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new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

A mobile bookstore in Providence; Indian Americans in Bay State

Alexa Trembly and Emory Harkins with their mobile bookstore.
Alexa Trembly and Emory Harkins with their mobile bookstore.

Have books. Will travel.

The blue vintage van arrived at the end of last month from Los Angeles, having made the cross-country trip to set up shop in the Providence area. Twenty Stories, a tiny, mobile bookstore, was founded by writers Alexa Trembly and Emory Harkins. It carries multiple copies of a selection of 20 books — fiction, nonfiction, poetry — that changes monthly.

Current choices include the story collection “A Lucky Man’’ by Jamel Brinkley, the novel “There There’’ by Tommy Orange, “Tonight I’m Someone Else: Essays’’ by Chelsea Hodson, and the poetry collection “Wade in the Water’’ by Tracy K. Smith.

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Trembly and Harkins were inspired by the food-truck culture of LA and started the store “with the idea of fostering a community of writers, artists, readers, and like-minded people interested in today’s literary climate,” Harkins writes in an e-mail after a recent sweltering summer day spent selling books.

The pair plans to stick around Providence for the next year and a half, growing Twenty Stories, focusing on their writing, applying to grad school, and working to open a retail space later this year when the weather turns frosty. They’ve also got plans to take  their bookstore up and down the East Coast, to Boston, as well as possible trips to Brooklyn, and Portland, Maine. The shop, which hosts a monthly book club, also publishes an online literary magazine called Palm Leaf. “Wherever we end up,” writes Harkins, “the van will be traveling with us along the way.” For more information, visit twentystoriesla.com.

A ‘community memoir’

Meenal Atul Pandya describes her new book, Indian Americans of Massachusetts’’ (History), as a “community memoir rather than a historical document.” Pandya, who has written five books and lived in the Bay State for more than three decades, traces the rise of the Indian community here; in 1976, when she arrived in the country, there were 100,000 people from India across the whole nation. In 2017, there are over 100,000 in Massachusetts alone. Pandya explores immigration laws that forbade then permitted Indians to enter the country, and the cultural, political, and spiritual impact the population has had on its adopted homeland. She looks at the challenges Indian immigrants have faced and offers short portraits of influential Indian Americans across a swath of fields, including medicine, academics, technology, and hospitality. She writes, “No longer an underground community, the Indian American diaspora is now a visible component of the multicultural melting pot of Massachusetts.”

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Teens WRITE festival July 14

Boston playwright Fabiola R. Decius’s work aims to give voice to people on the margins, particularly, she explains “women, people of color, Christians, and adolescents.” She also runs Teens WRITE — which stands for writing, reading, and investigating theater everywhere. The program teaches teenagers how to  create and produce original plays, with presentations by guests from the Boston theater scene on all aspects of life on the stage. WRITE ends with a festival of 10-minute plays, this year on July 14, from 1-4 p.m. at Riverside Theatre Works, 45 Fairmount Ave, in Hyde Park. Young playwrights whose work will be performed include Aliya Jackson, Amiyr Ahmad, Carolyn Parker-Fairban, Decius, Shauntae Piper, Tyler Scoby, and Victoria Marcano. Tickets are free, and a conversation with the playwrights will follow the show.

Coming out

The Blurry Years’’  by Eleanor Kriseman (Two Dollar Radio)

Let Me Be Like Water’’ by S.K. Perry (Melville House)

Horsemen of the Sands’’ by Leonid Yuzefovich,  translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz (Archipelago)

Pick of the week

Geoff  at The Book Rack recommends The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero’’ (Mariner): “Thomas F. Meagher led anything but the dignified life his noble father intended for him. A poet, orator, banished revolutionary, American Civil War hero, and frontier governor, Meagher cast off the trappings of wealth and devoted himself to the welfare of the Irish across the globe, defying death at every turn.”

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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..