In Conversation: Contemplating a Paradise Lost

Through a series of short memoirs, Laura Valeri’s After Life as a Human visits Dog Island, a remote, amenity-deprived, hurricane-prone islet where pelicans rule, residents are resourceful, and human ambition […]


In Conversation: Contemplating a Paradise Lost

Authors:Sandra Beasley , Laura Valeri


Through a series of short memoirs, Laura Valeri’s After Life as a Human visits Dog Island, a remote, amenity-deprived, hurricane-prone islet where pelicans rule, residents are resourceful, and human ambition is suspect. With uncanny observation and lyrical reflection, these essays explore the persistence, fragility, and connectedness of life on the island and off. Valeri masterfully links local history, environmental research, and spiritual meditations to reflect on the island’s wild beauty, while coming to terms with the heartbreaking destruction of its fragile ecology. Sandra Beasley, author of four poetry collections, including the forthcoming Made to Explode, joins her in her musings.

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Sandra Beasley

Sandra Beasley is the author of Made to Explode (forthcoming 2021); Count the Waves; I Was the Jukebox, winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize; Theories of Falling, winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize; and Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, a disability memoir. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Virginia Quarterly Review, and several anthologies. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Laura Valeri

Laura Valeri is a writer, journal editor, teacher, writing consultant, translator, and educator. She is the author of four books, which include two short story collections, a book of essays, and a story cycle (a novel in stories). Her short stories, essays, and translations have appeared online and in print in journals such as Conjunctions, South85 Journal, and Fiction SoutheEast; while her critical essays and reviews have been published in Writing & Pedagogy, The Journal of College Composition & Communications, and Creative Writing Pedagogy. She is a professor of creative writing at Georgia Southern University. The seven essays in Valeri’s After Life as a Human (Rain Chain Press) braid local history, environmental research, and spiritual meditations to reflect on the island’s wild beauty and the heartbreaking destruction of its fragile ecology. It’s the story of Dog Island, located off of Florida’s Forgotten Coast, and a wild twin of St. George Island, a popular resort destination. Dog Island hosts less than 100 residents and a large nature preserve. Accessible only by boat or airplane, the island’s pristine state attracts those who seek reprieve from the noise of modern life and those drawn to an ancient paradise untouched by commercial enterprises. Yet, with sea-level rising, industrial spills poisoning the wildlife, and climate change increasing the frequency of hurricanes, Dog Island is swiftly becoming a paradise lost, another casualty of humanity’s reluctance to acknowledge its interconnectedness to all living things.

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