It was March of 2016 and College of Idaho English Professor Diane Raptosh had just found out her oldest daughter was pregnant.
So Raptosh did what many authors would do – she started writing.
Four years later, the result of that writing, “Dear Z: The Zygote Epistles” will hit bookshelves on July 7.
“Dear Z collects verse-letters to a newly fertilized zygote—not quite a person, nor even an embryo—but rather, the great human maybe,” the book’s publisher, Etruscan Press, says in describing the book. “The speaker delivers the ‘Z’ a taste of what this might mean in poems whose topical range traipses from AutoFill to Idaho, New Zealand rivers to the zombie apocalypse.”
The grandchild, a girl named Camas, recently saw the book for the first time and didn’t really know she was the inspiration behind the collection of poems. “Dear Z” represents the final book in a trilogy, along with “American Amnesiac” (published in 2013) and “Human Directional” (2016).
“It (the trilogy of books) ends on the mysterious hope of potential life,” Raptosh said. “It continues the trajectory of investigating historical patterns and systemic issues in America, which have long been of interest to me. All three of the books have dealt with similar issues, most notably what it means to be a ‘self’ within a culture of cruelty marked by objectification and systemic racism—during a time marked by the offshore of memory to the machine.”
The letters to the zygote, a fertilized egg that ultimately develops into a baby, are written in the voice of a great aunt writing to her unborn niece. It explores the journey of becoming a person, a “self,” under the sometimes dehumanizing terms of contemporary American society.
“It doesn’t get any easier, and I never know where I’m going until I get there,” Raptosh said of the process of writing the book. “The writing is the process that takes you there, and that gradual unfolding is the most rewarding part.”
The book is available on Amazon or from the publisher, Etruscan Press. Raptosh said the book will also be sold locally at Rediscovered Books in Boise and Caldwell. She’ll take part in a virtual reading from the book on July 16 as well.
Raptosh graduated from the College in 1983. On top of being a professor, she has written six books. “American Amnesiac” was longlisted (nominated) for the 2013 National Book Award and nominated for the Housatonic Book Award. The Poet Laureate of Boise (2013) and Writer-in-Residence of Idaho (2013-2016) also earned the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2018.
The College of Idaho has a 129-year-old legacy of excellence. The College is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition, and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.