(Scroll down for past presenters.)
Spring Salon: Thursday, July 8, 2021, 7:30 pm
Spotlight on “Small Towns”
Chip Cheek is the author of the bestselling novel Cape May, which received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, was an American Booksellers Association Indie Next pick and Indies Introduce selection, and has been published in six languages. His stories have appeared in The Southern Review, Harvard Review, Washington Square, and other journals and anthologies, and he has been awarded fellowships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Tin House Summer Workshop, and the Vermont Studio Center. He lives with his wife and daughter in Redondo Beach, California, where he is at work on his second novel.
Cape May is a raw, provocative portrayal of a young 1950s couple on the cusp of a sexual awakening, and the temptations that upturn their honeymoon and reshape their marriage.Arriving for their honeymoon in Cape May, New Jersey, during the off-season, Henry and Effie are startled to find the beach town deserted. Feeling shy of each other and isolated, they decide to cut the trip short. But before they leave, they meet a glamorous set of people who sweep them up into their drama: Clara, a beautiful socialite; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara’s lover; and Alma, Max’s aloof and mysterious half-sister, to whom Henry is irresistibly drawn.The empty beach town becomes their playground, and as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink a great deal of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences.Seductive and moving, this is a novel about marriage, love, sexuality, and the ways in which desire can reverberate endlessly through our lives.
Jennifer Dupee’s debut novel, The Little French Bridal Shop, was chosen as Good Housekeeping magazine’s April 2021 Book of the Month. She is a graduate of Brown University, where she received her honors in Creative Writing. She is an active member of the Grub Street writing community in Boston and has published in The Feminist Press. She was a semi-finalist for the 2016 James Jones First Novel Competition and a semi-finalist for the 2016 Faulkner-Wisdom competition. Jennifer lives in a historic house just outside of Boston with her family and is currently at work on her next two novels.
Is a lie of omission still a lie? Larisa Pearl didn’t think so and it got her into a heap of trouble. When Larisa Pearl returns to her small seaside hometown in Massachusetts to manage her beloved great aunt’s estate, she’s a bit of an emotional mess. She’s just lost her job and her boyfriend and she’s struggling to cope with her mother’s failing health. When she passes by the window of The Little French Bridal Shop, a beautiful ivory satin wedding gown catches her eye…Now, to the delight of everyone in town, Larisa is planning her wedding. She has her dress, made floral arrangements, and set the date. The only thing missing is the groom. How did this happen? All she did was try on a dress and let her fantasy take flight. But word about her upcoming nuptials has reached the ears of Jack Merrill. As teenagers, they spent time together on her great aunt’s estate, building a friendship that could have become something more had they chosen different paths.Lost in a web of her own lies, Larisa must first face some difficult truths, including her mother’s fragile future, before she can embrace her family, straighten out her life, and open her heart to finding love.
Calvin Hennick’s debut memoir, Once More to the Rodeo, received the Pushcart Press Editors’ Book Award and was named one of the 100 Best Books of the Year by Amazon. A journalist by training, he has written for dozens of publications including The Boston Globe, Esquire, and Runner’s World, and has published fiction and essays in outlets including Bellevue Literary Review, Baltimore Review, and The Drum. Recently, he has funded his creative writing habit largely through corporate work, authoring white papers and blog posts for Fortune 500 companies, while also occasionally finagling fun travel assignments that have taken him to places like Italy, Costa Rica, Barbados, Antigua, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. He lives outside of Boston with his wife and two young children.
Five years into fatherhood, Calvin Hennick is plagued by self-doubt and full of questions. How can he teach his son to be a man, when his own father figures abandoned him? As a white man, what can he possibly teach his biracial son about how to live as a black man in America? And what does it even mean to be a man today, when society’s expectations of men seem to change from moment to moment?In search of answers, Calvin takes his young son on the road, traveling across the country to the annual rodeo in his small Iowa hometown. Along the way, a stop at the Baseball Hall of Fame turns into an impromptu lesson about racism and segregation. In Niagara Falls, a day of arcade games and go-karts unexpectedly morphs into a titanic struggle between father and son. A stop in Chicago rips the scars off of old wounds. And back in Iowa, Calvin is forced to confront the most difficult question of all: What if his flaws and family history doom him to repeat the mistakes of the past?In this unforgettable debut memoir, Calvin Hennick holds a mirror up to both himself and modern America, in an urgent and timely story that all parents, and indeed all Americans, need to read.
Spring Salon 2021
“Books inspired by… Books”
Kim Adrian is the author of two books of lyric criticism: Dear Knausgaard (part of a series that aims to “reinvent literary criticism”) and Sock (a Bloomsbury Object Lessons book). Her 2018 memoir, The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet, uses the form of a glossary to tell the story of her mother’s mental illness. It is part of University of Nebraska’s American Lives Series, edited by Tobias Wolff, and is a Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist. Kim is the editor of The Shell Game: Writers Play with Borrowed Forms, an anthology of lyric essays that a review in The Millions praised as providing “a sense of hope about literature and its capacity for evolution and change.” She is the creator of Write On, a free monthly newsletter for writers.
In a series of warm and often funny letters, Kim Adrian delivers a compelling feminist critique of the 6-volume autobiographical novel My Struggle, by Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard. Adrian’s book of twenty-five letters begins as a witty and entertaining response to a seminal work and transforms into a fierce and powerful interrogation of the darker social and cultural forces informing Knausgaard’s project. Through an examination of the curious operations of intimacy demanded on both sides of the page by all great literature, Dear Knausgaard ultimately provides a heartfelt celebration of the act of reading itself.
Michael Blanding is a Boston-based investigative journalist, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, WIRED, Slate, The Boston Globe, Boston magazine, and other publications. He is author of The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps (2014), which was a New York Times bestseller and an NPR Book of the Year, and North by Shakespeare: A Rogue Scholar’s Quest for the Truth Behind the Bard’s Work (2021).
North by Shakespeare presents the twinning narratives of rogue scholar Dennis McCarthy, and Sir Thomas North, an Elizabethan courtier whom McCarthy believes to be the undiscovered source for Shakespeare’s plays. Using plagiarism software, McCarthy has found direct links between Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and other plays and Thomas North’s published and unpublished writings–as well as Shakespearean plotlines seemingly lifted straight from North’s colorful life. North by Shakespeare alternates between the dramatic life of Thomas North, the intrigues of the Tudor court, and academic outsider Dennis McCarthy’s attempts to air his provocative ideas in the clubby world of Shakespearean scholarship. Through it all, Blanding employs his keen journalistic eye to craft a highly readable drama, up-ending our understanding of the beloved playwright and his “singular genius.”
Alden Jones is the author, most recently, of the hybrid memoir The Wanting Was a Wilderness. Her story collection, Unaccompanied Minors, won the New American Fiction Prize and was a finalist for a Publishing Triangle Award and a Lambda Literary Award, and her memoir The Blind Masseuse was named a notable travel book by National Geographic, Publishers Weekly, PEN America, and the Huffington Post. Her stories and essays have appeared in New York Magazine, Agni, Prairie Schooner, the Iowa Review, The Rumpus, and the Best American Travel Writing. She is core faculty in the Newport MFA, and also teaches creative writing and cultural studies at Emerson College in Boston.
Alden Jones began a deep dive into Cheryl Strayed’s Wild to answer a question: How did Cheryl Strayed take material that is not inherently dramatic―hiking―and transform it into an inspirational memoir, beloved to so many? The answer would be revealed in Jones’s craft analysis, and ultimately in Jones’s memoir of her own time in the wilderness, written alongside her exploration of Wild. But when a sudden personal crisis occurs in the middle of writing the book, Jones realizes that an authentic account of her history requires confronting some difficult truths, both in her life and on the page. The result is a profoundly original work that merges literary criticism, craft discussion, and memoir―a celebration of Wild, of memoir, and of the power of a book to change one’s life.
Winter Salon 2021
E. Dolores Johnson is the author of the award-winning Say I’m Dead, A Family Memoir of Race, Secrets and Love and essays on mixed race, racism and identity in Narratively, the Buffalo News, Hippocampus, Pangyrus and others. Johnson also consulted on diversity with colleges, corporations and non-profits. A graduate of Howard University and Harvard Business School, Johnson is a former executive who directed the digitization of John F. Kennedy’s papers at his Presidential Library.
25 years before the Supreme Court overturned anti-race mixing laws, Black Charles and white Ella fled such a law in Indiana, a Klan culture and a double lynching. Ella staged her own disappearance, evaded a police and FBI search, and married Charles in Buffalo, where they lived in hiding for 36 years. Until their adult daughter questioned who and where their white family were.
Her roots journey moves through the evolution of American race-mixing from a plantation rape to her parents’ Jim Crow marriage, to the discovery of the missing branch on her family tree – and in her own identity.
Steven Lee Beeber is the author of The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s: A Secret History of Jewish Punk (Chicago Review Press), the editor of AWAKE! A Reader for the Sleepless (Soft Skull Press) and the associate editor of the literary journal Conduit. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, Harper’s, The New York Times and elsewhere. He has an MFA in Fiction from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and teaches creative writing and creative nonfiction at Lesley University and GrubStreet.
Based in part on the recent interviews with more than 125 people—among them Tommy Ramone, Chris Stein (Blondie), Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith Group), Hilly Kristal (CBGBs owner), and John Zorn—this book focuses on punk’s beginnings in New York City to show that punk was the most Jewish of rock movements, in both makeup and attitude. As it originated in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the early 1970s, punk rock was the apotheosis of a Jewish cultural tradition that found its ultimate expression in the generation born after the Holocaust. Beginning with Lenny Bruce, “the patron saint of punk,” and following pre-punk progenitors such as Lou Reed, Jonathan Richman, Suicide, and the Dictators, this fascinating mixture of biography, cultural studies, and musical analysis delves into the lives of these and other Jewish punks—including Richard Hell and Joey Ramone—to create a fascinating historical overview of the scene. Reflecting the irony, romanticism, and, above all, the humor of the Jewish experience, this tale of changing Jewish identity in America reveals the conscious and unconscious forces that drove New York Jewish rockers to reinvent themselves—and popular music.
Carol Newman Cronin is an award-winning author, editor, and Olympian. She’s written fiction since childhood, and all her stories share three common elements: a coastal setting, boats, and a happy ending. In 2004, she crowned a lifetime of competitive achievement by winning two races for the USA at the Olympics in Athens—the homework needed to finish her third novel. Her weekly blog Where Books Meet Boats attracts a wide range of readers, and she also writes award-winning content for the marine industry.
“When I was 38, I traveled from the United States to India, to find my mother dying at the hands of her sister. I had spent my whole life running away from my mother’s mental illness and abuse, but when I found out she needed help, I knew I had to save her.
Loner James Malloy is a ferry captain—or used to be, until he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by Courtney Farris. Now, instead of piloting Brenton Island’s daily lifeline to the glitzy docks of Newport, Rhode Island, James spends his days beached, bitter, and bored.
When he discovers a private golf course staked out across wilderness sacred to his dying best friend, a Narragansett Indian, James is determined to stop such “improvements.” But despite Brenton’s nickname as “Cooperation Island,” he’s used to working solo. To keep rocky bluffs, historic trees, and ocean shoreline open to all, he’ll have to learn to work with other islanders—including Captain Courtney, who might just morph from irritant to irresistible once James learns a secret that’s been kept from him for years.
This salt-sprayed fourth novel by 2004 Olympic Sailor Carol Newman Cronin celebrates wilderness and water, open space and open-mindedness, and the redemptive power of neighborly cooperation.
