Welcome, Nina Boutsikaris!

During the month of June, we are celebrating the authors that came to us during our last open reading period. Today we bring you Nina Boutsikaris, author of the creative nonfiction title I’m Trying to Tell You I’m Sorry: An Intimacy Triptych, which is due out in May of 2019.

Photo on 6-11-17 at 5.33 PMThe Author

Nina Boutsikaris’ nonfiction has appeared in Third Coast, Fourth Genre, Entropy, Redivider, The Los Angeles Review, The Offing, Hobart, Brevity, and elsewhere, and her work was named a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2016. She has taught at the University of Arizona, where she earned her MFA in creative nonfiction, the Gotham Writers’ Workshop and The New School, and was awarded a 2016 Peter Taylor Fellowship at The Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. This fall she will be an MA candidate in the CUNY Graduate Center’s Liberal Studies program. She lives in Brooklyn.

On writing I’m Trying to Tell You I’m Sorry: An Intimacy Triptych

I started writing this book in anger and sadness: what the hell happened to me? I was obsessed with the dilemma I’ve faced since my earliest memory, the simultaneous pull to both be looked at and to evade the merciless gaze. Is there a way out of the roles of objecthood and subjecthood? And is that even what we want? Aware of my complicit and instrumental part in a system that offers a narrow definition of power, inherently taking it away, I began to explore these complications more thoroughly, searching for language in philosophy, art, literature, and psychology with which to name my discontent. As I hibernated inside dim libraries and coffeeshops through two sweltering Tucson summers, research dragged me further into the complexity of my own relationship to desire, sexuality and power, and soon my anger was replaced by something else. Something like curiosity, empowerment, and even amusement or forgiveness, for myself and others.


Was I ever not afraid of men? Of other peoples’ fathers: good-looking, clean- shaven, socked-feet up on an ottoman, fishing olives out of martinis and yelling at the television. Of dentists, not the drills but the eyes. Of doctors and their gloved fingers.
Meaning did I ever not fear that they would and would not? Even before my hips got wider than my waist and suddenly boys twice my age were asking did I know how to suck a dick without getting hairs caught in my braces. Boys, men, always asking me to keep secrets. Meaning I spent a lot of time sneaking around. A lot of time playing Juliet, playing Maria, in someone else’s personal tragedy.
But that’s what I liked most. The rush, I mean. I liked hiding. Liked lying. Liked organizing my secret worlds.
Meaning I still do.
What I really mean is I wanted them.
And I thought about it even then, how betrayal isn’t always betrayal. That
no one else deserves every part of you. Even then, when I was fifteen, when I’d make my boyfriend tie me up and lick ice cubes off my stomach on his mom’s silk sheets, I would sometimes let this other boy, this older boy, buy me a bagel at the deli and pin me down in the back of his Jeep until sixth period was over.
Or later how I’d tell another boy—the one whose parents hated me because I was in high school and he was twenty-two, still living at home, stinking up their certain kind of organized garage—to drop me off at the top of my street, nights when we’d been out doing stuff in empty corporate complex parking lots and in the wet grass. I’d wait for him to drive away and I’d walk to my neighbor’s house in the dark, this really beautiful guy, and scratch at his bedroom window. We’d smoke a little joint and my eyes would close and I’d let him do his thing.
This is how I did everything. A few in my pocket. My secret entourage.