Amy Rowland in conversation with Julia Ridley Smith
"After her academic career in New York flames out, Rachel Ruskin returns to her family's tobacco farm in North Carolina and is haunted by memories and by her hometown's buried history of racism and violence. When a child is accidentally shot and killed, Rachel can no longer avoid confronting her own past wrongs; nor can she continue to hold herself apart from her community"
Amy Rowland is the author of two novels. The Transcriptionist, (Algonquin 2014) received the Addison M. Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is the recipient of fellowships and residencies from the National Endowment for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, the Norman Mailer Center, and the Sewanee Writers Conference. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The New York Times, The Southern Review, The Iowa Review, Literary Hub, New Letters, and elsewhere. She is a former editor at the New York Times Book Review and she is currently a lecturer at UC Berkeley. She has also taught at Princeton University and at The School of The New York Times.
"This first book by Julia Ridley Smith explores the death of the author's parents through the objects they left behind, offering both a poignant meditation on grief and a curious, thoughtful look at the ways that we live in a material culture, where everything from a work of art to a prosthetic leg contains a multitude of meanings. One piece uses her father's hi-fi as a way of talking about jazz, race, and the life of the artist, while another (previously published in the New England Review) zooms in on an antique mourning miniature to tell the story of her mother's final days. The book combines family lore, memories of growing up in the home of two antiques dealers, and an assessment of the narrator's literary and cultural influences as a white woman growing up in the late-twentieth century South. Organized as a series of essays exploring the things her parents left behind, The Sum of Trifles traces Smith's experience of loss as her elderly parents' health declines and they die, leaving the narrator and her family with the task of sorting, donating, and finally selling the contents of their home."
Julia Ridley Smith is the author of Sex Romp Gone Wrong: Stories (forthcoming 2024) and The Sum of Trifles, a memoir. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Cincinnati Review, Ecotone, Electric Literature, the New England Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing at UNC Chapel Hill.