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Bird in Hand welcomes Kristen Arnett to discuss her new book Mostly Dead Things.
At its heart, Mostly Dead Things is a family story and a queer love story, refreshingly concerned with an adult’s coming-of-age rather than coming out. Jessa-Lynn Morton grew up in Central Florida as the protégée of her strict father, an expert taxidermist. She has a talent for careful incisions and peeling back layers of flesh—but the inner workings of her own relationships elude her. When her father kills himself, it’s suddenly up to Jessa to keep the taxidermy shop afloat and save her splintering family. Some complicating factors: her mother has started erecting avant-garde taxidermy art in the display window (picture: a stuffed buffalo and her dead husband in a sexual pose). Jessa’s brother has essentially left his teenage daughter to raise herself. And Brynn, Jessa’s childhood friend and the only woman she’s ever loved, disappears without a trace.
As you might guess, it all goes up in flames—but in brilliantly unexpected ways. This is a bracing look at what pent-up secrets and silences can do to a family, and a beautiful exploration of how to recover from the explosion. The magnetic, sharp, self-effacing humor for which Kristen is known runs through the book, but so do darkness and emotionally complexity. Think Swamplandia! meets Fun Home meets The Family Fang—a cocktail that sounds too good to be true until you take Kristen’s mastery into account.
Kristen Arnett (@Kristen_Arnett) is a queer fiction and essay writer. She won the 2017 Coil Book Award for her debut short story collection, Felt in the Jaw, and was awarded Ninth Letter’s 2015 Literary Award in Fiction. She’s a columnist for Literary Hub and her work has appeared at Gulf Coast, Guernica, Electric Literature, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Tin House, Salon, the Shocker, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She lives in Florida.
TIME & DATE
Friday, June 21, 2019 - 7:00pm