Ana Maria Spagna Brings ‘Sunnyland Bus’ to Birmingham

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Author and teacher Ana Maria Spagna will be appearing at Borders in Birmingham, which is interesting considering she lives in “a very remote area of the Pacific Northwest, where we do not have telephones, not even cell phones!” So what in the world would bring her to Birmingham where we can’t go ten feet without talking, texting or tweeting?

Ms. Spagna was kind enough to answer just that question in a recent email. “I’m coming to Birmingham at the invite of local writer Joe Pontepinto,” a friend she met at a writers residence last year. “When he suggested the possibility, I jumped at the chance.”

Spagna gave me three good reasons for this unlikely stop on her current book tour: she’s never been to the Detroit metro area; she thinks readers will be interested in the book’s subject matter, due to Detroit’s history of race-related tension; and, on a personal level, “Joe’s a great guy and a terrific writer, and I’d love to help him in his efforts to contribute to a thriving literary scene in your neck of the woods.”

Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus:  a Daughter’s Civil Rights Journey is Ms. Spagna’s journey to seek out the truth behind her father’s involvement in a “simple but dangerous” act of rebellion. Test Ride look’s at Ana Maria’s father’s involvement in the Tallahassee Bus Boycott which was an important precursor to the Civil Rights Movement. Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus “deftly weaves cultural and personal history, memoir, and reportage in this fascinating look at a family and a nation’s past.”*

Spagna’s site is not to be missed. Check out her fantastic links and photos of the remote area of the Pacific Northwest which she calls home. When I asked her about re-entry she raved,  “Initially, it’s a blast. A latte on every corner! Family just a phone call away! (No phones in Stehekin, nope not even cells) Bookstores! Beer pubs!”

Though the novelty eventually wears off and nature begs, Ms. Spagna is excited to meet and talk to readers about Test Ride after spending 4-5 years immersed in it alone. Ana Maria Spagna will appear at Borders on Friday, April 30, 2010 at 7:00 pm for a reading and signing of her latest work. Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus was the winner of The River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize.

As always, call and confirm all event information before heading out the door. Schedules are subject to change.

Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

*info from Ana Maria Spagna’s site

Birmingham Borders Welcomes Lynch’s ‘Apparition & Late Fictions’

Cover ImageThomas Lynch has been very busy lately with his recently released book Apparition & Late Fictions. A former Birmingham Brother Rice grad, Lynch and his family are well-known in the area for their family’s funeral services rather than their literary output. However, Thomas Lynch’s mortuary skills have definitely become secondary in note of interest for avid readers.

Apparition is Lynch’s first work of fiction. His book The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade was selected by the The National Book Foundation as a finalist in the non-fiction category a few years back. In addition to numerous awards, Lynch has also penned three collections of poems and three books of essays. Definitely make the trip to Mr. Lynch’s site and check out his Utne interview Thomas Lynch on Sex, Death, and Poetry among others. You might also take a look at the New York Times review piece, Life With Death.

The next stop on Mr. Lynch’s calendar of Michigan appearances will take place at Borders in Birmingham. This discussion and signing of his debut work of fiction is scheduled for Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 7:00 PM.

Other Events of Note

Also on Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 7:00 pm, author Jill Wilkinson will be at the Troy Public Library for her presentation on creative writing and to share her first novel Downsized:  A Contemporary Novel on Not Giving Up.

Book Beat’s reading group will also meet on April 28th at 7:00 pm at the Goldfish Teahouse in Royal Oak. The title to be discussed is There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales (no, I’m not kidding) by Russian author and playwright Petrushevskaya. For more, link to Book Beat’s site here.

As always, call ahead of time to confirm all event information before stepping out the door.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

‘If You Knew Suzy’ – A Family Affair

Cover ImageWhat a nice appearance by Katherine “Katie” Rosman at Borders yesterday. The reading and discussion of her memoir If You Knew Suzy fell on the ears of a full and apparently familiar crowd. A true family affair, her young son furiously peddled her books  while her sister swayed with an armful of gorgeous baby in the back. Hugs were shared and a feel good vibe was definitely in the air; something I didn’t expect with such potentially weighty material.

I haven’t read If You Knew Suzy, but I must say that I was impressed with what I heard. Ms. Rosman chose two pieces from her memoir; one from the day of her mother’s gut-wrenching death, the other pertaining directly to Detroit. Full of wit, Rosman was somehow able to entertain without being overshadowed by the true tragedy behind her book; the unexpected death of her young mother.

