Jessi Jezewska Stevens and Jordan Kisner
The Exhibition of Persephone Q:
Essays from In Between
This event includes a book signing
March 10, 2020
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store and GrubStreet welcome debut authors JESSI JEZEWSKA STEVENS and JORDAN KISNER for a discussion of their books, The Exhibition of Persephone Q: A Novel and Thin Places: Essays from In Between.
About The Exhibition of Persephone Q
Percy is pregnant. She hasn’t told a soul. Probably she should tell her husband—certainly she means to—but one night she wakes up to find she no longer recognizes him. Now, instead of sleeping, Percy is spending her nights taking walks through her neighborhood, all the while fretting over her marriage, her impending motherhood, and the sinister ways the city is changing.
Amid this alienation—from her husband, home, and rapidly changing body—a package arrives. In it: an exhibition catalog for a photography show. The photographs consist of a series of digitally manipulated images of a woman lying on a bed in a red room. It takes a moment for even Percy to notice that the woman is herself . . . but no one else sees the resemblance.
Percy must now come to grips with the fundamental question of identity in the digital age: To what extent do we own our own image, and to what extent is that image shaped by the eyes of others?
Capturing perfectly the haunted atmosphere of Manhattan immediately after 9/11—and the simmering insanity of America ever since—Jessi Jezewska Stevens's The Exhibition of Persephone Q is a darkly witty satire about how easy it is to lose ownership of our own selves.
About Thin Places
When Jordan Kisner was a child, she was saved by Jesus Christ at summer camp, much to the confusion of her nonreligious family. She was, she writes, “just naturally reverent,” a fact that didn’t change when she—much to her own confusion—lost her faith as a teenager. Not sure why her religious conviction had come or where it had gone, she did what anyone would do: “You go about the great American work of assigning yourself to other gods: yoga, talk radio, neoatheism, CrossFit, cleanses, football, the academy, the American Dream, Beyoncé.”
A curiosity about the subtle systems guiding contemporary life pervades Kisner’s work. Her celebrated essay “Thin Places” (Best American Essays 2016), about an experimental neurosurgery developed to treat severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, asks how putting the neural touchpoint of the soul on a pacemaker may collide science and psychology with philosophical questions about illness, the limits of the self, and spiritual transformation. How should she understand the appearance of her own obsessive-compulsive disorder at the very age she lost her faith?
Intellectually curious and emotionally engaging, the essays in Thin Places manage to be both intimate and expansive, illuminating an unusual facet of American life, as well as how it reverberates with the author’s past and present preoccupations.
Praise for The Exhbition of Persephone Q
"Finally a book that exposes how dull Occam’s Razor has become after all these years. Adroitly crafted, The Exhibition of Persephone Q is a fun, urbane look at the faulty heuristics of perception and authenticity. Proof positive that in the age of Photoshop and Trumpian Denialism, the simplest explanation no longer applies." —Paul Beatty, author of The Sellout
"The Exhibition of Persephone Q has the heart of a Hitchcock film. With a voice both riveting and wisely bizarre, Jessi Jezewska Stevens tells a timeless story of the battle to stop the present from turning into the past." —Catherine Lacey, author of Nobody Is Ever Missing
Praise for Thin Places
“Jordan Kisner’s essays are like intricate tattoos: etched with a sharp and exacting blade of intellect, but made of flesh; richly drawn in their details; comprised of equal parts pleasure and pain. Like tattoos, their natural habitat is that strange borderland where our skin meets the world—where we confront our edges, or everything we can’t keep out. Always, and thrillingly, they look inward and outward with exacting grace." —Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams
"Jordan Kisner is a pilgrim for our times. She ventures into the operating room where a surgeon inserts an electrode into a patient’s brain. She mingles with the debutantes of Laredo, Texas as they navigate the fraught space between Wasp and Hispanic privilege. Wherever she is, Kisner probes the ambiguities that we live and dream, exploring the spaces where, in her words, 'Distinctions between you and not-you, real and and unworldly, fall away.' She is a tender but fierce writer; rigorous and wise." —Margo Jefferson, author of Negroland: A Memoir
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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Harvard Book Store's New Voices in Fiction series, presented with GrubStreet, highlights debut fiction writers discussing their work and the writing process.
GrubStreet is one of the nation's leading creative writing centers, offering 500+ classes a year in all genres, for writers of all levels. We believe that narrative transforms lives, builds bridges, and produces empathy. By rigorously developing voices of every type and talent and by removing barriers to entry, GrubStreet fosters the creation of meaningful stories and ensures that excellent writing remains vital and relevant. To learn more or find a class, visit grubstreet.org.
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