PortLitMar 20, 2023
Spotlight Lecture: Meghan Gilliss talks about Lungfish with Steger Strong
“Lungfish is a force of nature—a deeply felt marvel of a book that navigates grief, parenthood, and the mysteries of family with unrelenting power and precision. Here is a story about the islands we build and carry with us. Here is storytelling at its best.” —Paul Yoon, author of Snow Hunters and Run Me to Earth
Tuck is slow to understand the circumstances that have driven her family to an uninhabited island off the coast of Maine, the former home of her deceased grandmother where she once spent her childhood summers. Squatting there now, she must care for her spirited young daughter and scrape together enough money to leave before winter arrives—or before they are found out.
Relying on the island for sustenance and answers—bladderwrack, rosehips, tenacious little green crabs; smells held by the damp walls of the house, field guides and religious texts, a failed invention left behind by her missing father—Tuck lives moment-by-moment through the absurdity, beauty, paranoia, and hunger that shoots through her life, as her husband struggles to detox.
Exquisitely written and formally daring, Lungfish tells the story of a woman grappling through the lies she has been told—and those she has told herself—to arrive at the truth of who she is and where she must go. Meghan Gilliss’s debut is a brilliant and heartbreaking novel about addiction, doubt, marriage, motherhood, and learning to see in the dark.
Meghan Gilliss attended the Bennington Writing Seminars and is a fellow of the Hewnoaks Artist Residency. She has worked as a journalist, a bookseller, a librarian, and a hospital worker, and lives in Portland, Maine. Lungfish is her first novel.
Lynn Steger Strong is the author of the novels Hold Still, Want, and Flight. Her non-fiction has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York, The Paris Review, Time, and elsewhere. She has taught writing at The Pratt Institute, Fairfield University, Catapult, and Columbia University and will be the Visiting Fiction Writer at Bates College for the 2022-2023 school year. She was born and raised in South Florida.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Spotlight Lecture: Morgan Talty discusses Night of the Living Rez with Greg Brown
Morgan Talty and Gregory Brown are live at Bunker Brewing Co. discussing “Night of the Living Rez”, Talty’s highly anticipated debut collection of short stories at the Spotlight Lecture Series.
How do the living come back to life?
Set in a Native community in Maine, Night of the Living Rez is a riveting debut collection about what it means to be Penobscot in the twenty-first century and what it means to live, to survive, and to persevere after tragedy.
In twelve striking, luminescent stories, author Morgan Talty—with searing humor, abiding compassion, and deep insight—breathes life into tales of family and community bonds as they struggle with a painful past and an uncertain future. A boy unearths a jar that holds an old curse, which sets into motion his family’s unraveling; a man, while trying to swindle some pot from a dealer, discovers a friend passed out in the woods, his hair frozen into the snow; a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s projects the past onto her grandson, and thinks he is her dead brother come back to life; and two friends, inspired by Antiques Roadshow, attempt to rob the tribal museum for valuable root clubs.
In a collection that examines the consequences and merits of inheritance, Night of the Living Rez is an unforgettable portrayal of a Native community and marks the arrival of a standout talent in contemporary fiction.
About the authors
Morgan Talty is a citizen of the Penobscot Indian Nation where he grew up. Named one of Narrative’s “30 Below 30,” Talty’s work has appeared in The Georgia Review, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, Narrative Magazine, LitHub, and elsewhere. He lives in Levant, Maine.
Gregory Brown grew up along Penobscot Bay. His stories have appeared in Tin House, The Alaska Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, Epoch, and Narrative Magazine. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is the recipient of scholarships and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He lives in Maine with his family. The Lowering Days is his first novel.
About the Series » Spotlight Lecture Series
Portland Public Library hosts nationally touring authors at the Spotlight Series. Authors talk about newly released work followed by audience Q&A and a book signing. The series is presented by Portland Public Library in partnership with Print: A Bookstore, The Press Hotel, and Bunker Brewing Company.
Spotlight Lecture: John Duncan and Chris Busby talk about Take it Easy: Portland in the 1970's
Join PPL at Bunker Brewing for a conversation between Chris Busby, editor of The Mainer, and John Duncan about Duncan’s new book “Take it Easy: Portland in the 1970’s”. Masks are strongly recommended.
In the 1970s, decades before this working-class Maine city was reborn as one of the trendiest and priciest small cities in America, Portland stood anxiously at an inflection point. Moribund and neglected, it was walking a knife’s edge toward an uncertain future as urban renewal efforts demolished aging buildings, preservationists rallied to save the city’s historic character, and no one knew if any small Northeastern city could ever thrive again in a modern world. Take it Easy: Portland in the 1970s revisits those uneasy days through a remarkable collection of more than 130 long-forgotten, black-and-white images captured by dishwasher, cab driver, and budding street photographer John Duncan. In images he shot while hanging with friends, walking the streets, or driving his taxi, Duncan emotionally and evocatively captured the innocence, mood, fun, spirit, struggle, and melancholy of a city and its people during an iconic era. As Duncan clicked away with his Canon at the fleeting moments, capturing his daily life with remarkable honesty, the downtown’s luster slowly crumbled. But its department stores still beckoned shoppers, rowdy dive bars ruled the night, and young people could still find affordable rents, cheap meals, and good times.
Literary Lunch with ILAP and MWPA: Stephanie Cotsirilos talks about My Xanthi with Sue Roche
Join us for a Literary Lunch conversation with author Stephanie Cotsirilos and the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project’s (ILAP’s) Sue Roche. Co-sponsored by Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, Cotsirilos and Roche will discuss Cotsirilos’ debut novella, My Xanthi.
A deeply personal story echoing global displacements – whether at the Mexican border, refugee camps, or in too-often ignored colonial American history – My Xanthi centers on a Greek immigrant woman whose wartime secrets teach a criminal defense lawyer about love’s triumph over injustice.
About the author:
Stephanie’s extended family’s roots in Greece, Peru, and Asia have shaped her journey as an author, lawyer, and performing artist. The journey began in Chicago, where she was born. Though her first language was Greek, English followed rapidly. When she was five, and someone asked, “What’s your name, little girl?” she answered, “Judy Garland.” Her immigrant grandmothers were horrified. She grew up, earned degrees in comparative literature and music from Brown and Yale, and went to New York for a career on and off Broadway – there creating the role of The Critic in the Tony Award-winning musical Nine, and writing songs and scripts produced at Manhattan Theatre Club, Playwrights Horizons, Writers Theatre, and other spaces. To her family’s relief, Stephanie returned to Yale for a law degree and joined a New York firm. She and her late husband formed a family with Scottish, Greek, and Indigenous Peruvian ancestry. After his death, she moved with her small son to Maine. She kept writing: legislative drafting, opinion pieces, strategic documents for nonprofits, poetry, fiction. As consultant and Interim Executive Director of Portland Ballet, she returned full circle to the arts and soon after, was accepted into The Writers Hotel conference in Manhattan, joining U.S. and international peers. Stephanie is now the author of the novella My Xanthi (Los Galesburg Press), an anthologized essayist in the forthcoming Breaking Bread (Beacon Press), and was a published finalist in Mississippi Review’s Prize in Fiction. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, her work has appeared in McSweeney’s, The New Guard, New Millennium Writings, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and in various media. In 2021, she was awarded the Katahdin (formerly Patrice Krant) fellowship in residence at Storyknife’s inaugural retreat for women writers in Alaska. Were they alive today, Stephanie’s grandmothers might look askance at her traveling thousands of miles to Alaska to write. It’s unlikely they could read anything she has written. Yet she hopes they would be secretly proud – not least because she doesn’t answer to “Judy Garland” anymore, but to the name of her lineage.
About the interviewer:
Sue has been with ILAP since August of 2000. She started as ILAP’s first Staff Attorney before becoming Legal Director, and was named the organization’s Executive Director in 2013. Sue earned her BA from the University of New Hampshire, where she studied Business Administration, International Affairs and French. Prior to earning her JD from Northeastern University, she worked in publishing and spent a year teaching English in Costa Rica. Sue is an expert on issues related to family-based immigration and remedies for noncitizen domestic violence and crime survivors, and has been a presenter at regional and national conferences of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She is the author of “Maneuvering Immigration Pitfalls in Family Court: What Family Law Attorneys Should Know in Cases with Noncitizen Parties,” which is published in The Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Sue is admitted to the Maine Bar and is proficient in Spanish.
Literary Lunch: Ravi Shankar talks about his new book “Correctional” with Shreerekha Subramanian
Portland Public Library is excited to partner with Maine Inside Out to present Ravi Shankar in conversation with Shreerekha Subramanian about his new book Correctional.
The first time Ravi Shankar was arrested, he spoke out against racist policing on National Public Radio and successfully sued the city of New York. The second time, he was incarcerated when his promotion to full professor was finalized. During his ninety-day pretrial confinement at the Hartford Correctional Center—a level 4, high-security urban jail in Connecticut—he met men who shared harrowing and heart-felt stories. The experience taught him about the persistence of structural racism, the limitations of mass media, and the pervasive traumas of twenty-first-century daily life.