Many names mentioned in the reading will be recognizable for those who live in the metro-area, particularly so for the well-heeled. As Ms. Rosman made mention of several fashionable names, boutiques, and establishments, heads were visibly nodding in appreciation; a reiteration of Suzy’s clear sense of style.

Though the realm of retail may sound trite, Rosman’s parallel is poignantly drawn – simple, understated, influential, and profoundly classy all seem to fit into the bigger picture that was Suzy’s life.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Rosman Brings ‘If You Knew Suzy’ to Birmingham Borders

Wall Street Journal culture reporter Katherine Rosman longed to find answers to the questions that we all grapple with after losing someone we love. So she did what she does best: she opened her notebook and started asking questions.”*

If You Knew Suzy is author Rosman’s tender memoir dealing with life after the loss of her mother to cancer. Katherine Rosman grew up in Birmingham and West Bloomfield where she graduated from Bloomfield Hills Andover in 1990. Rosman then attended the University of Michigan where she followed an interdisciplinary curriculum that focused on race relations and immigration policy.

“My instinct was that as long as I was reading and writing a lot…I would be learning how to become an effective writer,” Rosman shared in an email. “Studying race and immigration in the U.S. is akin to studying American history. I loved it.”

After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1994, Rosman worked several different post-grad jobs, ultimately landing at the Wall Street Journal in 1994. Adding a reality check to the vast credentials on her site she admits, “Katie is married and has two kids. She’s exhausted.”

Ms.Rosman will add to her exhaustion by offering a reading and discussion of If You Knew Suzy at Borders in Birmingham this Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 3:00 PM.

For more on the author and her memoir, try Christopher Walton’s contribution in today’s Detroit Free Press:  A Life That Sparkled.

*quote from Katherine Rosman’s site

Also of Note

Also on Sunday, April 25, 2010, famed Michigan author Bonnie Jo Campbell will be reading from her book American Salvage (National Book Award Finalist) as part of the Downtown Writers Series at the Scarab Club at 2:00 PM.

-As always, check all dates, times, and locations before heading out the door.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Leithauser Returns With Notable ‘Art Student’s War’

Cover ImageIn The NYT’s book review When Detroit Never Slept, Dean Bakopoulos called The Art Student’s War “…one of the finest novels about Detroit’s history to come along in years,” and stated that, “Leithauser is adept at writing about Detroit, and even more adept at writing about it from a young painter’s point of view.”

Brad Leithauser is back in town and will present his poetic novel The Art Student’s War on Saturday, April 24, 2010 as part of the Michigan Notable Books author tour. The appearance is scheduled to take place at 1:30 PM at the Detroit Public Library’s Elmwood Park Library Branch.

Originally from the metro area, Leithauser is delightful to hear in person and has a deep passion for the city.  In an email regarding The Art Student’s War, Mr. Leithauser was full of adoring conviction stating, “surely the stories of this amazing and maddening city must be set down.”

For those of you who are frustrated with the plight of the city, Leithauser’s Artist’s War takes you back to happier times in Detroit’s bumpy, ever-evolving history. True to the area, Mr. Leithauser also informed that his next book is “about a fine arts professor at an imaginary and deeply mediocre small college in Ann Arbor.”

As always, check dates, times and locations before heading out the door.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Granta Gets Sassy This Time Around

I pulled the latest issue of Granta out of my mailbox yesterday, and it’s cover is quite the eyebrow-raiser. It wasn’t until I turned it a few different angles and pulled it up close that I saw the gold title “SEX” embossed at the bottom of the issue; clarifying what I thought I was seeing.

Subtle, or downright racy? I haven’t had a chance to dig into issue 110 just yet, but some of the contribution titles definitely catch the eye. With titles like The Unwriteable, The Agony of Intimacy, and Empty Porn Sets leads me to believe that I won’t be reading this edition in the dentist office, but rather in my closet with a headlamp.

Herta Muller doesn’t strike me as the devilish type, but then again, who knows what mysteries the Nobel Prize winner might hold in her contributing piece Zeppelin?  Dave Eggers also throws in a few drawings with the sequence title Four Animals Contemplating Sex. And, Robert Bolano (author of 2666 which, fyi, I did not like) offers up The Redhead just to round things out. Strange, no?

