Beth Nguyen on Losing Her Given Name to America, the Intimacy of Letter-Writing, and More

by Staff
4.2.21

Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—publishing reports, literary dispatches, academic announcements, and more—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today’s stories.

“When I see the letters that spell out Bich, I see a version of self I’ve had to create, to hide from trauma. Even now, typing the letters, I want to turn away. America has ruined the name Bich for me, and I have let it.” Author Beth Nguyen writes about how racism marred her given name. (New Yorker)

“A precise feeling of fondness accompanies the receipt of a letter from someone you care about. There are as many shades of this feeling as friends in the world.” Jackie Polzin celebrates the intimacy of letter-writing. (Literary Hub)

“What would freedom mean to you, as a dark-skinned Black woman in the 1870s, knowing that everybody else is measuring their freedom by what they can get away with doing to you?” Kaitlyn Greenidge articulates the question at the heart of her latest novel, Libertie. (Kirkus)

“That is what I wanted to replicate—the feeling of being in a room with my people, going back and forth over something inconsequential that to us, in that moment, means the world.” Hanif Abdurraqib on writing for his community in his latest book, A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance. (Paris Review Daily)

“I really do think this is true for women of color, for Asian women: We’ve always been slotted into confessional or intergenerational or domestic writing.” Novelist and poet Jen Sookfong Lee evades categorization. (Quill & Quire)

“During September 11th, I was amazed by people’s perseverance and resilience. There was something in New York City, and I’m sure it’s there now, with the pandemic, but that’s what I was writing towards—that public collective grief and resilience.” S. Kirk Walsh explains how her memories of the aftermath of 9/11 informed her historical novel set during World War II. (Rumpus)

The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade has been announced as this month’s Barnes & Noble Book Club pick. Readers can listen to Quade in conversation with Karen Russell in a free virtual event on May 4.

To celebrate National Poetry Month, Boston Review has curated a reading list of poems on the theme of belonging.