Writing in the Rust Belt: Mark Athitakis, author of "The New Midwest"

INTERVIEW PREVIEW WRITTEN WORD

Mark Athitakis, The New Midwest

Mark Athitakis, The New Midwest.

Fiction about the Midwest, much like the region itself, often suffers from incorrect assumptions by outsiders and a dated external -- and internal -- monologue.

In The New Midwest: A Guide to Contemporary Fiction of the Great Lakes, Great Plains, and Rust Belt, author Mark Athitakis challenges those assumptions, and he points to authors whose work pushes against common regional tropes. He also sets the record straight about the Midwest itself, which boasts its own brand of cultural, racial, and political diversity, for better or for worse.

We spoke with Athitakis -- who will give a reading at the downtown branch of AADL on Friday, June 2 -- about his book and his own perspectives on the Midwest and its writing.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #639

REVIEW WRITTEN WORD


14-year-old Ginny Moon * * * is much like any typical teenager, never mind that she is autistic. She loves Michael Jackson, plays the flute at school, looks forward to her weekly basketball practices, and has good friends in Room 5 where the kids with special needs spend parts of the school day. For the past 4 years, she lives happily with her "forever parents" after unfortunate placements in a string of foster homes.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #638

REVIEW WRITTEN WORD


Two debuts that join the heated national conversations about deportation of illegal immigrants; the global concerns for refugees fleeing war-torn countries; and issues of identity and alienation that would likely affect generations to come.

The 2016 winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Fiction and a May 2017 LibraryReads pick, The Leavers * * by Lisa Ko is based on true stories. It "depicts the heart- and spirit-breaking difficulties faced by illegal immigrants with meticulous specificity." (Kirkus Reviews)

Shades of Gray: Lori Rader-Day discusses "The Day I Died" at Aunt Agatha's

INTERVIEW PREVIEW WRITTEN WORD

Lori Rader-Day

Lori Rader-Day photo by Iden Ford.

“This is a book that will get under your skin and stick with you,” said Aunt Agatha’s co-owner Robin Agnew of Lori Rader-Day’s psychological thriller The Day I Died. “It’s a book that shows multiple sides of the story, not in terms of black and white but shades of gray.”

On Thursday, May 18, at 7 pm, Rader-Day joins Aunt Agatha’s monthly book club to discuss her novel. The author is the recipient of the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel. The Day I Died tells the story of Anna Winger, a handwriting expert who is called into an investigation of a missing toddler. Anna has tried to keep her secrets hidden in the past as she moves along in life with her teenaged son. But everything comes spilling out when her son disappears and she is forced to confront painful memories from a past from which she is still trying to hide.

Temptation: Yale prof Richard Prum on “The Evolution of Beauty" at AADL

INTERVIEW PREVIEW WRITTEN WORD

Richard Prum

For the birds: Richard Prum's new book documents his avian studies on mate choices in the animal world.

Yale ornithology professor Richard Prum did his graduate work at U-M in the 1980s, but the two places where he spent much of his leisure time no longer exist.

“The Del Rio was a great place,” Prum said of the beloved bar that stood at Ashley and Washington for more than 30 years. "And I went to Borders, back when it was the only one in the whole world. It was such a great bookstore. I remember going to Borders and deliberately leaving my wallet in my office. Not that I ever had much money in it, anyway, but I didn’t want to be tempted.”

Temptation, as it happens, plays no small role in the former MacArthur “genius” fellow’s new book, The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World -- and Us, which he will discuss at the Ann Arbor District Library Downtown Branch on Thursday, May 18, at 7 pm. The book argues that mate choice in the natural world is often driven by a subjective desire for beauty instead of more pragmatic considerations, thereby complicating the long-held notion that natural selection explains every branch on the tree of life.

Slow Tide of Decline: Lauren Hulthen Thomas reads from her debut at Literati

INTERVIEW PREVIEW WRITTEN WORD

Lauren

Lauren Hulthen Thomas, States of Motion.

