To devote oneself to the study of beauty is to offer footnotes to the universe for all the places and all the moments that one observes beauty. I can no longer grab beauty by her wrists and demand articulation or meaning. I can only take account of where things touch.
Part lyric essay, part prose poetry, Where Things Touch: A Meditation on Beauty grapples with the manifold meanings and possibilities of beauty. Drawing on her experiences as a physician-in-training, Orang considers clinical encounters and how they relate to the concept of beauty. Such considerations lead her to questions about intimacy, queerness, home, memory, love, and other aspects of human experience. Throughout, beauty is ultimately imagined as something inextricably tied to care: the care of lovers, of patients, of art and literature, and the various non-human worlds that surround us.
Where Things Touch is an exploration of an essential human pleasure, a necessary freedom by which to challenge what we know of ourselves and the world we inhabit.
Praise for Where Things Touch: A Meditation on Beauty:
“A strikingly lyric thoughtful new voice, Orang writes with the knowledge that feeling is intelligence and thought is sensory. ‘What happens to beauty when it’s removed from its own dirt?’ Beauty is tangled with language, with a lover, with medicine, flowers, ocean, care, and compassion. These explorations are insightful, incisive, and beautiful—and yes, touching.”
—Gary Barwin, Scotiabank Giller Prize-shortlisted author of Yiddish for Pirates
“Where Things Touch: A Meditation on Beauty is an erotic conversation with the manifold relations of beauty. Refracted through the lens of caregiving and caretaking, Bahar Orang’s lyric voice roams through poetry, Persian myth, and hospitals to enchant the everyday, returning us to an intimacy beyond the page—back to the body. Orang guides us with heart-centred intelligence in this beautiful and wise book.” —Shazia Hafiz Ramji, author of Port of Being
“With immense poetic resources, and weaving together the fabric of her life into a great tapestry, Bahar Orang reflects on beauty in terms of medical identity, love, race, and art. Variably paced, with a vibrant feminist subjectivity, Orang’s debut is worthy of its subject, devising ‘new shapes for intimacy, new words for care.’ An incredible work.”—Shane Neilson, author of New Brunswick
From the 2021 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award Jury:
2020 Spring Preview: Nonfiction —Quill and Quire
Most Anticipated: Spring 2020 Nonfiction Preview —49th Shelf
40 Works of Canadian Nonfiction to Watch for in Spring 2020 —CBC Books
Nursing the World to Health —Toronto International Festival of Authors Blog
“This book would suggest that beauty is not a thing in and of itself but, instead, it is where things touch. Beauty is in points of connection: doctors pulling screaming babies into the world, lovers wanting to press places understood as too taboo to touch, places where words, thoughts, and feelings come together.” —Emilia Nielsen, Plenitude Magazine
Five debut authors share the stories behind their work —Quill and Quire
A doctor’s search for beauty: An Interview with Bahar Orang —Maisonneuve
“In a world where eyebrow raises, eye rolls, or scoffs can accompany a conversation about the philosophy of beauty or when so-called philosophers overcomplicate the concept as if that gives it more value, Orang eschews all expectations and allows the subject matter breathing room. She defines her own categories of beauty and looks inward to determine what she finds beautiful.” —Allie Turner, NUVO Magazine
Read an Excerpt from Bahar Orang’s Where Things Touch: A Meditation on Beauty —Open Book
On Beauty: An Interview with Bahar Orang —All Lit Up
Notable New Book Releases —Toronto Star
The Chat with Bahar Orang —49th Shelf
“This book is not one with answers, but rather, thoughtful questions on what it means to be human, the ways in which aspects of the world remain undefinable, and the overwhelming power of intimacy, memory, and art.” —Madeline Garfinkle, Columbia Journal
“The insistent returning to the generalities of beauty, away from these rich specifics, might feel like a retreat, but this is the pattern of thinking that the book explores and echoes. Beauty shows not in one place but in many: in its relations to queerness, where blossoming plants become imagined embodiments; to language, in the tension between concision and excess; and to care.” —Julian Gunn, Canadian Literature
Shazia Hafiz Ramji: An Interview with Bahar Orang, author of Where Things Touch: A Meditation on Beauty —periodicities: a journal of poetry and poetics
The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers – Nov. 7, 2020: Bahar Orang on Where Things Touch —CBC Radio One
12 or 20 (second series) questions with Bahar Orang —rob mclennan’s blog
The Best Canadian Nonfiction of 2020 —CBC Books
“Where Things Touch becomes a careful unravelling and weaving of beauty in queerness.” Sanchari Sur, Arc Poetry Magazine
“Where Things Touch is not sentimental, but it is tender, offering intimate glimpses of newborn babes in sunlight, textures, colours and lines, fragments and crossed out words. “Beauty is where language fails.” —Amanda Earl, Carousel Magazine
“When you read Bahar Orang’s Where Things Touch: A Meditation on Beauty, you will want to not rush through it. These pieces are planted in the heart first, so they sort of bloom and grow inside of you as you read them. You’ll begin to think about how beauty connects to poetry, art, language, love, sexuality, and your own mortality. Find a quiet place where you can let the poems sink in and marinate a bit. You won’t regret it.” —Kim Fahner, periodicities
Bahar Orang is a writer and physician-in-training living in Toronto. She has a BASc from McMaster University and an MA in Comparative Literature from the University of Toronto. She completed her MD at McMaster University and is now completing specialty training in psychiatry in Toronto. Her poetry and essays have been published in such places as GUTS, Hamilton Arts & Letters, CMAJ, and Ars Medica. Where Things Touch: A Meditation on Beauty is her first book.