Word on the Street

The books at Emily Dickinson’s house

A reproduction of Emily Dickinson’s white dress.
Amherst History Museum
A reproduction of Emily Dickinson’s white dress.

Emily Dickinson is the inspiration for a new young adult novel set in the poet’s hometown of Amherst. At the heart of Milton resident Kathryn Burak’s “Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things” (Roaring Brook) is Claire, a high school senior who has lost her mother and her best friend. In her grief, she turns to Dickinson’s poetry and then she does something out of character, or is it? She breaks into Dickinson’s house and takes the poet’s dress.

Dickinson aficionados know that the dress on display at Emily Dickinson’s home, one of the buildings that make up the Emily Dickinson Museum, is a reproduction. The actual dress is owned by the Amherst Historical Society.

Other Dickinson possessions didn’t stay in the house either. Over the years, many of the family’s books were donated to Harvard and Brown universities. The Dickinson house has launched Replenishing the Shelves, a project aimed at restocking the house with the titles and editions that the Dickinson family once owned.


To launch her book and raise money for Replenishing the Shelves, Burak, who earned an MFA in poetry at UMass-Amherst, will give a reading at the Dickinson house at 2 p.m. on Nov. 18. She’ll be bringing Emily Dickinson bags and buttons for a sale and raffle. “I want my book to help bring some of her books back,” she said.

‘Best American Short Stories’ event

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Jennifer Haigh and Edith Pearlman, two local writers whose work is published in this year’s edition of “The Best American Short Stories” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), will join the anthology’s guest editor, Tom Perrotta, and series editor Heidi Pitlor for a reading at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 10 at the Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge.

For a tantalizing preview of the women’s stories, check out the contributors’ notes at the back of the book. Each contributor writes about what inspired her story. For Haigh, it was “the feeling of dissonance” when she attended a lifetime achievement award ceremony and heard a friend’s life and career “summed up in retrospective fashion, as though no one had noticed that he was still very much alive.” Pearlman explains that she was inspired to do some entomological research when Orion, a nature-oriented magazine, invited her to submit a story. It was then that she learned about a moth grub, which ground up and mixed with water, is said to produce an ecstatic sleep.

Elinor Lipman and friends

Elinor Lipman may have moved from western Mass. to Manhattan but she still has tons of writer friends around these parts. In honor of her “Tweet Land of Liberty: Irreverent Rhymes from the Political Circus” (Beacon), she will be joined at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 at the Brookline Booksmith by Anita Shreve, Wally Lamb, Stephen McCauley, William Martin, Chris Castellani, Sebastian Stuart, Mameve Medwed, Suzanne Strempeck Shea, Alexandra Marshall, Michael Lowenthal, and Joan Wickersham who will perform her political tweets. Since June 2011 Lipman has been tweeting a political poem a day and she’ll continue to do so until the presidential election.

Coming out

It’s Fine By Me” by Per Petterson, translated by Don Bartlett (Graywolf)


Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand” by William J. Mann (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The John Lennon Letters” edited by Hunter Davies (Little, Brown)

Pick of the week

Karen Frank of Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt., recommends “In Sunlight and in Shadow” by Mark Helprin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): “Reading this deeply romantic and intelligent novel, set in post-World War II Manhattan, I was torn between wanting to race along the swift river of the narrative and needing to pause to drink in the luminous writing.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @JanLGardner.