Across the Page: Meredith Maran, Linda Hirshman, Arisa White

This month’s Across the Page features Meredith Maran’s wonderful debut novel, A Theory of Small Earthquakes, Linda Hirshman’s  history of the LGBT movement, Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution, and Arisa White’s collection of poetry Hurrah’s Nest.

A Theory of Small Earthquakes by Meredith Maran (Soft Skull Press)

Award-winning journalist and writer of ten nonfiction books, Meredith Maran knows how to tell a good story—and her fiction, it turns out, is no different. In her debut novel, A Theory of Small Earthquakes, Maran tells a powerful and evocative story of a family that spans over two decades. It is a novel about what it means to forge your own path—in life, love and in the creation of a family.

After Allison and Zoe meet and fall in love as undergrads at Oberlin College, they move to the Bay Area of San Francisco and begin a life together. The relationship is strong and filled with growth, but tensions arise when Allison’s desire for a child forces her to consider Zoe’s free-spiritedness through a more critical lens.

In the wake of the Loma Prieta earthquake, Allison sleeps with a man from her office at Mother Jones. She soon discovers that she’s pregnant and it is unclear if the child is the result of a previous artificial insemination procedure or the affair. When a baby boy is born, the three parents have to learn how to work together for each other and for the child.

A Theory of Small Earthquakes is not only an important and honest book, but it is also extremely funny and smart. A must read.

Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution by Linda Hirshman (Harper)

When I first heard the title of Supreme Court lawyer and political pundit Linda Hirshman’s new book, Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution, I knew that this was a story I wanted to hear.  

On the front cover, Victory promises to show “how a despised minority pushed back, beat death, found love, and changed America for everyone.” And in the book, Hirshman lives up to this promise in her deft analysis and chronicling of the gay rights movement.  Hirshman, who is straight, was inspired to write this detailed account after an interaction with the “longtime gay activist, philosopher, and bongo-drumming Faerie,” Arthur Evans

The book charts the major points within the movement from the Stonewall riots and the AIDS crisis to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and marriage equality. Hirshman provides an in-depth look at the movement’s history (“Red in Bed: It Takes a Communist to Recognize Gay Oppression”) to its current obstacles and achievements (“With Liberal Friends: Who Needs Enemies?”).  

Whether we’ve actually achieved “Victory” just yet is a question Hirshman allows readers to consider for themselves, but she makes an undeniably compelling and convincing argument that there is plenty to celebrate in the journey and fight thus far. Victory is an ambitious, entertaining and highly informative book. The perfect read for Pride month. 

Hurrah’s Nest by Arisa White (Vac Poetry)

Arisa White’s debut poetry collection Hurrah’s Nest features a gathering of voices that capture the universal and the personal. The poems here are lyrical, dense and compact investigations of family, home, race, society, sexuality and love. 

The title of the collection refers to an untidy mess, a tangle or heap of objects, but White keeps order here through a clear and straightforward voice.  In her absorbing examination of her difficult childhood and conflicted relationship with her mother, White considers her past in order to better understand her present and future selves. 

In “We Not Crazy, We Feeling Irie,” White describes her mother through the sound and memory of her voice:

My mother sings as if her tongue were raised
alongside the sea’s echo.

And, indeed, her mother’s presence echoes throughout the rest of the collection. Community and family both influence White’s poems about young love and her developing awareness of sexuality. In the poem “As Near As We Come To Another World,” she writes about her best friend and neighbor:

My skin to her skin is not enough—
orchestrated bumping into and draping onto,
spooning during sleepovers,
huddling when scary movies are on—
I need closer, an infrastructure to get there faster.

This is White’s first full collection. Her previous chapbooks include Disposition for Shininess and Post Pardon. The San Francisco Bay Guardian selected her for the 2010 Hot Pink List and she is a blog editor for HER KIND. Engaging, accessible and contemplative, I highly recommend checking out Hurrah’s Nest

Additional books to check out:

The Narrows by M. Craig (Papercut Press) – A gripping coming of age story set in the mythical world of Terresin, an urban wonderland where a young woman named Sim struggles to find a place to belong. The novel is filled with magic, intrigue, environmental and social allegories, and love. An impressive debut by Brooklyn-based writer Maggie Craig. 

This is How I Dream It by Jennifer Harris (Jackleg Press) – From the author of the celebrated novel Pink, which was included in Curve magazine’s top 150 lesbian-written novels, Jennifer Harris’s new book is a lyrical compilation of stories, poems and anecdotes that explore and meditate on themes such as love and longing—you know, the easy stuff of life. A very powerful collection. 

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