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Out this September: Looking for some new entertainment? Look no further!

Motif contributor Katarina Dulude rounded up her top picks for entertainment this September, including a few local selections. 

September 2: If spooky season can’t come soon enough for you, check out What We Do in the Shadows, which will be returning for its third season on September 2. This horror comedy mockumentary was created by Jemaine Clement and produced by Taika Waititi, who is perhaps best known for directing Thor: Ragnarok and the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. The show is based on the creators’ earlier film of the same name and tells the story of four vampire roommates and their familiar living in modern times in Staten Island. Its third season will be available on September 2 on FX and Hulu. It’s worth taking a bite out of this incredibly hilarious and absurdly fun show.

September 3: The latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame and Loki and follows Shang-Chi, a skilled martial artist, who is drawn back into The Ten Rings, a shady organization, to confront the past he left behind. Director Daniel Cretton described the film as both funny and “a cross between a classic kung fu film and a family drama.” The film will receive a 45-day theatrical release.

September 9-17: Looking for a live performance? The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins by Haus of Glitter will be presented outdoors through the Wilbury Theatre Group at the former home of Esek Hopkins. The activist dance opera is described by co-directors Anthony Andrade, Assitan Coulibaly, ​Steven Choummalaithong, Matt Garza and Trent Lee as “a story of mermaids, revolution and resilience [that] exposes how our BIPOC lineages intersect with Hopkins’ legacy of white supremacy.” Tickets are available here.

September 14: For those who enjoy a good romance, Farah Naz Rishi’s It All Comes Back to You will be released midway through September. The contemporary romance book centers around teens Kiran and Deen. Kiran doesn’t know what to make of her sister’s new quickly moving relationship. Deen is thrilled his brother has found a girlfriend so that the attention can shift off of him for a while. However, when Deen and Kiran come face to face, they agree to keep their past a secret. Four years prior they dated until Deen ghosted Kiran without an explanation. Now, Kiran is determined to find out why and Deen is equally determined to make sure she never finds out. 

September 17: Netflix’s hit British dramedy series Sex Education makes its return this September. For those who haven’t seen the series, it begins with Otis, the teenage son of a sex therapist, who discovers that despite his own inexperience, he is adept at giving sex advice to others. With his best friend and crush, he turns this into a business. The series explores the emotional (and sexual) likes of teens in a way that is funny, awkward and incredibly heartfelt. Much of the third series has been kept under wraps, but it’s clear that a new headmistress will be changing things up at the teens’ school, for better or worse.

September 21: Inspired by the story of Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in Chinese history, the book Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao will be released this month. Described as Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid’s Tale, the sci-fi reimaging follows Wu Zetian, who seeks vengeance for her sister’s death at the hands of an intensely patriarchal military system that pairs boys and girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots used to battle mecha aliens. While boys are revered, girls must serve as their concubines and often die from the mental strain. When Zetian gets her vengeance on the boy responsible for her sister’s death and emerges unscathed, it is discovered that she is an Iron Widow, a special type of female pilot, much-feared and much-silenced. She is paired with the strongest and most controversial male pilot in an attempt to tame her, but after getting a taste for power, Zetian will not give it up.

September 30-October 24: Opening their 37th season, A Lie Agreed Upon will be premiering at The Gamm Theatre on the last day of September. This play, written and directed by Tony Estrella, modernizes Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. “Inconvenient truths fight alternative facts, minority rights battle majority rule, and individual conscience clashes with economic interest in this powerful reinvention of Ibsen’s masterpiece.” More information is available here.




Portable Magic: New local releases will warm you on cool nights

Whether you’re spending time outside or cozying up with cider and stews this fall, it’s always good to have a book to keep you company. RI authors have you covered with these upcoming releases.

Great for Playing Tourist

Rhode Island 39 Club: Your Passport and Guide to Exploring Rhode Island, by Martin Podkoch, with contributions from Paul Alexander

Fall turns your everyday travels into explorations of the beauty lurking all around, and Podkoch gives readers something to see in every municipality in Rhode Island, including restaurants, forests and, of course, beaches. To create this book, Podkoch gathered stories from 45 Rhode Island writers all around the state and compiled them into this anthology.

