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Summer Tales: One Poem, One Story

As the Summer Tales Book Club program is winding down, it’s time to reflect on some great moments of Summer Tales 2021. With over 40 students enrolled and active on and off since June 1, 2021, we were delighted to meet readers of different tastes and backgrounds in this virtual intellectual community. The books recommended in the Virtual Book Exchange to students by students while taking summer classes indicate the diversity of Rutgers.

The two public events were well received. Carmen Maria Machado and Natalie Díaz were interviewed by Nick Allred based on questions submitted by the audience prior to the events. The talk might have felt like a conversation between two old friends, but there was a lot of preparation behind them. Read more if you would like to hear about the work that went into creating that sense of ease!

One of the author talks is available in Canvas only (it’s worth a last minute registration to watch it), the other is free to all.

As the title suggests, we have one more poem and one more short story to read and discuss for the summer of 2021. It’s not too late to join and chime in. Alternatively, just read and reflect silently, as these two remaining topics discuss something very relevant in these days, something very close to home for all of us.

The Poem: Rotation by Natasha Trethewey uses a poetic form called pantoum that Nick also discussed with Natalie Díaz at the event. The alternating pairs of repeating lines in the poem are used to describe a childhood memory of near-archetypal resonance: a father silhouetted in the doorway, turning to leave. The poem’s dreamlike atmosphere captures the feeling of separation so powerfully involved in the bedtime rituals of young children, while the imagery of light and dark alludes to the mixed-race Trethewey’s complicated relationship with her white father, poet Eric Trethewey.

The last short story selected for Summer Tales 2021 is Diem Perdidi, written by Julie Otsuka, a compelling, heart-wrenching portrait of an elderly woman’s character and life story as she begins to lose her memory. The story invites us to reflect on what makes up individual identity––our experiences, our habits, our relationships––and what happens to them when they slip out of our grasp.

Although they might not be your light summer reads, the last poem and short story give us a lot to digest. We hope we have achieved our goal and were able to provide meaningful distractions from coursework, heatwaves, the virus, and other difficulties in life.