Detroit has lived under the flags of three countries, watched its fortunes soar with stove and automotive manufacturing and then crash back to earth with bankruptcy, and the city continues to evolve and change in myriad ways today.
“I always wanted to write,” the author says. “The Great Recession led to a job loss, which led to writing for trade publications and to my first book for Arcadia Publishing, called Forgotten Detroit.”
Since then, Vachon has published South Oakland County: Then & Now, Legendary Locals of Detroit, and Lost Restaurants of Detroit, as well as two guidebooks, MOON Michigan and MOON Michigan's Upper Peninsula. “History has been my passion in many ways,” he says. “And about two years ago Reedy Press approached me to do a timeline book about Detroit.”
The book is a chronological telling of events in Detroit, broken up into chapters that correspond to periods within the city’s history. “The subject matter ranges from military conquests to industry to individual people who shaped Detroit in some way," Vachon says. "The book examines political developments, business trends … all the way up to the bankruptcy.”
Connor Coyne's novel "Urbantasm: The Dying City" deals in nuances not dichotomies about his Flint hometown
There’s usually more than meets the eye in both fiction and nonfiction. There’s more to Jean Valjean than just taking that loaf of bread. Moby Dick was more than a whale. And Flint isn’t just a town with a water crisis -- it is a city full of artists, activists, and everyday people trying to live their best lives.
And that’s the picture author Connor Coyne aims to paints in his new serial novel set in a city based on Flint, Urbantasm: The Dying City. Coyne lived in the city until he was 12 and returned after the birth of his daughter. “I loved Flint and wanted to be part of the community again,” he says. “I’ve always had this sense of the vitality and creative energy in this area ... that doesn’t always get talked about.” Coyne hopes that readers recognize his passion for the city in the book.
Urbantasm tells the story of 13-year-old John Bridge, whose big plan to become the most popular kid at his new junior high school is put on hold by a series of strange events. After taking an enigmatic pair of blue sunglasses from a person who is homeless, Bridge soon finds himself mysteriously dropped into the middle of a gang war in his hometown of Akawe. This formerly great Rust Belt city is home to a gang of white supremacists, a homegrown drug called O-Sugar that was responsible for the deaths of a group of local kids, and suspicious deaths that may have been murders. Bridge must navigate these mysteries while adjusting to a new school and dealing with problems at home and in his city.
Distilling the Process: Ann Arbor creatives R.J. Fox and Heidi Philipsen are working to bring "Love & Vodka" to the big screen
R.J. Fox doesn’t wait around for something to happen -- the Ann Arbor author goes out and creates his own opportunities.
Filmmaker Heidi Philipsen likewise makes things happen for herself. So perhaps it is kismet that these two talented and hardworking artists found each other and are making art together as they turn Fox’s book Love & Vodka into an independent film.
Fox knew he wanted to be involved in filmmaking since he was in high school, and he currently teaches English and video production at Huron High School. “Everyone tells you that the odds are stacked against you, that it’s like making it to the NBA … so you have to have a mindset that you will find a way and get your work in the right hands of someone who wants to make your movie.”
Fox knew he found that person when he met Philipsen.
John Belushi said it. Christopher Hitchens also said it. Jerry Lewis said it, too. They all said the thing that they likely would have never said about any other group: women aren’t funny.
If you need proof that women are funny -- and you shouldn’t, but in case you do -- come out to Ladies Laugh Night at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase on Thursday, April 11. The show features an all-woman lineup of Brandi Alexander, Nicole Majdali, Kate Brindle, and Connie Ettinger.
Comedy Showcase owner Claudia Neeb includes more female comedians in the club’s lineup because “we believe in seeking out diverse types of comedians, including women. As a club, we try to ‘grow’ comedians by encouraging them to work on and strengthen their talent and then move onto the next level.”
This Woman's Work: Camille Noe Pagan’s "I’m Fine and Neither Are You" tracks the troubles and radical honesty of a working mom
The opening chapters of Camille Noe Pagan’s fifth book, I’m Fine and Neither Are You, communicate the struggles of the modern-day working mother. Penelope Ruiz-Kar is in it up to her eyeballs, “which is pretty much every woman I know these days," says the Ann Arbor-based Pagan.
The book follows Penelope as she juggles a full-time job, an underemployed husband, and rambunctious children as well as day-to-day adulting. Meantime, Penelope’s best friend Jenny seems to have the perfect life -- a wealthy husband, an enviable marriage, the luxury of not having to work, one child who always behaved impeccably. Jenny appears to have it all, have it made. But everything is not what it seems.
