grants in support of their work. Of the 35 writers from around the country, six come from New England. The recipients include Morgan Talty, of Levant, Maine, whose debut story collection “Night of the Living Rez” comes out this summer from Tin House; Asako Serizawa, of Brookline, whose debut book of fiction “Inheritors” was awarded and longlisted for a number of awards; Lambda literary award winner Calvin Gimpelevich, of Somerville, author of “Invasions”; Grace Talusan, of Medford, whose acclaimed memoir “The Body Papers” has been much awarded; bestselling author of “The Stationery Shop” Marjan Kamali, of Lexington; and Steve Almond, of Arlington, author of “Candyfreak.” The authors receive $25,000, “giving recipients the time and space to create, revise, conduct research, and connect with readers” with the goal “to encourage the production of new work and allow writers the time and means to write.”


Coming Out

Manywhereby Morgan Thomas (MCD)

Defenestrateby Renee Branum (Bloomsbury)

Perpetual Westby Mesha Maren (Algonquin)

Pick of the Week

Stef Kiper Schmidt of Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, New Hampshire, recommends “Shit Cassandra Saw” by Gwen E. Kirby (Penguin): “A fantastic collection of short stories, all about women speaking their truth in the face of, well, life in all its myriad shit. They are cheeky and funny and clever, and also biting and terrifying and heartbreaking. The last story in particular knocked me out. There may or may not be a story set in Exeter too! Great collection.”

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