Personal and political in debut collection
Cuban-born author Dariel Suarez braids the personal and the political in his honed and immediate Spokane Prize-winning debut collection of short stories, “A Kind of Solitude’’ (Willow Springs).
The characters in these stories, set in Cuba, find themselves in various sorts of binds: Two friends steal a giraffe from a zoo for high-paying American tourists; a trio of pals consider what to do with a boy named Mudface who’s killed their friend; two young men wrestle with their different versions of love and attraction. Suarez evokes the magnetic forces that pull us toward something and keep us bound; his characters think of escaping, of the boat ride to Florida, and they are tied by blood and love.
Suarez, who immigrated to the United States in 1997 with his family, got his MFA at Boston University, is director of core programs and faculty at Grub Street, and was one of the five first recipients of Boston’s artist fellowship program.
Oppressive systems and corruption appear like bad spirits in every story, as do real beating hearts, people living, fighting, fearing, loving in a place Suarez evokes with candor, humor, and strength.
The man behind the memorial
The Lincoln statue in the namesake memorial, “the most revered of America’s secular shrines,” as author Harold Holzer has it in his new book, “Monument Man: The Life & Art of Daniel Chester French’’ (Princeton Architectural), was carved by “a reserved, sometimes impenetrable professional artist . . . a crusty New Englander, a man of many accomplishments but few words” whose name most don’t know. Holzer tells the story of French, his life, his art, the depth of his passion and his work ethic. Born in New Hampshire and raised in Cambridge and Concord, French was a fervent birdwatcher in his youth and would sculpt half-boiled turnips pulled from stewpots. Besides the Lincoln piece he also created the Minute Man in Concord and John Harvard in Cambridge, among other works. Holzer will discuss French and the book on March 6 at 7 p.m. at the Concord Museum. Tickets are $5.
Bookselling Without Borders, founded in 2016, awards fellowships for booksellers across the country to attend international book fairs, long the turf of editors, agents, and publishers. The intent is to give booksellers a broader sense of what the rest of the world is reading. The 2019 scholarships were just announced, with awards going to 14 booksellers from around the country, out of more than 200 applicants. Clarissa Hadge, a manager at Trident Booksellers, was selected to head to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in April. Hadge said she was humbled to be selected, and eager to see what international markets have to offer, wanting to bring back “a variety of voices,” including writers and illustrators who are queer or people of color. And from Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., John Francesconi was selected for a residency working at Rome Otherwise Bookstore.
“The White Card’’ by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf)
“Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls’’ by T Kira Madden (Bloomsbury)
“Tsunami vs. the Fukushima 50’’ by Lee Ann Roripaugh (Milkweed)
Pick of the week
Brad Trumpfheller of Brookline Booksmith recommends “INRI’’ by Raúl Zurita, translated from the Spanish by William Rowe (NYRB/Poets): “Zurita is one of the greatest poets I know, in any language. “INRI’’ is his gorgeous, rending elegy to the people murdered by the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile and the landscape marked with their goneness.”
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Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at email@example.com.