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new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Amazon adventures, LAMBDA laureates, and local natives

Framingham author Erica Ferencik (above) traveled to the Bolivian Amazon (top) to research her new thriller “Into the Jungle.”

The jungle book

Framingham resident Erica Ferencik spent a month in the Bolivian Amazon to research her second novel, a surging thriller called “Into the Jungle ” (Scout). She wanted to see how it felt, smelled, sounded, tasted, and she translated the experience into the fetid, threatening atmosphere she creates in her book. Nineteen-year-old foster child Lily leaves Boston for Bolivia and falls for a former hunter from a distant village named Omar, who invites Lily with him into the jungle after his 4-year-old nephew is killed by a jaguar. Danger lurks, and Lily faces threats from jungle creatures (piranhas, massive snakes, tarantulas, big cats) and its human inhabitants. Like Ferencik’s first novel, The River at Night,” (Scout), "Into the Jungle" is helmed by a tenacious, resourceful woman. The book teems with a heavy-aired fecundity, giving entry to a primordial state that moves deeper into the mind as it moves deeper into the jungle. Ferencik will read and discuss the book on Thursday, June 20 at 7 p.m. at Belmont Books, and Tuesday, June 25 at 7 p.m. at the South End Library.

Local LAMBDA laurels

The LAMBDA Literary Awards celebrate the best in LGBTQ writing, honoring books and individuals across 24 categories. Boston-based poet Duy Doan won the Bisexual Poetry category for his collection We Play a Game (Yale), which won the 2017 Yale Younger Poets Prize. The poems examine family, violence, love, identity, his experience as a Vietnamese-American, and combine a wry mischief with a vulnerable sincerity. Boston-based Beacon Press published the winner in the LGBTQ Non-fiction category with Imani Perry’s Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry which explores the life of the author of A Raisin in the Sun,” and the first black female writer to have a Broadway-produced play. At the 31st annual ceremony, which took place earlier this month, Alexander Chee, Masha Gessen, and Barbara Smith were honored for their contributions to culture, public awareness, and shaping understanding of gender, class, and race.

Quill pens a native history

Ed Quill held many roles at the Boston Globe, including chief librarian, City Hall reporter, and editor of the “Ask the Globe” column. He’s also a former archivist at Boston City Hall, and his research, archival, and storytelling skills are brought to bear in his illuminating new book “When Last the Glorious Light: Lay of the Massachuset” (Silver Lake), the thorough and compelling history of the Massachuset Tribe and their collision with the land-hungry Pilgrims and Puritans. Quill details how a peaceful relationship turned violent, and the ways the Massachuset tribe was oppressed, segregated, and killed. He also calls attention to their culture, customs, and legends. Nearly 90 percent of the 12,000-member tribe was killed by European-brought plague, and Quill offers a history that serves as a lament and act of honoring. He’ll be discussing the book Sunday at 2 p.m. at the William Clapp House, 195 Boston St., Dorchester.


Coming Out

Travelers by Helon Habila (W.W. Norton)


Robert Schumann Is Mad Again by Norman Dubie (Copper Canyon)

The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung (Ecco)

Pick of the Week

Jim Gocha of Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire, recommends “Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World ” by Maryanne Wolfe (Harper): “‘Reader, Come Home’ is for anyone who cares about the future: teachers, parents, politicians, or any type of policymaker. The basic premise is that reading predominantly from screens has deleterious effects on a person's brain, and, by extension, affects thoughts and actions. Wolfe leaves a path open to allow for a course correction before it's too late.”

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