(Scroll down for past presenters.)
Next Salon: Thursday, July 12, 2018, 7:30 pm
“A novel trio: on being human and other investigations”
Where: Kickstand Café, 594 Mass Ave in Arlington Center, MA.
Just off the Minuteman bike path and steps from Spy Pond.
Accessible via the #77 bus. Some parking available in front of the café, and ample parking in the two town lots across the street.
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.
Sign up to be notified of future events.