New England Literary news | Nina MacLaughlin

Another prize for Martín Espada; Newtonville Books turns 20; YA novel looks at Islamophobia

Newtonville Books
Newtonville Books

Another prize for Espada

Martín Espada is having a very good year.

The poet, essayist, and translator, who teaches at UMass Amherst, was recently named the winner of a 2018 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, which includes a prize purse of $25,000 and residency at T.S. Eliot’s summer home in Gloucester.

Earlier this year Espada, a lawyer who worked for a time at Su Clínica Legal, a legal services program for low-income, Spanish-speaking tenants in Chelsea, was named recipient of the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.


Espada became the first Latino to win the award, which honors a living US poet for outstanding lifetime achievement. The prize is administered by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. 

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Born in Brooklyn, Espada got a bachelor’s in history from the University of Wisconsin and a law degree from Northeastern. His collection The Republic of Poetry (Norton) was a 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist, and his latest collection is Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (Norton).

Espada will read from his work Wednesday, Sept. 26. at 6:30 p.m. at the Cambridge Public Library. It’s free and open to the public.

Newtonville Books turns 20

This month marks the 20th anniversary of Newtonville Books, and the store will be celebrating Saturday, Sept. 29, with a daylong party. Festivities begin at 11 a.m. with pancakes and stories; local children’s book author Emilie Boon will read from her book Ella & Monkey at Sea’’ (Candlewick). Throughout the day, there will be literary scavenger hunts and stations where you can make your own bookmarks and hang out until 5 p.m. for Literary Bingo. The store is also offering special $20 gift certificates to mark the occasion.  “I want everyone to feel that the bookstore is theirs,” writes co-owner Mary Cotton in an e-mail, “and I look forward to expanding our book clubs and programming to build more community involvement.” Newtonville Books is at 10 Langley Road in Newton Centre. 

A YA conversation starter

In her third novel for young adults, Here to Stay’’ (Algonquin), Sara Farizan wrestles with toxic masculinity and Islamophobia at a Boston-area prep school. Bijan Majidi is a high school basketball star, with a mom of Persian descent and a dad who grew up in Jordan. When a cyberbully circulates a photoshopped image of Bijan looking like a terrorist, the teenager begins having problems telling friend from foe. In Bijan, Farizan has created a real and layered character, coming into an awareness of self in a world of staggering inequality, privilege, and racism. Bijan navigates high school life — crushes, basketball games, allies, enemies — in a way that feels true to life. With humor, power, smarts, and honesty, Farizan has written a conversation-starter.

Coming out


Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art’’ by Mary Gabriel (Little, Brown)

Encantado: Desert Monologues’’ by Pat Mora (University of Arizona)

One Part Woman’’ by Perumal Murugan, translated from the Tamil by Aniruddhan Vasudevan (Black Cat)

Pick of the week

Liz O’Connor of the Concord Bookshop recommendsBeing Wagner: The Story of the Most Provocative Composer Who Ever Lived’’ (Vintage): “Simon Callow has written a fast-paced, clearly-written life of the composer, giving us a crisp narrative not only about the music but the many passions and quirks driving this irascible and unstoppable genius. There is an excellent balance of vivid historic and social context, humor, and musical observation in this engaging and insightful book.” 

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