On Thursday, April 21st, I attended a short reading of The First House, a work in process written and read by Amy Agigian. Amy Agigian is a Suffolk University Sociology professor as well
as an author (Baby Steps: How Lesbian Alternative Insemination is Changing the World), and the Founding Director of the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights. When first arriving to the Poetry Center in the Sawyer Library, the room was loud, where friends, students, and faculty were all talking among themselves as Amy set up.
The room instantly quieted, however, about five minutes later when she began to speak. Professor Agigian passed around a piece of paper first, to write down each of our names and email addresses, so we could receive a notice when the book was published, and then started into how she began her new book. She describes, “There are these stories inside me that just want to come out,” and discussed that she had started by writing a list of all these different stories, and then realized that the list was interconnected and has been combining the stories on that list ever since. At this point, she says, she is about 90% finished with her work in progress, and realizes now that the majority of the snapshots of her life she wrote about were actually centered around her mom.
The first chapter she read from, “A Life in Beverages” tracked her mom’s life and moods, as Amy grew up and learned to recognize what each drink meant to her mother. She lists ice tea, soda, water, alcohol, etc. and how each drink either revealed to Amy how her mother was feeling or what mood she was in, from when she was pretty young, up to when her mother was getting more and more sick. Amy’s stories actually started from when she was in grade school all the way up to when her son started 9th grade, some cute and funny, while others more serious and dark, however all were honest and real. While the stories were definitely nonfiction chapter excerpts, they were also poetic and rhythmic in the way she wrote and read each piece.
Through the stories, Agigian goes into her life growing up in detail, as she developed from a mischievous young student who had a heart arrhythmia, to having a lesbian mom and coming out to her friend about it, to being in summer camp and functioning while having a sick mom. All these stories illustrate how Amy has developed into a strong advocate for women, and how through all the different experiences she had growing up with her mother, shaped her into becoming the person she is. While Amy is finishing her stories that will become the finishing pieces to The First House, I’ll be patiently waiting for that email alert.
By Shelby Stubbs