With two Blues Music Award nominations and a new album, Sugaray Rayford has made 2019 his year -- and it isn’t even April yet.
As part of a concert series supporting this year's Ann Arbor Blues Festival (August 16-19), the Texas-born, Los Angeles-based Rayford and his band will be making their first visit to Ann Arbor, promising a fabulous night of blues at Club Above on Sunday, March 31, in support of their recently released album, Somebody Save Me (Forty Below Records).
The entire album is the perfect vehicle for Rayford’s incredibly authentic voice and charisma. The record grabs the listener by her collar and takes her across the Mississippi Delta, through Chicago, to West Coast Swing, down to Texas, and back again. Described as having an “old school vocal style” reminiscent of such musicians as Muddy Waters, Otis Redding. and Teddy Pendergrass, Rayford seems tailor-made for the songs that appear on the album.
“Overnight I found my love affair with Detroit slipping away. My worldview changed," said author Vern Smith, speaking of his experience in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City.
Growing up in Windsor, Ontario, Smith said, “Detroit was my second hometown. I started sneaking over the border when I was 11 and found my culture there. Can’t tell you how many live shows I’ve seen there because it was so easy to access pre-9/11. Then it changed so abruptly and [the two cities] were being kept apart.”
Smith’s novel The Green Ghetto takes place a year after the New York attacks, which was about the same time the former journalist and broadcaster started working on short stories.
A Genuine Act of Discovery: U-M's Juan Cole on his book "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires"
Dr. Juan Cole has spent his life dedicated to the study of the Middle East, Muslim South Asia, and religion. He’s been at University of Michigan since 1984, quoted in papers from the L.A. Times to the Baltimore Sun, and appeared on PBS Newshour, Nightline, and The Colbert Report. He received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for research on Shiite Muslim thought and history, published translations of Arabic literature by Kahlil Gibran (and later, sponsored an exhibit of Gibran’s paintings at the Detroit Institute of Arts), acted as the director of the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies at U-M, served as editor in chief of the International Journal of Middle East Studies, and wrote or translated nearly 20 books.
This past October, Bold Type Books published Cole’s most recent book, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires. The book’s publication at this particular time is in response to recent events around the world. “Extremist groups are misusing or using religious text in dishonest ways," Cole says. "North America and Europe have seen a rise in Islamophobia and the smearing of the prophet Muhammad.”
Cole originally studied early Islam and its foundations while in graduate school in Cairo and later at UCLA. “I got pulled away from the medieval studies," Cole says, "and pulled into writing about modern and contemporary issues in the Middle East by several events,” including the Iranian Revolution. “Although I had this earlier training, I didn’t put it to use in a whole book until now. I tried to tell the story as a response to this moment that we find ourselves in.”
Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s "Dying Well" looks at his wife's well-lived life and how she handled the end
We are a society that doesn’t talk much about dying well -- heck, we don’t really like to talk about dying, period.
But Bill Wylie-Kellermann ponders both in a loving memoir about his wife, Dying Well: The Resurrected Life of Jeanie Wylie-Kellermann, which he will discuss at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor on Thursday, January 24 at 7 pm.
The love story began when Bill met Jeanie in 1982. Both were arrested and charged with conspiracy charges after protest actions at Williams International in Walled Lake, Michigan.
“We were both nonviolent community activists,” says Bill. “And we both were held at the Oakland County jail after the arrests. We had to go back and forth to court pretty regularly. We always tried to make sure we were handcuffed side by side in the van that took us to circuit court.”
Those close quarters eventually led to love and marriage as the couple continued their work in Detroit, where Bill was born and where he attended Cooley High School. Jeanie served as a journalist, filmmaker, and writer. Bill grew into roles as a writer, teacher, United Methodist minister, and community activist. They had children, settled into a meaningful life together.
But then in 1998, something happened.
You've got the girl groups, from The Supremes to En Vogue.
And you've got the boy bands, from The Temptations to The Backstreet Boys.
“We are unusual because a lot of gay and lesbian choirs are all men or all women,” says Out Loud Chorus board member Tim Hamann. “We have always been a mixed group, truly a community chorus.”
During the January 18 and 19 performances, expect to hear music from Motown groups, '90s boy bands, Destiny’s Child, The Andrews Sisters, The King’s Singers, and more.
"'Gurl Groups and Boi Bands' will be set up like an episode of The Voice," says Hamann. “But we are calling it The Queer Voice. Then we will have skits peppered throughout the program.”