What We’re Up To This Month:
I’m saying “we,” but Shore Lit is really just me, Kerry Folan—a reader, writer, and teacher passionate about literature in all its shapes and forms. My goal is to engage our community in conversation around a shared love of books. Eventually, I’m hoping Shore Lit will grow to be a resource for young adult literacy. Welcome! I’m so glad you are here for this journey.
Over the past month I have spent most of my time prepping for Shore Lit’s first official event: a conversation with author Rion Amilcar Scott and historic preservationist Dale Glenwood Green at Easton’s Academy Art Museum this Friday, June 3.
I’ve been following Rion’s work since I ran into him at the 2016 AWP Conference, just before his fantastic first story collection, Insurrections, was published to enormous acclaim. At that conference, I attended a panel he moderated titled “The Literary Genius of Kendrick Lamar” which examined Lamar’s storytelling at the intersection of hip-hop and literature. It was the most exciting and insightful panel I attended that year.
I had a weird sense of recognition when I saw Rion on the stage, and eventually I realized that I already knew him: We attended elementary school together more than thirty years ago. (It turns out we also attended the same MFA program at George Mason University, too, though at different times.) It was trippy and wonderful to re-meet that little boy, now grown into a father, husband, teacher, and exceptionally beautiful writer.
Both of Rion’s story collections, Insurrections (winner of the 2017 PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and the 2017 Hillsdale Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers) and The World Doesn’t Require You (a finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award and a “Best Books of the Year” per the Washington Post, NPR, Buzzfeed and Entropy) are set in the fictional town of Cross River, Maryland—a free black settlement founded in 1807 after the only successful slave revolt in the United States. Each short story is told from the point-of-view of a different citizen, creating a dazzling kaleidoscope of perspectives and personalities. The lives Rion conjures are frustrated, hopeful, humorous, absurd, sublime, and very human. Even when the narrator is a robot. “Shape-Ups at Delilahs,” published in the New Yorker, will give you an idea of what I mean.
When Rion agreed to read here in Easton, I felt that the occasion was also an important opportunity to celebrate the non-fictional lives of the museum's neighbors in the Hill Community, which is one of the oldest free African American neighborhoods in the country. Dale Green, in partnership with local historians and Hill Community residents, has done incredible work over the past decade (literally) unearthing artifacts from backyards and preserving private documents that shed light on the lives of the free African American families who have lived here for more than two centuries.
Washington College’s Chesapeake Heartland Project will have their African American Humanities Truck on site starting around 5:00 pm. The formal talk will go from about 6:00-7:00. Rion will be signing books afterwards and Dale Green will lead a walking tour of the Hill Community around 7:30. Shore Lit events are always free and open to the public (reservations encouraged). I hope you will join us!