Fall Salon 2020
“Women who flip the script”
Allison Adair’s debut collection, The Clearing, was selected by Henri Cole for Milkweed’s Max Ritvo Poetry Prize and named a New York Times “New and Noteworthy” book. Allison’s poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Arts & Letters, Best American Poetry, Kenyon Review, Waxwing, and ZYZZYVA; and have been honored with the Pushcart Prize, the Florida Review Editors’ Award, and the Orlando Prize. Originally from central Pennsylvania, Allison now lives with her family in the Boston area, where she teaches at Boston College and Grub Street.
Winner of the 2020 Max Ritvo Poetry Prize, The Clearing is “a lush, lyrical book about a world where women are meant to carry things to safety and men leave decisively” (Henri Cole).
Luminous and electric from the first line to the last, Allison Adair’s debut collection navigates the ever-shifting poles of violence and vulnerability with a singular incisiveness and a rich imagination. The women in these poems live in places that have been excavated for gold and precious ores, and they understand the nature of being hollowed out. From the midst of the Civil War to our current era, Adair charts fairy tales that are painfully familiar, never forgetting that violence is often accompanied by tenderness. Here we wonder, “What if this time instead of crumbs the girl drops / teeth, her own, what else does she have”?
The Clearing knows the dirt beneath our nails, both alone and as a country, and pries it gently loose until we remember something of who we are, “from before…from a similar injury or kiss.”
Nina MacLaughlin is the author of Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung, a re-telling of Ovid’s Metamorphoses told from the perspective of the female figures transformed, published by FSG/FSG Originals in November, 2019. Her first book was the acclaimed memoir Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter. Formerly an editor at the Boston Phoenix, she worked for nine years as a carpenter, and is now a books columnist for the Boston Globe. Her work has appeared on or in The Paris Review Daily, The Believer, American Short Fiction, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Wall Street Journal, Meatpaper, and elsewhere. She carves spoons and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
I am the home of this story. After thousands of years of other people’s tellings, of all these different bridges, of words gotten wrong, I’ll tell it myself.
Seductresses and she-monsters, nymphs and demi-goddesses, populate the famous myths of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. But what happens when the story of the chase comes in the voice of the woman fleeing her rape? When the beloved coolly returns the seducer’s gaze? When tales of monstrous transfiguration are sung by those transformed? In voices both mythic and modern, Wake, Siren revisits each account of love, loss, rape, revenge, and change. It lays bare the violence that undergirds and lurks in the heart of Ovid’s narratives, stories that helped build and perpetuate the distorted portrayal of women across centuries of art and literature.
Drawing on the rhythms of epic poetry and alt rock, of everyday speech and folk song, of fireside whisperings and therapy sessions, Nina MacLaughlin, the acclaimed author of Hammer Head, recovers what is lost when the stories of women are told and translated by men. She breathes new life into these fraught and well-loved myths.
Rani Neutill has taught ethnic American and postcolonial literature at Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins University among other institutions. She currently teaches classes in memoir at GrubStreet in Boston, creative writing and literature at Emerson College, and writing at Curry College. Her work has appeared in The NewYork Times Book Review, ELLE.com, AlJazeera English, Refinery29, Catapult, Longreads and The Rumpus. She has been nominated for two Pushcarts for her work in Redivider and Longreads. She is working on a transnational memoir titled do you love me? about fractured identity and her relationship with her mentally ill Bengali immigrant mother and is represented by Erin Harris at Folio Literary Management.
“When I was 38, I traveled from the United States to India, to find my mother dying at the hands of her sister. I had spent my whole life running away from my mother’s mental illness and abuse, but when I found out she needed help, I knew I had to save her.
My mother immigrated to the United States from India and married my white father when she was twenty-eight and he was fifty. He died two years later. My childhood was filled with journeys to visit astrologers in India and visits to see my grandmother in Calcutta. My younger memories are ones of traversing continents for weeks at a time, missing school so my mother could seek the answers to our future.
My mother’s paranoid mind was plagued with voices and she was possessed with rage and violence that she often inflicted upon me. When I was twelve, she left me in India to live with my grandmother. There, I was sexually assaulted, and learned first-hand the gendered constraints that are placed on women. I later would come to understand how the same gendered and sexualized constraints I experienced in India, exist in the United States.
I also learned about the extreme silence that exists around mental illness in India. As I grew older, I tried to speak to my mother about her mental condition but she refused to talk about it.
I became a professor and taught postcolonial literature at Harvard and Yale. My career was rooted in a desire to understand my family and the forces that produced them. Ironically, I could only examine them at a distance, through the professional world of academia. It was only when I returned to India to save and confront my mother that I finally began to understand the legacy of violence, mental illness, and love that had shaped her life—and mine. This history of trauma passed down scars that crossed cultures, oceans, and racial lines.
do you love me? explores this legacy through the lens of culture, colonialism and inherited trauma. It is a memoir about my life and my mother’s that allows me to speak of a past and give hope to a future where such traumas can be spoken of and not silenced. do you love me? is a memoir in progress; sign up for the newsletter to be notified when it is available.”
Bonus Summer Salon: August 2020
Jabari Asim is the author of seven books for adults — including Stop and Frisk — and 11 books for children. His poems are included in several anthologies, including Furious Flower: African American Poetry from the Black Arts Movement to the Present; Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century; and Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature & Art. He directs the MFA program in creative writing at Emerson College.
In Stop and Frisk, Jabari Asim ruthlessly interrogates entrenched injustice and its insidious echoes. Part rap sheet, part concept album, Asim lays down tracks that add conviction to our collective broken record: What could be more American than pretending truths were self-evident when they seldom were? Drawing defiant inspiration from the news and the Blues, these poems arrest our attention and burn grooves into us. These starkly revelatory poems expose the dark heart of our nation and call for a reckoning-the only way out before everything breaks / into hurt, noise, and ever after.
Jennifer De Leon is the author of Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From (forthcoming from Atheneum/Simon & Schuster on August 18, 2020) and the editor of Wise Latinas (University of Nebraska Press). An Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Framingham State University, and a GrubStreet instructor and board member, she has published prose in over a dozen literary journals, including Ploughshares, Iowa Review, and Michigan Quarterly Review. Her essay collection, White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, & Writing, will be published by UMass Press in Spring 2021. She lives in Southborough with her husband, author Adam Stumacher, and their two young sons.
Liliana Cruz is a hitting a wall—or rather, walls. There’s the wall her mom has put up ever since Liliana’s dad left—again. There’s the wall that delineates Liliana’s diverse inner-city Boston neighborhood from Westburg, the wealthy—and white—suburban high school she’s just been accepted into. And there’s the wall Liliana creates within herself, because to survive at Westburg, she can’t just lighten up, she has to whiten up.
So what if she changes her name? So what if she changes the way she talks? So what if she’s seeing her neighborhood in a different way? But then light is shed on some hard truths: It isn’t that her father doesn’t want to come home—he can’t…and her whole family is in jeopardy. And when racial tensions at school reach a fever pitch, the walls that divide feel insurmountable.
But a wall isn’t always a barrier. It can be a foundation for something better. And Liliana must choose: Use this foundation as a platform to speak her truth, or risk crumbling under its weight.
Rishi Reddi was born in Hyderabad, India, and lived in Great Britain and several regions of the United States before attending Swarthmore College and Northeastern University School of Law. She has worked as an environmental lawyer for state and federal government for more than twenty-five years and served on the boards of Grub Street, Boston’s creative writing center, and SAALT, a national nonpartisan organization that represents the South Asian-American community. She has also served as the Massachusetts legislative liaison for Amnesty International USA. Her first book, Karma and Other Stories, was the winner of the 2008 PEN New England / L.L. Winship prize for fiction. Her essays and translations have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Asian American Literary Review, and the Partisan Review and she has received grants and fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the U.S. Department of State, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. She lives in Cambridge, MA.
1914: Ram Singh arrives in the Imperial Valley on the Mexican border, reluctantly accepting his friend Karak&;s offer of work and partnership in a small cantaloupe farm. Ram is unmoored; fleeing violence in Oregon, he desperately longs to return to his wife and newborn son in Punjab&;but he is duty bound to make his fortune first.
In the Valley, American settlement is still new and the rules are ever shifting. Alongside Karak; Jivan and his wife, Kishen; and Amarjeet, a U.S. soldier, Ram struggles to farm in the unforgiving desert. When he meets an alluring woman who has fought in Mexico&;s revolution, he strives to stay true to his wife. The Valley is full of settlers hailing from other cities and different continents. The stakes are high and times are desperate&;just one bad harvest or stolen crop could destabilize a family. And as anti- immigrant sentiment rises among white residents, the tensions of life in the west finally boil over.
Summer Salon: July 2020
“Words and Music”
U-Meleni Mhlaba-Adebo (@UMeleni) is a Zimbabwean American performance artist, singer, poet, story teller, athlete and educator. Her work explores the complexity of hyphenated identity. Her debut poetry collection Soul Psalms published by She Writes Press was described by David Updike as “written in a fearless female voice.” She is featured with Yo Yo Ma, David Ortiz in #StandsWithImmigrants , a series of large scale Boston portraits, projected onto Boston’s urban landscape highlighting the critical role that immigrants play.
Soul Psalms, a collection of poems from Zimbabwean American poet U-Meleni Mhlaba-Adebo, is filled with lyrical and vivid imagery that takes you on a emotional journey toward finding self. Exploring themes of family, love, body image, acceptance, and belonging, Mhlaba-Adebo’s words flow melodically and powerfully, bringing readers to a place of peace. The themes in Soul Psalms may be personal, but they appeal to a universal pull: the desire to become.
Erin Eileen Almond is originally from East Hartford, CT, and attended the Hartford Conservatory. Her short stories, essays, and reviews have been published in The Boston Globe, Colorado Review, Normal School, on Cognoscenti.com, and The Rumpus.net. She is a graduate of the UC-Irvine MFA program and Wesleyan University, a long-time member of Boston’s Grub Street, and a recipient of a St. Botolph Foundation Emerging Artists Grant. Erin currently lives in Arlington with her husband, Steve, and their three children. Witches’ Dance is her first novel.
Witches’ Dance tells the story of a violinist who believes he’s the reincarnation of Paganini and the complicated relationship he develops with the reluctant teenage prodigy who becomes his student. It’s also about maternal ambivalence, the beauty of classical music, the virtuosity of heavy metal guitar, and how the line between fantasy and reality is never blurrier than when we’re in love.
Janet Pocorobba received her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley in June 2006 and is now an Associate Professor of nonfiction in the program and its Associate Director. A former writer and contributing editor at Metropolis magazine in Tokyo, Japan, her memoirs, essays and reviews have appeared in Post Road, River Teeth, The Rumpus, Harvard Review, The Writer, Kyoto Journal, and other publications. Her memoir, The Fourth String: A Memoir of Sensei and Me, was published by Stone Bridge Press in March 2019.
The word sensei in Japanese literally means “one who came before,” but that’s not what Janet Pocorobba’s teacher wanted to be called. She used her first name, Western-style. She wore a velour Beatles cap and leather jacket, and she taught foreigners, in English, the three-stringed shamisen, an instrument that fell out of tune as soon as you started to play it. Vexed by the music and Sensei’s mission to upend an elite musical system, Pocorobba, on the cusp of thirty, gives up her return ticket home to become a lifelong student of her teacher. She is eventually featured in Japan Cosmo as one of the most accomplished gaijin, “outside people,” to play the instrument.
