In the textured, multilayered, cross-disciplinary “Blackspace: On the Poetics of an Afrofuture,” published this fall by the boundary-pushing Boston-based Black Ocean, trans poet Anaïs Duplan explores freedom, what it means to be liberated, artistically, socially, individually. He looks to a number of Black artists and writers, and in poetry, essay, and interview, finds inroads into traditions and trajectories. A series of poems responding to — or in conversation with — works by video artists of color are especially alive: “there are things that are facts / because nothing makes sense / otherwise a part of you / will always remember the / transgression.” The book concludes with an essay about Duplan’s transition: “Transness is just as much about love as it is about gender.” The book is intimate and deep-thinking and Duplan’s wisdom, curiosity, and engagement with text, art, and being alive, are evident in each of the varied sections.
Loren Ghiglione, who worked as editor and publisher of the Evening News in Southbridge, Mass., for over a quarter century, and then as a professor of journalism at Northwestern, set out on a road trip quest to discover American identity. He followed a route mapped by Mark Twain, weaving around the United States, taking with him two twenty-something journalism students. The resulting book, “Genus Americanus: Hitting the Road in Search of America’s Identity” (University of Georgia), gives snapshot senses of the variety of lives being led in pockets all across the country. Diary, memoir, travelogue, oral history, regional portraiture, the book includes interviews with 150 Americans, talking about race, sexual orientation, religion, gender, immigration status, and class, telling stories that “capture the ambiguities and ambivalences and the contradictions and commonalities that make up Americans’ identities today.” Locally, they highlight Boston’s racism as well as “its status as an educational capital of the world.” The trio interviews Henry Louis Gates Jr., Gunner Scott at the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, and Deirdre Leopold, director of admissions at the Harvard Business School.
Four-hundred and sixty-four species of birds have been recorded in Maine, and a new guidebook, the first overview published in over 70 years, explores each one. “Birds of Maine” (Princeton) by the late Peter D. Vickery and beautifully illustrated by naturalist art giants Lars Jonsson and Barry Van Dusen, is an astonishing and comprehensive look at Maine’s birdlife, not only exploring the birds themselves, but mapping their migrations, looking at their distribution across the state, and exploring Maine’s ornithological history. The book also examines conservation efforts, asking what birds are of most concern, and what is — and can be — done to help them. Looking through the book, as casual birder or serious ornithologist, is a deep pleasure, a celebration of the winged creatures in the world around us, from swifts to stilts to storks, falcons, owls, and doves, to grebes and loons and pelicans. A virtual book launch takes place Thursday, December 3 at 7 pm. Visit maineaudobon.org for more information.
“The Freezer Door” by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (Semiotext(e))
“Desert Oracle” by Ken Layne (MCD)
“A Certain Hunger” by Chelsea G. Summers (Unnamed)
Pick of the Week Hannah Zimmerman at Trident Booksellers & Café in Boston recommends “Where the Wild Ladies Are” by Aoko Matsuda, translated from the Japanese by Polly Barton (Soft Skull): “Japanese ghost stories with a feminist twist. These ghosts aren’t the stereotypical ‘spooky’ ghosts, which makes them all the better. They’re real human beings with real personalities and stories. Matsuda manages to make you connect and empathize with each story because each character is just trying to find their place in their world. This book made me laugh, reflect, and consider the abstract rules of the world (and what I will be like when I’m a ghost).”