A Time for Memory

As another birthday passed me by last week, I sifted through the memories surfaced by my friends and family. My mom calls me every year on my birthday and repeats the same story: “Twenty-one years ago today, I was sitting at the pool wondering if I’d be going to the hospital…”

The cycle of another year makes me reflect back on my past: my sixteenth birthday spent sweating in a humid North Carolinian summer camp, my tenth birthday spent jumping into the icy water of Lake Roaming Wood in Pennsylvania, and my twentieth birthday spent looking out at the Manhattan skyline from a Hoboken skyscraper. I love examining memory, the way we recall individual and collective events. Therefore, I thought I would share some books that deal with memory in unique and interesting ways:

  1. The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

Falling

In The Sound of Things Falling, Vasquez captures the lives of Bogotans and gringos during the Pablo Escobar years in the 1960s and 1970s, and the Colombia’s transition into a modern age after his assassination in the 1990s. Vasquez explores memory and nostalgia in its complete form and in a pre-form, “the nostalgia for things that weren’t yet lost” as he describes it. Piecing together a narrative that won’t conform to linear structure, Vasquez keeps readers fascinated on every page.

  1. The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

Jump

The Reason I Jump is a brilliantly touching book written by a then-thirteen-year-old Japanese boy with autism. In it, he answers important questions about people with autism that are never broached, like: why don’t you make eye contact, do you not like being touched, and what are your flashback memories like? In Higashida’s answer to the last question, he writes, “the trouble with scattered memories is that sometimes they replay themselves in my head as if they had only just taken place – and when this happens, the emotions I felt originally all come rushing back to me, like a sudden storm.” A book filled with beautiful illustrations and an intention to connect us all, I highly recommend you read The Reason I Jump.

  1. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Carried

O’Brien’s famous book about the Vietnam War is often debated over whether it can be considered nonfiction or fiction. Much of the book examines the ideas of truth and memory, and what makes something real. O’Brien discusses the difference between “story-truth” and “happening-truth,” as he calls it, and asserts that fictional stories can tell the emotions of memories better than the actual memory itself. Without a doubt, The Things They Carried deserves a couple reads.

Birthdays, especially milestone birthdays like a twenty-first, are times for reflection and nostalgia. Where did I come from? How much have I grown? I love to look back at books like The Sound of Things Falling, The Reason I Jump, and The Things They Carried during this time because they remind me that memory fascinates us all. Each person approaches it in a different way. Whether it’s nearing your big day or still several months out, I recommend reading these phenomenal books.

-Colleen Risavy, Intern

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A Call to Modernize the Swedish Academy

Swedish Academy

In May, the Swedish Academy, the group responsible for choosing the Nobel Prize in literature, was involved in a scandal that rocked the literary world.

Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of former Academy member Katarina Frostenson, was accused by eighteen women of sexual assault and harassment. Arnault was in charge of a cultural organization called Forum, which received financial support from the Academy. According to reports that are under investigation, Arnault used cultural power gained from the Academy to commit misconduct against aspiring writers.

After the story was released to the public, Sara Danius, The Swedish Academy’s former permanent secretary and first female permanent secretary, was forced to step down from her position, then left the Academy altogether. In the following weeks, eight of the eighteen members, both men and women, left the Academy. As it stands, there will be no Nobel Prize awarded in literature this year.

While this scandal is another sad story of men using their authority to overpower women, it also reveals a need to modernize cultural organizations like the Swedish Academy. The Academy was much respected by the international community, therefore, a lot of work needs to be done before they will be trusted again. Bjorn Wiman, cultural editor at Dagens Nyheter, said, “With this scandal you cannot possibly say that this group of people has any kind of solid judgment.”

Danius

Sara Danius

Some of Danius’s enemies within the Academy claim that the assault allegations are exaggerated and Danius was a weak leader who needed to be forced from the position of permanent secretary. They pointed to the importance of tradition in protecting the image of the Academy. However, others claim that she was ousted because she threatened the male-dominated tradition of the Swedish Academy. The first female permanent secretary introduced initiatives toward modernization that were not well-received by all.

Alexandra Pascalidou, a Greek-Swedish journalist, is a proponent for change in the literary community. She believes that the cancelation of the Nobel Prize this year punishes authors, so she is running her own prize, an inclusive prize. People all around the world are able to vote on the prize’s website for one of 46 candidates. On August 14, the polls will close and a panel of a literature professor, two librarians, and two literary editors will then choose a winner from the four finalists.

