March 12, 2019
Feminist Fiction with Alexia Arthurs and Rosalie Morales Kearns
Alexia Arthurs, fiction writer, explores life in the Jamaican diaspora, the challenges faced by women, and the legacies of slavery in her short-story collection How to Love a Jamaican (2018) — named a Best Summer Read by Entertainment Weekly and Buzzfeed.
Novelist Zadie Smith said, “All of [the stories] convince and sing. All of them shine. In this thrilling debut collection Alexia Arthurs is all too easy to love.”
“Shirley From a Small Place,” the final story in How to Love a Jamaican, was loosely based on mega-star Rihanna. "At its essence I wanted to write a story about a girl who had been everywhere and had seen everything worth seeing, and yet the small place she came from could hold the healing power of home," Arthurs said in an interview published in Hazlitt in July, 2018.
Rosalie Morales Kearns' first novel, Kingdom of Women (2017), takes place in a slightly alternate near-future, where women are forming vigilante groups to wreak vengeance on rapists, child abusers, and murderers of women. Kirkus calls it “a feminist alternative history novel [that] explores the morality of violence.” Rigoberto Gonzalez praised it as “provocative” and “fascinating.”
In an interview with NBCNews.com, Kearns discussed the role of novelists in today's society, "We writers can at least contribute to the conversation, encouraging our readers to think more critically about the meaning of justice. Plenty of writers are praised for the beauty of their prose, their observant portrayals of human frailty, etc., but when you read their books you see they never really question the status quo. I can’t get excited by novels like that."
A writer of Puerto Rican and Pennsylvania Dutch heritage and a former UAlbany English Department lecturer, Kearns is founder of the feminist publishing house, Shade Mountain Press, based in Albany. She is also editor of the short-story anthology The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly Women (2015), praised by Kirkus Reviews as a “vital contribution to contemporary literature”; and the author of the magic-realist short story collection Virgins & Tricksters (2012).
The event is cosponsored by the State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education, Friends of the New York State Library, and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Dept. (LACS).