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.”
Nevertheless Film Festival persists to show that female-identifying moviemakers are making great cinema
The film industry does not celebrate women as it should.
Only five women have ever been nominated for an Academy Award for directing. Less than a quarter of the top 100 grossing films have sole female protagonists. And way too many movies still don’t pass the Bechdel test.
But as a balm for these grim figures, we have the Nevertheless Film Festival, which runs July 11-14 at the Michigan Theater and is named after the feminist rallying cry “nevertheless, she persisted."
“Statistics are widely available about the lack of representation in the entertainment industry,” says festival director and U-M grad Meredith Finch. “But what I think is even more important than talking about the disparity in opportunities between men and women in Hollywood is saying, 'Women are out here making incredible work all the time.'”
On June 22 at Riverside Arts Center, I had the pleasure of attending the first show presented by Fun Girl, a new Ypsilanti-based contemporary dance company created and run by Artistic Director Chloe Gray. The company offers paid rehearsals and performances to their dancers, as well as apprenticeships, and acts as a platform for technically based dancers to explore quirky movement while applying thoughtful activism.
Artistic Director Chloe Gray’s credentials are extensive, with her training beginning at the age of 6 with the Toledo Ballet and continuing at the Toledo School for the Arts throughout her high school years. She graduated from Eastern Michigan University where she double majored in Dance Performance and Women’s and Gender Studies, and her choreography and dancing have been featured in performance opportunities through Kristi Faulkner Dance (Detroit), ARTLAB J Dance (Detroit), Koresh Dance Company (Philadelphia), and Side Street Art Studio (Chicago).
“I always thought that I was going to wait until I was older to start my own company,” says Gray. “My plan was to graduate from college, move to a big city to dance, and then eventually come back to Ypsi to plant some roots. Through careful consideration and after falling in love with a Michigander, I decided to stay in Ypsi and go for it. We have to create in places and spaces where the art we want to see does not exist. If we all take off to big cities, how will art exist in our community?”
The show, entitled Girlfriend, featured four original pieces choreographed by Gray and performed by Fun Girl, as well as four pieces that were chosen through the Ypsi Dance Swap organized by Gray in January, in which choreographers from across the state could submit their work to be performed in a show at Riverside Arts Center. Several of the choreographer’s pieces would then be chosen by a jury to be presented at Fun Girl’s Girlfriend recital in June.
A Brief History of "Hawking": The latest science graphic novel by Ann Arbor's Jim Ottaviani profiles the legendary theoretical physicist
The subject of the book was a scientist who was also a New York Times bestselling author and affiliated with a renowned university. And the writer of this book ... was also a scientist, a New York Times bestselling author, and affiliated with a renowned university. It's only fitting that Jim Ottaviani -- preeminent writer of science comics, former nuclear engineer, and current librarian at the University of Michigan -- wrote a book about Stephen Hawking, the preeminent theoretical physicist and cosmologist.
Illustrated by Leland Myrick, Hawking traces the legendary scientist's life, from his groundbreaking work in theoretical physics to his best-selling book A Brief History of Time to his advocacy for rights for people with disabilities.
To familiarize themselves with the source material, Ottaviani and Myrick combed through pages and pages of notes and references, dozens of books, and numerous print, audio, and video interviews. “We also spent a fair amount of time at Cambridge,” Ottaviani adds. “We visited Hawking’s offices, his environment … talked to his friends and coworkers” to get the best possible picture of the late scientist.
For local band Honey Monsoon, music and art spring from the same well of creativity.
That dedication to artistic exploration comes through clearly on the band’s second album, Opal Soul, which offers an engaging, irresistible mix of neo-soul and jazz with some world-music elements neatly woven in. For the album, Honey Monsoon's core musicians -- Ana Gomulka, guitar, vocals, keyboards, music, and lyrics; Taylor Greenshields, drums, percussion, recording, and mixing; Sam Naples, guitar, vocals, and mixing; and Binho “Alex” Manenti, bass and keyboards -- are augmented by a horn section and other musicians for a full, layered sound.
“Opal Soul is very much about reflection and finding the light within,” Gomulka said. “I'm madly in love with exploration, healing, and the journey back to my higher self. Listening to this music is an invitation for all to make the journey with me.”
Both music and lyrics on Opal Soul reward a close listen. One of the album’s highlights, “Sign of Life,” starts out as fairly straightforward pop, then the horns jump into an avant-jazz groove, followed by an acid rock guitar solo, with all the elements ultimately mixing into a cohesive whole.
“Looking for a sign, looking for a sign of life / Looking for a way, looking for my way out / Looking for a sign, looking for a sign of life / Looking for a place, looking for a place where my roots can sprout.”
All the songs on the album deserve attention, but two other particular highlights are “Cloud,” an irresistible, neo-soul single full of gorgeous hooks; and “Clarity,” a compelling song about finding that precious concept and learning to let go of the past that builds to a rich, extended groove.
