The Arlington Author Salon takes place quarterly the first week of July, October, January, and April, with some exceptions to circumvent holidays.
Fall Salon: Thursday, October 1, 2020, 7:30 pm
Spotlight on “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.”
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