Part memoir, part biography of her Sensei, The Fourth String looks back on the initial few years of that apprenticeship, one that Janet’s own female English students advised her was “wife training,” steeped in obedience, loyalty, and duty. Even with her maverick teacher, Janet is challenged by group hierarchies, obscure traditions, and the tricky spaces of silence in Japanese life. Anmoku ryokai, Sensei says to explain: “We have to understand without saying.” By the time Janet finds out this life might not be for her, she is more at home in the music than the Japanese will allow.
For anyone who has had a special teacher, or has lost themselves in another world, Janet Pocorobba asks questions about culture, learning, tradition, and self.
Winter Salon: January 2020
“Stories of Turmoil and Grit”
Catherine Guthrie, author of FLAT: Reclaiming My Body From Breast Cancer, is an award-winning women’s health journalist. For the past twenty years, her reporting, essays, and criticism have appeared in dozens of national magazines including Time; O, The Oprah Magazine, Slate; Cosmopolitan; Prevention; and Yoga Journal. She has faced breast cancer twice. She lives in Somerville’s Davis Square.
As a young, queer woman, Catherine Guthrie had worked hard to feel at home in her body. However, after years writing about women’s health and breast cancer, Guthrie is thrust into the role of the patient after a devastating diagnosis at age thirty-eight. At least, she thinks, I know how to fight this.
She was wrong. In one horrifying moment after another, everything that could go wrong does—the surgeon gives her a double mastectomy but misses the cancerous lump, one of the most effective drug treatments fails, and a doctor’s error unleashes millions of breast cancer cells into her body.
Flat is Guthrie’s story of how two bouts of breast cancer shook her faith in her body, her relationship, and medicine. Along the way, she challenges the view that breasts are essential to femininity and paramount to a woman’s happiness. Along the way, she traces an intimate portrayal of how cancer reshapes her relationship with her partner, Mary, revealing the book’s core as a love story.
Filled with candor, vulnerability, and resilience, Guthrie upends the “pink ribbon” narrative in unconventional ways and offers up a unique perspective on womanhood, what it means to be “whole,” and the importance of women advocating for their desires. Flat is a story of how she lost, then found the courage to listen to her body.
Glenn Koenig has always been an “outside the box” thinker. This left him at odds with academia from an early age, but he finally earned a B.A. from Goddard College in 1975.
Back in 2001, Glenn began a deep personal investigation of his own sexuality and gender identity. After thinking he might be transgender, he eventually discovered his “two spirit” nature. He now identifies as a gender queer person in a male body (and uses he/him pronouns).
His first book, “a man wearing a dress,” was published in 2017. Recently, he developed a series of workshops to promote self-acceptance for everyone.
This is the story of one man as he makes his way through life and eventually starts to question his gender identity. Along the way, he reflects on today’s world of rapid and profound change, why we’re enduring stressful times, and where he thinks we’re headed (hint: he’s an optimist, and tells you why!). Finally, he suggests that we heal the damage caused by sexism and racism by abandoning blame and instead working toward mutual understanding, support, and love.
All this is expressed as a series of essays, some poetry, and a few illustrations. Each essay may be read alone or all together as a whole. The author’s writing style is direct, personal, vulnerable, and yet with a sense of humor that can sneak up on you.
Sandra A. Miller is the author of the memoir TROVE: A WOMAN’S SEARCH FOR TRUTH AND BURIED TREASURE. She has contributed to more than 100 publications, including The Boston Globe Magazine, for which she is a regular correspondent. One of her essays was turned into a short film called “Wait,” directed by Trudie Styler and starring Kerry Washington. She currently teaches English at the University of Massachusetts and lives in Arlington with her husband and two children.
Trove is the story of a woman whose life is upended when she begins an armchair treasure hunt―a search for $10,000 worth of gold coins buried in New York City, of all places―with a man who, as she points out, is not her husband. In this eloquent, hilarious, sharply realized memoir, Sandra A. Miller grapples with the regret and confusion that so often accompanies middle age, and the shame of craving something more when she has so much already.
In a very real way, Miller has spent her life hunting for buried treasure. As a child, she trained herself to find things: dropped hair clips, shiny bits of broken glass, discarded lighters. Looking to escape from her volatile parents and often-unhappy childhood, Miller found deeper meaning, and a good deal of hope, in each of these objects.
Now an adult and facing the loss of her last living parent―her mother who is at once cold, difficult, and wildly funny―Miller finds herself, as she so often did as a little girl, pressed against a wall of her own longing. Her search for gold, which soon becomes an obsession, forces her to dredge up painful pieces of her past, confront the true source of her sorrow, and finally discover what it is she has been looking for all these years.
Fall Salon: October 2019
“RISKING IT ALL”
Susan Kaplan Carlton currently teaches writing at Boston University. She is the author of the young adult novel In the Neighborhood of True, which has been named a Best of The Year (so far) by Amazon for 2019. Previous novels include Love & Haight and Lobsterland. A longtime magazine editor, Carlton’s writing has appeared in Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, and Seventeen. She lived for a time with her family in Atlanta, where her daughters learned the finer points of etiquette from a little pink book and the power of social justice from their synagogue.
In the sticky summer of 1958, Ruth Robb and her family move to Atlanta, the land of sweet tea, debutante dances, and the Ku Klux Klan. To fit in with the popular pastel posse, Ruth keeps the fact that she’s Jewish to herself—and soon she’s knocking back Coca-Colas with dreamy Davis at the country club. But a heartbreaking night brings Ruth’s two worlds into conflict, and she’s forced to choose between standing up for what she believes and losing everything she’s come to love about her new life.
The New York Times Book Review called Into the Jungle, one woman’s terrifying journey of survival in the Bolivian Amazon, one of the “Summer of 2019’s Best Thrillers.” Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review, calling it: “[A] ferocious fever dream of a thriller… Ferencik delivers an alternately terrifying and exhilarating tale.” Her work has appeared in Salon and The Boston Globe, as well as on National Public Radio.
Oprah chose Erica Ferencik‘s debut novel, The River at Night as a #1 Pick, calling the book “the page-turning novel you’ve been waiting for, a heart-pounding debut.” Entertainment Weekly named it a “must read, a harrowing… a visceral, white knuckle rush.” The 2019 Massachussetts Book Awards named it a “Must Read.” Miramax has recently optioned the novel for film.
Lindsay Hatton’s debut novel, Monterey Bay, earned a Kirkus Star and was named a best book of 2016 by the San Francisco Chronicle. Lindsay’s other work can be found in The Millions, Lit Hub, the Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, and in Instagram posts enjoyed by dozens. She is currently at work on a new novel about epigenetic inheritance and why it must suck to be a cult leader. About a million years ago, she went to Williams College and earned her MFA in Creative Writing at New York University. Today, she lives in Cambridge with her husband and two daughters.
In 1940, fifteen year-old Margot Fiske arrives on the shores of Monterey Bay with her eccentric entrepreneur father. Margot has been her father’s apprentice all over the world, until an accident in Monterey’s tide pools drives them apart and plunges her head-first into the mayhem of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. Unbeknownst to Margot, her father is at work on his most ambitious and controversial project to date: the transformation of the Row’s largest cannery into an aquarium. When Margot begins an affair with Cannery Row’s notorious Doc Ricketts, she sets in motion a chain of events that will affect not just the two of them, but the future of Monterey as well. Alternating between past and present, Monterey Bay explores histories both imagined and actual to create an unforgettable portrait of an exceptional woman, a world-famous aquarium, and the beloved town they both call home.
Summer Salon: July 11, 2019
“The power of place”
Susan Bernhard is the author of the Amazon bestselling novel Winter Loon. Her fiction has appeared in Little Bird Stories and Solstice Lit Mag. She is a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship recipient, a GrubStreet Novel Incubator graduate, and a 2019 Tennessee Williams Scholar to the Sewanee Writers Conference. She was born and raised in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana, is a graduate of the University of Maryland, and lives with her husband and two children near Boston.
Abandoned by his father after his mother drowns in a frozen Minnesota lake, fifteen-year-old Wes Ballot is stranded with coldhearted grandparents and holed up in his mother’s old bedroom, surrounded by her remnants and memories. As the wait for his father stretches unforgivably into months, a local girl, whose own mother died a brutal death, captures his heart and imagination, giving Wes fresh air to breathe in the suffocating small town.
When buried truths come to light in the spring thaw, wounds are exposed and violence erupts, forcing Wes to embark on a search for his missing father, the truth about his mother, and a future he must claim for himself—a quest that begins back at that frozen lake.
A powerful, page-turning coming-of-age story, Winter Loon captures the resilience of a boy determined to become a worthy man by confronting family demons, clawing his way out of the darkness, and forging a life from the shambles of a broken past.
After a career in education as a teacher, career counselor, and evaluator of educational programs, Belle Brett is now an artist and a writer, contributing to her own and others’ blogs and writing fiction that deals with coming of age across the life span. She holds a doctorate of education in human development and psychology from Harvard and is a graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program. Gina in the Floating World is her first novel. A life-long traveler, it was inspired by time she spent in Japan in her 20s. Kirkus Reviews called Gina in the Floating World “a sharply observed and unforgettable debut.”
A bank internship in Japan’s booming 1981 economy is supposed to be twenty-three-year-old Dorothy Falwell’s ticket into a prestigious international MBA program. But the internship is unpaid―so, to make ends meet, she accepts an evening job as a hostess in a rundown suburban bar, a far cry from the sensuous woodblock prints she’s seen of old Tokyo’s “floating world.”
Like her namesake, Dorothy hasn’t planned on the detours she encounters in her own twisted version of Oz. Renamed Gina by her boss, she struggles with nightly indignities from customers and confusing advice from new friends. Then her internship crumbles and the suave but mysterious Mr. Tambuki offers help. How can she resist?
With patience and the utmost respect for her opinions, Mr. Tambuki lures her into his exotic world of unorthodox Zen instruction, erotic art, and high-octane sex. Soon, bizarre sexual escapades with monks, salarymen, and gangsters begin to feel normal until one of her clients goes too far, and Dorothy realizes she’s in over her head. But can she find her way back from this point of no return?
Marjan Kamali, born in Turkey to Iranian parents, spent her childhood in Kenya, Germany, Turkey, Iran, and the United States. She holds degrees from UC Berkeley, Columbia University, and New York University. Her work has also been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in two anthologies: Tremors and Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been. An excerpt from The Stationery Shop was published in Solstice Literary Magazine and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her debut novel Together Tea was a Massachusetts Book Award Finalist, an NPR WBUR Good Read, and a Target Emerging Author Selection. Marjan lives with her husband and two children in the Boston area.
Roya is a dreamy, idealistic teenager living in 1953 Tehran who, amidst the political upheaval of the time, finds a literary oasis in kindly Mr. Fakhri’s neighborhood book and stationery shop. She always feels safe in his dusty store, overflowing with fountain pens, shiny ink bottles, and thick pads of soft writing paper.
When Mr. Fakhri, with a keen instinct for a budding romance, introduces Roya to his other favorite customer—handsome Bahman, who has a burning passion for justice and a love for Rumi’s poetry—she loses her heart at once. And, as their romance blossoms, the modest little stationery shop remains their favorite place in all of Tehran.
A few short months later, on the eve of their marriage, Roya agrees to meet Bahman at the town square, but suddenly, violence erupts—a result of the coup d’etat that forever changes their country’s future. In the chaos, Bahman never shows. For weeks, Roya tries desperately to contact him, but her efforts are fruitless. With a sorrowful heart, she resigns herself to never seeing him again.