Pascalidou

Alexandra Pascalidou

The New Academy, as they call themselves, seeks to be a more accessible space than the Swedish Academy. Instead of a panel of old guard academics, Pascalidou is involving people who interact with literature on many different levels. Although the hope is that the Swedish Academy will take on some of their inclusive measures, Pascalidou is not convinced. “I don’t think they will adopt what we’re doing as these are people who express very elitist views on librarians,” she said. “That’s very sad. Why do they think people in the Academy are the only ones that know about literature?”

Will the New Academy’s winner have a positive impact on the future of literature? Will the Swedish Academy become a more accessible, transparent organization? With the New Academy’s winner set to be announced on October 14, and the future of the Swedish Academy still unknown, we must wait to see how the literary community evolves. I leave with a parting call to action: vote. Go onto the New Academy’s website and involve yourself in the literary world. If the Swedish Academy will not give us room, we will make room.

-Colleen Risavy, Intern

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How The Lost Family’s Jenna Blum Found Her Second Home

Jenna Blum

Jenna Blum

On the night of June 5th, a drizzling June evening, I ran from the T to the shelter of Coolidge Corner Theater. My nose was immediately comforted by the scent of buttery popcorn and my eyes brightened at the sight of vintage movie posters under yellowing lightbulbs.

After finding a seat inside the theater, my eyes gravitated toward a woman sitting off stage. She styled her hair in a big half-ponytail and she wore a glittering copper jumpsuit. A warm smile crept across her face as Christopher Castellani, Artistic Director of Grubstreet, took the stage to introduce her. With a laugh, he told us how this woman talks about the characters in her novels like they’re real. This one’s giving me a hard time today and that one won’t do what I’m asking her to. He told us about her dedication to the writing community. She’s taught fiction and nonfiction workshops at Grubstreet since 1998.

After Chris finished his introduction, the woman stepped onto the stage and gave him a hug. She was Jenna Blum, author of acclaimed books Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers. She is one of Oprah Winfrey’s Thirty Women Writers and she worked for the Steven Spielberg Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, interviewing Holocaust survivors from 1993 through 1997. Jenna was here to kick off her book tour for her new novel The Lost Family, which was published on June 5, 2018 by Harper Collins.

Jenna Book

She surprised us by saying, “I hate book readings that go on for super long, so I usually only read for ten to fifteen minutes.” I wondered what she would do for the rest of the event if she only planned to read for ten minutes, but my question was answered by spending most of the evening talking with Jenna, and asking her questions about her characters, her process, and her life as the wind and rain whipped around the Coolidge Corner Theater.

Jenna talked about the importance of building a writing community for yourself. She is still good friends with many of her Grubstreet students–who attended the event–and always has people she can turn to for edits on new chapters of her books. Jenna told us she has “accountabilibuddies,” a group of people she checks in with each day to name a writing goal they have for the day and follow up to see if it was accomplished. Though I was sincerely intrigued by Jenna’s reading of The Lost Family and look forward to buying my own copy, I was most floored by Jenna opening herself up to a room of rain-soaked strangers.

Jenna Blum showed herself to be a writer fully committed to the literary community. She has been to over 850 book clubs in Boston alone. She enjoys talking to readers, hearing our thoughts and answering our questions. As a writer and reader myself, I was honored to share the space with her.

-Colleen Risavy, Intern

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Salutations!

Salutations!

I honestly don’t know why that word isn’t used more in everyday language. It’s as much fun to say as it is to write! When I meet people, I abbreviate my greeting to a plain, “hey” or “hello,” which is probably more normal sounding than “salutations.” That said, I think “salutations” describes my personality in one phrase—strange but well-meaning.

I’m Parisa Syed, one of the two new summer 2018 interns for CambridgeEditors. I’m so happy to be here and write exciting literary things for you all! I have all sorts of ideas lined up for the blog, ranging from book recommendations, both genre-based and feelings based, and literary news regarding audio books, ebooks, print books, publishers, etc.