Gomulka took the time to answer a few questions about the new album via email.
Museum exhibit labels tell the stories of an eccentric curator and visitor in Matthew Kirkpatrick's new novel
The Ambrose J. and Vivian T. Seagrave Museum of 20th Century American Art by Matthew Kirkpatrick is a novel in the form of museum exhibit labels. The labels reveal the art pieces in the museum, along with the curator’s unique relationship and what has happened to the Seagrave family’s daughter. In between the labels, occasional passages narrate a visitor’s exploration of and discoveries in the museum.
Kirkpatrick teaches creative writing at Eastern Michigan University and previously studied at the University of Utah for his Ph.D. He also wrote a story collection, Light Without Heat, and a novella, The Exiles.
On Monday, July 1, at 7 pm, Kirkpatrick reads at Literati Bookstore with Joe Sacksteder (see related interview). The two authors met at EMU, and both received their Ph.D. at the University of Utah, though at different times. Pulp interviewed Kirkpatrick about his interest in museums, his new book, and what projects he’s working on next.
Psychological dramas and fragmented stories in Joe Sacksteder's "Make/Shift" push against form and content conventions
A contestant in a game show where people are eliminated if they get aroused. Parents and kids enduring an overnight trip for hockey. A man in grief who sees letters in the sealant on the road. An international student and her hall counselor coming to understand each other’s perspectives.
Each of these characters, among others, navigate the shifting situations of the short stories and flash vignettes of Make/Shift, the new collection by Joe Sacksteder.
Sacksteder studied and taught at Eastern Michigan University. He was a visiting instructor at Interlochen Center for the Arts and now serves as Director of Creative Writing there.
On Monday, July 1, at 7 pm, Sacksteder returns to town to read at Literati Bookstore with Matt Kirkpatrick (see related interview). The two authors met at EMU, and both received their Ph.D. at the University of Utah, though at different times. Pulp interviewed Sacksteder about his connection to Ypsilanti, writing, and upcoming projects.
Susan Jane Gilman set "Donna Has Left the Building" partly in Michigan "as a valentine to being here"
Being a culinary ambassador for cookware. Acting as a dominatrix. Facing search and seizure laws in Tennessee. Helping the refugee crisis in Greece.
These are all things that author Susan Jane Gilman had to have known or learned about to include in her new novel, Donna Has Left the Building, said fellow author Polly Rosenwaike in conversation with her at Literati Bookstore on Thursday, June 6. There, Gilman shared stories from her life and research that led to writing about these situations in her book. Within these experiences, Gilman’s characters may be flawed and behave badly, but they also display tenderness and sympathy, added Rosenwaike.
As a writer, “You want to have empathy for all characters,” Gilman said. “I’m all of them.”
This novel has strong ties to Michigan. Gilman wrote Donna Has Left the Building “as a valentine to being here” in southeastern Michigan at the University of Michigan for her MFA and then teaching at U-M and Eastern Michigan University. Gilman, who grew up in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, found the Midwest to be a big contrast to the way she observed that people seemed to be constantly performing in New York.
From "East" to Best: Ypsi singer-songwriter Rin Tarsy makes her debut at The Ark with a new batch of tunes
Rin Tarsy is drawn to creating albums with “[l]yrics that inspire, vulnerable songs that create connection and tap into feeling, organic and raw instrumentation, and energy in the music that is just plain fun to groove to!”
The Ark describes her music as “Midwestern soul-tinged Americana with an arresting, bone-shaking voice.” Currently, she is going in a new direction, the singer-songwriter genre, which is a departure from her 2018 spiritual-folk album, East. She’s in the process of recording new songs. She’s also relatively new to the area after moving to Ypsilanti from Grand Rapids for a job two years ago.
Rin Tarsy will perform new music at The Ark on Tuesday, June 25, at 8 pm with free admission and nonperishables accepted for Food Gatherers. She shared about her creative process, sources of inspiration, and love for music with Pulp.
Catherine Chung's "The Tenth Muse" follows a prodigy's discoveries in mathematics, love, and her identity
The Tenth Muse tells the story of Katherine, a mathematics scholar with a largely unknown personal history, through her voice. Her relationships, family, choices, and studies begin to interconnect as she advances in mathematics and simultaneously uncovers her past. As Katherine narrates her experiences spanning her childhood in the 1950s, fellowship in Europe, and family’s past in World War II, she points out pivotal moments in her life and what they mean to her. Both success and pain mark her journey of learning about herself and gaining prestige in mathematics.
Author Catherine Chung grew up in Michigan, where her second novel, The Tenth Muse, begins. She has a background in mathematics herself and went on to earn her MFA at Cornell University. She lives in New York City and is a fiction editor at Guernica.
Chung reads at Literati Bookstore on Tuesday, June 25, at 7 pm, and prior to her visit to Ann Arbor, she answered some questions from Pulp.