Nina Boutsikaris is the author of I’m Trying to Tell You I’m Sorry, out May 15th from Black Lawrence Press. Her essays have appeared in Fourth Genre, Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, Brevity, Third Coast, and elsewhere, and among the Notable Essays in Best American Essays 2016. She has taught at The University of Arizona, where she completed her MFA in creative nonfiction, The Gotham Writers Workshop, and Eugene Lang College. She splits her time between the Hudson Valley and New York City.
Here;s Quick Temper with Nina Boutsikaris:
Why do you write?
The promise of intimacy is what drew me to creative nonfiction originally, I think. As a teen I obsessively recorded banal observations of strangers, and of myself observing strangers, because it filled me with empathy—I felt that writing could illuminate a map that I otherwise found difficult to navigate, could create a net that would catch me and make me part of a world I felt mostly outside of, mostly alone in. I wanted to understand and be understood. I still do. As Louise Bourgeois wrote in her diary, “I want to be transparent. If people could see through me, they could not stop loving me, forgive me.”
Who do you hope reads your work?
Someone who wants to offer me an advance for the next book I’m writing. In lieu of that, anyone who wants to give me a paid job. (Not kidding. I need a job.)
Where does the anger in your work come from? How does it manifest?
To be extremely brief, I spent a lot of time pretty consumed with what it meant to grow up a girl, be a woman — I was angry at others, at myself. That manifested in research and attention to wanting to feel powerful on the page syntactically. But when I think about what I’m immediately angry about on a daily basis (generally greed, machismo, capitalism, and racism, and the spaces where all those intersect, the tragedies they cause, the past we have come from and the future we are hurtling towards) that anger tends to manifest into anxiety on the page. That probably isn’t useful…
Angry book recommendations for angry readers?
I guess it depends what angry means to you, the reader — I’m not a scholar, but if writers are paying attention (and don’t all good writers pay attention?) wouldn’t it make sense for everything be sort of “angry” at this point? And by that I mean urgently questioning and revealing injustices, whether in form or content. I just finished Crudo by Olivia Laing — the sentences felt hot and urgent to me, in a self-absorbed/conscientious sort of way that I think reflects a particular zeitgeist of shame and anger.
Nina Boutsikaris will be reading with An Angry Reading Series on May 11. Come through!