Upcoming Event

Lissa Soep at Harvard Book Store


Other People's Words:
Friendship, Loss,
and the Conversations that Never End

in conversation with DAPHNE KALOTAY


April 25, 2024
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes LISSA SOEP—senior editor for audio at Vox Media—for a discussion of her new book Other People's Words: Friendship, Loss, and the Conversations that Never End. She will be joined in conversation by DAPHNE KALOTAY—award-winning author of Russian Winter, The Archivists, and Calamity and Other Stories.

About Other People's Words

In their twenties, Lissa Soep and her boyfriend forged deep friendships with two other couples—Mercy and Christine; and Emily and Jonnie—until, decades later, Jonnie died suddenly, in an accident, and Christine passed away after a mysterious illness. Christine had been a writer, Jonnie a storyteller. Lissa couldn’t imagine a world without their letters, postcards, texts—a world without their voices. Then she found comfort in a surprising place. As a graduate student, she had studied the philosophy of the Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin, who wrote about the many voices that can echo through a single person’s speech. Suddenly, Bakhtin’s theory that our language is “filled to overflowing with other people’s words” came to life. Lissa began hearing Jonnie and Christine when least expected. In a conversation with Emily, a familiar phrase was spoken, and suddenly, there was Jonnie, with his riotous laugh, vibrant in her mind. Mercy recited an Adrienne Rich poem in just the way Christine used to and, for a moment, Christine was with them in the room.

Other People’s Words shows us how we carry within us the language of loved ones who are gone, and how their words can be portals to other times and places. Language—as with love—is boundless, and Other People’s Words is an intimate, original, and profoundly generous look at its power to nurture life amid the wreckage of grief. Dialogues do not end when a friendship or person is gone; instead, they accrue new layers of meaning, showing how the conversations we share with those we love continue after them, and will continue after us.

Praise for Other People's Words

Other People’s Words illustrates how absurd the illusion is that we are separate. We don’t just whisper into each other’s ears; rather we speak to, through, for, and as each other. This book grapples beautifully with that truth and is genuinely enlightening. Just magnificent.” —Rob Delaney, author of the New York Times bestseller, A Heart That Works

Other People’s Words is one of those books that changes you forever. Now I can hear the ‘double voicing’ in my own life: the ways the language of my past—of dear friends and family—has fused into and shapes the language of my present; how it keeps people I have lost with me always.” —Peggy Orenstein, author of the New York Times bestseller Girls & Sex

"Other People's Words is an essential meditation on the relationship between love, loss, and language. How does speech undo the boundaries between you and me, between self and other? How do we create ourselves, and our intimacies, through our words? This book will fundamentally change how, and for whom, you speak.” —Cyrus Dunham, author of A Year Without a Name

Masking Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required.

Daphne Kalotay
Daphne Kalotay

Daphne Kalotay

Published in 20+ languages, Daphne Kalotay’s books include the award-winning novels Russian Winter, Sight Reading, and Blue Hours, and two story collections: Calamity and Other Stories, shortlisted for The Story Prize, and The Archivists, winner of the Grace Paley Prize. A recipient of fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, MacDowell, and Yaddo, among others, she lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Photo credit: Sasha Pedro

Lissa Soep
Lissa Soep

Lissa Soep

Lissa Soep is senior editor for audio at Vox Media and special projects producer and senior scholar-in-residence at YR Media. She has a PhD from Stanford, where she studied education, social theory, and linguistic anthropology with leading Bakhtin scholars. She lives in San Francisco. 

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