While You’re People-Watching

Rhode Island Stories, by Dr. Michael Fine

How often do we walk down a street or through a grocery store, hardly aware of the interiority of those around us? Fine poses just this question in Rhode Island Stories, which explores what brings us together and the individuality that makes up our state. 

“Literature and imagination can build a better world,” Fine says in a quote on his website. “Imagination can help us see one another and envision what we can do together when we stop fighting and start dreaming.”

Educate Yourself

Correctional, by Ravi Shankar

This memoir explores Ravi Shankar’s experiences with the criminal justice system, mass media and the structural racism therein. In this work, Shankar recounts his own thoughts and personal history, and examines race, class and privilege. 

As written in an excerpt quoted on his website:  “I am not judged by them and thereby can suspend my own judgment of myself, halt the recitation of missteps that unreels obsessively in my head. On my bunk with these men for this brief instant in time, playing chess, cards and basketball, sharing stories along with our interpretation of certain statutes and photos of our family, I find myself no more or less human than anyone around me.”

Thanks for Everything (Now Get Out): Can we Restore Neighborhoods without Destroying Them?, by Joseph Margulies

Margulies is a Cornell law professor and civil rights attorney. In this upcoming work, he explores the history of Olneyville through the present onset of gentrification. Including years of research and interviews, this book argues that in order to save urban neighborhoods heading toward gentrifying, low-income residents must be given “ownership and control of neighborhood assets.”

Destruction of neighborhoods and ongoing gentrification is a major issue in Providence and in cities around the country. This book seeks to explore the ways that cities can prioritize a better future and organize around its possibility.

Here She Is, by Hilary Levey Friedman

Sociologist, NOW president and daughter of a former Miss America are the credentials that make Hilary Levey Friedman an expert on pageants, and the way that pageantry has become integral to much of American culture — from television to cheerleaders. This book also explores the ableism and racism baked into these institutions, and the damaging, destructive legacy it has built. 

Here She Is complicates the narrative and explores the complexities of how pageantry has impacted women throughout American history.

Travel Through Space

CONSETLIS VOSS: VOL. 3 — REFORMAT, by Kira Leigh

Consetlis Voss is a trilogy, and its third installment will be released at the end of this month. Exploring power politics through dystopic storytelling, author Kira Leigh crafts a space opera that takes readers into a world that plays with classic tropes and aims to challenge readers. It is “queer, anime-inspired, [and] psychological sci-fi.” The first two installments, “Colour Theory,” and “Pattern Recognition,” were released earlier this summer.




Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Local hiking expert says your beach days ain’t over yet!

Arcadia Wildlife Management Area
(Credit: Cliff Vanover, Great Swamp Press)

Cliff Vanover has long been interested in the natural world. For decades, he has enjoyed hiking in and near Rhode Island, especially where he can observe evidence of glacial geology. As the proprietor of Great Swamp Press, based in southern RI, he writes and publishes maps and guides for walking and biking that are regarded as the definitive products of their kind for the areas covered. Despite the popularity of smart device apps, he said, often people want a hand-curated paper map.

One of his most popular, he said, is for the trails and footpaths of the Arcadia Wildlife Management Area. “My motivation to make the map was for myself so I would know where I was going. My first map was the Arcadia.” For traditional woodland hiking, he recommends Arcadia in central RI or Pachaug in nearby Connecticut, for which he also publishes a guide.

In summer before the weather cools, however, he said he avoids the woods due to bees and ticks, preferring coastal and beach hikes.

Map of beach walk from Green Hill to East Matunuck in South Kingstown, RI.
(Credit: Cliff Vanover, Great Swamp Press)

Vanover made a custom map for Motif readers for a short 4- to 5-mile hike in South Kingstown. “This is fun and takes a little carpooling,” he said. “This is at least a two-person hike,” so you first station one car at East Matunuck where the walk ends and drive another car to Green Hill Beach where the walk begins. “You start walking east on the beach,” he said. “Then you get onto Moonstone Beach, which is spectacular, but they want you to stay as close to the water as possible because by then the [endangered] plovers are gone but you really should not explore the coastal ponds there, you should just stay on the beach. And then you go to South Kingstown Town Beach and you have to get out there, you get onto the roads, and you go through Matunuck and then you end up at at East Matunuck State Beach. And there you are.”