Shankar’s bold and complex self-portrait—and portrait of America—challenges us to rethink our complicity in the criminal justice system and mental health policies that perpetuate inequity and harm. Correctional dives into the inner workings of his mind and heart, framing his unexpected encounters with law and order through the lenses of race, class, privilege, and his bicultural upbringing as the first and only son of South Indian immigrants. Vignettes from his early life set the scene for his spectacular fall and subsequent struggle to come to terms with his own demons. Many of them, it turns out, are also our own.
Ravi Shankar is an award-winning author and editor of more than fifteen books and chapbooks of poetry. He is the founder of Drunken Boat, one of the world’s oldest electronic journals of the arts, and has been featured in the New York Times and on BBC, NPR, and PBS NewsHour. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island with his partner and their dogs, Annie and Rishi.
Shreerekha Subramanian is Professor of Humanities at University of Houston-Clear Lake. She was the first recipient of the Marilyn Mieszkuc Professorship in Women’s Studies established at her university (2008). She published the monograph, Women Writing Violence: The Novel and Radical Feminist Imaginaries. She works on feminist and carceral texts from South Asian, African and diasporic traditions.
Maine Inside Out activates individuals and communities to imagine and embody freedom through art, advocacy and support, and transformative justice. Formerly incarcerated people lead our work to build a world where everyone matters and belongs.
PortLit with Harvest on the harbor.
Portland Public Library partnered with Harvest on the Harbor to present a delicious Literary Lunch with the authors of the Maine Bicentennial Community Cookbook, Margaret Hathaway and Karl Schatz in conversation with Don Lindgren.
If there’s one thing that brings Mainers together, it’s the flavors of this great state. Whether we’re teaching our kids to cook family recipes, or gathered together and sharing them at the table, we know that our food traditions bring us together as a community. The Maine Bicentennial Community Cookbook celebrates Maine’s rich culinary traditions—old and new— exploring indigenous foodways, hearty Yankee cuisine, community cookbook classics, and favorite dishes of new Mainers. This collection of more than 200 recipes spans kitchens across the state: pulling dishes from grandma’s recipe box, award-winning chefs, Maine personalities, and rustic fishing camps. Celebrating the state’s whole community with recipes from all 16 counties, this cookbook includes heartwarming stories and dishes from both prominent and everyday Mainers, and is beautifully illustrated with family photos, handwritten recipe cards and historic community cookbook covers.
This lovely testament to home cooking and the community cookbook tradition in Maine reminds us how the food we cook connects us to the people and places we love. It will surely become a treasured keepsake of Maine’s Bicentennial celebration for all who love to cook—and eat!
Harvest on the Harbor™ is Portland, Maine’s annual food & spirits festival featuring a delicious, diverse and engaging line up of events. The event curates experiences and partnerships that hope to appeal to foodies of all kinds, offering a taste (and sip) for every appetite. The mission is to help show the diversity of the local food and drink scene, foster an inclusive community of passionate food & drink lovers and to give back to our community through this multi-day celebration.
About the authors
Margaret Hathaway and Karl Schatz are the wife and husband team behind six books on food and farming, including the memoir The Year of the Goat, the guide Living With Goats, two volumes of the Portland, Maine Chef’s Table cookbook, and most recently the Maine Bicentennial Community Cookbook. Margaret is a writer and goat farmer. In addition to being the author of six books, she is a regular contributor to Taproot Magazine, and has worked in cookbook publishing and as manager of New York’s landmark Magnolia Bakery. Karl is a photographer, journalist, and goat farmer. He has worked as a Digital Producer at ABC Television, a Photo Editor at Time Magazine, and as Director of Aurora Photos. Since 2005, the couple has lived with their three daughters on Ten Apple Farm, their homestead and agritourism destination in southern Maine, where they raise dairy goats, tend a large garden and small orchard, lead goat hikes, teach workshops, and operate a guest house. You can visit them at tenapplefarm.com, or on Instagram @tenapplefarm.
Eleanor Morse Spotlight
Literary Lunch: Megan Grumbling talks about Persephone in the Late Anthropocene with Gibson Fay LeBlanc
This program was held live on Monday, Jan 25 - Monday, January 25 at noon.
About the book:
Persephone in the Late Anthropocene vaults an ancient myth into the age of climate change, as the goddess comes and goes erratically from our warming world.
Persephone began as the libretto of an experimental opera. Through lyric verse, magical-realist prose poems, and speculative crypto-studies of the Anthropocene, this ecopoetic collection explores both environmental crisis and the nature of story itself.
