Nervous Breakthrough: Ann Arbor novelist Camille Pagán's "Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties" explores loss & change

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Camille Pagan, Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties

Ann Arbor-based novelist Camille Pagán (Forever Is the Worst Long TimeLife and Other Near Death Experiences) was in the midst of writing a book that wasn’t going anywhere when she had an unnerving grocery-store experience.

“This guy, a college kid ... bumped into me and didn’t even look at me or say anything,” said Pagán, who also noted that on other occasions while out shopping, she’d observed “when a cashier would talk to and make conversation with a middle-aged man but then not talk to the middle-aged woman who was next in line. This seemed to me to really be saying something about our society and how we view and treat women as they age.”

Exist & Resist: U-M's Yoni Ki Baat group encouraged women of color with "Resistance"

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Kyla Cano, a member of U-M organization Yoni Ki Baat

Kyla Cano, a junior at U-M majoring in screen arts and cultures and communication studies, was one of the speakers at Resistance. Photo by Hannah Qin from Yoni Ki Baat's Facebook page.

On March 9 and March 10, Yoni Ki Baat, an organization that seeks to educate the campus about the issues pertaining to South Asian women and all women of color, produced Resistance, a show inspired by Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues.

In fact, Yoni Ki Bat is Sanskrit for “talks of the vagina.”

Below the Borscht Belt: U-M's Eileen Pollack & her "Bible of Dirty Jokes"

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Eileen Pollack by Michele McDonald

U-M professor Eileen Pollack grew up in the Borscht Belt, which is where her new novel takes place. Photo by Michele McDonald

A cousin who runs a Vegas strip club? A beloved brother who goes missing while in Vegas? A late husband who wrote dirty jokes for a living? A heroine with a failed stand up career who must save the day?

These colorful characters make up the new book The Bible of Dirty Jokes by U-M professor Eileen Pollack, but the roots of the novel come from a different era.

“I grew up in a hotel in the Borscht Belt," Pollack says. "It's really where stand up comedy got its start. Famous comedians would perform there, creating this sort of culture, and that’s what I knew.”

Fulfilling Promises: Sherri Winston discussed her writing process at AADL

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Sherri Winston

“You’re like family now because the weather has conspired against us.” --Sherri Winston

If you want to attend an intimate author event, attend one during a snow (slush?) storm that follows an unseasonably warm day. On Thursday, March 1, middle-grade author Sherri Winston talked about her latest projects and her process at the Ann Arbor District Library.

Asking to Be Written: Robin Coste Lewis at UMMA

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Robin Coste Lewis

When the first poem in a book is titled “Plantation,” you should probably just go ahead, pour yourself a drink, sit somewhere quiet, and prepare to be transported.

I suppose you should expect to be transported, too, by a book called Voyage of the Sable Venus, especially since it won the National Book Award for Poetry.

On Thursday, Feb. 21, Robin Coste Lewis read her work as a part of the Zell Writers Series. I don’t know how it is possible that an auditorium feels cozy, but that was the vibe in UMMA’s Helmut Stern Auditorium that evening: warm, relaxed, somewhat dark. 

March 2018 Author and Book Events

PULP WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW

March 2018 book collage

What does having an amazing university, a plethora of fantastic local independent bookstores, and a pretty slam-bang public library system (if we do say so ourselves) bring to a town?

Authors. Lots and lots of authors.

In fact, so many authors pass through the area that sometimes it can be hard to keep track of who is speaking and when and where. To help guide you, Pulp curated a highlights list of March 2018 author events.

Jagged Paths: Morgan Jerkins at Literati

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Morgan Jerkins, This Will Be My Undoing

I accidentally purchased two copies of Morgan Jerkins' This Will Be My Undoing. I bought one copy the day it came out and the second copy, a digital one when I mislaid the first, because I simply couldn’t wait to read more. She writes about things I have thought about but don’t think I’m brave enough to put on paper. It seems important to her that she writes openly. “Hey, I’m messy," she said at her Feb. 16 reading at Literati.

Life, Stories: U-M's 4th annual W. M. Trotter Lecture focused on trans lives

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Janet Mock

Janet Mock was one of the headline speakers at the 4th annual W.M. Trotter Lecture.

I think that the first time I heard Janet Mock was on the Another Round podcast. She charmed me right away. I loved her passion and the way that she told her story. So, when I heard she was going to speak on Feb. 8 at the University of Michigan's Rackham Auditorium, I knew I wanted to be there at the 4th annual W. M. Trotter Lecture, “My Life. My Story! Centering the Voices of Trans Lives.”

I hadn’t taken a close look at the event when I reserved tickets for me and my son. I didn’t know I was going to spend an entire evening listening to seven trans people of color share their stories and then spend the entire weekend thinking about what I heard. On the other side of the event, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Homes and Homelands: Yaa Gyasi at Rackham Auditorium

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

U-M professors Guarev Desai and Aida Levy-Hussen joined author Yaa Gyasi (center) at Rackham Auditorium on Feb. 6.

U-M professors Gaurav Desai and Aida Levy-Hussen joined author Yaa Gyasi (center) at Rackham Auditorium on Feb. 6. Photo by Lisa Powers.

I am a little afraid to read Yaa Gyasi’s novel, Homegoing, much for the same reason I’ve picked up but never finished reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I’m gun shy when it comes to fiction that portrays, in any fashion, chattel slavery. I’ve never even seen Roots. For me, there is something extremely uncomfortable about knowing my existence and all the opportunities that have come with it are a direct result of my ancestors’ suffering.

On Feb. 6, I had to face my fears to a certain degree at “Homegoing: A Conversation with Yaa Gyasi,” the 2018 Institute for the Humanities Jill S. Harris Memorial Lecture, which took place at Rackham Auditorium. Homegoing is also the 2018 Washtenaw Reads book, a title selected by a panel of community members from Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Northfield Township, Saline, and Ypsilanti. The Washtenaw Reads program aims to promote reading and dialogue through community members experiencing and discussing a common book.

Keeping Promises: Joe Biden at the Michigan Theater

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Official portrait of Vice President Joe Biden in his West Wing Office at the White House, Jan. 10, 2013. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann.

Official portrait of Vice President Joe Biden in his West Wing Office at the White House, Jan. 10, 2013. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann.

I have a chaste crush on Joe Biden.

There is something special about him that shines through in a way that speaks to my heart. He’s one of those people onto whom I have projected unsolicited personal significance. When times are tough, Joe Biden is one of those people I think of to help me through a difficult time.

When I found out he was going to be at the Michigan Theater as a part of his American Promise tour, I bought a ticket immediately.  Now, 193 days later, a failed attempt to download my ticket, three customer service calls, and one backup ticket purchase later I found myself in a large line of people waiting to hear the former vice president on Monday, Feb. 5.