I was born in Detroit, Michigan, but my parents moved to sunny (and excessively hot) Florida when I was two years old. Suffice to say that I enjoy the cold in Boston more than I enjoy the three random days of ninety-degree weather we’ve been having.

juno beach

Juno Beach boardwalk at sunset

This fall, I’ll be starting my last year at Emerson College for my MA in Publishing and Writing. I’m appalled yet excited that time has flown by so quickly. I did my undergrad at Goucher College in Maryland, and I majored in Sociology because I couldn’t do science, but I still wanted to be a doctor (look how that turned out). I took a fiction writing course during my last semester of senior year and discovered I liked to edit pieces more than I liked to write them, though I still write here and there. And then I started the journey of finding internships and jobs to gain experience for this complicated and intense world called publishing.

When I’m not interning, I love to re-read the Captive Prince trilogy and the All for the Game trilogy instead of starting the thirty-five books I haven’t read yet, read countless fanfiction instead of starting the thirty-five books I haven’t read yet, re-watch my favorite show, Merlin, on Netflix instead of the ten shows on my list, walk around this beautiful city, and look up adoption centers to cry at the fact that I want a cat or dog but can’t have one just yet. I love reading fiction novels, gay romance novels, and fanfiction because I like happy endings and reading about the multiple ways people can fall in love with each other.

cute cat

A cute cat that I want to take home

Thank you for reading this introduction about my weird self. Hopefully I can convince you I’m actually not this strange and funnier than I seem in the following months. For now, I hope you enjoy this fickle weather.

 

Signing off,

Parisa Syed, Intern

CambridgeEditors

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When Your Dad Loves Books, and You Love Him

My dad writes a blog called Crap Dads Do and I’ve been his editor for years, reading over potential posts and kindly asking him to keep my embarrassing moments out. In fact, his first ever blog post was about the time the family gifted him a Father’s Day cat sixteen years ago when he’d not asked for one. We’ve bonded over the hilarious stories of David Sedaris. One previous Father’s Day gift of mine, when he first started transforming memories into a book, was The Art of the Memoir by Mary Karr. We had always respected each other’s work and I wanted to give him the best advice for memoir writing I knew.

Dad and Colleen

Dad and Jack

There are always the classic gifts to get a dad on this day: a tie, a coffee mug, or grilling equipment. But I would suggest leaning a little literary this year. Books have the power to open up a conversation between parents and children and really connect them. Books teach you what your parents believe in, what makes them laugh, and what their passions are. And it does the same for them. So, if you are still wondering what to get the father figure in your life this June 17th, here are some ideas:

  1. For younger fathers, Jabari Jumps, written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall, and published by Candlewick Press on May 9, 2017. Tied for second place for children’s book at the 2018 New England Book Show, Jabari Jumps tells the story of a father’s ability to inspire courage in his children.

Jabari

  1. For food loving dads, Captain Madbeard’s Cookbook written by Doug McLean, published by Lulu Publishing on September 11, 2017. If you want to make memories with your dad over some pirate-themed meals, check out this book.

Pirates

  1. For mentoring young men, From Fatherless to Fatherhood written by Omar Epps, and published by Lulu Publishing on May 4, 2018. In this book, Epps describes his journey from growing up in Brooklyn without his biological father to becoming a world famous actor and a father himself.

Omar Epps

Whether you get your dad one of these, or another book, remember to talk about it with him afterwards. What was your favorite part? What about his? What surprised him most about what he read? Through the long-lasting gift of literature, we are able to further cement the love between parents and children.  Remember to spend time with your fathers. Have dinner together, go to a movie, or become their blog editors if that works for you. The written word has always connected me and my father. Find out what connects you to yours. Whatever it is, give thanks for the father figures in your life this year.

Colleen Risavy, Intern

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Top Three Mexican Authors

Cinco de Mayo, which took place on May 5th, is usually mistaken for the Mexican Independence Day, however, that holiday is on September 16th. Cinco de Mayo is for remembering the victory at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. This year, in addition to celebrating the Mexican-American relationship, people could read famous Mexican authors.

 

Cristina Rivera Garza

 

One prominent author is Cristina Rivera Garza. She lives in Matamoros, Mexico and has always been interested in writing. The only thing she says about herself is “I am me and my keyboard.” She teaches, writes creative writing, and has a PhD in History. She’s won multiple awards, such as Roger Caillois Award for Latin American Literature, the Anna Seghers International Prize, the Juan Vicente Melo National Short Story Award, and more. She’s written poetry, short stories, non fiction, novels, and one opera.

