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New England Literary News

New wisdom from 826 Boston, a memoir of circus life, and a bookstore springs up in Springfield

826 Boston has published its largest anthology of student work to date, this one offering guidance and advice.826 Boston

826 Boston releases new anthology

This week marks the publication of a new anthology from the literacy, writing, and publishing organization 826 Boston, the largest book they’ve produced to date, the first program-wide collection. “What If the World Needs You: Advice and Life Lessons from 826 Boston Students” gathers stories, essays, and poems, each offering a lesson or advice. The pieces remind us to follow our dreams, to stick with stuff that challenges us, how to deal with bullies, how to make friends, how to navigate being an outsider, with humor, candor, and wisdom. “Loving your mom is the most important thing because she takes care of you and you should value her now because one day she will get old and disappear,” writes second-grader Giana Chery. Fourth-grader Riyan Hassan writes of stealing and the fights it can cause and her lines bring Blake to mind: “Dragon, dragon way up high / in the sky / in the cave in the night / What immortal hand or eye / Could frame a fearful symmetry?” Najma Aden, a seventh-grader, writes of being bullied and the risks and relief of a teacher finding out. Fifteen-year-old R.S., born in the Dominican Republic, re-tells the story of Medusa with a focus on jealousy and betrayal, what it is to see yourself as monstrous and realize “that inner beauty was the most important.” Kamaal Abdisalam, 16, notes in his poem of insomnia, “The moon is just as bright as your inevitable future.” And fourth-grader Ruman Hassan reminds us “do not eat some crayons even if it looks yummy.”

Memoir from founder of Circus Smirkus

In 1987, Rob Mermin founded Circus Smirkus, a tented touring youth circus, on 38 acres in Vermont. He’d run away nearly twenty years before, leaving the tumult of late-60s America for a quieter radicalism learning circus abroad. He studied and toured with troupes in Europe with a goal of founding his own circus as an embodiment of his ideals: “humor without malice, laughter without scorn, common sense in public discourse, decency in human relations, delight in sharing skills without aggressive competition.” In “Circle of Sawdust: A Circus Memoir of Mud, Myth, Mirth, Mayhem, and Magic” (Rootstock), Mermin details his wanderings, adventures, the wild and wooly characters he encounters, and the joy he’s brought to audiences and performers. The book shows circus as lifestyle, as a way of interaction, as a way of living and seeing the world that’s defined by moments of joy and magic. With Circus Smirkus, Mermin sought to build a bridge between traditional circus practices and more modern approaches. And he serves as a beaming example of someone who chose to step “out on the path of adventure to overcome self-doubts and timidity, explore the world, and strive to be true to my own instincts and dreams.” There’s a clowning exuberance here, an abiding faith in the power of laughter and dazzle, the wisdom to recognize “the perplexity and naivete — and stubborn determination — of the human experience.” He shows us, too, that “sometimes calamity is the prelude to an experience of profound grace.”


A permanent spot for Rumspringa Books

Rumspringa Books popped up in Springfield this past winter, taking up temporary residence in the bakery Granny’s Baking Table. They recently opened their doors in a permanent location, this time, sharing the space with Nosh Cafe & Restaurant in downtown Springfield. Co-founder Brett Albert, who started the store with his wife Kate Kreider, writes that it’s been years since Springfield has had an independent bookstore, describing the area as “a bit of a book desert.” He talks of the benefits of partnering with a beloved and established spot, saying, “this type of co-tenancy helps make the whole venture a bit more sustainable.” They’re working to bring author events to the space, as well as looking to expand this co-tenancy concept with partners throughout New England. “We’ve worked to create the experience of accidentally finding yourself in a bookstore, and it seems to be a hit so far with Springfield.” Rumspringa Books is located at 1341 Main St., in Springfield. Visit rumspringabooks.com.


Coming out

I’m a Fool To Want Youby Camila Sosa Villada, translated from the Spanish by Kit Maude (Other)

Lost Writingsby Mina Loy, edited by Karla Kelsey (Yale University)

Accordion Eulogies: A Memoir of Music, Migration, and Mexicoby Noé Álvarez (Catapult)

Pick of the week

Alyssa Raymond at Copper Dog Books in Beverly, Mass., recommends “Endpapers” by Jennifer Savran Kelly (Algonquin): “Melding a post-9/11 genderqueer artist’s coming-of-age story with a historical mystery of forbidden romance, ‘Endpapers’ is an intimate, raw, and profoundly messy quest for authenticity, belonging, and empowerment.”

Nina MacLaughin is the author of “Wake, Siren.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.