About the authors:
Megan Grumbling‘s poetry collection Booker’s Point received the Vassar Miller Prize and the Maine Literary Award for Poetry, and her work has been awarded the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Fellowship, the Robert Frost Foundation Award, and a Hawthornden Castle Fellowship in Scotland. She teaches at Southern Maine Community College and the University of New England, and lives and writes in Portland.
Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is a writer and teacher. His first book of poems, Death of a Ventriloquist, won the Vassar Miller Prize and was published in 2012. Gibson served as Portland’s fifth Poet Laureate, ending his three-year term in 2018. His projects included Written, Spoken, Rapped, a multimedia website aimed at high school teachers and students interested in writing poetry, and Deep Water, a column that features a poem each Sunday in the Maine Sunday Telegram and now continues with poet Megan Grumbling as editor.
Gibson now serves as Executive Director of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance.
LITERARY LUNCH: Brock Clarke discusses I, Grape; Or the Case For Fiction with Sarah Domet
Literary Lunch: Carolyn Chute on “The Recipe for Revolution” with Ron Currie
This program was held live on Monday, October 19th at noon.
About the Book:
It’s September 1999 and the world is on the cusp of a new millennium. In rural Maine, Gordon St. Onge, known as “The Prophet”, presides over his controversial Settlement, a place rumored to be a cult, where his many wives and children live off the grid and off the land. Out in greater America, Bruce Hummer, the aging CEO of multinational corporation Duotron Lindsey, lays off workers by the thousands. Meanwhile, the newest member of the Settlement, fifteen year old Brianna Vandermast, is fired up and ready for change. Disillusioned with the covert local militia, she and other Settlement teens form the True Maine Militia. Putting her visionary ideas into practice, Bree pens “The Recipe”, an incendiary revolutionary document that winds up in the hands of wealthy elites, including Bruce Hummer.
When a chance drinking session during an airport layover brings Bruce and Gordon together, Hummer–in a confounding moment– gives Gordon a mysterious brass key, one turn of which has the potential to make heads roll and spark the unrest that is stirring in Egypt, Maine. As word of “The Recipe” spreads, myriad factions of anti-corporate revolt from across the country arrive at The Settlement wanting to make Gordon their poster boy. Gordon soon finds himself at the center of an uprising, the effects of which ripple beyond Settlement life. In The Recipe for Revolution Carolyn Chute portrays politics, class, love, and friendship with acuity and complexity, giving us a pulsating, relevant book for today’s America.
About the authors:
Carolyn Chute is the author of The School on Heart’s Content Road, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year;The Beans of Egypt, Maine; Letourneau’s Used Auto Parts; Snow Man; and Merry Men. She has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Thorton Wilder Fellowship.
Ron Currie is the author of the novels Everything Matters! and Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles and the short story collection God is Dead, which was the winner of the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award. In 2009, he received the Addison M. Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His books have been translated into fifteen languages. He lives in Portland, Maine.
Literary Lunch: Kerri Arsenault talks about “Mill Town” with Kate Christensen
This program was held live on Wednesday, September 16th at noon.
About the book:
Kerri Arsenault grew up in the rural working class town of Mexico, Maine. For over 100 years the community orbited around a paper mill that employs most townspeople, including three generations of Arsenault’s own family. Years after she moved away, Arsenault realized the price she paid for that seemingly secure childhood. The mill, while providing livelihoods for nearly everyone, also contributed to the destruction of the environment and the decline of the town’s economic, moral, and emotional health in a slow-moving catastrophe, earning the area the nickname “Cancer Valley.”
In Mill Town, Arsenault undertakes an excavation of a collective past, sifting through historical archives and scientific reports, talking to family and neighbors, and examining her own childhood to present a portrait of a community that illuminates not only the ruin of her hometown and the collapse of the working-class of America, but also the hazards of both living in and leaving home, and the silences we are all afraid to violate. In exquisite prose, Arsenault explores the corruption of bodies: the human body, bodies of water, and governmental bodies, and what it’s like to come from a place you love but doesn’t always love you back.
A galvanizing and powerful debut, Mill Town is an American story, a human predicament, and a moral wake-up call that asks: what are we willing to tolerate and whose lives are we willing to sacrifice for our own survival?
About the authors:
Kerri Arsenaultis the Book Review Editor at Orion magazine, and Contributing Editor at Lithub. Arsenault received her MFA in Creative Writing from The New School and studied in Malmö University’s Communication for Development master’s programme. Her writing has appeared in Freeman’s, Lithub, Oprah.com, and The Minneapolis Star Tribune, among other publications. She lives in New England. Mill Town is her first book.