Cliff Walk and Bellevue Avenue
(Credit: Cliff Vanover, Great Swamp Press)

He has several different publications for Aquidneck Island, including for Cliff Walk and Bellevue Avenue, for Newport Harbor Walk, for The Point: Map and Guide to Colonial and Early American Houses, and for Biking Aquidneck Island and Guide to Coastal Access. “As for Newport, if they wanted to do the Cliff Walk as a loop hike, they can start on Memorial Boulevard and Bellevue Ave, walk to the east toward First Beach and then get onto the trail, walk south and walk to the end down at Bailey’s Beach, and then walk back on Spring Street or Bellevue back to their car. That’s an eight-mile hike. And you can’t beat that for ocean landscapes.”

Other publications are for Carolina and Burlingame and for Bicycling Roads in South County.

At the high end of difficulty, Vanover cited the “North-South Trail that goes from the Blue Shutters Beach in Charlestown to the Massachusetts border at buck Hill. It’s 75 miles. It’s quite a trail. But you can’t camp on it, there’s no place, so really pretty much have to do it in pieces.” His guide for that, unfortunately, is out of print although he is working on a forthcoming second edition.

Vanover recommended MeetUp.com for anyone interested in exploring RI with a group, especially the Rhode Island Hiking Club and the Narragansett Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club. While the Hiking Club describes itself as offering “rather challenging hikes often through rough terrain,” their activities include “a variety of hikes from the beginner to the more experienced” and are rated on a scale of difficulty. Vanover said, “They have hikes for people who are getting into it or back into hiking,” usually “hikes more in the range of 5 to 8 miles.” He specifically noted their Wolf Hill Trail Hikes, which they describe as “Level 2 Moderate Difficulty” running “4 miles more or less” lasting “about two hours.”

Great Swamp Press publications are available for mail order directly on the web at GreatSwampPress.com and are stocked by retailers including the Map Center in Pawtucket, Ure Outfitters in Hope Valley, and REI in Cranston. Vanover recommends telephoning retailers in advance to confirm the guide wanted is in stock.




Simply Divine: Bert Crenca’s newest collection serves as tribute to his home town

In Umberto Crenca’s newest collection, Divine Providence, it is difficult to tell where the artist leaves off and the city begins. These paintings have been a labor of love – his tribute to the streets he has always called home.

Umberto Crenca - Divine Providence
Umberto Crenca – Divine Providence

Crenca grew up on Chalkstone Avenue, the son of immigrants who worked in factories all their lives. Home life was hard, and he grew up fast. Art was an early outlet for his frenetic energy, but a talent for provoking anger and pissing off authority sent Crenca reeling through adolescence and straight into rehab. One day, an outreach worker asked him, ”What other interests do you have besides being a wise guy? Because you’re really not good at that.” This was Crenca’s unceremonious boot back into art, but it was not until sculptor Gail Whitsitt-Lynch introduced him to the rampant creativity at RISD that his eyes were opened for the first time to the endless possibilities in art. “It was a world that I didn’t even know existed,” he said.

Bringing that world to lower income communities where opportunities just didn’t exist was the whole idea behind AS220, the non-profit arts organization co-founded by Crenca. He’s since retired from AS220, allowing him time to amp up the pace of his own work. His home base is now in a building that was formerly an Italian American club. He and his wife, artist and musician Susan Clausen, converted the 4,000 square feet into a hive of studios, performance space and galleries. The walls are covered with paintings and sculptures, by Crenca, Clausen and artists from all over the world. It is a hidden cache of treasures hiding under the blue collar grime of a downtrodden neighborhood – an apt metaphor for Crenca’s own life.

Crenco deliberately chose not make his style the most prevalent thing in his new collection. “I’m telling a story here, one I have intimate knowledge of. I know these neighborhoods, so there’s a certain feeling I’m trying to capture, both in the way I compose the pieces, and how I execute them in technical terms that is consistent throughout. They’re not finished until they arrive at that place.” Photographing his subjects first allows him a certain privilege in terms of detail and deep space. “I can manipulate differently than if I was doing plein air paintings.”