Until, more than sixty years later, an accident of fate leads her back to Bahman and offers her a chance to ask him the questions that have haunted her for more than half a century: Why did he leave? Where did he go? How was he able to forget her?
The Stationery Shop is a beautiful and timely exploration of devastating loss, unbreakable family bonds, and the overwhelming power of love.
Spring Salon: April 4, 2019
“Love in Tumultuous times”
Jenna Blum is the New York Times and number one international bestselling author of the novels Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers. Her newest novel, The Lost Family, was just released. She was voted one of the favorite contemporary women writers by Oprah.com readers. Jenna is based in Boston, where she earned her MA from Boston University and has taught fiction and novel workshops for Grub Street Writers for twenty years.
The New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us creates a vivid portrait of marriage, family, and the haunting grief of World War II in this emotionally charged, beautifully rendered story that spans a generation, from the 1960s to the 1980s.
In 1965 Manhattan, patrons flock to Masha’s to savor its brisket bourguignon and impeccable service and to admire its dashing owner and head chef Peter Rashkin. With his movie-star good looks and tragic past, Peter, a survivor of Auschwitz, is the most eligible bachelor in town. But Peter does not care for the parade of eligible women who come to the restaurant hoping to catch his eye. He has resigned himself to a solitary life. Running Masha’s consumes him, as does his terrible guilt over surviving the horrors of the Nazi death camp while his wife, Masha—the restaurant’s namesake—and two young daughters perished.
Then exquisitely beautiful June Bouquet, an up-and-coming young model, appears at the restaurant, piercing Peter’s guard. Though she is twenty years his junior, the two begin a passionate, whirlwind courtship. When June unexpectedly becomes pregnant, Peter proposes, believing that beginning a new family with the woman he loves will allow him to let go of the horror of the past. But over the next twenty years, the indelible sadness of those memories will overshadow Peter, June, and their daughter Elsbeth, transforming them in shocking, heartbreaking, and unexpected ways.
Jenna Blum artfully brings to the page a husband devastated by a grief he cannot name, a frustrated wife struggling to compete with a ghost she cannot banish, and a daughter sensitive to the pain of both her own family and another lost before she was born. Spanning three cinematic decades, The Lost Family is a charming, funny, and elegantly bittersweet study of the repercussions of loss and love.
Christopher Castellani is the son of Italian immigrants and a native of Wilmington, Delaware. He currently lives in Boston, where he is the artistic director of Grub Street, the country’s largest and leading independent creative writing center. He is the author of three critically-acclaimed novels, A Kiss from Maddalena —winner of the Massachusetts Book Award in 2004— The Saint of Lost Things; and All This Talk of Love, a New York Times Editors’ Choice and finalist for the Ferro-Grumley Literary Award. He has recently completed a new novel, Leading Men, for which he received Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Leading Men will be published in February 2019 by Viking Penguin.
In addition to his work with Grub Street, Christopher is on the faculty and academic board of the Warren Wilson MFA program and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Christopher was educated at Swarthmore College, received his Masters in English Literature from Tufts University, and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University.
Illuminating one of the great love stories of the twentieth century – Tennessee Williams and his longtime partner Frank Merlo – Leading Men is a glittering novel of desire and ambition, set against the glamorous literary circles of 1950s Italy
In July of 1953, at a glittering party thrown by Truman Capote in Portofino, Italy, Tennessee Williams and his longtime lover Frank Merlo meet Anja Blomgren, a mysteriously taciturn young Swedish beauty and aspiring actress. Their encounter will go on to alter all of their lives.
Ten years later, Frank revisits the tempestuous events of that fateful summer from his deathbed in Manhattan, where he waits anxiously for Tennessee to visit him one final time. Anja, now legendary film icon Anja Bloom, lives as a recluse in the present-day U.S., until a young man connected to the events of 1953 lures her reluctantly back into the spotlight after he discovers she possesses the only surviving copy of Williams’s final play.
What keeps two people together and what breaks them apart? Can we save someone else if we can’t save ourselves? Like The Master and The Hours, Leading Men seamlessly weaves fact and fiction to navigate the tensions between public figures and their private lives. In an ultimately heartbreaking story about the burdens of fame and the complex negotiations of life in the shadows of greatness, Castellani creates an unforgettable leading lady in Anja Bloom and reveals the hidden machinery of one of the great literary love stories of the twentieth-century.
Whitney Scharer holds a BA in English Literature from Wesleyan University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous journals including New Flash Fiction Review, Cimarron Review, and Bellevue Literary Review. Her first novel, The Age of Light, based on the life of pioneering photographer Lee Miller, was published by Little, Brown (US) and Picador (UK) in February, 2019, and is forthcoming from over a dozen other countries. She lives with her husband and daughter in Arlington, MA.
Lee’s journey takes us from the cabarets of bohemian Paris to the battlefields of war-torn Europe during WWII, from discovering radical new photography techniques to documenting the liberation of the concentration camps as one of the first female war correspondents. Through it all, Lee must grapple with the question of whether it’s possible to reconcile romantic desire with artistic ambition-and what she will have to sacrifice to do so.
Told in interweaving timelines, this sensuous, richly detailed novel brings Lee Miller-a brilliant and pioneering artist-out of the shadows of a man’s legacy and into the light.
Winter Salon: January 10, 2019
Ben Berman’s first book, Strange Borderlands, chronicled his time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zimbabwe and won the 2014 Peace Corps Award for Best Book of Poetry and was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Awards. His second book of poems, Figuring in the Figure, turned its attention to the bewildering and transformative experiences of parenthood and his new collection of short prose, Then Again, is recently out from Vine Leaves Press. He writes a regular column for GrubStreet about Writing While Parenting, and teaches in the Boston area, where he lives with his wife and daughters.
The interrelated short prose pieces in Ben Berman’s Then Again explore a life outside of chronological order, bounce back and forth between foreign adventures and domestic routines. One moment we’re in a Mommy and Me yoga class, the next we’re gutting a goat in rural Zimbabwe. As much a meditation on language as a coming to terms with middle age, these stories navigate the distance between words and worlds. And yet whether getting chased by wild dogs through the alleyways of Kathmandu or desperately trying to stop his three-year-old from drawing all over the walls, Berman contemplates life’s ambiguities with both wisdom and wonder.
Virginia Pye is the author of the recently published short story collection, Shelf Life of Happiness, as well as two award-winning novels, Dreams of the Red Phoenix and River of Dust. Her stories and essays have appeared in Literary Hub, The New York Times, The Rumpus, The North American Review, The Baltimore Review, Tampa Review, and elsewhere. She moved to Cambridge a few years ago with her husband, John Ravenal, who is the director of the deCordova Museum. Virginia occasionally teaches at Grub Street and loves attending Boston’s myriad literary events!
In these bittersweet, compelling stories, Virginia Pye’s characters in Shelf Life of Happiness long for that most-elusive of states: happiness. A young skateboarder reaches across an awesome gap to reconnect with his disapproving father; an elderly painter executes one final, violent gesture to memorialize his work; a newly married writer battles the urge to implode his happy marriage; and a confused young man falls for his best friend’s bride and finally learns to love. In each case, Pye’s characters aim to be better people as they strive for happiness–and some even reap the sweet reward of achieving it.
Dariel Suarez is the Cuban-born author of the novel The Playwright’s House (forthcoming, Red Hen Press) and the story collection A Kind of Solitude (Willow Springs Books), winner of the 2017 Spokane Prize For Short Fiction. He is an inaugural City of Boston Artist Fellow and the Director of Core Programs and Faculty at GrubStreet. His prose has appeared in numerous publications, including The Kenyon Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, and Third Coast. Dariel currently resides in the Boston area with his wife and daughter.
Set in Cuba, largely after the fall of the Soviet Union, these eleven stories explore themes of isolation and preservation in the face of widespread poverty and sociopolitical oppression. From a chronically ill santero refusing medical care to a female-fronted heavy-metal band risking it all to emerge from Havana’s underground, Dariel Suarez, in his daring debut, portrays the harsh reality, inherent humor, and resilient heart of a people whose stories should be known.
Fall Salon: October 4, 2018
“Facing Fears, Pursuing Passions”
Alysia Abbott is the author of Fairyland, a Memoir of My Father, a recipient of the Madame Figaro Prix Heroine and the ALA Stonewall Award. Named a New York Times Editors Pick and one of the best books of the year by the SF Chronicle and Shelf Awareness, it was also finalist for the 2014 Lambda Literary Award and a Goodreads Choice Award. It has been published in the United States, the UK, France, Poland, and Spain; translations are forthcoming in Brazil, and Italy. Her writing has been published in TriQuarterly, Lit Hub, Out, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, Vogue, and elsewhere. The recipient of fellowships from Ragdale Foundation and an MFA in creative nonfiction from the New School, Abbott teaches the Memoir Incubator program at GrubStreet.Memoir Incubator Program in Boston.
After his wife dies in a car accident, bisexual writer and activist Steve Abbott moves with his two-year-old daughter to San Francisco. There they discover a city in the midst of revolution, bustling with gay men in search of liberation―few of whom are raising a child.
Steve throws himself into San Francisco’s vibrant cultural scene. He takes Alysia to raucous parties, pushes her in front of the microphone at poetry readings, and introduces her to a world of artists, thinkers, and writers. But the pair live like nomads, moving from apartment to apartment, with a revolving cast of roommates and little structure. As a child Alysia views her father as a loving playmate who can transform the ordinary into magic, but as she gets older Alysia wants more than anything to fit in. The world, she learns, is hostile to difference.
In Alysia’s teens, Steve’s friends―several of whom she has befriended―fall ill as AIDS starts its rampage through their community. While Alysia is studying in New York and then in France, her father tells her it’s time to come home; he’s sick with AIDS. Alysia must choose whether to take on the responsibility of caring for her father or continue the independent life she has worked so hard to create.
Lee Hope, Editor-in-Chief of Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices, is the author of the novel Horsefever, a finalist in the Midwest Book Awards. She is a recipient of a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship, and a Maine Arts Commission Fellowship for Fiction. She has published stories in numerous literary journals such as Witness and The North American Review. She founded and directed a low-residency MFA program and has taught at various universities. She also teaches for Changing Lives Through Literature, which serves people on probation and parole.
Nikole Swensen has the drive and raw talent to compete in the rigorous sport of horse eventing—and win. But fear holds her back from realizing her full potential. So her husband, a wealthy Vermont landowner, hires Gabe, a gifted former eventer, half paralyzed from a jumping accident. Before long, a powerful spiritual and physical attraction develops between Nikki and Gabe amid the sensual world of horses and riding. As Nikki moves to higher levels of competition, their respective spouses, Cliff and Carla, grow jealous. The two couples become lost in a tangle of ambition and passion, lust and suspicion. Inspired by an actual murder case, HORSEFEVER will penetrate the hearts of suspense lovers, horse lovers, athletes, and all those drawn to the connections between animals and humans.
Cheryl Suchors began writing at age six, when she wrote a play starring her sister and herself. She continued to write poetry until she took a detour through the business world for twenty years. She holds degrees from Harvard Business School and Smith College. Her memoir, 48 PEAKS, Hiking and Healing in the White Mountains, was published by She Writes Press in 2018. Her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in Writer’s Digest, City Book Review, Limestone, The Distillery, RE:AL, and HerSports, as well as in the anthology My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband and a plethora of plants.
At forty-eight years old, Cheryl Suchors―hoping to find concrete successes and a feeling of control as she changes careers and fifty stares at her from the horizon―vows to summit the highest forty-eight peaks in New Hampshire’s grueling White Mountains. Neglecting to consider her flimsy body, scoliosis, bum knee, and fear of heights, she dives into the challenge.
