This special episode of It’s Lit features the literature of Julie Gardner, Devis S. Laskar, January O’Neil, and Grace Talusan, four contributors to a remarkable collection of poetry and prose that came out this year titled Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19, edited by Jennifer Haupt.
ALONE TOGETHER: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19 is a collection of essays, poems, and interviews to serve as a lifeline for negotiating how to connect and thrive during this stressful time of isolation as well as a historical perspective that will remain relevant for years to come.
All contributing authors and business partners are donating their share to The Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc), a nonprofit organization that coordinates charitable programs to strengthen the bookselling community.
The roster of diverse voices includes Faith Adiele, Kwame Alexander, Jenna Blum, Andre Dubus III, Jamie Ford, Nikki Giovanni, Pam Houston, Jean Kwok, Major Jackson, Devi S. Laskar, Caroline Leavitt, Ada Lim n, Dani Shapiro, David Sheff, Garth Stein, Luis Alberto Urrea, Steve Yarbrough, and Lidia Yuknavitch.
The overarching theme of the book is how this age of isolation and uncertainty is changing us as individuals and a society and is divided into five sections: What Now?, Grieve, Comfort, Connect, and Don’t Stop!. The print book contains 69 essays, interviews, and poems. The audio and ebook editions have 22 bonus pieces.
To learn more about the book, and to get your hands on a copy, you can go to https://www.alonetogetherthebook.com/paperback
In this episode of It’s Lit, we will hear selections from the introduction, two pieces from “Grieve,” one from “Connect” and one from “And Do Not Stop.”
Julie Gardner, an Amherst Writers & Artists Affiliate and Certified Life Legacies Facilitator, writes and leads writing groups and retreats in Seattle and Bainbridge Island. She is the editor of Original Voices: Homeless and Formerly Homeless Women’s Writings. Grief, which she defines as “love in a different form,” often shows up in her recent writing. You can connect with her on her website: https://writersgathering.com/.
Jennifer Haupt is the editor of Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19. You can connect with her at http://www.jenniferhaupt.com/
Devi S. Laskar is the author of The Atlas of Reds and Blues, winner of 7th annual Crook’s Corner Book Prize (2020) for best debut novel set in the South, winner of the 2020 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature sponsored by the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association; selected by The Georgia Center for the Book as a 2019 book “All Georgians Should Read.” The novel was named by The Washington Post as one of the 50 best books of 2019. From Chapel Hill, NC, Laskar now lives in California with her family. You can find her on Twitter and IG @devislaskar.
January O’Neil is an associate professor at Salem State University, and the author of Rewilding (2018), Misery Islands (2014), and Underlife (2009), all published by CavanKerry Press. From 2019-2020, she served as the John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, Oxford.
Grace Talusan is the author of the memoir The Body Papers, winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing and a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection. She is the Fannie Hurst Writer-in-Residence at Brandeis University.
- LIT: An excerpt of Jennifer Haupt’s introduction to the anthology (v-viii)
- “Higher Love” by Stevie Winwood
- LIT: Grace Talusan’s “River of Grief” (prose, 68-73, within the section titled “Grieve”)
- “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver and Cass Elliot
- My father played this song a lot in our early American apartments and there’s something about grief and longing I hear in it that works with the essay.
- LIT: Julie Gardner’s “The Last T-Shirt” (poem, 84-85, also within the section titled “Grieve”)
- “You Fill Up My Senses” by John Denver
- John Denver’s ‘You Fill Up My Senses’ would be a meaningful companion song for me. My husband, John, played the guitar and often sang John Denver songs. When he played “You Fill Up My Senses,” he’d often change the word senses to sinuses because I often expressed how much I loved his scent. We had an ongoing tease that when he smelled good (not the grease and oil times), it was a very powerful aphrodisiac. He needed visual. I needed his scent. It wasn’t the Brut or Old Spice, but those scents combined with him. I have a keen sense of smell. When it’s good, it’s very, very good and when it’s bad, it’s horrible. TMI, I know, but felt good to tell the story.
- LIT: Devi Laskar’s “State of the Art, State of the Union” (prose, 161-167, within the section titled “Connect”)
- “Under Pressure” by Queen & David Bowie
- LIT: January O’Neil’s “Glitter Road” (poem, 246-247, within the section titled “And Do Not Stop”)
- “Heavy” by Birdtalker
- I wrote “Glitter Road” while I was on fellowship this year at the University of Mississippi, Oxford. While there, I met a man who is now my love. We both came from broken relationships (“Broken finds broken,” I say to him often.). Early on, he sent this song to me and I think of it as our song, but it seems emblematic of the times. Being “lonely together” fits the anthology.