Nina is the first real writer I ever knew. I met her when I was just finishing high school, her little brother was my boyfriend, a boy who would become my first real grown-up love (and a man who remains one of the most important people in my life to this day). I was enamored of Nina, of her entire family—how they sat on their porch and drank beer after beer late into the night and still managed to talk so intelligently, to tell stories about books and love, to challenge each other. I remember going to Nina’s apartment in Cambridge and looking surreptitiously around her room, touching beaded necklaces and smelling books and perfumes, thinking, this is the stuff of a writer.
After many years writing my favorite blog on the entire Internet, Nina’s first book, Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter came out last week from W.W. Norton. At its simplest, Hammer Head is a memoir about Nina’s decision to leave her job at a newspaper and try her hand at becoming a carpenter. But, of course, it’s so much more than that. It’s a book about fucking up and trying again, about turning your entire life on its head and losing your mind in order to find peace. It’s about what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated trade, and what it means to be a woman, period. It’s about patience and anger and love and the terror and excitement of hoping that your life could be different—fuller—than you ever imagined.
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