Laura Hulthen Thomas' reading from her debut collection, States of Motion, at Literati on Wednesday, May 17, will be special to her. “I was one of the last authors to read at Shaman Drum, the iconic indie bookstore that was the last downtown seller to shutter," said Thomas, the head of the creative writing and literature program at the University of Michigan’s Residential College.

"Honestly, I didn't think another bookstore would ever take a chance on a Midwestern downtown, even a literary city like Ann Arbor," Thomas said. "Thank goodness [owners] Hilary and Mike [Gustafson] have the vision and passion to make such a success of this marvelous store. And having a beautiful reading space to showcase authors and even host student readings and other community events is just incredible. ... I would love to thank Literati for hosting me, and for being downtown’s literary light and gem."

States of Motion is published by Wayne State University Press, whose press release said, “

We chatted with Thomas about how Michigan is reflected in her stories, how that’s shifted in the recent political climate, the Midwestern voices that have inspired her writing, and more.

Crime novelist Steve Hamilton returns to AADL for his second Nick Mason novel

INTERVIEW PREVIEW WRITTEN WORD

Steve Hamilton

Exit Strategy is U-M grad and Michigan native Steve Hamilton's second Nick Mason novel.

Last year Steve Hamilton took a u-turn.

The award-winning author of the popular Alex McKnight detective series introduced a new series with a very different main character in The Second Life of Nick Mason, a New York Times bestseller and multi-award winner that is being developed as a major motion picture.

McKnight was a straight arrow ex-Detroit cop, who left Detroit after his partner was killed and he was seriously wounded in a confrontation with a mentally ill man with an Uzi. McKnight escaped to rent cabins in tiny, isolated Paradise on the shores of Lake Superior in the U.P. But soon he was reluctantly being drawn into one case after another as a private detective.

By contrast, Mason is a tough kid from the south side of Chicago, a career criminal. He and two of his buddies began stealing cars as teenagers and then moved on to a series of minor crimes. Mason tried to give it up for his wife and daughter, but he and his pals became involved in a dock heist that went seriously bad, leaving one friend and a policeman dead. Mason took the rap and refused to rat on his associates, one his best friend. He was given 25 years without parole.

String Theory: Jas Obrecht is “Talking Guitar” at Nicola’s Books

INTERVIEW PREVIEW WRITTEN WORD MUSIC

Jas Obrecht, Talking Guitar, Eddie Van Halen

Jas Obrecht and some guy in Van Halen.

Longtime professional music journalist Jas Obrecht regularly tells his Washtenaw Community College creative writing students a story from early in his career.

Obrecht was sent by Guitar Player magazine to a music festival to interview Canadian rock guitarist Pat Travers, who, flanked by two young women while snorting cocaine off a mirror in his dressing room, sent Obrecht away. Obrecht stumbled upon a basketball hoop and ball, and after a few minutes of taking shots, a wiry young guy approached and asked to play.

That guy was Eddie Van Halen, who’d recently released Van Halen’s debut, self-titled album; and Obrecht found a new subject for his article.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #636 & #637

REVIEW WRITTEN WORD


Fabulous Fiction Firsts #636

At long last. After 170 years, readers of Charlotte Brontë's beloved Jane Eyre (1847) and Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), which tells the story of the mysterious madwoman in the attic, will finally hear from Mr. Rochester himself. Not only will we get a first-person perspective from "the brooding romantic antihero" created by Charlotte Brontë, but debut novelist Sarah Shoemaker has also created a credible back story and adds unexpected twists to the tale.

Back in the Deep End: Paula Hawkins signs "Into the Water" at Nicola's Books

INTERVIEW PREVIEW WRITTEN WORD

Paula Hawkins, Into the Water

Photo by Alisa Connan

“I was hoping for some level of success, but what actually happened was off the scale,” said Paula Hawkins, author of the international bestseller The Girl on the Train. “It was extraordinary.”

Hoping for equivalent success with her second mystery novel, Into the Water, Hawkins is heading out on tour to promote it, including a stop at Nicola’s Books on May 17. (AADL and Nicola's will co-host a The Girl on the Train discussion on May 8 at 7 pm at the library's Westgate branch.)