Holiday Books Guide

On Twitter, where I spend more of my social media time these days (@BelleBoggs, that’s me), people have been posting early 2016/now photos that represent how they feel. I don’t have any kittenish photos of Mischief (RIP), but this sums up my mien, post-November 8:


Anyway! I am giving mostly books for Christmas presents. Here are some top picks:

What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell. An exquisitely painful, gorgeous read.

Proxies by Brian Blanchfield. Smart, precise, candid, wide-ranging essays.

We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge. I have loved this novel since I first heard Kaitlyn read from an early draft at Bread Loaf, in 2010. A captivating, character-driven, important book about history, race, and belonging.

Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens. I adore this surprising, unconventional, claustrophobic-feeling novel. You don’t have to have given birth to appreciate this story, but it’s one of the most compelling and visceral descriptions of that experience I’ve ever read.

Boy Erased by Garrard Conley. Considering we now have a VP-elect who believes in “ex-gay” conversion therapy, Conley’s memoir is more important than ever.

Half Wild by Robin MacArthur. Honest, heartbreaking, tender stories set in Vermont. I hope it doesn’t presume too much to say I feel like Robin is my Northeastern sister.

The Home Place by J. Drew Lanham. I think this memoir of growing up black in the South, and becoming a naturalist and ornithologist, is one of the biggest sleepers of the year. (You can read Dr. Lanham at Orion).

In September, I wrote about The Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg for the New Yorker’s website. For a while it became an Amazon top seller. Ginzburg, who suffered and survived Fascist rule in Italy, says we should teach our children “not the little virtues but the great ones. Not thrift but generosity and an indifference to money; not caution but courage and a contempt for danger; not shrewdness but frankness and a love of truth; not tact but love for one’s neighbor and self-denial; not a desire for success but a desire to be and to know.” I think everyone should read Ginzburg on family, love, and courage.


You could always give someone you love The Art of Waiting. It’s on some great best-of-2016 lists, including Oprah’s! If you’d like a clover to tuck into the copy you give (or receive), please send me an email and I’ll mail you one from my collection.

With love,






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Summer 2016

From our new house, we can hear the weekly “air horn orchestra” protests of HB2 at the North Carolina governor’s mansion. We join in spirit–it’s too loud for Bea’s young ears. Walking home from getting ice cream on Friday, we came across a Black Lives Matter protest at Moore Square, and listened to the solemn reading of too many names. Each week, at a poetry workshop my grad students host with homeless and at-risk teens and young adults, a group made up mostly of young black men, we hear about the risks to life and liberty they must think about all the time.

I don’t know what to do except to offer some readings that been meaningful to me this summer:

Nicole Dennis-Benn on the privilege of innocence.

“Social Skills Training” by Solmaz Sharif.

Jelani Cobb on the historical echoes of NC’s “bathroom bill”

Barry Yeoman on “The 30 Years That Brought Us HB2″

Garth Greenwell’s exquisitely painful What Belongs to You

Brian Blanchfield’s brilliant Proxies: Essays Near Knowing

Aimee Nezhukhumatathil’s hopeful, magical Lucky Fish

And rereading:

Natalia Ginzburg’s The Little Virtues, with its wonderful anti-capitalist parenting advice and writing about Italy, “a country willing to submit itself to the worst governments,” where she lived under Fascist rule. (Go here to register to vote/update registration.)

Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, a new NEA Big Reads selection.

(image above: pages from Citizen. List on left sadly much longer in new printings.)



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New Website!


I’m so happy to share my new website, Richard designed and coded the whole site from scratch! I think he’s the most multi-talented person I know.

I’m delighted by how the site turned out, and for the chance to show off blurbs from three of my favorite writers–Eula Biss (!), Leslie Jamison (!), and Andrew Solomon (!). will include a feed from this blog, which I’ll keep, and it also has a “Resources” page which lists some of the infertility, adoption, and “plan B” family building resources I mention in The Art of Waiting. (I am also happy to post additional links–please email me or reply to this post.)

More soon!

(Above: Richard and Bea at the Bread Loaf Orion Environmental Writers’ Conference this June)

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Publishers Weekly Top 10


Exciting to see The Art of Waiting listed as a top ten pick for fall in Publishers Weekly’s memoirs and biographies category. I was especially happy to be on the list with Mike Scalise, whose excellently-titled memoir The Brand New Catastrophe is coming soon from Sarabande. I met Mike at Bread Loaf a few years ago and still remember being captivated by the funny/serious excerpt he read there. His book came to press in an interesting way, a little like Mattaponi Queen–through a contest. Mike won the Center for Fiction’s Christopher Doheny Award, which “recognizes excellence in fiction or nonfiction on the topic of serious physical illness by a writer who has personally dealt or is dealing with life-threatening illness, either his or her own or that of a close relative or friend.” Here’s hoping that Mike will come to North Carolina for an event early next year.

Speaking of events, I’m working with Graywolf to plan my fall book tour and have plans (so far) to go to Atlanta, Chicago (with Eula Biss!), D.C., Minneapolis, and Austin. Hoping to add Boston and New York to the list. More soon!

(Above: Bea is very into the idea driving these days, and often asks me, when we get into the car, “Can I drive?”)



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New essay and article


I have two new pieces out this week.

The first is an essay I wrote for Lithub about what Tillie Olsen called the “triple life” of working, parenting, and writing, and the need for better childcare options. Click here if you’d like to read it.

The second is an article about abortion restrictions that went into effect this year in North Carolina. It looks particularly at their impact on one young mother who had to wait an entire week, in excruciating physical pain, to have an abortion. It was published in Slate; find it here.

Thanks for reading! I really do intend to publish the new website soon.

(Photo above by Tom Rankin, who took it at a writers’ gathering Jill McCorkle organized this spring in protest of North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature.)

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Early Review for The Art of Waiting


An early, starred review from Kirkus:

“This deeply empathetic book is about more than one woman’s challenge; it’s about the whole scope of maternal urges, of how culture (and literature) treat the childless (or “childfree”), how biases against medical intervention serve to stigmatize those who need such expensive (and not always successful) assistance, and how complicated can be the decisions about whether to adopt rather than continuing to attempt to conceive, the moral dimensions of international adoption (and surrogates), the additional hurdles facing gay couples, and the seemingly arbitrary differences between states as to what procedures are covered and to what financial limit. . . . Boggs writes with considerable heart and engagement about the decisions that are so tough for so many. . . . A story well-told and deeply felt.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review
The book isn’t out until September 6, but it makes me so happy to see it in galley format (pictured above, with clover) and to hear that the writing, research, and ideas are resonating. More soon about a galley signing in May!


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New work…


Hello! It’s been a while!

I’ve been working on some big projects, including a new nonfiction book, The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood. It will be published next September by Graywolf Press! Would you like to read an excerpt?

“Baby Fever,” in the current issue of Orion, is adapted from the manuscript.

I’m working on a new website, too, which will show off the beautiful cover designed by Kimberly Glyder. And photos, and essay and story links. And this poor neglected blog, which I think I now have time to neglect a little less.

(photo above by Ken Abbott. Check out his amazing book here.)

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