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New England Literary News

New England Book Awards winners announced, a variety of events at the Maine Lit Fest, and two new independent bookstores

A new independent bookstore called Possible Futures recently opened in New Haven.Possible Futures

New England Book Awards

The winners of this year’s New England Book Awards were announced recently at the annual New England Independent Booksellers Association conference. The award honors books about or set in New England or written by an author based in New England. In fiction, Morgan Talty won for his debut collection of short stories, “Night of the Living Rez” (Tin House), set in a Native community in Maine, which our critic described as “a perfect mix of funny, sad, timely, and intense.” Isaac Fitzgerald’s “introspective yet entertaining” essay collection, “Dirtbag, Massachusetts” (Bloomsbury), took the non-fiction category. Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith’s “Such Color” (Graywolf) won the poetry category. “Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story” (Charlesbridge), written by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten, and illustrated by Garry Meeches Sr., won the children’s book category. For middle grade books, Xiran Jay Zhao won for “Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor” (Margaret K. McElderry). And in the YA category, the award went to “Squire” (Quill Tree) written by Nadia Shammas and Sara Alfageeh.

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Maine Lit Fest

The Maine Lit Fest unfolds this week in Portland with a variety of readings, discussions, and events. “A Celebration of Native Writers,” with Morgan Talty, Terese Marie Mailhot, and Joan Naviyuk Kane takes place Tuesday, October 4 at 7 p.m. A virtual event on “Trans Voices, Trans Futures” takes place Wednesday evening and includes Charlie Jane Anders, Leigh Ellis, Isaac Fitzsimmons, Rylan Hynes, and Maya Williams. Lily King and Brandon Taylor will be in conversation on Thursday at 7 p.m. Rebecca Traister and Kerri Arsenault will be in conversation on Friday at 7 p.m. And Saturday’s offerings include an illustrator draw off, a bilingual story hour, discussions on writing about home from away, socioeconomic diversity in YA literature, and debut authors. Kristen Arnett, Joshua Bennett, Chelsea Conaboy, and Lynn Steger Strong gather to discuss “Parenthood: It Changes Everything” on Saturday at 1:25 pm. A conversation on “Writing the Natural World,” with Samaa Abdurraqib, Jason Anthony, Gregory Brown, Jennifer Lunden, and Kathryn Miles takes place at 2:50 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. The day finishes off with a lit crawl around the city starting at 6:30 p.m. For more information and a complete schedule, visit mainewriters.org/maine-lit-fest.

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More than just shelves for books

Two new independent bookstores have opened their doors in New England. Heartleaf Books opened recently in Providence, founded and co-owned by two sisters and former librarians. The store is a co-op, meaning it’s owned and operated by its employees and owner-members, who buy shares in the store in exchange for discounts, voting rights, and eligibility to run for the co-op’s board. And the owners see it as more than a bookstore, but as a community space and place to gather, reflecting the queer and artistic side of the city. A similar sense of the community space undergirds Possible Futures in New Haven which describes itself as “a community bookspace, a cross between a community reading room and an independent bookstore,” which curates its selection prioritizing subject matter and authors that have been underrepresented. And closer to home, independent stalwart the Brookline Booksmith has continued to expand, taking over 800 square feet to showcase their broad selection of art and design books. This expansion comes after the 4,000 square feet they added in 2020. For more information on Heartleaf Books, visit heartleafbooks.com. For more information on Possible Futures, visit possiblefuturesbooks.com.

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Coming out

The Mountain and the Seaby Ray Naylor (MCD)

Weasels in the Atticby Hiroko Oyamada, translated from the Japanese by David Boyd (New Directions)

Life Is Everywhereby Lucy Ives (Graywolf)

Pick of the week

Bonnie Atterstrom at the Brookline Booksmith recommends “Space Invaders” by Nona Fernández, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer (Graywolf): “I devoured this book — or maybe it devoured me, the way a dream slowly swallows you up. In a chorus of voices, a class of children grapple with their understanding of the Pinochet regime in Chile under which they grew up, their experiences shifting between their fallible memories, infallible dreams, and the incomplete picture they have of their world. This surreal story turns on its axis like a spiral galaxy: mesmerizing, mysterious, and unsettling in its beauty.”

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