new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Children’s book focuses on 1st woman to run Boston Marathon; LitFest at Amherst

An illustration by Micha Archer from “Girl Running,” the story of Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.
museum of fine arts, boston
An illustration by Micha Archer from “Girl Running,” the story of Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.

A marathon trailblazer

About 50 days remain until the Boston Marathon on April 16. If the training routine has become a slog, there’s inspiration to be found in the beautiful new children’s book Girl Running’’ (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin), which tells the story of Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to run the entire Boston Marathon in 1966.

Written by Annette Bay Pimentel and beautifully illustrated by award-winning Western Massachusetts artist Micha Archer. “Girl Running’’ shows Gibb as a young girl dashing through the woods, hair flying behind her. And later, inspired by seeing the marathon, we see her going for runs in nursing shoes because there were no running sneakers for women, moving ever “faster to escape the stares.”

Boston officials deny Gibb’s application as an official competitor, so she runs anyway and was cheered along by the crowds. She comes in 124th, beating 291 of the men, but her time — and her subsequent times in the 1967 and ’68 races — weren’t entered into the record books until 1996. Women were allowed to officially compete in 1972, in thanks to Gibb’s role as mighty trailblazer.

Diaz to headline Amherst festival


Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Junot Diaz will headline the third annual Amherst College LitFest, which this year takes diversity as its theme. The celebration will run March 1-3 and feature a series of readings and conversations, starting Thursday evening at 7:30 with National Book Award finalists Carmen Maria Machado (“Her Body and Other Parties’’), Min Jin Lee (“Pachinko’’), and New York Times book critic Parul Sehgal. On Friday evening at 7:30, LitFest will hold its centerpiece event, a reading by Díaz hosted by Jennifer Acker, editor-in-chief of The Common literary magazine. The festival will continue Saturday with a discussion lead by Cullen Murphy, Vanity Fair editor-at-large, featuring National Book Award winner Masha Gessen (“The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia’’) and her brother Keith Gessen, co-founder of the literary website n+1. And things will wrap up at 3 p.m. with an appearance by Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o and poet Peter Kimani. All of these events will take place at Johnson Chapel and are free and open to the public. For a complete schedule go to

Klimt and Schiele exhibit at the MFA

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The “Klimt and Schiele: Drawn’’ exhibit opens today at the Museum of Fine Arts, marking the 100 year anniversary of the deaths of the two Austrian masters. Accompanying the exhibit is a striking new book. Bound in gold cloth, “Klimt and Schiele Drawings’’ (MFA) includes remarkable reproductions of the artists’ work. In their portraits and sketches, we are exposed to the intimacy of the line, seeing the most direct translation of brain to hand. Their figures are inviting, angular, innocent, lusting, debauched, monstrous, emaciated, expectant, despairing, weary. These are portraits of states of mind, of human conditions, as much as they are quick and fluid drawings of specific people and streets. Gustav Klimt was nearly three decades older than Egon Schiele, and their shared influence on each other is especially apparent. Assistant MFA curator Katie Hanson’s illuminating essay gives the drawings and their artists useful context for both the book and the exhibit. “Klimt and Schiele: Drawn’’ runs through May 28 at the MFA.

Coming out

Heads of the Colored People’’ by Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Atria/37 Ink)

Disoriental’’ by Négar Djavadi, translated from the French by Tina Kover (Europa)

Wade in the Water’’ by Tracy K. Smith (Graywolf)

Pick of the week


Cheri Perelli of Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, N.H., recommends Dreadnaught’’ by April Daniels (Diversion): “Danny is a transgender boy, but for a twist of dangerous luck, finds himself living his dream — in a girl’s body. And not just any girl’s body but one with super powers that make her practically invincible. However, even these new powers cannot help her stand up to her family who want their “boy” back. I became absorbed in a great story, while also glimpsing a life situation that we are all beginning to learn more about. This was a great way to do it.”

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Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at