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“Carry the Sky,” the long-awaited debut novel by award-winning local poet and Clackamas Community College creative-writing instructor Kate Gray, provides an unblinking look at bullying told from the perspectives of two teachers reeling from their own losses.

Taylor Alta, the new rowing coach, arrives after the death of the woman she loved. Physics teacher Jack Song, the only Asian-American on campus, struggles with his personal code of honor when he gets too close to a student.

Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO - GraySinging a brave anthem about what it means to be different in a world of uniformity, these two young, lonely teachers tell of a strange and brilliant 13-year-old boy who draws atomic mushroom clouds on his notebook, pings through the corridors like a pinball and develops a crush on an older girl with secrets of her own.

Gray was inspired to write the novel from her experiences coaching crew while she taught in an East Coast boarding school at the start of her career. Now, after more than 20 years teaching at CCC, she thanks her co-workers for being so great at tending to their students, saying much has changed in education since she started.

Carter Sickels, author of “The Evening Hour,” said, “Set in a boarding school in 1983, ‘Carry the Sky’ is a haunting exploration of loneliness, grief and desire. In lyrical, elegant prose, Kate Gray spins a tale of characters struggling to forgive themselves and to find each other, and reminds us to pay attention to the ordinary and unexpected flashes of beauty around us: a brilliant kite, geese overhead, a paper crane in a tree.”

The book also has been praised by Hannah Tinti, author of “The Good Thief” and co-founder of “One Story,” and Cari Luna, author of “The Revolution of Every Day.” Ron Carlson, author of “The Signal” and “A Kind of Flying,” said, “In the rich rarified world of a prep school, Kate Gray has woven two powerful personal stories into a charged and compelling human novel that shows us that swimming under that quirky, antic, off-beat community are also life and death. Gray has a sharp eye and tells her story with verve and a deft touch.”

Gray’s first full-length book of poems, “Another Sunset We Survive,” (2007) was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and followed chapbooks “Bone Knowing” (2006), winner of the Gertrude Press Poetry Prize.

‘Carry the Sky’

The novel will be released by Forest Avenue Press at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5, at Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside St., Portland. The event is free and open to the public.

Gray also will read at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, with Trevor Dodge and Lance Olsen at the Oregon City Library. Dodge, an OC resident, was one of the authors of “The Night, and the Rain, and the River,” Forest Avenue’s recent anthology.

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