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Transnational Series Live: Teju Cole

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Brookline Booksmith

279 Harvard Street

Brookline, MA 02446

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The Transnational Literature Series celebrates Teju Cole's two new books, Black Paper: Writing in a Dark Time and Golden Apple of the Sun

About this event

Join the Transnational Literature Series at Brookline Booksmith for an in-store event with Teju Cole to celebrate the release of his two new books, Black Paper: Writing in a Dark Time and Golden Apple of the Sun. He will be in conversation with writer, editor, and founder of the Transnational Series, Shuchi Saraswat.

“Darkness is not empty,” writes Teju Cole in Black Paper, a book that meditates on what it means to sustain our humanity—and witness the humanity of others—in a time of darkness. One of the most celebrated essayists of his generation, Cole here plays variations on the essay form, modeling ways to attend to experience—not just to take in but to think critically about what we sense and what we don’t.

Wide-ranging but thematically unified, the essays address ethical questions about what it means to be human and what it means to bear witness, recognizing how our individual present is informed by a collective past. Cole’s writings in Black Paper approach the fractured moment of our history through a constellation of interrelated concerns: confrontation with unsettling art, elegies both public and private, the defense of writing in a time of political upheaval, the role of the color black in the visual arts, the use of shadow in photography, and the links between literature and activism. Throughout, Cole gives us intriguing new ways of thinking about blackness and its numerous connotations.

Golden Apple of the Sun: In the period leading up to the November 3, 2020 elections in the United States, Teju Cole began to photograph his kitchen counter in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Working in the still life tradition of Chardin, Cezanne, and the Dutch masters, as well as such contemporary photographers as Laura Letinsky and Jan Groover, he photographed every day over the course of five weeks. Unlike those illustrious forbears, Cole left his arrangements entirely to chance, “the bowls and plates moving in their unpredictable constellations.”

What emerges is a surprising portrait, across time, of one kitchen counter in one home at a time of social, cultural, and political upheaval. Alongside the photographs is a long written essay, as wide-ranging in its concerns—hunger, fasting, mourning, slavery, intimacy, painting, poetry and the history of photography—as the photographs are delimited in theirs. The text and photography are interspersed with an anonymous handwritten eighteenth century cookbook from Cambridge. A luminous and humane work, presented with the formal boldness and oblique intelligence we have come to expect from Teju Cole.

Teju Cole is a novelist, photographer, critic, curator, and the author of seven books, which include Open City and Blind Spot, among others. He was the photography critic of the New York Times Magazine from 2015 until 2019. A 2018 Guggenheim Fellow, he is currently the Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Harvard. Author photo credit Maggie Janik.

Moderator Shuchi Saraswat's essays and criticism have appeared or are forthcoming in The Boston Globe, The Boston Art Review, Ecotone, Tin House online, Literary Hub, Arrowsmith, Ploughshares blog, Women’s Review of Books, and elsewhere. In 2018, she founded the Transnational Literature Series at Brookline Booksmith and served as its director through 2020. She's currently a nonfiction editor at the literary journal AGNI.

The Transnational Literature Series at Brookline Booksmith

The Transnational Series focuses on stories of migration, the intersection of politics & literature, and works in translation and is supported by the independent bookstore Brookline Booksmith. Subscribe to the Transnational Series newsletter for information on upcoming events, book recommendations, and more.

What You Need to Know to Attend

RSVP to let us know you're coming! RSVPs don't guarantee a seat, but you'll be alerted to important details about the program, including safety requirements, cancellations, and book signing updates.

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  • Books will be available for purchase at the event, but you can ensure that you get a copy by preordering on this page. You can pick your book up after 6:30PM on the day of the event.
  • Can't make it to the event? Preorder the book here to have it signed, and choose to have it held or shipped from the store!

Event Accesibility

Brookline Booksmith in-store events take place on street level unless otherwise noted. ASL interpretation may be provided (based on the availability of interpreters) but must be requested at least 2 weeks in advance of the event. Seats are limited. Please email us at tickets@brooklinebooksmith.com as soon as possible if you require ASL interpretation, guaranteed seating, or other accommodations. We will do our best to serve your needs!

IMPORTANT NOTICE REGARDING COVID & IN-PERSON EVENTS:

Please note that any Brookline Booksmith in-person event may be canceled by the bookstore, publisher, or author based on concerns about health and safety around the time of the event. Wherever possible, any in-person appearance canceled due to COVID will be moved to the Brookline Booksmith Zoom as a Webinar at the same date and time, and all tickets & registrations will be transferred to the online event. Book signing details may change. Refunds may be requested in the case of a virtual pivot or event cancelation.

Masks are required at Brookline Booksmith.

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Date and time

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Brookline Booksmith

279 Harvard Street

Brookline, MA 02446

View Map

Refund policy

Contact the organizer to request a refund.

Eventbrite's fee is nonrefundable.

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