The series began at the start of the pandemic; since then Crenca has turned out 119 paintings. “With this series, I think I’m evolving. Now it’s almost undetectable, but 2 years from now, if you look at one of my paintings and compare it to the first one, I think it will be more apparent. When I first started doing art, every time I did something it was different. There was no consistency. But whenever I was exposed to something in an art history book, I realized I needed consistency in my style or I’d never get recognized.” Over the years, the number of paintings in each series has increased. Today, his intent is nothing short of epic: “Imagine if I do 1,000 of these. What kind of exhibit would that be? I only have 881 pieces left to finish. That seems doable.”

For Crenca, struggle is inherent in art: “When we make something, we have this feeling about what we want to achieve, but there’s no way we can possibly explain it, so really, we’re trying to achieve the impossible.” But that has never stopped him from trying. “The most powerful idea is creation. To me, that’s what we’re all wrestling with, this mystery. That’s what artists are trying to express in their totally clumsy way.” 

Crenca has traveled a vast distance since Chalkstone Avenue. He’s been given two honorary doctorate degrees, one from Brown, and was one of 10 people honored at the White House, speaking on a panel to representatives from every state. “I hope there’s some value in the way I’ve lived my life, particularly in the last 40 years, that helps other people to feel free to self realize and self actualize … to follow things they feel and are passionate about.” He has always lived life aggressively. “I don’t know any other way, that’s how I approach my art, the way I live, the way I exercise, the way I do everything.”

AS220 was Crenca’s gift to the community. It’s still running with new staff and new people, and Crenca says he believes that’s the way it should be. His ongoing concern is what he is giving back now. “If I can give a story, a long, detailed story of a place, it is helping to validate people’s experience. They can see those things a little differently and have a different feeling about the place. They become part of the series. People can’t go far now. Can this make them feel better about where they are?”

One last thought on creativity: “It’s all within the person themselves, they’ve always had it, they always will have it. But it’s a struggle, how to exercise that freedom.” For Crenca, that struggle is everything.

 See the art, buy the book at umbertocrenca.com.




Simply Divine: Umberto Crenca shows off his work and a new book at a pop-up exhibit

Quiet glimpses of beauty can hide in plain sight – Divine Providence Continued, a pop-up exhibit opening August 19 at 233 Westminster Street, is a collection of windows into a world that most of us walk by every day without seeing. Umberto Crenca has focused a straightforward lens on the small scenes and in-between spaces that ordinarily blend into the background of life.

Crenca has long been a driving presence in the Providence art scene, co-founding the non-profit art space AS220 in 1985 and fueling the engine behind its growth to the multi-building complex it is today. The galleries, living spaces and studios, performance stages and teaching programs have provided creative growth opportunities for a countless number of artists and performers.

Throughout it all Crenca has continued to create his own art, taking on a wide range of genres and subjects with an intensity that has earned him a reputation that extends well beyond Providence. Since his retirement from AS220 in 2015, Crenca has been painting with renewed clarity and vision. This newest series brings his work full circle – Divine Providence is an homage to the city where his journey began. 

The exhibit also launches the release of Crenca’s new book, Divine Providence Volume 1. The large format volume is filled with striking full color images of the first 100 paintings of this continuing series. Both paintings and copies of the book will be available for purchase during the exhibit and through Crenca’s website.  

Catch the pop-up on Thursday, August 19 from 5-8pm. Continued gallery hours will be on the last two Saturdays and Sundays of this month, August 21-22 and 28-29, from 2-5pm, or by appointment. For more information, visit umbertocrenca.com 




O For God’s Sake: Alan Masterson’s science fiction novel is a thrill ride through Providence

Obi Storm Otto pretty much thought that he was living a paint by numbers life for a guy in his mid 20s. He had a job as a bar back, a best friend, a fishing spot and plenty of acquaintances. He was still feeling the effects of his father’s passing 11 years ago and had a love for all things popular at a ComicCon. His life wasn’t mundane, but it was average and predictable — but until he woke up naked in the basement of the funeral home his mother worked at with a strange tattoo, the ability to understand foreign languages and no recollection of the night before. 

