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Skylight Books: Yxta Maya Murray and Ellen Hagan
February 8 @ 8:30 pm - 10:00 pm
LIVE ON CROWDCAST: YXTA MAYA MURRAY AND ELLEN HAGAN DISCUSS THEIR NEW BOOKS
*Please note: this event will take place live on Crowdcast. RSVP here to join the livestream or watch the replay.
Art is Everything (Northwestern University Press)
In her funny, idiosyncratic, and propulsive new novel, Art Is Everything, Yxta Maya Murray offers us a portrait of a Chicana artist as a woman on the margins. L.A. native Amanda Ruiz is a successful performance artist who is madly in love with her girlfriend, a wealthy and pragmatic actuary named Xochitl. Everything seems under control: Amanda’s grumpy father is living peacefully in Koreatown; Amanda is about to enjoy a residency at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and, once she gets her NEA, she’s going to film a groundbreaking autocritical documentary in Mexico.
But then everything starts to fall apart when Xochitl’s biological clock begins beeping, Amanda’s father dies, and she endures a sexual assault. What happens to an artist when her emotional support vanishes along with her feelings of safety and her finances? Written as a series of web posts, Instagram essays, Snapchat freakouts, rejected Yelp reviews, Facebook screeds, and SmugMug streams-of-consciousness that merge volcanic confession with eagle-eyed art criticism, Art Is Everything shows us the painful but joyous development of a mid-career artist whose world implodes just as she has a breakthrough.
Praise for Art is Everything:
“In Amanda Ruiz, Yxta Maya Murray has created a character that is fresh and sassy and unlike any I’ve encountered in recent fiction. Through inventive and stylized prose rife with wit and intelligence, we witness her triumphs and heartbreaks just as Amanda is on the verge of a major creative breakthrough while her personal life begins to unravel. What results is a portrait of an artist whose tenacity and passion fill the pages of this ebullient novel, penned by a gifted writer whose imagination knows no limits.” —Alex Espinoza, author of Cruising: An Intimate History of a Radical Pastime
“Amanda Ruiz romps through an art infused life of love, loss, and redemption, inviting the reader on a wild, exhilarating ride.” —Carla Trujillo, author of Faith and Fat Chances
Yxta Maya Murray is a writer and law professor living in Los Angeles. Her novels include The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Kidnapped, The King’s Gold: An Old World Novel of Adventure, and The Queen Jade: A Novel. Her fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, the Georgia Review, the Southern Review, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. She has won a Whiting Writer’s Award and an Art Writer’s Grant, and she has been a finalist for the ASME Award in Fiction. Her art criticism can be found in Artforum, ARTnews, Artillery, and other periodicals.
Blooming Fiascoes (Northwestern University Press)
Blooming Fiascoes is a collective of verse that deconstructs identity. We are beautiful and monstrous. We live in a beautiful and monstrous world. Ellen Hagan poetically mirrors these metaphoric adversaries, drawing on her experiences as a woman, an artist, a mother, a transplanted southerner, and above all, a human being. She plumbs origins in history, body, and living to question how we reckon our whole selves in the catacombs of a world gone mad:
We mourn, we bless, / we blow, we wail, we / wind—down, we sip, / we spin, we blind, we / bend, bow & hem. We / hip, we blend, we bind, / we shake, we shine, / shine. We lips & we / teeth, we praise & protest.
In these poems, Assyrian, Italian, and Irish lines seep deeper into a body that is growing older but remains engaged with unruly encounters: the experience of raising daughters, sexual freedom, and squaring body image against the body’s prohibitions. This is a work where the legacy is still evolving and always asking questions in real time. Blooming Fiascos spindles poetry that is not afraid to see itself and the lives it inhabits.
Praise for Blooming Fiascoes:
“In this courageous and jubilant collection, Ellen Hagan implores the reader to embrace what is messy and difficult in the world—to see the rough, awkward edges of our daily lives as the buds that eventually sprout into a ‘migratory swarm of praise.’ These poems are exuberant. They throw tantrums and chuckle. They yearn. They reminisce about broken mattresses and ‘a miracle of pigeons.’ They revere women with endearing odes to daughters, mothers, friends, colleagues, women who fall asleep in bakeries and on buses. Blooming Fiascoes is a feast of image and lyric that reminds us there is magic to be made of torn jeans, traffic jams, and a daughter’s missing tooth, that we must carry all these things with us and ‘hold it like a charm.’” —Vincent Toro, author of Tertulia
“In today’s difficult times the poems in Blooming Fiascoes are a salve for the soul. The book takes its reader on a magic journey filled with wonder and enchantment. The poems are generous and alive, the language precise and stunning.” —Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, author of Arrival: Poems (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2017)
“‘Her life a flare of yes.’ It takes much bravery and gumption to not choose the easy way. And to raise free girls, teaching them to also dare and discover. ‘Sometimes blood can be a blessing.’ Ellen Hagan gives us testimony, missive, lament and litany to light our travels through lyric love letters across generations and geography, singing odes even in desolate landscapes. ‘Such luck / to know love so well.’ Such luck to have this poet’s vision and exuberant portraits of experience in our hands.” —Kamilah Aisha Moon, author of Starshine & Clay
Ellen Hagan is a writer, performer, and educator. She is the co-author with Renée Watson of Watch Us Rise. Her books include Blooming Fiascoes, Hemisphere, Crowned & Reckless, Glorious, Girl. Her work can be found in ESPN Magazine, She Walks in Beauty, and Southern Sin. She received a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in poetry in 2020 and has received grants from the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Raised in Kentucky, she now lives in Kentucky and New York City with her family.