new england literary news | Nina Maclaughlin

A big boost for Ciera Burch, and a new leaf for Copper Dog Books

“Yvonne,” by Ciera Burch, has been chosen for this year’s One City One Story program.
“Yvonne,” by Ciera Burch, has been chosen for this year’s One City One Story program.

Spreading the story

The Boston Book Festival recently announced its ninth annual selection for its One City One Story program, which places a single short story in a number of locations around the city in both English and Spanish. This year’s selection is “Yvonne” by Ciera Burch, a bookseller at Trident Booksellers who’s getting her MFA in creative writing at Emerson, and, at 23, is the youngest author to be selected by the program (which has also included stories by master short story writer Kelly Link as well as Tom Perrotta, and Richard Russo). “Yvonne” tells the story of Celeste, given up for adoption, who tracks down her biological grandmother Yvonne, now in a nursing home, “scornful, tiny Yvonne with the mouth of a trucker, full of teeth despite her age.” It looks at Celeste’s search for answers about her history, and how the two women, in different ways, fill deep needs in the other. The Boston Book Festival, which takes place October 18-20 in Boston and Roxbury, will distribute 30,000 copies of the story starting in September at local libraries and bookstores, as well as farmers markets and MBTA stations, and during the festival Alicia Anstead will host a discussion of the story with Burch.



Two veterans of the bookstore and literary scenes, Julie Karaganis and Meg Wasmer, recently bought Cabot Street Books in Beverly from John Hugo, who owns the North Shore bookstore mini-empire of Spirit of ’76 in Marblehead, the Andover Bookstore, and the Book Rack in Newburyport. The duo will re-name the 1200-square-foot space Copper Dog Books. Wasmer has been manager of the store since 2016, has worked in bookstores for nearly 15 years, and has served on the Advisory Council of the New England Independent Booksellers Association. Karaganis has been slinging books at Cabot for the past two years after exiting management consulting, and both she and Wasmer had stints at the Borders in Peabody. As for changes to come, they want to sell more work by local artists, refurbish and redesign the space, and enhance the existing inventory. They’ve set up an Indiegogo campaign with a goal of $15,000 to go towards legal fees, branding, inventory, and space redesign. The pair is thrilled about taking over, “and the pressure we feel to exceed our own expectations is seriously strong,” they write.


Body talk

Tess Brown-Lavoie is a Providence-based poet (and president of the National Young Farmers Coalition), and her excellent, intimate new collection “Lite Year,” out as part of the Fence Modern Poets Series, is poetry of the body and the languages of the body. She’s as concerned with the crocus and the pig in slop as she is with the right-nowness of how we communicate with those we love. I would not describe her as a nature poet, though she has made the e-mail inbox biological, and her pilot-light lines glow with the erotics of exchange – in an e-mail message, in a shared bed, in a bed alone. “From your writing, I know something of your breakfast recipe, your subway way, your worry scape, and probably even your intimate style, to be lewd/direct.” She writes of moments of unintentional violence — a splinter in the eye, a dog chewing a boy’s arm — and she’s especially muscular when trafficking in loneliness and solitude: “Toot along sweet demon. My whole horn section is the lack of you.” Alcoholism runs as undercurrent, and she looks for the place where humiliation edges against ecstasy, mixing earthy wisdom with unexpected profane beauty – as when she writes of the “skid marks across the very panties of time.”


Coming Out

“Coventry: Essays” by Rachel Cusk (FSG)

“The Warlow Experiment” by Alix Nathan (Doubleday)

“How To Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi

Pick of the Week

Betty Sudarsky at Wellesley Books recommends “A Terrible Country” by Keith Gessen: “What could go wrong when Andrei Kaplan leaves an inhospitable New York academic scene and heads to his native Moscow to look after his aging grandmother? The Internet he relies on to teach his PMOOC courses is iffy, his grandmother occasionally can't remember who he is, and his money is quickly running out due to enormous Russian inflation. With ingenuity, dogged determination, and self-effacing humor, Andrei creates a life for himself. And when spring arrives and Russia opens itself to him, the narrative soars. Gessen has written a must read; don't miss it.”

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