After a drunken hookup, Otto inadvertently gets himself involved in a secret real life (for a fiction novel) science fiction dispute between various houses (its complexity is properly explained in the book) that hide in plain sight and protect and/or destroy (depending on viewpoint). He puts together the pieces from the night before and learns a little bit of unthought-of backstory about his father. He is being hunted by a (literal) band of miscreants trying to get at him and his oversized friend, Seth. He discovers that he has more powers than just understanding foreign languages and gets a crash course training to use these newfound powers to his benefit. 

Although the book is filled with characters, Otto and Seth serve as the main characters, with a sarcastic Batman-and-Robin-raised-on-Star-Wars vibe going for them. Silas, a lanky hunter and front man of the matter of factly named Silas and the Hunters, is the main antagonist, and Hope is the reason all of this happened. Other characters are sprinkled throughout, each adding to the progression of the plot in their own way. Each character is well thought out and likable, with some leaving a lot of exploration for future storylines. 

The city of Providence is as much a character as anyone in the book, and Masterson drops Easter eggs throughout the book. His beautiful and accurate description gave me a clear visual setting while reading. Streets are named during driving/chase scenes, which I was easily able to follow and picture, enhancing the reading experience. Some venue names are changed (Club Hell was renamed Heaven, even though its currently called EGO), but the rest could make for a pretty successful bar crawl/walking tour and overall good time. 

Masterson has the ability to make nearly 500 pages not feel too daunting to read. Each chapter has an even flow to it, cutting out any unnecessary filler. The book is filled with action and humor. There were some questions left unanswered, which serves more of a sort of cliffhanger than anything (the story itself has an ending), making me eagerly await the next volume, especially after reading the end credits scene.  




Rhode Islanders You Should Know: Author and podcaster Kate Hanley wants to change your life

Kate Hanley is an author, a podcaster, and she wants you to be a better person. 

Nope, don’t run, come back, stick with me here. 

First and foremost, let’s throw down Hanley’s Rhode Island cred. She’s a native (her family spans generations here) and did the most native thing someone from Rhody can do – she moved away as a child and then heard the call of quahogs and returned to this great state. In her time away, she lived all over the country, with college landing her in Virginia at Washington and Lee, as a history major. 

Hanley then found herself in New York, where she went to graduate school at NYU, with the goal of writing for “Sesame Street” (she ended up freelancing to write for their app!). She met her husband, they had two kids and realized that a two-bedroom in Brooklyn was not going to cut it. After expanding their home search radius to a bigger and bigger circle, she landed herself in, of course, Providence, in 2011. (If you need any more cred, her father, another Rhode Islander, recently moved to Florida – which means Hanley got to take his four-digit license plate. She’s the real deal.)

As Hanley moved around the country, she worked primarily in editorial positions, including for iVillage, which quickly became a dream job for her. But the thing about dreams is that they have to end. When she found out that iVillage needed to make cuts, she volunteered for a lay-off and pursued her yoga teaching certification, which would be a year-long process. Then Hanley had an epiphany. After so much time meditating and spending time truly with herself, she says, “I heard very clearly that what I always wanted to do was write. I never knew writing was a possibility as a viable career.”

So Hanley pursued a writing career. She published her first of four books, Anywhere Anytime Chill Guide in 2008, and her work has appeared in numerous national publications, such as Martha Stewart’s Whole Living, Real Simple and Yoga Journal. 

The publication of her fourth book brings us to the next big chapter in Kate’s life. In December 2016, right after the election when the country felt divided and shocked with the, “What just happened?” vibe being prevalent, there was a poll that said the most popular New Year’s Resolution for 2017 was not to lose weight or quit drinking, but to “be a better person.” Hanley says, “I was so inspired by it in that moment. We were looking for hope, and to me, that was the hope.”

She immediately got to writing. In 2018, her latest book, How to Be a Better Person was published. 

The book features 401 (yes, she really did that) ways to make a difference not only in yourself, but in the world. Kate says, “I covered stress relief for so long that I figured out the real purpose of trying to relax and not stress out is to be your best.” Hanley focuses on the idea that any step is better than no step, and not only does being better help you, but it also helps the world around you. Hanley continues, “This was the purpose of trying to reduce stress: be a decent human. Don’t get hooked into judgment or be too overwhelmed to do what is right.” 

