Books

new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Pointing the finger at educational inequality; a Yale Younger book of poetry

Linda F. Nathan will discuss her new book on March 14 at Bridgewater State University.
Linda F. Nathan will discuss her new book on March 14 at Bridgewater State University.

Taking on education’s myths

Linda Nathan’s recently released book,When Grit Is Not Enough: A High School Principal Examines How Poverty and Inequality Thwart the College-for-All Promise’’ (Beacon), tackles prevailing myths in education in chapters with titles such as “Money Doesn’t Have To Be an Obstacle”; “Race Doesn’t Matter”; “If You Believe, Your Dreams Will Come True.”

Nathan has nearly 40 years of experience in the Boston public school system as the founding headmaster of the Boston Arts Academy and co-director of Fenway High School. She makes a strong argument against the “grit” movement, one that embraces the misleading belief that passion and perseverance can guarantee success, ignoring any possible financial, educational, or cultural barriers.

Nathan writes of systematic inequality in our schools and shows, through anecdote and data, why the reach-for-the-stars approach and the everyone-goes-to-college attitude can put students on a path toward crippling debt, academic failure, and feelings of inadequacy. She makes a case for how educators can improve college retention rates and develop higher-education alternatives without disadvantaging students based on income or race. Nathan will discuss her book on March 14 at 5 p.m. at Bridgewater State University as part of a program called #edjustice, a two-week series of events that runs March 12 through 23 exploring issues of justice and injustice in the nation’s educational system. Registration is free but required.

‘Game’ time for Doan

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The year passed quickly. In 2017 Duy Doan, Boston resident, and a graduate of BU’s MFA program, was named recipient of the highly coveted Yale Series of Younger Poets prize. This past week the torch was passed to Brooklyn poet Yanyi and his manuscript, “The Year of Blue Water.’’ The good news for Doan, however, is that his winning collection, “We Play a Game’’ (Yale), will finally be released on March 20. These are intimate, mischievous poems, alternately wry, forthright, vulnerable, winking, and sincere. Doan spars with identity and shapeshifting: “Survival instincts: I turn myself into a smaller target. Thriving instincts: I put myself into situations where my pupils dilate.” He approaches family and violence, small-scale and large, love and kissing, small-scale and large, and his experience as a Vietnamese-American. Doan will read and discuss the book, along with Tamiko Beyer, Ying-Ju Lai, and Ga Tsung Tsen, at a launch event on March 17 at 6 p.m. at East Meets West Bookstore, 934 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge.

Silver Unicorn opens in W. Acton

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Paul Swydan has long been guided by a “shop local” mentality. He’s also recently realized the importance of what it is to “read local.” Swydan, who made a career writing about baseball, switched gears recently, turning his attention to launching an independent bookstore. Silver Unicorn Books will open its doors this month in West Acton, filling a hole left by last year’s shuttering of Willow Books in Acton. The space is over 1,000 square feet, and Swydan is planning an author series, book clubs, and story hours. In deciding which books to stock, Swydan paid particular attention to authors from New England. “I’m loathe to start naming names,” he wrote in an e-mail, “because inevitably I will leave someone out, but suffice to say, that I am making a sizable local authors list and checking it twice.”

Coming out

The Gunners’’ by Rebecca Kauffman (Counterpoint)

M Archive: After the End of the World’’ by Alexis Pauline Gumbs (Duke)

Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom’’by Keisha N. Blain (University of Pennsylvania)

Pick of the week

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Zazu of the Bookloft in Great Barrington recommends A Secret History of Witches’’ by Louisa Morgan (Redhook): “Historical fiction at its absolute finest, this book follows the story of five generations of Romani women who must endure the sexism and xenophobia inherent with their family legacy and the times. Fans of “Outlander,’’ “Practical Magic,’’ and other female-empowered family sagas and historical fiction will never want to leave these deliciously absorbing pages.”

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