In Alyssa Songsiridej’s debut novel, “Little Rabbit” (Bloomsbury), a young writer embarks on a relationship with an older choreographer whom she’d met at an artist’s residency. Their bond, both sexually and aesthetically profound, sparks a series of changes in the writer, who’d until then been comfortable in a life that revolved around artistic ambitions, strong friendships, and a rather dreary administrative job at Harvard.
“I found Cambridge to be the perfect place to be a writer,” said Songsiridej, who wrote the book where she set it. “It made sense that it would be a safe, cocooned place for a 20-something-year-old woman who’s trying to become a writer. I also found it a very heady space, very cerebral.”
She wanted her main character, called “Rabbit” by her lover, to learn to live in her body. “Especially in the pandemic, with writing, I felt very much like a floating brain sometimes,” Songsiridej said. Dance was a natural counterpoint. “I’m a huge dance fan. I dream of being someone who inhabits my body as fully as dancers do. It’s an art form that really fascinates me, because it seems as far from writing as you can get.”
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As for what transpires between the writer and the choreographer, Songsiridej added, “I wanted it to be a literary novel that would focus on a woman’s desire. I really wanted to write a novel that would focus on a woman lusting after a man — and it’s not destroying her life.” Men have written great literature about lust, she pointed out: “I wanted to correct the balance.”
It’s also very much a novel about growing up, she said. “It really is a novel about that kind of weird moment in your late 20s — the astrologically minded call it the Saturn Return — when the person you think you’re going to be no longer works.”
Alyssa Songsiridej will read at 7 p.m. Monday in person at Harvard Book Store.
Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.