Fans of fiction opted out of the beautiful sunshine this past weekend to head indoors instead. Why? Authors Bonnie Jo Campbell and Samuel Park were in town for a reading and signing of their latest books as part of the Women’s National Book Association 2011 National Reading Group Month.
Baldwin Public Library played host to both authors Sunday in celebration of the WNBA Detroit Chapter’s October programming. Bonnie Jo Campbell and Samuel Park, who recently released Once Upon A River and This Burns My Heart respectively, read to an appreciative audience followed by a discussion and Q&A session regarding their latest novels.
Michigan author Bonnie Jo Campbell has received numerous awards and was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award for fiction. Once Upon A River, Campbell’s fourth published book, is an absolute stunner and tells the troubled story of sixteen-year-old Margo Crane.
“I wanted to write the most American book I could,” said Campbell of Once Upon A River. Campbell’s main character Margo invokes the spirit of Annie Oakley, and hones her skills as a sharpshooter to navigate the ebb and flow of her hardscrabble life. Like Margo, Campbell grew up along the rivers of Michigan and used her intimate knowledge of river life to flesh out her story.
Samuel Park, who is an assistant professor of English at Columbia College, flew in from Chicago to discuss his debut novel This Burns My Heart. Based on stories from his mother’s life, This Burns My Heart is set in South Korea in the 1960’s and centers on the young woman Soo-Ja Choi who is bound by both marriage and culture.
“This book is about permanence of choice,” said Park of his post-Korean War novel. After Park’s own mother told him she turned down a promising suitor the very day before her wedding, Park became intrigued with the idea of choice and how many possibilities life can hold based on the decisions we make.
Both Campbell and Park are easy at the mic and were incredibly engaging. Plenty of laughs were shared as the authors took ample time to field personal questions and speak sincerely about the challenges of publishing, the pressures of writing and the painstaking wait for those early reviews.
Naturally, copies of Once Upon A River and This Burns My Heart were available for sale from Colleen Kammer of Book Beat Bookstore. It is certainly of note that Kammer is the recipient of the 2011 Detroit WNBA Bookwoman Award.
This Baldwin Public Library event was taped and will be made available on the BPL site in the near future.
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-Post by Megan Shaffer