A Night of Fiction: Bookbound Bookstore hosts Elizabeth Ellen, Juliet Escoria, and Mary Miller
While other towns struggle to maintain bookstores and aren’t able to host author events, Ann Arbor hosts myriad events featuring the writers behind the pages.
Bookbound Bookstore is hosting a night of fiction on July 10. But what isn't fictional is Ann Arbor's dedication to independent bookstores and author events.
“We are very lucky to be in a city with so many avid readers and folks who make an effort to shop local," says Bookbound co-owner Megan Blackshear. "Each local bookstore has their own areas of specialty and programming, so we complement one another to provide something for everyone. After the loss of Borders, Shaman Drum, and plenty of other great shops, we are grateful that Ann Arbor is proving that it is still Booktown.”
Escoria will read from her latest novel, Juliet the Maniac. The fiction book is based on the author’s own experiences as a talented teenager who is set to take on the world -- until she descends into a web of mental illness and drug use and finds herself in a remote school where she must rely on her inner will to survive.
“I could have read this in one sitting if life hadn't interrupted," Blackshear says about Juliet the Maniac. "Written in short bursts, the form propels the reader to read just one more chapter. ... Juliet Escoria has turned her real-life struggle with mental illness into a powerful coming-of-age novel. Despite the dark and deeply personal subject matter, Juliet never gives up hope or relatability.”
Miller writes southern fiction, a genre into which her latest novel, Biloxi, strolls in, settles down, and nestles in comfortably. Protagonist Louis McDonald Jr. resides in the titular town as he mourns the loss of a decades’ long marriage and the death of his father. He spends his days watching TV and eating leftovers until he impulsively adopts a dog he names Layla. Louis soon finds himself besotted with the mutt, which leads to new and unexpected paths in a life that he thought had no surprises left.
“On one hand, Mary Miller's Biloxi is a quirky, light-hearted story of a newly-single 63-year-old man and the dog he sort of accidentally adopts," Blackshear says. "On the other, it offers nuance and sharp observations throughout, and the author accomplishes the feat of making the reader love this borderline-creepy curmudgeon. Bonus points for the dog, of course.”
The author is former James A. Michener Fellow in Fiction at the University of Texas and John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at Ole Miss. Her previous works include Always Happy Hour and The Last Days of California.
Miller’s first book, Big World, was a collection of short stories published by Short Flight/Long Drive Books, the publishing arms of the independent literary journal Hobart, whose deputy editor, Elizabeth Ellen, is an Ann Arbor resident and author of several books, including Before You She Was a Pitbull (2006), Fast Machine (2012), and Saul Stories (2017).
Ellen says Saul Stories was born from the various short stories she had written over the years. “A friend suggested that I put them together as a book -- she even gave me the title.” The ending of the book surprised even herself, Ellen says. “No spoilers, but I never would have predicted that it would end the way it did.”
The same year her press released Saul, Ellen also published a poetry collection and Person/a, an experimental and intensely personal novel about her experiences as an artist, writer, mother, and wife. She tells a tale of an obsession in an experimental way, blending emails, G-Chats, interviews all as she opens up her heart and mind in innovative and heartbreaking ways.
Person/a is precisely the sort of book that might get lost at a big chain store, but it fits right in with Bookbound's expertly cultivated selections, which is one reason why Blackshear is excited about this night of fiction with three authors who feature disparate and distinct voices.
“As a small mom-and-pop shop, we don't have the space or staff to organize a lot of events, particularly those featuring national touring authors -- it takes a lot of work," Blackshear says. "We host some excellent community events -- an open mic poetry series, storytelling, Grown Folks Reading, and occasional local author book launch parties. Thanks to connections we've made in the community, sometimes a fabulous opportunity comes our way, as was the case with this event. We are honored to host these impressive authors, and grateful to Elizabeth for bringing them to our store."
Patti F. Smith is a special education teacher and writer who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband.
Bookbound Bookstore hosts Elizabeth Ellen, Juliet Escoria, and Mary Miller on Wednesday, July 10 at 7 pm.