Grace Talusan to be featured in Boston Book Festival

September 18, 2020

Fannie Hurst Writer-in-Residence Grace Talusan has achieved extreme success this fall. Her short story “The Book of Life and Death” was chosen for the “One City One Story (1C1S)” Boston Book Festival program, and her most recent memoir “The Body Papers” has just won the Massachusetts State Book Award in nonfiction. “The Book of Life and Death” follows Marybelle, a Filipina domestic worker, struggling with class differences between her, her closest friend and her friend’s peers. Described by the Boston Book Festival as having, “potent and resonant themes of privilege, identity, and belonging,” it is a thought-provoking work. 

“One City One Story” is a big honor from the Boston Book Festival. Since 2010, the Festival has sent out copies of the chosen short story for free, with the goal of starting difficult conversations between members of the greater Boston community. This year they can be found online or at select indie bookstores and libraries. Talusan has been a fan of the program since the beginning. 

“I’d seen and loved these booklets for as long as they’ve been printing them. I usually get a stack and hand them out to my students. A free story—what could be better?” she wrote in an email interview with The Brandeis Hoot. She also mentioned that this is her first time being accepted to an honor like “One City One Story.” 

Talusan explained that “The Book of Life and Death” was not written with 1C1S in mind. “The seed of the story came from a writing exercise in a class I took many years ago,” she explained. “I was inspired to write this story by Filipina domestic workers I’ve met in the US and Hong Kong. I am so moved by what they do for their loved ones. Like the many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) who work abroad and send money ‘back home’ to the Philippines.” 

Talusan said that she hopes this book will start conversations and that people will be able to see parts of themselves in Marybelle. “I hope [people] find a connection to the story and are moved by it,” she wrote. “I have a fantasy in my head that someone comes across the booklet at just the right time, that they need a break and get their mind on to something else, or that they start reading and find themselves reflected there. Those are my daydreams.” Her daydreams are likely to come true with the help of 1C1S. Since this program focuses so much on conversation and culture, a community can be made through discussion of Talusan’s story. 

As mentioned earlier, “The Book of Life and Death” isn’t her only work to be currently gaining recognition. Her debut memoir, “The Body Papers,” was recently accepted for the prestigious Massachusetts State Book Award. Talusan’s publisher, Restless Books, submitted the memoir into the Awards, but winning was still a shock, she told The Hoot. 

“I’m completely in awe and grateful that my book was chosen. It’s a celebration of my book, which I am proud of, and all the people who made this book what it is.” Talusan chose to celebrate this book at Brandeis last fall, reading from her book and signing copies during one of her first weeks on campus. She also has two new essays in anthologies relating to the coronavirus: “Alone Together” and “And We Came Outside And Saw The Stars Again.”

Despite all the success and accolades, Talusan has remained humble. “I would not be able to write—I need privacy when I write—if I thought of popularity. And yet, I am a writer who wants and appreciates readers.” It’s readers she wants, and it’s likely readers she’ll get considering the amount of praise her work is getting. 

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