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The Boston Book Festival has named Ciera Burch's "Yvonne," its "One City, One Story" selection for 2019.
Burch, 23, is studying for her master's degree in creative writing at Emerson College. She also works at Trident Booksellers.
"It means so much to be part of the literary canon that the Boston Book Festival is building, especially still being in school," Burch told Radio Boston Tuesday.
Each year, organizers print and distribute the "One City One Story" selection free of charge in the lead up to October's Boston Book Festival. The program, started in 2010, highlights emerging voices in Boston literature. Past selections have included works by Tom Perotta, Richard Russo and Kelly Link.
This year's story, "Yvonne," centers on Celeste, a queer woman of color who reconnects with her biological grandmother, Yvonne. While trying to establish a relationship, the two women reckon with Yvonne's absence in her granddaughter's life and work to overcome the generational divide between them.
"It's a type of story that really does encourage empathy and encourages looking at the people in our lives ... and thinking about that fully formed story that might be informing their actions," said Norah Piehl, executive director of the Boston Book Festival.
Burch said she wrote the piece after reflecting on the death of her grandmother.
"I set out to write my characters as humanly as possible and that can relate to everyone in some intrinsic human way," said Burch. "Whenever I was writing 'Yvonne,' I just had my grandmother's voice in my head."
She said she hopes her story will help Bostonians better relate to one another.
"[Literature] just gives a chance to sort of bridge a gap that there is in the world because you read about people and you come to understand them and to love them and to care about them even if they aren't like you in any way," said Burch.
By selecting "Yvonne," the festival relaunched the "One City One Story" program, which was put on hiatus last year after selected author Sonya Larson was accused of plagiarizing parts of her story, "The Kindest."
"Last year's situation was very particular," said Piehl. "I wouldn't expect it to be repeated and I feel very confident and comfortable in moving forward with [Burch's] story and really excited about relaunching the program this year."
The story will be distributed in early September.
WBUR is a media sponsor of the Boston Book Festival.
Ciera Burch, author. She tweets @cieraburch017.
This segment aired on August 6, 2019.
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