Author and Detroit native Kevin Boyle is pretty pumped about the idea of coming home this fall. The reason? Boyle’s compelling book, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age has been selected by the Michigan Humanities Council as this year’s featured title for the 2011-2012 Great Michigan Read.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to have Arc of Justice selected for the Great Michigan Read,” Boyle shared in an email, and said the choice of his book holds “particularly powerful meaning.”
Boyle’s Arc of Justice “tells the story of African American Dr. Ossian Sweet and the chain of events that occurred after he purchased a home for his family in an all-white Detroit neighborhood in 1925.”* After an altercation one evening with his enraged white neighbors, Sweet’s life – and the course of Detroit’s racial history – are forever altered.
Published in 2004 (Henry Holt and Co.), Boyle’s Arc of Justice was released to high praise. Called “electrifying” and “powerful” by critics, Arc of Justice snagged several coveted literary prizes such as the 2004 National Book Award for Nonfiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was nominated as a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Arc of Justice has also made its mark on Michigan’s literary scene. Boyle’s nonfiction book was selected in 2005 as a Michigan Notable Book and was the 2007 pick for the Detroit metro community-wide Everyone’s Reading program. Now Arc of Justice will make yet another appearance in the state as the star of this year’s Great Michigan Read.
The Great Michigan Read is a free statewide initiative intended to encourage Michiganians of all ages to read and participate in book discussions and events that take place across the state. It targets Michigan themes so the literature will be more accessible and interesting to citizens of communities throughout the state.
Free is certainly a word that catches the eye these days. As our literary and educational resources continue to dwindle, programs such as the Great Michigan Read are a boon to local communities and to those of us who relish fine reading. Book clubs, classrooms, colleges and museums are but a few of the potential sites that can sponsor a reading or get directly involved with Arc of Justice and bring fine literature to life.
This fall The Humanities Council will offer reader guides, teacher guides and free discussion kits that will include copies of the book. Supporting programs such as book discussions, classroom exercises, exhibitions, lectures, oral history projects and more will also be available. For communities offering bigger programs, the Council can provide opportunities to host the author as well as financial support.
Whether or not Kevin Boyle will hit your hometown is still to be determined as the Great Michigan Read schedule continues to take shape. Boyle currently lives in Ohio but is, in fact, excited to be “coming home” this fall for a six-city author tour as part of the Read program. “It’ll be great to talk about Detroit, about Arc of Justice, and about the big questions the story raised,” Boyle says, “Most of all, it’ll be great to be home.”
*Information from Michigan Humanities Council
– Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.
– Post by Megan Shaffer
–Powells.com Review of Arc of Justice
– Warning: plot spoilers – NYT review ‘Arc of Justice’: I Swear it Was in Self-Defense