A Genuine Act of Discovery: U-M's Juan Cole on his book "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires"

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Juan Cole and his book Muhammad

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.”

Jimi Hendrix's Experience: Jas Obrecht's "Stone Free" goes deep into the guitar great's transformative 10 months in London

MUSIC WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Jas Obrecht and Jimi Hendrix

The life of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix has been explored in numerous biographies and documentaries, so you could be forgiven for being skeptical as to why the world needs another book about the man widely considered to be the greatest guitarist of all time and a major influence on the sound of rock music. Jas Obrecht's new offering on the subject, however, takes a much closer look at a specific period in the life of Hendrix.

Stone Free: Jimi Hendrix in London, September 1966-June 1967 is a detailed, day by day look into the guitar great's arrival in England and his rapid rise from obscurity to fame. Obrecht's book puts into perspective just how quickly and completely Hendrix revolutionized pop music. The supporting cast is a who's who of British rock icons including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Animals, and many others. I had the pleasure of sitting down for an interview with the author, who has written nearly 200 cover stories for Guitar Player and other music magazines as well as a number of books on blues and rock.

Obrecht will be reading from his new book on Thursday, February 14, 7 pm, at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor. Below is the conversation we had, slightly edited for flow.

Earth, Water, Wind, and Fire Flow Through "Elemental: A Collection of Michigan Creative Nonfiction" edited by Anne-Marie Oomen

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Anne-Marie Oomen and her book Elemental

Photo of Anne-Marie Oomen by Emily Mae Harpe

Can you fully know a place?

This might be a trick question. As a Michigan native, I have an intimate knowledge of the state, but there are still new things to learn about it. There are unexplored towns, myriad events, acres of forest, and miles of shoreline.

Plus, my understanding of Michigan comes from my perspective, which is one reason why I appreciated the original views and varied essays in the recently published Elemental: A Collection of Michigan Creative Nonfiction edited by Anne-Marie Oomen

Elemental contains 24 essays, each presenting a unique angle on the state. Some are deeply rooted in Michigan places and characteristics, and others more tenuously tied to the state. All relate to an element -- earth, water, wind, fire -- present in Michigan. Elemental is a 2019 Michigan Notable Book, a Library of Michigan award for books published in the previous year. 

Oomen, a writer with an essay included in Elemental, pens poetry, nonfiction, and plays. Her books include The Lake Michigan Mermaid with Linda Nemec Foster, Pulling Down the Barn, House of Fields, An American Map: Essays, Uncoded Woman, and Love, Sex and 4-H. She has also edited Looking Over My Shoulder: Reflections on the Twentieth Century. Her seven plays include Secrets of Luuce Talk Tavern. In addition to her writing, she is an instructor at the Solstice MFA at Pine Manor College and Interlochen College of Creative Arts. 

Oomen will speak with a panel of authors from Elemental at Literati Bookstore on Monday, February 11, at 7 pm. The panel will include Ari L. Mokdad, Alison Swan, Michael Steinberg, and Keith Taylor. All will read and discuss Michigan literature.

Here, Oomen answers questions about Elemental, Michigan, and her writing. 

Michael Erlewine releases a free PDF book that chronicles Ann Arbor's 1960s counterculture scene

MUSIC WRITTEN WORD HISTORY

Ann Arbor - The 1960s by Michael Erlewine

In a recent Facebook post, former Ann Arborite Michael Erlewine posted a link to his free PDF book Ann Arbor: The 1960s Scenesaying:

Here are a series of articles on Ann Arbor, Michigan culture in the late 1950s and 1960s. It is mostly some history of the time from my view and experience. I could add more to them, but I’m getting older by the day and I feel it is better to get something out there for those few who want to get a sense of Ann Arbor back in those times.

I hope there are some out there who can remember these times too. As for those of were not there, here is a taste as to what Ann Arbor was like back then.

