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Exploring the Backlist: Aurelie Sheehan’s Jewelry Box

Hello readers! Join our team of interns as they explore over 40 years of our publication history and share their passion for some of their favorite titles from BOA Editions. In this post, Sarah W. looks at the reflections of memory in Aurelie Sheehan's collection of histories.

The Paradox of Nostalgia within Jewelry Box

Hi there, readers! My name is Sarah Watkins. I am one of BOA’s current interns! Right now, I spend half my days in the BOA office, and the other half in class at The College at Brockport. I will be graduating at the end of this upcoming semester as a Creative Writing major and Studio Art minor. My hope is to continue on to graduate school before finding a career in the publishing field as an editor.

Aurelie Sheehan’s Jewelry Box investigates the notion of youth and memory from a dual lens of both nostalgia and appreciation of growth. Everything from the sensual—memories of summer loves trysts and the comparisons made in a young teenager’s mind as she peruses Playboy magazines with a sense of scandal and slyness—to the callow—like recollections of sleazy artists and photographers attempting to book a private session—is encapsulated in one small collection of 58 recollections. Sheehan walks a tightrope between flash fiction and confessional memoir in short snippets of larger narratives that exemplify the ways in which human nature leads us to reminisce and reflect on the past fondly while still appreciating the growth we’ve experienced since then.

Sheehan approaches memory sometimes with a sense of longing for youth, other times with a sense of reflection and adoration for her grown life with her husband and child. For instance, Sheehan’s piece “Telephone Call” spills longing from its pages. In the piece, the narrator bares her heart and mind to the reader as we eavesdrop on a phone call from an ex-lover as her husband sits in the other room. Sheehan calls back on young, summer love with a sense of curiosity and, if even for a second, craving. She writes:

“And what about the ramifications, the responsibilities, the nuances, the chambers of love, the place it grows together? What about what she thought it once meant, and what about what she thought it meant later? Means now” (Sheehan 21-22).

This snippet, along with countless other pieces in the collection, aligns us with Sheehan in a type of giddy secrecy: the kind that transports us back to late night whispers at sleep-away camps and slumber parties. Sheehan writes about herself coming back to her youth, and in doing so, she beckons us back as well. She urges us to consider our pasts just as she re-experiences hers.

On the flipside, narratives like “Car Ride” let us peek into the intimacy of Sheehan’s life now, with her daughter and husband. In this vignette, Sheehan writes simultaneous conversations between herself, her husband, and her child during a typical car ride. She entertains her daughter’s personification of cacti and ponderings of their loneliness, while also humoring her husband’s discussion of sports players, and meditating on her own relationship with her mother. Despite the implied overwhelming nature of these interweaving strands, Sheehan writes with nothing short of tenderness in lines such as:

“The cactus might be lonely, honey, but maybe it has some friends. Look, there are other cactuses too. Those are its friends” (52-53).

In doing so, the adoration of her child and appreciation of her grown life becomes tangible before the reader’s eyes. We begin to understand the complexity of memory: the way intricate strands of longing within nostalgia and relief for growth intertwine to create the human psyche. By integrating examples of this throughout her pages, Sheehan implores her audience to meditate on the idea of memory in relation to ourselves and the role it plays in our personal lives.

Aurelie Sheehan writes in a way that not only entertains the reader and allows them to connect and empathize, but that also urges us to consider the role memory takes in our own lives. Do you take to your everyday life with a sense of appreciation? Or do you find yourself stuck reliving the past? Perhaps the pages of Jewelry Box will bring those answers to light.


Jewelry Box: A Collection of Histories is available in the BOA Bookstore

Share your favorite BOA books with a friend this holiday season with BOA's Holiday Sale! All poetry, translation, fiction, and nonfiction titles are 30% off now through December 31. Enter promo code SHOPBOA19 at checkout to save and share!

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