Literary Lunch: Jaed Coffin talks about Roughhouse Friday with Kathryn Miles
Location: Main Library
Join us for a conversation between Jaed Coffin and Kathryn Miles to discuss Coffin’s new book Roughhouse Friday. The conversation will be held on Wednesday, June 26th at noon in the Rines Auditorium.
About the book
While lifting weights in the Seldon Jackson College gymnasium on a rainy autumn night, Jaed Coffin heard the distinctive whacking sound of sparring boxers down the hall. A year out of college, he had been biding his time as a tutor at a local high school in Sitka, Alaska, without any particular life plan. That evening, Coffin joined a ragtag boxing club. For the first time, he felt like he fit in.
Coffin washed up in Alaska after a forty-day solo kayaking journey. Born to an American father and a Thai mother who had met during the Vietnam War, Coffin never felt particularly comfortable growing up in his rural Vermont town. Following his parents’ prickly divorce and a childhood spent drifting between his father’s new white family and his mother’s Thai roots, Coffin didn’t know who he was, much less what path his life should follow. His father’s notions about what it meant to be a man—formed by King Arthur legends and calcified in the military—did nothing to help. After college, he took to the road, working odd jobs and sleeping in his car before heading north.
Despite feeling initially terrified, Coffin learns to fight. His coach, Victor “the Savage,” invites him to participate in the monthly Roughhouse Friday competition, where men contend for the title of best boxer in southeast Alaska. With every successive match, Coffin realizes that he isn’t just fighting for the championship belt; he is also learning to confront the anger he feels about a past he never knew how to make sense of.
Deeply honest and vulnerable, Roughhouse Friday is a meditation on violence and abandonment, masculinity, and our inescapable longing for love. It suggests that sometimes the truth of what’s inside you comes only if you push yourself to the extreme.
About the Authors
Jaed Coffin is the author of A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants, a memoir about the summer he spent as a monk in his mother’s native Thailand, and the forthcoming Roughhouse Friday, which chronicles the year he won the middleweight title of a barroom boxing show in Alaska. Recently, Jaed has served as the William Sloane Fellow at Bread Loaf Writers Conference, a Resident Fellow at the Island Institute in Sitka, Alaska, and the Wilson Fellow writer in residence at Deerfield Academy. Jaed has lectured widely at colleges, universities, and secondary schools across the country on topics of diversity, creativity, and identity.
A regular contributor to Maine magazine, he also serves as the president of the board for the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Jaed teaches nonfiction at the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing Program at the University of Southern Maine, and he also teaches regularly at Bowdoin College and in the University of Maine system. He currently lives in his hometown of Brunswick, Maine, with his wife and daughter.
Kathryn Miles is an award-winning journalist and science writer. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Saint Louis University and took both her Master of Arts and Doctorate in English from the University of Delaware. Miles is the author of four books: Adventures with Ari, All Standing, Superstorm, and Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake. Her essays and articles have appeared in publications including Best American Essays, The Boston Globe, Down East, Ecotone, History, The New York Times, Outside, Pacific Standard, Popular Mechanics, and Time. She currently serves as writer-in-residence at Green Mountain College and as a scholar-in-residence for the Maine Humanities Council. She lives in Portland, Maine.
About the Series » Literary Lunch Series
Portland Public Library’s Literary Lunch series is held monthly and features authors from New England in conversation about new works. Authors are interviewed by literary friends, colleagues or critics.
All Literary Lunches are free to the public. Because they take place over the lunch hour, guests are encouraged to bring their lunch; complimentary coffee is generously provided by Coffee By Design and books are sold by our partner, Longfellow Books.
Questions about our Literary Lunch Series? Please send us an e-mail.