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new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

A Philippine immigrant’s memoir; summer residency for writers

Grace Talusan’s memoir, “The Body Papers,” was the winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.

An eloquent immigrant tale

Grace Talusan’s finely-wrought and eloquent memoir, The Body Papers,” out April 9, was the winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. The book is visceral, bodily, and throbs with pain and trauma — sexual abuse by a family member, cancer, the phantom-limb ache of an outsider in a foreign land, and later, as an outsider in the homeland .

In less skilled hands, it all might be too much to bear, but Philippines-born Talusan, who teaches at GrubStreet, Tufts, and Brandeis, brings us along in spare, specific, sense-rich detail, and reveals, along the way, the power to be found in giving a name to the unnamable, in giving language to subjects and experiences that defy it. Therein, Talusan shows, one can find the possibility of healing what’s happened in the past, as well as moving into the future with gratitude, wisdom, and strength.


Talusan will read and discuss the book with Celeste Ng and Jenna Blum on April 3 at 7 p.m. at Porter Square Books in Cambridge.

Writer residency

The Boston Literary District and Emerson College have teamed up to create a monthlong residency for writers in downtown Boston this summer. The selected writer will be granted a furnished apartment for free from July 15 to Aug. 15, and will be asked to take part in of one of Emerson’s online classes. If you want to apply, you have to be a resident of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, or New Hampshire, and cannot be enrolled in college or graduate school. The application, which is due April 15, includes a page-long cover letter that details how you’d benefit from the residency and a writing sample of up to 15 pages. For more information, visit

Literary festivals

Two literary festivals take place this week. The first annual Exeter LitFest in New Hampshire, opens on Friday with trivia, a movie screening, a costume party. It continues Saturday with panel discussions on kid lit and spirituality, author talks, poetry readings, and a talk by Dan Brown. For more information, visit The fourth annual South End Authors’ Book Festival brings together Mel King, Alison Barnet, Russ Lopez, Charles Caizzi, B.A. Shapiro, Stephanie Schorow, and other writers. This year’s featured speaker is Karilyn Crockett who will discuss her bookPeople Before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making(University of Massachusetts). The life of poet William Corbett, a long-time South End resident, will be remembered. The event takes place April 4, from 4-8 p.m. at the Harry Dow Community Room at Tent City, 130 Dartmouth St., in Boston.


Coming out

Morelia by Renee Gladman (Solid Objects)

The Tradition by Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon)

Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative’’ by Jane Alison (Catapult)

Pick of the week

Scott Stearns at the Book Nook in Ludlow, Vt., recommends “The Buried Giant” by Kazuo Ishiguro (Vintage): “A powerful meditation on memory and loss, both personal and communal. An elderly couple set off on a quest to visit their son in a Post-Arthurian Britain, but an amnesia causing mist clouds the truth of what is or isn’t really happening. Haunting.”

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Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at