Along the way, Suchors suffers numerous injuries; her hiking buddy succumbs to ovarian cancer; and she endures breast cancer, a mastectomy, chemotherapy, and five years of adjuvant therapy herself. But she always returns to the mountains―and in that connection she finds spiritual nourishment, as well as a space powerful enough to hold her grief. Over the ten years it takes her to complete her quest, she learns that mastery alone doesn’t satisfy her and control is often an illusion―that she must connect with hiking comrades and with nature in order to feel nourished and enriched. In the end, Suchors creates her own definition of success.
Summer Salon: July 12, 2018
“A novel trio: on being human and other investigations”
Annie Hartnett is the author of RABBIT CAKE, which was named a best book of 2017 by Kirkus Reviews, was a finalist for The New England Book Award, and longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize. She is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Alabama, and was the 2013-2014 Writer-in-Residence for the Associates of the Boston Public Library. She currently teaches at Grub Street, an independent writing center in Boston, and lives in Providence, RI, with her husband and their nutty little border collie.
Twelve-year-old Elvis Babbitt has a head for the facts: she knows science proves yellow is the happiest color, she knows a healthy male giraffe weighs about 3,000 pounds, and she knows that the naked mole rat is the longest living rodent. She knows she should plan to grieve her mother, who has recently drowned while sleepwalking, for exactly eighteen months. But there are things Elvis doesn’t yet know―like how to keep her sister Lizzie from poisoning herself while sleep-eating or why her father has started wearing her mother’s silk bathrobe around the house. Elvis investigates the strange circumstances of her mother’s death and finds comfort, if not answers, in the people (and animals) of Freedom, Alabama. As hilarious a storyteller as she is heartbreakingly honest, Elvis is a truly original voice in this exploration of grief, family, and the endurance of humor after loss.
Mira T. Lee‘s debut novel, Everything Here is Beautiful, was selected as a Top 10 Debut for 2018 by the American Booksellers Association, and named a Top Winter/2018 Pick by more than 30 news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, O Magazine, Huffington Post, and Poets & Writers, among others. Her short fiction has appeared in journals such as the Southern Review, the Missouri Review, and Harvard Review, and has twice received special mention for the Pushcart Prize. In her previous lives, Mira has also been known as a graphic designer, a pop-country drummer, a salsa dancing fanatic, and a biology graduate student. Mira currently lives in Cambridge, MA.
Two sisters: Miranda, the older, responsible one, always her younger sister’s protector; Lucia, the vibrant, headstrong, unconventional one, whose impulses are huge and, often, life changing. When their mother dies and Lucia starts to hear voices, it’s Miranda who must fight for the help her sister needs — even as Lucia refuses to be defined by any doctor’s diagnosis. Determined, impetuous, she plows ahead, marrying a big-hearted Israeli only to leave him, suddenly, to have a baby with a young Latino immigrant. She will move with her new family to Ecuador, but the bitter constant remains: she cannot escape her own mental illness. Lucia lives life on a grand scale, until inevitably, she crashes to earth. And then Miranda must decide, again, whether or not to step in — but this time, Lucia may not want to be saved. The bonds of sisterly devotion stretch across oceans, but what does it take to break them?
Told from multiple perspectives, Everything Here Is Beautiful is, at its core, a heart-wrenching family drama about relationships and tough choices — how much we’re willing to sacrifice for the ones we love, and when it’s time to let go and save ourselves.
Adam Stumacher‘s work has appeared in The New York Times, Granta, Narrative, The Kenyon Review, The Sun, Best New American Voices, and elsewhere, and won the Raymond Carver Short Story Award and a Nelson Algren Award. He has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, The Vermont Studio Center, and others, and he was a fiction fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. He has taught at MIT, the University of Wisconsin, and Grub Street, and he has many years experience as a teacher in inner city schools, for which he was awarded the Sontag Prize in Urban Education.
Spring Salon: April 5, 2018
“Just kidding: a humorous take on raising humans”
Chris Monks has been the managing editor of the humor site McSweeney’s Internet Tendency since 2007. He’s also the author of the comic novel “The Ultimate Game Guide to Your Life” and the editor of the humor anthologies “The McSweeney’s Book of Politics and Musicals” and “The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.” He lives in Arlington, Mass with his wife and two sons.
Back in 1998, the internet was young and wild and free. Along with listservs, pornography, and listservs dedicated to pornography, there was a website that ran all its articles in the same font and within abnormally narrow margins. This site was called McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and many dozens of people read it. Now, fifteen years later, most of those readers have died, but the Tendency still exists, publishing, every day, quasi-humor writing in the same font within the same abnormally narrow margins. The site has no ads, and no revenue prospects, and thus, every year or so, we collect some of the site’s better material and attempt to trick readers into paying for a curated, glued-together version of what is available online for free. This collection is the best and most brazen of such attempts.
Jane Roper is the author of a memoir, Double Time: How I Survived–and Mostly Thrived–Through the First Three Years of Mothering Twins and a novel,Eden Lake. Her second novel is forthcoming. She received her MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and her writing has appeared on Salon, Babble, The Millions, Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, and elsewhere, and has been included in the anthology Labor Day: True Birth Stories by today’s Best Women Writers. She is a freelance copywriter and brand strategist, and lives in the Boston area with her husband and daughters.
Becoming a mother is rarely what you expect.
Jane Roper never expected she’d have twins―or that they’d be such a spirited twosome. She didn’t expect that finding the right balance of work and home would be so tricky. And she certainly didn’t expect she’d grapple with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder during her daughters’ toddler years. But she also didn’t anticipate just how much joy, laughter and self-discovery motherhood would bring.
Full of warmth, honesty, occasional advice, and a generous helping of humor, Double Time is a smart and engaging account of the first three years with multiples and a refreshingly candid and vulnerable look at clinical depression. It’s a memoir that will resonate countless women―especially those parenting in double time.
Amy Yelin’s essays and interviews have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Missouri Review, The Writer’s Chronicle, Literary Mama, Brainchild Mag, Salon, and other publications, including two anthologies. She’s the recipient of a Pushcart nomination, a notable essay mention in The Best American Essays (2007), a fellowship from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and a scholarship from the Norman Mailer Writer’s Colony. Amy is currently assistant nonfiction editor for Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices and is at work on a memoir.
Winter Salon: January 18, 2018
Recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, Leslie Lawrence is the author of The Death of Fred Astaire—and Other Essays From a Life Outside the Lines. The memoir was a finalist for the 2016 Foreward Indie Book Award. Recent work can be found at Literary Mama, Solstice Magazine and Cognoscenti. Her essay on Janis Joplin will appear in the forthcoming anthology Teen Idols, edited by Arlington’s own, Elizabeth Searle. Lawrence teaches writing at Grub Street and in her home in Cambridge. If you peek into Dance Friday or Dance Freedom or a Contact Improv Jam, you might just see her out of her mind.
As a child of the sixties, Leslie Lawrence knew she didn’t want to duplicate her parents’ lives, yet she never imagined she’d stray so far outside the lines of their–and her own–expectations. The Death of Fred Astaire opens with the story, both wrenching and funny, of how Lawrence says her goodbyes to the iconic images she’s held since her youth; she then proceeds to bear a child and raise him with her lesbian partner. Some essays in this debut collection reflect on legacies Lawrence inherited from her Jewish family and culture. In others, she searches gamely for a rich, authentic life–a voice, a vocation, a community, even a “god” she can call her own.
Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is the author of The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir (May 2017, Flatiron Books), which was named a finalist for a Goodreads Choice Award and a New England Book Award, and one of Audible.com and the Guardian’s Best Books of 2017. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Rona Jaffe Award and has twice been a fellow at both MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. She now lives in Somerville and teaches at Harvard.
Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes―the moment she hears him speak of his crimes — she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.
Crime, even the darkest and most unsayable acts, can happen to any one of us. As Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining the details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky’s crime.
But another surprise awaits: She wasn’t the only one who saw her life in Ricky’s.
An intellectual and emotional thriller that is also a different kind of murder mystery, THE FACT OF A BODY is a book not only about how the story of one crime was constructed — but about how we grapple with our own personal histories. Along the way it tackles questions about the nature of forgiveness, and if a single narrative can ever really contain something as definitive as the truth. This groundbreaking, heart-stopping work, ten years in the making, shows how the law is more personal than we would like to believe — and the truth more complicated, and powerful, than we could ever imagine.
David Valdes Greenwood is a playwright whose work has been staged across the US, in the UK, and Singapore. His play The Mermaid Hour will have its world premiere in four productions at Milagro Theatre, Borderlands Theatre, Mixed Blood Theatre, and Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte in 2018. in 2017, Company One and The Huntington Theatre Company both did public workshops of his latest play, The Last Catastrophist. The winner of the Generations Prize for Playwriting, a Brother Thomas Fellowship, and a past playwriting fellow at IATI Theatre, the Huntington, and Company One, Valdes Greenwood’s past work has been presented by the Humana Festival, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Portland Stage, and elsewhere. He is the author of three nonfiction books (Homo Domesticus, A Little Fruitcake, and Rhinestone Sisterhood) and the young adult novel, Revengers.
For Pilar and Bird, navigating their tween daughter Violet’s transition is tricky as they juggle not only their own opposing parenting styles but her impulsive nature. Vi is just as concerned about her best friend Jacob, who she wishes was her boyfriend, and when nothing is going as she wants, she makes a YouTube video that pushes everyone’s buttons. As her parents wrestle with all of Vi’s choices, they confront the gaps between them as a couple–and which they’ll have to overcome to see them all through.
Fall Salon: October 12, 2017
Kelly J. Ford is the author of the novel Cottonmouths, which Lambda Literary calls “a tale of resentment, venomous betrayal, and the wounds hidden beneath familiar surfaces.” Kelly is an instructor for GrubStreet Writing Center, and her fiction has appeared in Black Heart Magazine, Fried Chicken and Coffee, and Knee-Jerk Magazine. She is Arkansas-bred and Boston-based.
College was supposed to be an escape for Emily Skinner. But after failing out of school, she’s left with no choice but to return to her small Arkansas hometown, a place run on gossip and good Christian values.
She’s not alone. Emily’s former best friend—and childhood crush—Jody Monroe is back with a baby. Emily can’t resist the opportunity to reconnect, despite the uncomfortable way things ended between them and her mom’s disapproval of their friendship. When Emily stumbles upon a meth lab on Jody’s property, she realizes just how far they’ve both fallen.
Emily intends to keep her distance from Jody, but when she’s kicked out of her house with no money and nowhere to go, a paying job as Jody’s live-in babysitter is hard to pass up. As they grow closer, Emily glimpses a future for the first time since coming home. She dismisses her worries; after all, Jody is a single mom. The meth lab is a means to an end. And besides, for Emily, Jody is the real drug.
But when Jody’s business partner goes missing, and the lies begin to pile up, Emily will learn just how far Jody is willing to go to save her own skin—and how much Emily herself has risked for the love of someone who may never truly love her back.
Echoing the work of authors like Daniel Woodrell and Sarah Waters, Cottonmouths is an unflinching story about the ways in which the past pulls us back . . . despite our best efforts to leave it behind.
Sonya Larson‘s fiction and essays have appeared in Best American Short Stories 2017, American Short Fiction, American Literary Review, Poets & Writers, The Writer’s Chronicle, Audible.com, West Branch, Salamander, Memorious, Del Sol Review, Red Mountain Review, and more. She has received honors and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Vermont Studio Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, St. Botolph Club Foundation, and more. She is studying fiction in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and is Director of GrubStreet’s Muse and the Marketplace conference.