About a year and a half after the book was published, Hanley launched the How to Be a Better Person podcast, which servs as a companion to her book. The podcast is what I would call bite-sized, and it focuses on helping you stress less, and well, yeah, be a better person because of it. Kate says, “Not everyone has 45 minutes a day for self-improvement.” The episodes are between 5 and 10 minutes long and end with a small to-do item or action to use in your life for self-improvement. And she wants to make sure you know that you don’t have to think you’re a bad person to want to be better. Sometimes it can be as simple as, “I don’t want to yell at my kids when I’m frustrated,” or “Wow, I drank a lot during the pandemic, and feel ashamed about that.” The podcast itself is coming up on a big accomplishment. Its 500th episode will be released on July 22nd.

Hanley encourages her audiences and readers to wonder: How can I think about a problem differently? How can I bring my best self to any situation? She says her aim is to provide a framework to actively move toward being a better person. But and this is one of the best things about Hanley, she makes sure that “It’s not about being perfect, or even good, it’s just about being better.” 

In Rhode Island, Hanley cites her experience with What Cheer Writer’s Club being incredibly meaningful, from their podcast showcase night, to recording her podcast in their studio pre-pandemic. Right now, Kate is working on a quiz to help answer the question, “Am I a bad person?” Though, she laughs and says that it is lighthearted, and won’t hurt. She reassures everyone, “You have an untapped capacity for goodness.”  

Hanley has thrived as a writer, and a podcaster, and she says something so incredibly profound about all of us, collectively, as humans: “You don’t have to jump into the deep end for it to be meaningful or to change your reality.” 

Maybe the first start is reading a book, or listening to a short podcast. 

I know I can recommend one. 

How to Be a Better Person the book is available on Amazon, but please remember to support your local bookstores. Kate’s podcast How to Be a Better Person can be found on all major podcast platforms and at beabetterpersonpodcast.com. You can find out more about Kate and her work at katehanley.com.

Have a Rhode Islander in mind that you think everyone should know? Please reach out to our author on Instagram @caitlinmoments.




Kevin’s Culture Picks: What kept our culture expert busy in May?

© 2021 Disney

Every week, I’ve been doing a deep dive into cultural issues, usually theater-related, that are bothering me or that deserve a second look. But who needs another thinkpiece, right?

I host two weekly programs on my theater company’s Faceboook page (Facebook.com/EpicTheatreCo) where I ask guests what has been keeping them creatively engaged or excited, and I thought I could put together some of the movies, television shows, books and music we discuss. I’ll do this at the beginning of every month (until we’re out of … this), and hopefully it’ll keep you busy as we start to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

So, here’s what I enjoyed in the month of May:

Movies

The Mitchells vs. The Machines (Streaming on Netflix)
Shiva Baby (On Demand)
Together, Together (On Demand)
WeWork (Streaming on Hulu)
Cruella (Streaming on Disney+ and in Theaters)

Television

“The Real World Homecoming: New York” (Streaming on Paramount+)
“Last Chance U: Basketball” (Streaming on Netflix)
“Girls5Eva” (Streaming on Peacock)
“Mare of Easttown” (Streaming on HBO Max)

Books

The Plot, by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Olympus, Texas, by Stacey Swann
Yes, Daddy, by Jonathan Parks-Ramage

Music

Rosegold, Ashley Monroe
Outside Child, Allison Russell
Sour, Olivia Rodrigo
The Monster Who Hated Pennsylvania, Damien Jurado
The Marfa Tapes, Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall




Summer Reading List: These local finds are a perfect hammock accompaniment

Local authors and publishers are always hard at work creating, innovating and, of course, writing. Take any (or all!) of these five selections along to the beach, and get swept away without ever leaving shore.

1. Famous Men Who Never Lived, by K Chess
K Chess’s science-fiction novel takes readers through a richly created pair of parallel worlds. Hel, the novel’s protagonist, fled her original universe for ours, following a nuclear war that leads to refugees. The New York City she finds herself in is not quite her own, and she struggles to settle into her new reality and clings to a science-fiction novel from her own timeline, The Pyronauts.
Thinking locally: K Chess lives in Providence.

