Framingham poet wins prize for a memoir about the body
“I did not survive girlhood. I avoided it,” writes Ani Gjika in her powerful, sensual new memoir, “An Unruled Body,” winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. Gjika, a poet, translator, and teacher based in Framingham, opens herself in this intimate unfolding of a woman becoming. She writes of her childhood in post-Communist Albania, the atmosphere of violence and threat, of being raped in an alley at age 12; she writes of immigrating to Boston with her parents and younger brother, and learning English with the help of Emily Dickinson. She writes of the heady tumult of long-distance love, of a marriage that begins and ends, of moving between Boston, Thailand, India, and back to Boston, of a body and its desires and needs. Throughout, language serves as rich soil from which to grow. It is, in part, a story of sexual awakening: Gjika narrates her marriage, her fears, her experience with a sex counselor, and her own experiments and explorations with her body. And more, it’s about what it is to say instead of not, to put to words what is most difficult to express. “How do I construct a story out of silence?” she asks. The book is an answer, and one that reminds us that vulnerability is one of the highest forms of strength. Gjika, with warmth, candor, poetry, passion, and poise, shows her growing fluency with the language the body speaks, and how to listen to what it says. “There is only love on this shore,” she writes. “Love is where I am.” It’s where we all are, all the time, if we’re brave enough to remember.
A new book illuminates what it means to be a twin, and a human
“What makes a person themself rather than someone else?” asks Helen de Bres in her lively and provocative new book “How To Be Multiple: The Philosophy of Twins” (Bloomsbury). “Can one person be spread across two bodies?” De Bres, an associate professor of philosophy at Wellesley College, joins her experience as an identical twin with her background in philosophy in a series of linked personal essays, exploring what twins reveal about what it is to be human. One need not have a special interest in twinhood to find much here that lights up the mind. With warmth and smarts, and moments of fiery humor, de Bres raises questions on the nature of self — “where does the core of you reside — in your body or your mind?” — writes convincingly on twins and love, in its ideal and pathological forms; explores objectification, binarization, and free will; and details what she describes as the special freakishness of twins. “Philosophizing about twins can help unseat a crusty and constraining model of what it is to be a person,” she writes, and it’s true. De Bres offers an expansive notion of friendship, romance, family, and the blurring and blending of all three, suggesting that a fluidity and capaciousness in our sense of relations might allow us to enjoy a richer meal of life.
Mass Poetry’s annual fundraiser to be held on Monday
Mass Poetry’s annual fund-raising event, Evening of Inspired Leaders, takes its inspiration from former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky’s Favorite Poem Project in which people share their favorite poems, the ones that they return to for solace, inspiration, strength, pleasure. At the Mass Poetry fundraiser, leaders in a variety of fields read their favorite poem and talk about why it’s a touchstone. This year’s program includes Jeneé Osterheldt, host of the Globe’s “Beautiful Resistance”; Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of King Boston; Tamar Dor-Ner, office head of Bain & Company’s Boston office; April English, chief secretary to Governor Maura T. Healey; and Jill Medvedow, the Ellen Matilda Poss Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art. Funds raised at the event support Mass Poetry’s work in bringing poetry programming to thousands of people across the state. Evening of Inspired Leaders takes place Monday, November 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Huntington, 264 Huntington Ave., in Boston. Tickets are $50. For more information, visit masspoetry.org/inspiredleaders.
“Molly” by Blake Butler (Archway)
“Made of Dream” by Stephanie Borges, translated from the Portuguese by Livia Azevedo Lima (Ugly Duckling)
“Other Minds and Other Stories” by Bennett Sims (Two Dollar Radio)
Pick of the week
Tara at the Hickory Stick in Washington Depot, Conn., recommends “Swann’s War” by Michael Oren (Dzanc): “There’s a lot of drama going on in the town of Fourth Cliff, a sleepy New England fishing island. Well, sleepy until the murdered bodies of the island’s POWs start waking up the islanders. Captain Mary Beth Swann, the island’s self-appointed Chief of Police, struggles with the townspeople challenging her authority as she becomes more intimate with the town while working the murder investigations. Mystery and crime readers will love this historic WWII novel.”