Shore Lit Newsletter, June 2022
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!
What I’m Reading:
I’ve read a string of great books this month. Johnny Sun’s touching book of essays Goodbye, again is about anxiety, tenderness, and house plants (perhaps my favorite thing about well-rendered nonfiction is that it can make even house plants riveting). Sun suggests a way of moving through the world with gentle attention for our loved ones, our objects, and ourselves. I walked away from this book a better human.
Deeshaw Philyaw’s The Secret Life of Church Ladies came out in 2020, but I didn’t discover it until just a few weeks ago when I saw Deeshaw read her startling flash essay “Milk for Free” at this year’s AWP conference. She said her first draft of this piece was 20-pages long. Her final is just 750 words, and yet somehow contains a whole complex lifetime. The short stories in this collection do the same.
I expected comedian Hannah Gadsby’s Ten Steps to Nanette to be a typical celebrity memoir about the path to fame and fortune. Instead, she has written a complex, experimental, essayistic autobiography that plays bravely and effectively with structure and form, and which—poignantly, humorously, shamelessly—expresses the workings of her autistic brain. Though I bought the hardcopy, I also ended up downloading the audiobook so I could listen on my commute. I loved hearing her story in her own voice.
Also: David Sedaris on the return to book-touring in the New Yorker (head’s up: he’s coming to the Avalon in October!); Courtney Brkic on family secrets in The Offing; Louise Erdrich on the creative life in T Magazine; Emily Lee Luan’s “I Put Tasks I Do for Free into a Folder Titled ‘Jobs’” in American Poetry Review (via Poetry Daily).
What Else I’m Looking Forward to on the Shore:
Guided Sculpture Walk with Howard & Mary McCoy @ Adkins Arboretum
Saturday, June 4, 2:00-4:00
The artists behind the gorgeous, ephemeral sculptures scattered throughout the Arboretum are offering a guided walk and artist talk. There will also be a reception for artist Kit-Keung Kan, whose landscapes are currently on view in the gallery.
Delmarva Pride Party @ Hummingbird Inn
Friday, June 17, 7:00
Drag show and dance party – yes please!
Juneteenth Celebration @ Academy Art Museum & Ashbury
Saturday, June 18, 12:00-4:00
The folks at AAM, Building African American Minds (BAAM), Frederick Douglass Honor Society, and Talbot County Free Library are joining forces to host what looks to be a great afternoon of music, food, and art. Musicians Dat Feel Good and Julie Outrage will be performing.
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