2. Molly Falls to Earth, by Maria Mutch
Time and memory play together in this novel that explores the seven minutes during which the eponymous Molly lies on the sidewalk, experiencing a seizure. Per the novel’s description on Simon and Schuster: “Molly Falls to Earth forms a constellation around the spot where Molly lies on the edge of Washington Square Park. Interwoven throughout are documentary segments featuring the voices of others who search for the lost, obsessed with those who have gone missing.”
Think locally: Maria Mutch lives in Rhode Island.

3. Chazan! Unfiltered, by Lenny Schwartz
Illustrated by Erminio Pinque of Big Nazo Lab, this graphic novel explores the establishment of the first dialysis clinic in Rhode Island. This biographical story weaves together art and medicine, the doctor’s two passions, and discusses the things that make life meaningful. Chazan! Unfiltered is the recipient of a National Indie Excellence Award in the graphic novel category.
Think locally: The author, editor, illustrator, layout designer and subject are all Rhode Islanders.

4. I WISH I WASN’T ROYALTY: A Playable Chapbook
This collaboration between four poets and illustrator Catherine Weiss takes on an inventive and tradition-breaking format to create an interactive experience. Forming a completely playable 52-card deck, each card contains a line of poetry that can be read in a variety of ways — standalone, as part of its poem (which as a whole creates one of the four suits), or combined with other cards to create the player’s own poem. From the publisher: “Playing a game of cards with this deck creates opportunities for poetic fragments to offer up an ever-shifting found poem, which echoes the experience of living with extreme mood-states.”
Play any card game you might with a traditional deck, and enjoy the sun, sand and poetry with friends.
Think locally: This chapbook is published by Game Over Books, a small press based in Boston.

5. Nantucket Nights, by Elin Hilderbrand
Grief, friendship and secrets form the bedrock of this breezy novel about three friends who experience an unexpected and jarring loss. After one of the friends doesn’t return to shore from their traditional skinny dip off the Nantucket coast, the repercussions ripple out from their small circle of friends and threaten to destroy all that they know.
Think locally: Elin Hilderbrand lives in Nantucket, Massachusetts. 




Jeff Zurowski’s My Summer Vacation

In Jeff Zurowski’s My Summer Vacation, Brent Jackson was handed a composition journal from his future teacher on his last day of fifth grade and told to write daily entries so that everyone would get to know each other better as they enter their new school. Even with prompt ideas, Jackson (like all kids) wasn’t thrilled about taking time out of his carefree day to complete a non-preferred activity, but writing grew on him, even turning into something he enjoyed doing.

From his description, Jackson lives in a close-knit community at some point in the 1980s. He has a Nintendo in his room (gifted to him after his older brother got in trouble and was banished from using the system), rents tapes from a family run video store (befriending the owner’s son who goes by Movieboy) and listens to Brian Adams on his cassette walkman. These are welcomed nuggets of nostalgia from anyone who grew up in that decade.

As journal entries, they make for a really quick reads, as Jackson summarizes his day, adding his thoughts and feelings. With each entry dated, it’s fun keeping track of upcoming holidays or dates of personal importance (my birthday is in June, so I was looking forward to reading about that day). The journal entry dates, along with Jackson’s summer plans that never quite come to fruition, also serve as a cruel reminder of how quickly time passes and how easy it is to keep putting off even preferred tasks. It was easy to identify with Jackson’s numerous entries talking about goals he had that he never quite got around to doing (playing catch, learning guitar).

The best part of the book is how Zurowski completely nails Brent Jackson’s character. There is an innocence to his writing. The overreactions to minor disturbances and thinking that he and his friends would be able to solve some major problems while on their bikes are common ideas that go through kids’ minds. It can all seem absurd at times, but it all makes sense when you realize its written from the point of view of a soon to be sixth grader. 

My Summer Vacation is a book geared toward young adults that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Reading and discussing the book together could make for some great family bonding, especially for the parents who grew up in the ’80s. With some creative planning, this could become a guide for the upcoming summer.

“My Summer Vacation” and all of Jeff Zurowski’s books are available for purchase here: https://www.lulu.com/search?adult_audience_rating=00&page=1&pageSize=10&q=Jeff+Zurowski