Chuntao is still reeling from being tossed aside by her white boyfriend – and his enchantingly cozy family – when her coworker sets her up with a Burmese-American man named Gabe Dove. Out with a fellow Asian for the first time, Chuntao finds their commonality both attractive and repellant, intimate and embarrassing, familiar, and dangerously distancing. As their relationship deepens, Chuntao is both alert and blind to her own motives, as she starts treating Gabe Dove in ways even she doesn’t understand.
Joanna Rakoff is the author of the novel A Fortunate Age, which won the Goldberg Prize for Fiction and the Elle Readers’ Prize, and the bestselling memoir My Salinger Year, which has been published in twelve countries and is currently being adapted for film. She is a regular contributor to the New York Times, Vogue, and many other publications. Her new memoir, The Fifth Passenger, is forthcoming from Little, Brown.
After leaving graduate school to pursue her dream of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff takes a job as assistant to the storied literary agent for J. D. Salinger. Precariously balanced between poverty and glamour, she spends her days in a plush, wood-paneled office—where Dictaphones and typewriters still reign and agents doze after three-martini lunches—and then goes home to her threadbare Brooklyn apartment and her socialist boyfriend. Rakoff is tasked with processing Salinger’s voluminous fan mail, but as she reads the heart-wrenching letters from around the world, she becomes reluctant to send the agency’s form response and impulsively begins writing back. The results are both humorous and moving, as Rakoff, while acting as the great writer’s voice, begins to discover her own.
Summer Salon: July 12, 2017
“Food feuds: from Ancient rome to boston’s own Southie”
Crystal King is the author of FEAST OF SORROW, about the ancient Roman gourmand, Apicius. A culinary enthusiast and marketing expert, her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity and social media at several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University, as well as at GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US. She lives in Boston with her husband, Joe, and their two cats, Nero and Merlin.
Set amongst the scandal, wealth, and upstairs-downstairs politics of a Roman family, Crystal King’s seminal debut features the man who inspired the world’s oldest cookbook and the ambition that led to his destruction.
On a blistering day in the twenty-sixth year of Augustus Caesar’s reign, a young chef, Thrasius, is acquired for the exorbitant price of twenty thousand denarii. His purchaser is the infamous gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius, wealthy beyond measure, obsessed with a taste for fine meals from exotic places, and a singular ambition: to serve as culinary advisor to Caesar, an honor that will cement his legacy as Rome’s leading epicure.
Apicius rightfully believes that Thrasius is the key to his culinary success, and with Thrasius’s help he soon becomes known for his lavish parties and fantastic meals. Thrasius finds a family in Apicius’s household, his daughter Apicata, his wife Aelia, and her handmaiden, Passia whom Thrasius quickly falls in love with. But as Apicius draws closer to his ultimate goal, his reckless disregard for any who might get in his way takes a dangerous turn that threatens his young family and places his entire household at the mercy of the most powerful forces in Rome.
Chef Barbara Lynch
Chef/Owner, Barbara Lynch Gruppo
As Chef/Owner of the Boston‑based Barbara Lynch Gruppo, Barbara oversees seven celebrate culinary concepts, including No.9 Park, B&G Oysters, The Butcher Shop, Stir, Drink, Sportello, and Menton. Her cookbook, Stir: Mixing It Up in The Italian Tradition, received the prestigious Gourmand Award for Best Chef Cookbook and she shares her life story through her memoir, Out of Line: A Life of Playing with Fire, released April 11, 2017. Barbara is the only female, American Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux, and has earned two James Beard Foundation Awards (Best Chef Northeast and Outstanding Restaurateur) as well as an Amelia Earhart Award for her success in a male‑dominated field. In 2017, Barbara was named to the TIME 100, TIME Magazine’s annual list of the world’s most powerful people.
Blood, Bones, & Butter meets A Devil in the Kitchen in this funny, fierce, and poignant memoir by world-renowned chef, restaurateur, and Top Chef judge Barbara Lynch, recounting her rise from a hard-knocks South Boston childhood to culinary stardom.
Celebrated chef Barbara Lynch credits the defiant spirit of her upbringing in tough, poor “Southie,” a neighborhood ruled by the notorious Whitey Bulger gang, with helping her bluff her way into her first professional cooking jobs; develop a distinct culinary style through instinct and sheer moxie; then dare to found an empire of restaurants ranging from a casual but elegant “clam shack” to Boston’s epitome of modern haute cuisine.
One of seven children born to an overworked single mother, Lynch was raised in a housing project. She earned a daredevil reputation for boosting vehicles (even a city bus), petty theft, drinking and doing drugs, and narrowly escaping arrest—haunted all the while by a painful buried trauma.
Out of Line describes Lynch’s remarkable process of self-invention, including her encounters with colorful characters of the food world, and vividly evokes the magic of creation in the kitchen. It is also a love letter to South Boston and its vanishing culture, governed by Irish Catholic mothers and its own code of honor. Through her story, Lynch explores how the past—both what we strive to escape from and what we remain true to—can strengthen and expand who we are.
Ted Weesner has written for the Boston Globe for the last twenty years, covering food, travel and books. In the last year and a half he has been one of the newspaper’s rotating restaurant critics, during which he consumed far too much food and drink. He also contributed features about home fermentation, the best Chinese restaurants in suburbia, and where to find Boston’s finest pizza. His work has also appeared in The Washington Post, Ploughshares, Glamour, Gastronomica, and on NPR. He teaches Creative Writing at Tufts University and The Museum School during the week, although most of his waking hours are spent wrangling three little boys, which has included trying to get each of them to successfully crack an egg. So far no luck.
Spring Salon: April 6, 2017
“Maps, Manhunts & Mysteries”
Michael Blanding is a Boston-based investigative journalist whose work has appeared in publications including WIRED, Slate, The Nation,and The Boston Globe Magazine. His latest book, The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps was published by Gotham in 2014 and named a New York Times Bestseller and an NPR Book of the Year. He is also a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute of Investigative reporting at Brandeis University and has taught writing at Tufts University, Emerson College, and GrubStreet.
Maps have long exerted a special fascination on viewers—both as beautiful works of art and as practical tools to navigate the world. But to those who collect them, the map trade can be a cutthroat business, inhabited by quirky and sometimes disreputable characters in search of a finite number of extremely rare objects.
Once considered a respectable antiquarian map dealer, E. Forbes Smiley spent years doubling as a map thief —until he was finally arrested slipping maps out of books in the Yale University library. The Map Thief delves into the untold history of this fascinating high-stakes criminal and the inside story of the industry that consumed him.
Acclaimed reporter Michael Blanding has interviewed all the key players in this stranger-than-fiction story, and shares the fascinating histories of maps that charted the New World, and how they went from being practical instruments to quirky heirlooms to highly coveted objects. Though pieces of the map theft story have been written before, Blanding is the first reporter to explore the story in full—and had the rare privilege of having access to Smiley himself after he’d gone silent in the wake of his crimes. Moreover, although Smiley swears he has admitted to all of the maps he stole, libraries claim he stole hundreds more—and offer intriguing clues to prove it. Now, through a series of exclusive interviews with Smiley and other key individuals, Blanding teases out an astonishing tale of destruction and redemption.
The Map Thief interweaves Smiley’s escapades with the stories of the explorers and mapmakers he knew better than anyone. Tracking a series of thefts as brazen as the art heists in Provenance and a subculture as obsessive as the oenophiles in The Billionaire’s Vinegar, Blanding has pieced together an unforgettable story of high-stakes crime.
Elizabeth Searle is the author of a new novel, We Got Him (set on the Boston Marathon bombing manhunt night), and four prior books: My Body to You, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Prize; A Four-Sided Bed, now in development for film; Celebrities in Disgrace and Girl Held in Home. Elizabeth’s theater work Tonya & Nancy: the Rock Opera has drawn national media and has been produced in NYC, Boston, LA, Portland and most recently Chicago (2016). Elizabeth teaches fiction and scriptwriting at Stonecoast MFA. She lives with her husband and son in Arlington, where she frequently rides the bike path.
Elizabeth Searle’s WE GOT HIM is an ingeniously plotted, suspenseful novel written in blood, mother’s milk, and the unintended consequence of rage. It is the story of one family’s inherited flaws, harbored guilts, and obsessive desires, whether for a child, a parent, or a second chance to do the elusive right thing. Powerfully worked against the unfolding events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Elizabeth Searle’s taut drama of a young, pregnant stepmother and her troubled stepson is a narrative tour de force, interweaving public and private acts of terror with the redemptive, but ever–fragile, forces of love.
Jessica Treadway is the author of three novels: How Will I Know You?, a People Magazine Book of the Week; Lacy Eye, a Target Book Club pick; and And Give You Peace. She has also published two story collections, Absent Without Leave and Please Come Back To Me, which received the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. She is a professor of creative writing at Emerson College.
SOMETIMES THE SMALLEST MISTAKES ARE THE DEADLIEST.
“Jessica Treadway draws her characters into an impossible knot and then expertly teases apart…kept me up half the night.” – Ann Patchett, New York Times bestselling author of Commonwealth
Fans of Reconstructing Amelia will love this pulse-pounding novel of mystery, betrayal, and a small town’s dark secrets. On a cold December day, the body of high school senior Joy Enright is discovered in the woods at the edge of a frozen pond. Her death looks like a tragic drowning accident at first, but an autopsy reveals something sinister — the teenager’s body shows unmistakable signs of strangulation. The discovery upends an otherwise uneventful small town, as police grapple with a rare homicide case and those closest to Joy wonder how she could have been taken from them — and by whom. Susanne, Joy’s mother, tries to reconcile past betrayals with their wrenching consequences. Martin, an African-American graduate student, faces ostracism when blame is cast on him. Tom, a rescue diver and son-in-law of the town’s police chief, doubts both the police’s methods and his own perceptions. And Harper, Joy’s best friend, tries to figure out why she disappeared from Harper’s life months before she actually went missing.
In a close-knit community where everyone knows someone else’s secret, it’s only a matter of time before the truth is exposed. In this gripping novel, author Jessica Treadway explore the ways in which families both thrive and falter, and how seemingly small bad choices can escalate – with fatal consequences.
A People Magazine “Book of the Week.”
Winter Salon: January 12, 2017
Steve Almond is the author of eight books of fiction and non-fiction, including the New York Times bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football. His fiction has appeared in the Best American Short Stories, the Best American Mysteries, and the Pushcart Prize Anthology. His essays have appeared in the New York Times Magazine and elsewhere.
In Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto, New York Times bestselling author Steve Almond details why, after forty years as a fan, he can no longer watch the game he still loves. Using a synthesis of memoir, reportage, and cultural critique, Almond steps back from the seductive din of the gridiron to ask a series of provocative questions: What does it mean that our society has transmuted the intuitive physical joys of childhood—run, leap, throw, tackle—into a billion-dollar industry? How did a sport that causes brain damage become the leading signifier of our institutions of higher learning? Does our addiction to football foster a tolerance for violence, greed, racism, and homophobia? There has never been a book that exposes the dark underside of America’s favorite game with such searing candor.
