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Highlights of Boston Book Festival; a memoir of a difficult youth in form of a glossary

Esther Perel (left) talked with WBUR’s Robin Young at last year’s Boston Book Festival.Mike Ritter

Boston Book Fest marks 10 years

The Boston Book Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary Oct. 13, lighting up Copley Square with dozens of literary luminaries in a diverse line-up of readings and discussions.

Michael Pollan (How to Change Your Mind’’)  will talk about the therapeutic possibilities of hallucinogens in his kick-off keynote with public radio’s Meghna Chakrabarti. The fiction keynote will pair Tayari Jones (An American Marriage’’) with Christopher Castellani (Leading Men’’). The public-affairs main event features Anand Giridharadas (Winners Take All’’) and WBUR’s Christopher Lydon. The humanities centerpiece is Steven Pinker (Enlightenment Now’’) with WBUR’s Robin Young. Novelists Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, who co-wrote What If It’s Us,’’ will chat with Shady Hill School’s Kim Parker in the YA event. And Kate DiCamillo (Louisiana’s Way Home’’) will discuss her work with Simmons University’s Lauren Rizzuto in the kids keynote.


Some other boldface names who will present include Walter Isaacson (Leonardo Da Vinci’’), Howard Bryant (The Heritage’’), and Justine Bateman (Fame’’).

Among the local notables will be Andre Dubus III (Gone So Long’’), Gish Jen (The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap’’), and Laura van den Berg (The Third Hotel’’),  poets Martín Espada (Vivas to Those Who Have Failed’’) and Shauna Barbosa (Cape Verdean Blues’’), to name just a few.

There will be panels on racism, feminist historical fiction, love and trauma, queering the canon, fiction between cultures, and a ton more. The MIT Press will hold a pitch fest, described as “Shark Tank meets publishing.” And there will be satellite events in East Boston and, for the first time, in Roxbury.

For a complete schedule go to Events are free.

A different kind of language

Brookline author Kim Adrian’s new memoir, The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet ’’ (University of Nebraska), is presented in the form of a glossary. She details, with precision, sensitivity, and lyricism, the specialized language of a childhood and adulthood with an alcoholic father and a mother with a catalog of emotional problems. The form imposes a semblance of order, is an attempt at understanding, and blazes with harrowing moments (the three-year-old Adrian seeing her mother’s first suicide attempt, “the blood, the razor blade”; the incest and physical abuse her mother suffered; the lifelong tug and push between daughter and mother). The book is an intimate and searching accumulation of the moments, tender and brutal, that heap together and create a life.


BPL names new writer-in-residence

The Boston Public Library has named Jorge Vega of Brockton to be its 2018-2019 writer-in-residence. The fellowship supports emerging writers as they complete a work for children or young adults. As part of the nine-month program, Vega will receive a $20,000 stipend, office space at the library, and a chance to present his work at a reading. Vega’s book project, “Bottled,’’ involves a middle schooler named Olivia and a genie called Amani who’s trying not to get crammed back into a bottle. Vega works as director of information and instructional technology at Prospect Hill Academy in Cambridge and has published some graphic novels.

Coming out

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life’’ by Jane Sherron de Hart (Knopf)

Friday Black’’ by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Mariner)

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves’’ edited by Glory Edim (Ballantine)

Pick of the week

Jim at the Brown Bookstore in Providence recommends The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound’’ by Daniel Swift (Farrar, Straus and Giroux): “Daniel Swift presents the stories of those people who came to visit ‘Uncle Ez’ while he was institutionalized, using their own accounts (letters, diaries, and poetry) to paint all the conflicting stories as equally as possible. The book is short and yet filled with wonderful storied and critiques of one of the most divisive American writers of his era.”


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