Kate Christensen is the author of six prior novels, most recently The Astral, and the memoir Blue Plate Special. The Great Man won the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. She has written reviews and essays for numerous publications, including The New York Times, Vogue, Elle, The Wall Street Journal, and Food & Wine. She lives with her husband in Portland, Maine.
Spotlight Lecture: Richard Ford discusses his book “Sorry for Your Trouble” with Bill Roorbach
This program was held live on Thursday, September 10 at 3:00pm
About the book:
In Sorry for Your Trouble, Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author Richard Ford presents a stunning meditation on memory, love and loss.
“Displaced” returns us to a young man’s Mississippi adolescence, and to a shocking encounter with a young Irish immigrant who recklessly tries to console the narrator’s sorrow after his father’s death. “Driving Up” follows an American woman’s late-in-life journey to Canada to bid good-bye to a lost love now facing the end of his life. “The Run of Yourself,” a novella, sees a New Orleans lawyer navigating the difficulties of living beyond his Irish wife’s death. And “Nothing to Declare” follows a man and a woman’s chance re-meeting in the New Orleans French Quarter, after twenty years, and their discovery of what’s left of love for them.
Replete with Ford’s emotional lucidity and lyrical precision, Sorry for Your Trouble is a memorable collection from one of our greatest writers.
About the authors:
Richard Ford is the author of The Sportswriter and Independence Day. He is winner of the Prix Femina in France, the 2019 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, and the Princess of Asturias Award in Spain. He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller Canada. His story collections include the bestseller Let Me Be Frank with You, Rock Springs, and A Multitude of Sins. He lives in Boothbay, Maine, with his wife, Kristina Ford. Photo by Robert Mitchell.
Bill Roorbach’s newest book is The Girl of the Lake, a collection of stories from Algonquin, which was longlisted for the 2017 Story Prize and finalist for the Maine Literary Award in Fiction, 2017. Also from Algonquin are the novels The Remedy for Love, a finalist for the 2015 Kirkus Prize,and the bestselling Life Among Giants, which won a Maine Literary Award in 2012, and his next novel, Lucky Turtle, delayed but now due in 2021. His first book of stories, Big Bend, won the Flannery O’Connor Prize in 2000, and the title story an O. Henry Award. Nonfiction books include Temple Stream, Summers with Juliet, and Into Woods. Bill was a 2018 Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellow at the Civitella castle in Umbria. He lives in Scarborough.
Literary Lunch: Meredith Hall talks about Beneficence with Simon Van Booy
This program was held live on Wednesday, November 18 - 12:00pm - 1:00pm
About the book:
When they meet in the 1930s, Doris and Tup’s love is immediate. They marry quickly and Doris commits to the only life Tup ever wanted: working the Senter family farm, where his parents and grandparents and great-grandparents are buried under the old pines. Their lives follow the calming rhythms of the land—chores in the cow barn, haying the fields, tending their gardens—and in this they find immeasurable joy.
Soon their first child, Sonny, is born and Doris and Tup understand they are blessed. More children arrive—precocious, large-hearted Dodie and quiet, devoted Beston—but Doris and Tup take nothing for granted. They are grateful every day for the grace of their deep bonds to each other, to their family, and to their bountiful land. As they hold fast to this contentment, Doris is uneasy, and confesses, “We can’t ever know what will come.”
When an unimaginable tragedy turns the family of five into a family of four, everything the Senters held faith in is shattered. The family is consumed by a dark shadow of grief and guilt. Slowly, the surviving Senters must find their way to forgiveness—of themselves and of each other.
New York Times bestselling author Meredith Hall’s radiant debut novel is a study of love—both its gifts and its obligations—that will stay with readers long after the last page. With a rare tenderness and compassion, Beneficence illuminates the heart’s enduring covenants and compromises.
About the authors:
Meredith Hall is the author of the novel Beneficence. Her memoir Without a Map was instantly recognized as a classic of the genre and became a New York Times bestseller. It was named Best Book of the Year by Kirkus and BookSense, as well as Elle’s “Readers’ Pick of the Year.” Ms. Hall was a recipient of the 2004 Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation. Her work has appeared in Five Points, The Gettysburg Review, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, The New York Times, and many other publications. Hall divides her time between Maine and California.
Simon Van Booy is the award-winning and best-selling author of fourteen books, including Love Begins in Winter (winner of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award) and Everything Beautiful Began After, which Andre Dubus III called, “A powerful meditation on the undying nature of love and the often cruel beauty of one’s own fate.” He has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, National Public Radio, The Financial Times, and the BBC. His next novel, Night Came With Many Stars, will be published in 2021.