New England Literary news

‘The Hole Story’ is a sweet tale

Illustrations from “The Hole Story of the Doughnut.”
Illustrations from “The Hole Story of the Doughnut.”

The making of the doughnut

If necessity is the mother of invention, imagine how great the need was in 1847 when greasy cakes of fried dough called “sinkers” dropped like cannonballs in the stomachs of sailors.

Cook’s assistant Hanson Gregory had an idea. The Maine native took the lid off a pepper can and used it to cut holes in the center of each sinker. The fully cooked “holey cakes” were a big hit, and a breakfast tradition was born.

This story is told in the new children’s picture book “The Hole Story of the Doughnut” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), written by Pat Miller and illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch.


Gregory became a ship’s captain and earned a medal for bravery from the queen of Spain, but none of his heroics endeared him to as many as his culinary feat. Gregory, who died in 1921 at the age of 89, is buried in Quincy’s Sailor’s Snug Harbor Cemetery.

What is privilege?

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In 2009, Cambridge resident Debby Irving began exploring the meaning of the privilege accorded her and all white people. That journey is the basis of her 2014 memoir, “Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race” (Elephant Room). Today she is a racial-justice educator who fosters discussions about difficult subjects related to race.

In her introduction to the new anthology “What Does It Mean to Be White in America? Breaking the White Code of Silence: A Collection of Personal Narratives” (2Leaf), she acknowledges that navigating the subject of race in America is difficult. “I am still learning that just when I think I ‘get it,’ I learn the limitations of my understanding,” she writes.

The book is edited by Gabrielle David, executive director of the Intercultural Alliance of Artists & Scholars, a New York nonprofit that promotes multicultural literacy, and Sean Frederick Forbes, who teaches English at the University of Connecticut. Among the more than 80 essays in the anthology two exemplify the importance of examining both the past and the present. Elena Harap, a cofounder of the Boston-based Streetfeet Women, played flute in a youth orchestra in Nashville in the 1950s. Immediately after the director allowed black musicians to join the orchestra, his decision was overruled. It was suggested that an all-Negro youth symphony orchestra be established for them. In an essay examining the incident, Harap wonders why it did not seriously occur to her to resign from the youth orchestra out of solidarity with her black peers.

In his essay, Abe Lateiner, an organizer of white people in support of black lives and cofounder of Port Cafe, a pop-up community cafe in Cambridge, writes:


“Today, in the time of #BlackLivesMatter, there are tens of thousands of other white people alongside me who are waking up to our racial reality, and who are showing up with their bodies and hearts in the fight to end white supremacy.

“Above all, they say remember to love, even in rage, and to remember that such love is the only way towards the new world we are fighting for.”

Coming out

 “The Unseen World” by Liz Moore (Norton)

 “Killer Look” by Linda Fairstein (Dutton)

 “Truly Madly Guilty” by Liane Moriarty (Flatiron)

Pick of the week


Alden Graves of Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt., recommends “The Heavenly Table” by Donald Ray Pollock (Doubleday): “After murdering the tyrannical owner of the land they farmed on the Georgia-Alabama border, three brothers make a desperate run for Canada and manage, along the way, to acquire national reputations as the kind of ruthless outlaws who are immortalized in dime-store novels. This is a rollicking and ribald adventure story, told in vivid, sparkling prose.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at