Keep in mind this isn’t a review; I’ve barely cracked the spine. After all, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to fully review any lit magazine because they are just too involved. In this case, regardless of it’s potentially bizarre content, I suppose it thrills me to know that people still seek out endless avenues of expression and continue to find ways to peak our literary curiosities.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Cash-Strapped and Nowhere to Run: Upcoming Author Appearances

Cover ImageSorry for the short and sweet, however, here are two quick posts regarding upcoming appearances for the next two evenings.

“…the key to a feast is not the price or exotic nature of the ingredients, it is the degree to which you savor the experience.” * –Laura Lee

Tonight, Wednesday, April 21, 2010, The Book Beat will present above author Laura Lee for a reading and signing of her latest book Broke is Beautiful: Living and Loving the Cash-Strapped Life. This event is scheduled to take place from 7:00-8:00 PM and is rather fitting for any who might be struggling with the saggy economy and a soggy wallet.

Borders in Birmingham will present author C.J. Box for a reading and signing of his new book Nowhere to Run. The new Joe Pickett novel from this award-winning author will take place on Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 7:00 PM. (Oddly, I just reviewed the upcoming book by Paul Doiron titled The Poacher’s Son which also featured a game warden as it’s main character. Hmmmm…)

As always, please check all dates and times before you head out the door!

(*as quoted on The Book Beat site)

**Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

The Subtleties of Success: Harding ‘Tinkers’ With Pulitzer Prize

Cover ImageI’m sorry, but how cool is this?! Man writes book, man seeks publisher, man finds no takers, man abandons book, small publisher publishes book, man wins the Pulitzer Prize…and no one tells him! Check out NPR’s article For A Tiny Press, The Pulitzer Arrives Out Of Nowhere for this heartening story of Indies and underdogs.

Though Random House stepped up to boast about the two-book deal they signed with Mr. Paul Harding late in 2009, it was the understated Bellevue Literary Press that made Tinkers happen. Kudos to the quiet giants; so glad you’re still around!

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Posts

-NYT’s Mr. Cinderella: From Rejection Notes to the Pulitzer

-Paper Cuts ‘Tinkers’ by Paul Harding: The One That Got Away

-Powell’s Books’ Paul Harding Beats the Tar out of Time

Autism Brings ‘The Accidental Teacher’ to Baldwin Public Library

“The primary reward for human toil is not what you get for it, but what you become by it.”  Such are John Ruskin’s words by which author Annie Lubliner Lehmann has chosen to live.

A freelance writer for the past 25 years, Mrs. Lehmann has published in both The Detroit Free Press as well as The New York Times. However, it is for her debut work The Accidental Teacher:  Life Lessons from My Silent Son that she will be making several upcoming Michigan appearances.

Annie Lehmann’s son Jonah was born with severe autism. Now in his 20’s, Lehmann reflects on the journey of raising a son with this frustrating and challenging diagnosis. Dedicated to “Jonah and all those with autism who speak volumes without saying a word,” The Accidental Teacher is touted “…as a must-read for anyone who has been personally touched by a major life challenge.”

A Michigan resident, Annie Lehmann is married and has three children. Jonah, her eldest son, is the inspiration for this memoir. The Baldwin Public Library will proudly present Annie Lubliner Lehmann this Tuesday, April 20, 2010 at 7:00pm as part of their Autism Awareness Month series. As always, confirm all dates and times before heading to any event.

NOTE: For the first time, The University of Michigan Press is offering ‘The Accidental Teacher’ as its first-ever Open Text Project book which allows for free viewing and comments by readers online. Link here for a full viewing of  this interactive literary site.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

Related Links

-2009 Silver Recipient of the Mom’s Choice Awards.

University of Michigan Press piece on Open Text Project

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Flavia de Luce Strikes Again!

Cover ImageIt’s no secret that I loved Alan Bradley’s Dagger Award Winner The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Therefore, I’m happy to announce that the plucky, winsome eleven-year-old chemist Flavia de Luce is back and better than ever in Bradley’s latest release The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag.

Yes, the second book in the Flavia de Luce mystery series is even, dare I say, cleverer than the first. Why? Perhaps because both Alan Bradley and Flavia are a bit bolder and a bit more daring (of course I realize that one supersedes the other). Though Flavia continues to sport a respectful air toward her elders, her inner dialogue in The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag is sheer wit and genius.

Alan Bradley is a risk taker with interpretation (just look at his titles) and an absolute superstar with a simile. Ramping up both character and plot, The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag is pure head candy sprinkled with smarts.  Whether you read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie or not, Bradley’s second shot is a hit and not to be missed.

Related Links

Poem: Sir Walter Raleigh to His Son

Jack and the Beanstalk

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer