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Virtual Book – August Pick – A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

August’s pick for the Virtual Book Club is A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa. Moving fluidly between past and present, quest and elegy, poetry and those who make it, A Ghost in the Throat is a shapeshifting book: a record of literary obsession; a narrative about the erasure of a people, of a language, of women; a meditation on motherhood and on translation; and an unforgettable story about finding your voice by freeing another’s.

Copies of the book are available from the library through the catalog, Libby (eBook) and Hoopla (eBook and eAudiobook). Our discussion will take place on Thursday, August 18th at 5:30 pm on Zoom. You can register for the book discussion on our event page.

Overview of the Author

Irish poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa did not always aspire to be a poet and writer. Attending university studying various fields, such as dentistry and psychiatry, she ultimately earned a post graduate teaching degree for primary education. When her grandfather died in 2009, she experienced an awakening of expression through poetry and her writing career began. A fluent Irish speaker, she has won awards and accolades for her work in Irish, and now also in English. A Ghost in the Throat is her first prose work.

For more about Doireann Ní Ghríofa and her poetry, here is her bio from the Adrian Briknkerhoff Poetry Foundation. Watch her own introduction to A Ghost in the Throat here from her car – where most of the book was written.

Notable Book Reviews

Kirkus describes A Ghost in the Throat as “a fascinating hybrid work,” and “a unique and beautiful book.” The New York Times goes more into depth with a longer review that gives some background on the poem the story builds from- Caoindeadh Airt Ui Laoghaire– and on the author’s self-described “obsession” with the poem that led her to translate it and write this work of fiction.

Further Exploration

You can watch a recitation of “Caoineadh Airt UÍ Laoghaire” by Sabina Higgins in this YouTube video. Still wondering about pronunciation of the Irish language? Here’s a handy guide. Delve into a scholarly take on the overlooked history of women in the tradition of lament and oral poetry, or just peruse some of the most famous laments and elegies in the English language.

Readalike Suggestions

For more lyrical and introspective hybrid works that blur the line between memoir, fiction and literary essay, check out the following readalikes:

“Aurelia, Aurélia” by Kathryn Davis, 2022

Cover art for Aurelia, Aurélia: A Memoir.

When Kathryn Davis’s husband died from cancer in 2019, her vision of their future went with him as well. But as she vividly illustrates in nonlinear, dreamlike fragments, her memories of their past, and her own, remained. Mining them to make meaning of her loss, she delivers a resonant, genre-bending meditation on imagination and impermanence. This title is available in print.

“Dear Senthuran” by Akwaeke Emezi, 2021

Cover art for Dear Senthuran.

In this creative and original epistolary memoir, Akwaeke Emezi reveals the harrowing yet inspiring truths of their personal, spiritual, and artistic journey–from the social constraints of childhood in Aba, Nigeria, through a lifetime of discoveries involving sexuality, storytelling, and self. This title is available in print, large print, as an eBook on Libby and as an eAudiobook on Libby.

“How Should a Person Be?” by Sheila Heti, 2012

Cover art for How Should a Person Be?

What is the sincerest way to love? What kind of person should you be? Using transcribed conversations, real emails, plus heavy doses of metafiction, Sheila Heti explores these questions in an innovative work that is part literary novel, part self-help manual, and part bawdy confessional. This title is available in print, as an eBook on Libby and as an eAudiobook on Libby.

“My Autobiography of Carson McCullers” by Jenn Shapland, 2020

Cover art for My Autobiography of Carson McCullers.

In genre-defying vignettes, Jenn Shapland undertakes an obsessive recovery of the narrative of writer Carson McCullers’s life. As Shapland reckons with the expanding and collapsing distance between her and McCullers, she sees the way McCullers’s story has become a way to articulate something about herself. This title is available in print and as an eBook on Libby.

“Screen Tests” by Kate Zambreno, 2019

Cover art for Screen Tests.

Equal parts observational micro-fiction and cultural criticism, Kate Zambreno reflects on the dailiness of life as a woman and writer, on fame and failure, aging and art. The result is a funny, utterly original look at cultural figures and tropes and what it means to be a human looking at humans. This title is available in print, as an eBook on Hoopla and as an eAudiobook on Hoopla.

Don’t Forget!

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