Margot Livesey is the author of eight novels including The Flight of Gemma Hardy and, most recently, Mercury. The Hidden Machinery: Essays on the Craft of Writing will be published in 2017. She teaches at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Donald is an optometrist, his wife, Viv, manages a riding stable. When a beautiful horse, the dapple grey Mercury, arrives at the stables, Viv rediscovers her ambitions to become a champion rider and begins to pour time and money into training him. Her infatuation with the thoroughbred escalates to obsession, as she comes to believe that Mercury is in danger. Still grieving the death of his father, Donald is slow to notice how profoundly Viv has changed and how these changes threaten their quiet, secure world. The story of their frayed relationship raises complicated questions about married love, change, and choice: What does an ambitious woman do when the object of her ambition is threatened? What does an upright man do when his wife does something unthinkable?
Margot Livesey weaves many threads in this masterful novel: a passion for horses since her Scottish childhood, a long-standing interest in vision and the way we see—both literally and figuratively—and also timely questions about firearms and gun control.
Ron MacLean is the author of Headlong, winner of the 2013 Indie Book Award for Best Mystery, and two previous books: Blue Winnetka Skies, and Why the Long Face? His short fiction has appeared in GQ, Narrative, Fiction International, Best Online Fiction 2010, and elsewhere. He is a recipient of the Frederick Exley Award for Short Fiction and a multiple Pushcart Prize nominee. He holds a Doctor of Arts from the University at Albany, SUNY, and teaches at Grub Street in Boston. Learn more at www.ronmaclean.net.
It’s a hot Boston summer, and Nick Young, a washed-up journalist back in town to care for his dying father, is feeling the heat. Using his old skills to solve a mystery before the police do: to connect the dots between a major labor strike, a violent Occupy-style movement, and a murder that may involve his best friend’s teen son. HEADLONG is a literary thriller about fathers, sons, eco-terrorism, murder, immaturity, anarchism, marriage, friendship and failure.
WINNER, BEST MYSTERY 2014 Indie Book Awards–Fiction.
Fall Salon: October 6, 2016
“Cross Pollination: when other art forms inspire writing”
Literary Performer, Regie Gibson, has lectured and performed in the U.S., Cuba, and Europe. Representing the U.S., Regie competed for and received the Absolute Poetry Award in Monfalcone, Italy. He is featured on HBO, 3-TED X events & was nominated for a Boston Emmy. He’s received both MCC Poetry Award & has composed poems for The Boston City Singers, The Mystic Chorale and Boston’s Handel+Haydn Society. He performs regularly with Atlas Soul: a world music ensemble, his own word music ensemble, The Regie Gibson Project, and Shakespeare to Hip-Hop: an education and performance program integrating classical and modern texts into English curricula.
Val Wang is an author and multimedia storyteller. Evan Osnos has called her book Beijing Bastard “a memoir perfectly suited to the Beijing that she brings to life so well: heedless, pungent, and proudly insubordinate.” Her multimedia projects work at the edge of digital innovation in journalism. She most recently created and produced for Planet Takeout, an interactive, multi-platform documentary on the role of Chinese takeouts as a vital cultural crossroads in America. The project incubated at WGBH. She lives in Cambridge and teaches in the English and Media Studies Department of Bentley University.
Raised in a strict Chinese-American household in the suburbs, Val Wang dutifully got good grades, took piano lessons, and performed in a Chinese dance troupe—until she shaved her head and became a leftist, the stuff of many teenage rebellions. But Val’s true mutiny was when she moved to China, the land her parents had fled before the Communist takeover in 1949.
Val arrives in Beijing in 1998 expecting to find freedom but instead lives in the old city with her traditional relatives, who wake her at dawn with the sound of a state-run television program playing next to her cot, make a running joke of how much she eats, and monitor her every move. But outside, she soon discovers a city rebelling against its roots just as she is, struggling too to find a new, modern identity. Rickshaws make way for taxicabs, skyscrapers replace hutong courtyard houses, and Beijing prepares to make its debut on the world stage with the 2008 Olympics. And in the gritty outskirts of the city where she moves, a thriving avant-garde subculture is making art out of the chaos. Val plunges into the city’s dizzying culture and nightlife and begins shooting a documentary, about a Peking Opera family who is witnessing the death of their traditional art.
Brilliantly observed and winningly told, Beijing Bastard is a compelling story of a young woman finding her place in the world and of China, as its ancient past gives way to a dazzling but uncertain future.
Annie Weatherwax graduated from Rhode Island School of Design and earned a living sculpting superheroes and cartoon characters for DC Comics, Pixar and others. She has written on the link between visual art and literature including for The New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly and she blogs regularly on the topic for Ploughshares Magazine. Winner of the Robert Olen Butler Prize for fiction, her short stories have appeared in The Sun Magazine, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. Her Debut novel, All We Had, now a major motion picture from Tribeca Films, was a finalist for The Massachusetts Book Award.
In their battered Ford Escort, they head east in search of a better life. When money runs out and their car breaks down, they find themselves stranded in a small town called Fat River where Rita finally lands a steady job waitressing at Tiny’s, the local diner. With enough money to pay their bills, they rent a house and make their own family: tender-hearted Mel, the owner of the diner; the aging owners of the local hardware store whose livelihoods are dwindling; and Peter Pam, the transgender waitress who becomes Ruthie’s closest friend.
Into this unlikely utopia comes a smooth-talking mortgage broker who entices Rita with a subprime loan. Almost as soon as Rita buys a house their fortunes change. Faced once again with the prospect of homelessness, Rita reverts to survival mode, and the price she pays to keep them out of poverty changes their lives forever.
Annie Weatherwax has written a stunning, heartrending first novel. “A vivid journey into the dark side of the American Dream…that alternates between black comedy and heart-breaking realism…All We Had is an enjoyable read that takes an important look at economic insecurity” (Providence Journal).
SumMer Salon: July 14, 2016
“On the edge: young adults in a grown-up world”
Elaine Dimopoulos’s debut novel for young adults, Material Girls, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2015. Elaine has served as the Associates of the Boston Public Library Children’s Writer-in-Residence and as a Saint Botolph Club Artist Fellow. A graduate of Yale, Columbia, and Simmons College, she teaches children’s literature and writing for children at Boston University, Simmons, and Grub Street. To learn more, visit elainedimopoulos.com or follow @ElaineDimop.
In Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde’s world, teens are the gatekeepers of culture. A top fashion label employs sixteen-year-old Marla to dictate hot clothing trends, while Ivy, a teen pop star, popularizes the garments that Marla approves. Both girls begin to question their world’s aggressive levels of consumption and, working together, attempt to overturn the calculated but seductive system of corporate control. Smart, provocative, and entertaining, this thrilling page-turner for teens questions the cult-like mentality of fame and fashion.
Lynne Reeves Griffin RN, MEd is an internationally recognized expert on family life and relationships. She is a Learning Specialist for an independent school in Boston and she teaches family studies at Wheelock College and writing at GrubStreet.
Lynne is the author of the family-focused novels Girl Sent Away, Sea Escape, Life Without Summer, and the nonfiction titles, Let’s Talk About It: Adolescent Mental Health and Negotiation Generation. To learn more about Lynne’s work visit: http://www.LynneGriffin.com.
Toby Sedgwick is terrified by his daughter’s increasingly reckless behavior and takes a tough love approach, enrolling Ava in Mount Hope, a wilderness behavioral camp for troubled teens. Ava quickly realizes that the camp is little more than a prison, warehousing and abusing kids for their parents’ money. And after spending a disturbing weekend completing the parent portion of treatment, Toby knows it too.
As Ava desperately searches for a way out of Mount Hope, she is faced with resurfacing memories of a family tragedy – she can no longer suppress the pain of what happened to her mother and sister eight years earlier in Thailand. As father and daughter fight to get back to each other, the truth may irrevocably tear them apart.
Diana Renn writes international mysteries for young adults. They include TOKYO HEIST, LATITUDE ZERO, and BLUE VOYAGE, all published by Viking / Penguin. She is also the Fiction Editor at YARN (Young Adult Review Network), an award-winning online magazine featuring short-form writing for teens.
Zan is a politician’s daughter and an adrenaline junkie. Whether she’s rock climbing or shoplifting, she loves to live on the edge. But she gets more of a rush than she bargained for on a forced mother–daughter bonding trip to Turkey, where she finds herself in the crosshairs of an antiquities smuggling ring. These criminals believe that Zan can lead them to an ancient treasure that’s both priceless and cursed. Until she does so, she and her family are in grave danger. Zan’s quest to save the treasure—and the lives of people she cares about—leads her from the sparkling Mediterranean, to the bustle of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, to the eerie and crumbling caves of Cappadocia. But it seems that nowhere is safe, and there’s only so high she can climb before everything comes tumbling down.
Spring Salon: April 7, 2016
“Memoir: stories of resilience and change”
Richard Hoffman is author, most recently, of the memoir Love & Fury, a finalist for the New England Book Award from the New England Independent Booksellers Association. He is also author of the celebrated Half the House: a Memoir, just reissued in a new 20th Anniversary Edition in 2015, with an introduction by Louise DeSalvo. His poetry collections are Without Paradise; Gold Star Road, winner of the 2006 Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and the 2008 Sheila Motton Award from the New England Poetry Club; and Emblem. A fiction writer as well, his Interference & Other Stories was published in 2009. He is Senior Writer in Residence at Emerson College.
Richard Hoffman sometimes felt as though he had two fathers: the real one who raised him and an imaginary version, one he talked to on the phone, and one he talked to in his head. Although Hoffman was always close to the man, his father remained a mystery, shrouded in a perplexing mix of tenderness and rage. When his father receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, Hoffman confronts the depths and limitations of their lifelong struggle to know each other, weighing their differences and coming to understand that their yearning and puzzlement was mutual.
With familial relationships at its center, Love & Fury draws connections between past and present, from the author’s grandfather, a “breaker boy” sent down into the anthracite mines of Pennsylvania at the age of ten, to his young grandson, whose father is among the estimated one million young black men incarcerated today. In a critique of culture and of self, Hoffman grapples with the way we have absorbed and incorporated the compelling imagery of post WWII America and its values, especially regarding class, war, women, race, masculinity, violence, divinity, and wealth.
The hardcover publication (1995) of this “spare, poignant” memoir (Time) resulted in the arrest of a child molester and the headline: “Author’s Writing on Abuse Brings New Victims Forward.” Our 20th Anniversary Edition features a new introduction by Louise DeSalvo—author of Writing as a Way of Healing—contextualizing the events this book set in motion, the cries for help Hoffman received from men across the country, and the talk he had with an 11-year-old boy who thanked him “for making it stop.” HALF THE HOUSE, an unflinching autobiography about a blue-collar family struggling to care for two terminally ill children as the third child, the author, is subjected at age 10 to sexual abuse by his coach, is also a moving work of literature and a testament to the healing power of truth telling. It “offers heartening evidence… of the human capacity to endure and prevail” (Washington Post).
Raman Prasad’s memoir Colitis & Me: A Story of Recovery chronicles his life with crippling ulcerative colitis from ages 17 to 24. Fortunately, he came across the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, that allowed him to put this chronic illness in remission, and restore his health and life. This need to document human resilience in the face of adversity propelled Prasad to recently write The SCD for Autism & ADHD (Swallowtail Press, 2015) which outlines how this dietary intervention can be used for those suffering from autism/ADHD. This book weaves together personal stories of children and families living on the spectrum; presents scientific research of why this intervention works; and how addressing the underlying issue of the gut microbiome can result in improved behavior, cognition, and language.
Raman Prasad has been a spokesperson for the SCD for almost two decades at venues such as Seattle Children’s Hospital, Autism Research Institute, and Northeast Organic Farming Association, among others. He is the founder of scdrecipe.com, a well-established online resource related to this dietary intervention, and has also co-authored two SCD cookbooks.