Long before he became a software pioneer who created astrological programs and, later, the All Music franchise and its spinoffs, Erlewine was an integral member of Ann Arbor's 1960s counterculture scene as co-founder of blues band The Prime Movers, which eventually featured Iggy Pop on drums.

Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s "Dying Well" looks at his wife's well-lived life and how she handled the end

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Bill Kellerman and his book Dying Well

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.

August Heat: Stephen Mack Jones' ex-detective solves crimes in multifaceted Detroit

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Stephen Mack Jones and his book Lives Laid Away

The Motor City is as much of a character as ex-police detective August Snow in Lives Laid Away, and author Stephen Mack Jones had many reasons for setting the story in Motown.

“Detroit is a very diverse city -- most people outside of Detroit don’t realize how diverse it is. They see only in terms of black and white. But … a variety of people from all over who wound up here," Jones says. "I wanted to create a character that was representative of the two largest minorities in Detroit: African-American and Mexican-American. These are two minority groups that have never really seen eye to eye. And for August, I wanted him to be the product of two cultures that have often clashed but feel no personal dichotomy. He feels he has the best of both worlds ... he has pride in both cultures. And he’s comfortable with himself. I wanted people to know that is achievable -- that you can be a product of two cultures, two peoples and be at peace with who you are.”

C.A. Collins’ "Sunshine Through the Rain" follows a feminist teen in the Deep South '60s

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

CA Collins and her book Sunshine in the Rain

Before the Civil Rights era, women couldn’t go to most Ivy League schools, get credit cards in their own names, or serve on juries in all 50 states.

So what was it like for a smart, headstrong young woman in 1960s era Deep South growing up in a family that wants her to either be a “Southern belle” or a tomboy?

C.A. Collins’ book Sunshine Through the Rain examines at that very question in the character of Christie Ann Cook, a wise-beyond-her-years teenager who speaks her truth as she comes of age during a period of extreme social change.

While the Concordia University grad and Michigan-based writer didn’t grow up in that era, Collins says, “I have always had an interest in those tumultuous years in the South. I raised in Louisiana where the 'n' word was the norm, but my parents taught me to judge someone by their character, not the color of their skin. In this book, I really wanted to show a young girl who had diverse people in her life that she loved and cared for and how she was torn between her small insular world and the uncertain bigger world around her.”

UMMA & Vault of Midnight team up for comic art in the "Age of the Internet"

VISUAL ART WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW

UMMA & Vault of Midnight comic book club covers

UMMA's exhibit Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today tracks the impact of the web on visual art over the past 30 years. While comic books aren't represented in the exhibit, it is a visual art form that has been radically modified over the past three decades by digital culture.

Inspired by the exhibit, UMMA and Vault of Midnight - Ann Arbor are combining forces for a new comic book club: "The Age of the Internet in Comic Books and Graphic Novels." Vault of Midnight will host the meetups once a month in its Ultralounge, all of which are on a Sunday at 2 pm.

The series will include the following titles:

Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series Winter 2019 lineup

Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series collage of winter 2019 events

U-M alumna Penny W. Stamps died from leukemia on Dec. 18, 2018, but her dedication to bringing arts and ideas to Ann Arbor community continues with the school and speaker series named in her honor.

The winter lineup of U-M Stamps School of Art & Design's Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series was announced Jan. 11 with 12 events, primarily at the Michigan Theater and many in conjunction with other performances and events at the university and in the community.

Justified: Peter Leonard's new novel brings his dad's Raylan Givens character to Detroit

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Peter Leonard and his book Raylan Goes to Detroit

Raylan Givens has been to a lot of places: Miami, Florida; Harlan County, Kentucky; Glynco, Georgia. And now he’s come to the Motor City in the riveting Raylan Goes to Detroit by Michigan-based author Peter Leonard

After an altercation with his boss, Raylan is given two choices: retire or take a job on the fugitive task force in Detroit. “His former boss gets him reinstated but the only opening is in Detroit and he takes it,” Leonard says. “Raylan’s been in a lot of places, so I decided to do something different. I live in the Detroit area, let’s bring him here.”