Laura Esquivel

Laura Esquivel wrote Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate). It was transformed into a movie and was an international bestseller. That novel was published in 1989, but she has written many more. Her style is to use magical realism and include supernatural elements to add to her elements of love and self-acceptance. She lives in Mexico City. One of her famous quotes is “Each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them all by ourselves.”

Valeria Luiselli

Valeria Luiselli has taken the world by storm with her collection of essays and fiction works. Her writing has been translated into various languages and she has appeared in many United States major magazines, such as the New York Times. One of her works, The Story of My Teeth, was published in 2015 and won multiple awards. Her style incorporates an autobiography-feel, even if the work is fiction. In an interview for Atlas Review she stated, “I’m very conscious of my being in space, and that comes into my writing. In that sense, yes of course, all my writing somehow comes and springs from my everydayness, but it’s not autobiographical.”

Everyone should celebrate the (correct) reasoning for Cinco de Mayo, but in the following days it’s a good plan to try and pick up some cultural media to expand every literary horizon.

-Laura Rodgers, Intern

 

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Get Lit(erary) in Boston

Boston is a city steeped in the rich, literary history of America, and this tradition continues to this day. If you are in Boston and don’t visit a literary site, you would be missing out on a unique experience. Whether you are a Boston resident or just visiting for a short while, be sure to explore these wonderfully bookish sites the city has to offer!

Image result for grolier poetry book shop

Grolier Poetry Book Shop

Support Independent Bookstores

The Children’s Book Store

My personal favorite bookstore in the Boston area specializes in, as you can guess, children’s books. The store is cozy and offers a diverse range of books. Keep an eye out for the books on display. You may end up finding your next favorite read!

Harvard Bookstore

This locally owned, independently run bookstore has been a fixture in Cambridge since 1932 with its massive inventory of books and author events. Particularly interesting is that Harvard Bookstore is the home of an Espresso Book Machine, a contraption that prints books on demand. There aren’t many of these machines in the world, so don’t miss your chance to see one in action!

Grolier Poetry Book Shop

Just around the corner from Harvard Bookstore is Grolier, which proudly bears the title of oldest poetry bookstore in America. Aside of selling poetry books and hosting readings, Grolier is also a press that publishes upcoming poets.

Porter Square Books

Porter Square Books is another excellent independent bookstore in Cambridge. They go above and beyond by offering a service called virtual bookseller. If you are short on time and unable to browse the store in person, you can simply submit an online form with your preferences and Porter will send you a list of personalized recommendations.

Trident Booksellers & Cafe

At the time of writing, Trident is temporarily closed due to a fire. Check back on their website for when they reopen because books and breakfast food is a combination that should not be missed.

Brattle Book Shop

One of the country’s oldest antiquarian bookstore, Brattle is located in the heart of Boston. There are multiple floors of used books to peruse. You might even find a rare first edition!

Image result for boston athenaeum

Boston Anthenaeum

When in Doubt, Go to the Library

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

This library and museum are dedicated to the 35th president of the United States. Here you can find numerous valuable documents, including a collection dedicated to Ernest Hemingway.

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center

This exhibit is located off of the Boston Public Library and features a collection of historical maps, exhibits, and more.

Boston Anthenaeum

Technically, the Anthenaeum is a library, but it’s also a cultural institution, an archive, a museum, and more.

Image result for walden pond

Walden Pond

Off the Pages

Make Way for Ducklings statue

Make Way for Ducklings is an iconic children’s book by Robert McCloskey about duck parents who decide to raise their ducklings in the Boston Public Garden lagoon. These statues are an homage to the classic tale.

Trumpet of the Swans bridge

E. B. White is most well known for Charlotte’s Web, but The Trumpet of the Swan is a great work in and of itself. The bridge (and swan boats!) are also located in the Boston Public Garden.

Walden Pond

A little out of the way but nonetheless a worthwhile journey, this famed lake in Concord is the is the site that inspired Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Go submerge yourself in the nature that so captivated Thoreau.

Omni Parker House hotel

This is one of the oldest operating hotels in the country, and its legacy precedes itself. It is at this hotel where numerous literary figures met for meals and discussed literature. Guests here include Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and more (and maybe you!).

Stay lit(erary) everyone! And with that, signing off for the last time,

Cindy Nguyen-Pham, Intern

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