Grace Talusan writes essays and fiction. She published essays in Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, The Rumpus, Boston Magazine, Tufts Magazine, and other anthologies and journals. Her essay about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer won the Dorothy O’Connor Award from the Women’s National Book Association, and other essays were honored in the Best American Medical Writing and on Longform’s Best of 2015 list. She was awarded a Fulbright to the Philippines, a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and residencies to Ragdale and Hedgebrook. She teaches writing at Grub Street and Tufts University.
Winter Salon: January 7, 2016
“Searching for home: Immigration, identity and belonging”
Marjan Kamali is the author of the novel Together Tea (Ecco/HarperCollins), which was a Massachusetts Book Award Finalist, an NPR WBUR Good Read Pick, and a Target Emerging Author Selection. She attended U.C. Berkeley and earned an MBA from Columbia Business School and an MFA from NYU. Her short stories have appeared in the anthologies Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been and Tremors and her non-fiction has been published in The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Review of Books. Together Tea is her debut novel and has been translated into several languages.
Darya has discovered the perfect gift for her daughter’s twenty-fifth birthday: an ideal husband. Mina, however, is fed up with her mother’s years of endless matchmaking and the spreadsheets grading available Iranian-American bachelors. Having spent her childhood in Tehran and the rest of her life in New York City, Mina has experienced cultural clashes firsthand, but she’s learning that the greatest clashes sometimes happen at home. After a last ill-fated attempt at matchmaking, mother and daughter embark on a return journey to Iran. Immersed once again in Persian culture, the two women gradually begin to understand each other. But when Mina falls for a young man who never appeared on her mother’s matchmaking radar, will Mina and Darya’s new-found appreciation for each other survive?
Henriette Lazaridis‘ debut novel The Clover House was published by Ballantine Books in 2013 and was a Boston Globe bestseller and a Target Emerging Authors pick. Her work has appeared in publications including Narrative Magazine, Salamander, New England Review, The Millions, The New York Times online, and the Huffington Post, and has earned her a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists Grant. Lazaridis earned degrees in English literature from Middlebury College, Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and the University of Pennsylvania. Lazaridis is the founding editor of The Drum Literary Magazine. A former Lecturer on English at Harvard, she now teaches writing at Grub Street in Boston.
A phone call from her cousin sends Calliope Notaris Brown from Boston to the Greek city of Patras to sort through an inheritance from her uncle. She arrives during the wild abandon of Carnival, when the world is turned upside down and things are not as they seem. Digging through the keepsakes her uncle has left, Callie stumbles upon clues to the wartime disappearance of the family’s fortune and to the mystery of her estranged mother’s chronic unhappiness. As she pieces together family secrets that stretch back to the Italian occupation of Greece during World War II, Callie’s relationship with her fiancé, her mother, and her mother’s two sisters will change irrevocably.
Celeste Ng is the author of the novel Everything I Never Told You, which was a New York Times bestseller, Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014, and named best book of the year at over a dozen outlets. Her stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times, One Story, the Bellevue Literary Review, The Millions, and elsewhere, and she has been awarded the Pushcart Prize. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. To learn more about her and her work, visit celesteng.com or follow her on Twitter (@pronounced_ing).
“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
Fall Salon: October 1, 2015
“WRIting science: from theoretical strings to real skeletons”
CB Anderson is a cross-genre writer whose work has appeared in Flash Fiction Forward (W.W. Norton & Co.), The Christian Science Monitor, msnbc.com, Redbook, Boston Magazine, Down East, The Iowa Review, North American Review and elsewhere. Her collection of stories, River Talk, issued by C&R Press, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2014 and received the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Award for Short Stories. She lives with her family in Maine and Massachusetts and teaches writing at Boston University.
Described in a Kirkus starred review as “a triumphant, probing debut,” River Talk introduces an unforgettable array of characters. A woman reconsiders her decision to enter a polygamous marriage; an Iraq War veteran struggles to reclaim compromised relationships; a taxidermist plies his trade to woo the woman he loves; a Somali refugee takes a job at the local mill to support her family. In surefooted and emotionally deft prose, Anderson explores loss and desire, regret and hope. Everywhere we are reminded of all that a single life contains.
Deborah Halber started out as a daily newspaper reporter, then turned to the dark side to do public relations. She worked as a writer and editor for Tufts and as a science writer for MIT, where she chronicled everything from quantum weirdness (that’s the technical term) to snail slime. A freelance journalist since 2004, her writing has appeared in The Boston Globe, Technology Review, Symbolia, Inked magazine, and many university publications. Her narrative nonfiction book, THE SKELETON CREW: HOW AMATEUR SLEUTHS ARE SOLVING AMERICA’S COLDEST CASES, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2014 and released in paperback in July 2015. A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the National Association of Science Writers, and PEN America, she lives in Lexington with a lot of former pets buried out back.
The Skeleton Crew provides an entree into the gritty and tumultuous world of Sherlock Holmes–wannabes who race to beat out law enforcement—and one another—at matching missing persons with unidentified remains. In America today, upwards of forty thousand people are dead and unaccounted for. These murder, suicide, and accident victims, separated from their names, are being adopted by the bizarre online world of amateur sleuths. It’s DIY CSI. The web sleuths pore over facial reconstructions (a sort of Facebook for the dead) and other online clues as they vie to solve cold cases and tally up personal scorecards of dead bodies. The Skeleton Crew delves into the macabre underside of the Internet, the fleeting nature of identity, and how even the most ordinary citizen with a laptop and a knack for puzzles can reinvent herself as a web sleuth.
Robin Schoenthaler is a radiation oncologist at the MGH Department of Radiation Oncology at Emerson Hospital in Concord, MA. She has spent most of her career working with women with breast cancer. She received her medical degree at the UCLA School of Medicine and did her residency in Radiation Oncology at the University of California at San Francisco and a fellowship in Charged Particles at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Berkeley, CA. She has been working at MGH since 1992 and living in Arlington since 1995. She also writes. She has published numerous essays on medicine in the Boston Globe, Readers Digest, the New England Journal of Medicine, and others. She has also written about parenting and the general craziness of life for the Globe, Brain, Child, Full Grown People, etc. She has a website at http://www.DrRobin.org.
Summer salon: July 9, 2015, Spotlight on “Exiles, Geeks and Outsiders”
Lisa Borders‘ second novel, The Fifty-First State, was published by Engine Books in 2013, and was a finalist for the Housatonic Book Awards. Her first novel, Cloud Cuckoo Land, was chosen by Pat Conroy as the winner of River City Publishing’s Fred Bonnie Award, and received fiction honors in the 2003 Massachusetts Book Awards. Lisa’s short stories have appeared in Washington Square, Blank Warrior Review, Painted Bride Quarterly and other journals. She has received grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Somerville Arts Council and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and fellowships at the Millay Colony, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Hedgebrook and the Blue Mountain Center. She teaches at Grub Street.
Hallie and Josh Corson share a father but little else—until a grisly highway accident leaves them both without parents. Forced to leave her New York City life as an aspiring photographer and return to the rural southern New Jersey town where she and Josh grew up, Hallie soon finds herself managing not only her family’s insolvent tomato farm, but also, Josh’s transition to adulthood. Struggling to become both a parent and a sister, Hallie must help Josh navigate his final years of high school in the shadow of grief while coping with the escalating threat posed by a violent former employee of their father’s. Amid a lush natural landscape where toxins have poisoned vulnerable wildlife, Josh draws on a newfound inner-strength to grapple with his own coming-of-age which, despite his grief, is replete with a vibrant romantic and intellectual awakening. He and Hallie grow in ways they never expected, and ultimately, they discover that even in death’s wake lives can change for the better.
A journalist, memoirist, critic, poet, teacher and geek, Ethan Gilsdorf is the author of the award-winning travel memoir investigation Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms. Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, he writes regularly for The New York Times, Boston Magazine, Salon, Wired, BoingBoing, WBUR’s “Cognoscenti,” as well as the Boston Globe where he is a book and film critic. His fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, The North American Review, and in several anthologies. Gilsdorf frequently appears on TV, radio and Internet media, including PBS Off Book, WGBH, WBUR, and The Discovery Channel. Gilsdorf is co-founder of Grub Street’s Young Adult Writers Program (YAWP), and teaches creative writing at Grub Street, where he serves on the Board of Directors. Follow Ethan’s adventures at www.ethangilsdorf.com or Twitter @ethanfreak.
What could one man find if he embarked on a journey through fantasy world after fantasy world? In an enthralling blend of travelogue, pop culture analysis, and memoir, forty-year-old former D&D addict Ethan Gilsdorf crisscrosses America, the world, and other worlds—from Boston to New Zealand, and Planet Earth to the realm of Aggramar.
Steve Macone is a former headline contributor at The Onion. His essays, humor writing, and reporting have also appeared in the American Scholar, New York Times, Atlantic Online, New Yorker, Boston Globe, Boston Globe Magazine, Boston Phoenix, Salon.com, Morning News, Christian Science Monitor and The Drum. His work has been featured on Longreads, NPR and received notable essay mentions in The Best American Essays series.
Inaugural salon: April 1, 2015, Spotlight on HIstorical Fiction
E. B. Moore retired as a metal sculptor and turned her hand to poetry, publishing a chapbook, New Eden, A Legacy through Finishing Line Press. These poems served as the foundation for her novel, An Unseemly Wife. She graduated from The School of the Boston Museum Of Fine Arts, Grub Street’s Novel Incubator, and has received full fellowships to The Vermont Studio Center and Yaddo. She has a second novel, Stones In The Road, forth coming from NAL/Penguin in October ’15.
An Unseemly Wife is based on family stories of betrayal and hard won survival as her Amish great grandmother attempted the cross-country trek in a covered wagon with her husband, an infant and four other children.
Michelle Hoover has taught writing at Boston University and GrubStreet, where she co-founded the Novel Incubator, a year-long intensive in the novel. Her debut, The Quickening, was shortlisted for the Center for Fiction’s Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize and is a 2010 Massachusetts Book Award “Must Read” pick. She is a 2014 National Endowment of the Arts Fellow, awarded for her upcoming second novel, Bottomland, which will be published by Grove in 2016. This fall, she joined the creative writing department at Brandeis University as the Fannie Hurst writer-in-residence.
In this luminous and unforgettable debut, Michelle Hoover explores the polarization of the human soul in times of hardship and the instinctual drive for self-preservation by whatever means necessary. The Quickening stands as a novel of lyrical precision and historical consequence, reflecting the resilience and sacrifices required even now in our modern troubled times.
Anjali Mitter Duva is a writer who grew up in France and has family roots in Calcutta, India. After completing graduate studies at MIT and launching a career in urban planning, she found the call of storytelling too great to resist. A switch to freelance writing and project management allowed her more time for her own creative pursuits. Her first novel, Faint Promise of Rain, came out with She Writes Press in October 2014. She is a co-founder of Chhandika, an organization that teaches and presents India’s classical storytelling kathak dance. Anjali lives near Boston with her husband and two daughters, and is at work on her second novel, set in 19th century Lucknow.
It is 1554 in the desert of Rajasthan, an outpost of resistance against a new Mughal emperor. In a family of Hindu temple dancers a daughter, Adhira, must carry on her family’s sacred tradition. Her father, against his wife and sons’ protests, insists Adhira “marry” the temple deity and give herself to a wealthy patron. But after one terrible evening, she makes a brave choice that carries her family’s story and their dance to a startling new beginning. Told from the memory of this exquisite dancer and filled with the sounds, sights and flavors of the Indian desert, Faint Promise of Rain is the story of a family and a girl caught between art, duty, and fear in a changing world.
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