There’s much to look forward to this week on the author appearance front. Tied to Michigan by home, topic, or publisher, here’s a heads-up on a few familiar authors and their fast- approaching local events. There’s a lot of info here so make sure you call and confirm dates and times prior to the event.
On Thursday, March 18, 2010, Marygrove College Institute for Detroit Studies will present An Evening of Recent Detroit Fiction. This evening event features readings and booksignings from Peter Markus, Susan Messer, and Michael Zadoorian. The event will take place at Marygrove College Alumnae Hall in the Madame Cadillac Building located at 8425 West McNichols in Detroit. Beginning at 7:00pm, this function is free and open to the public.
In addition to two other appearances, Susan Messer will also present Grand River and Joy on Thursday, March 18, 2010 at the JCC of Metro Detroit in West Bloomfield from 12pm-1pm as part of their Lunch and Literature Series Book Club.
On Friday, March 19, 2010, The University of Michigan Press Author Series will proudly present two of their published authors. Debra Spark, author of the novel Good for the Jews, and Susan Messer, author of the Detroit-based work Grand River and Joy will read from their novels and discuss creating a sense of place in fiction. This event is from 5:00pm-6:30pm and will be held in the Screening Room on the second floor of the University of Michigan’s Shapiro Undergraduate Library which is located at 919 S. University in Ann Arbor.
Also representing The University of Michigan Press this week is Michigan author Mardi Link. Ms. Link will present at the Dearborn Inn as part of The Michigan in Perspective: Local History Conference. Sponsored by The Historical Society of Michigan, the conference will take place on Saturday, March 20, 2010 and will include a talk and booksigning by Link, the author of Isadore’s Secret and When Evil Came to Good Hart. For more specific information call (313) 271-2700.
Night Light’s Reviews
Messer Comes Home With ‘Grand River and Joy’
‘Isadore’s Secret’ Still Thrills
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-Post by Megan Shaffer
Having grown up in Detroit, it’s no wonder Susan Messer was drawn back to her roots for the setting of Grand River and Joy; she clearly knows her old stomping grounds well. From streetlights to schools to museums and waterfront views, Ms. Messer takes us back to a Detroit simmering with indignation and urban unrest. Packed with social and political detail, it is impressive she was able to flesh it all out in just over two hundred pages.
Riding shotgun as shop owner Harry Levine attempts to navigate the racial turmoil of Detroit, we peer out the passenger side and straight into the boiling pot that ultimately spills over into the race riot of 1967. Through the characters of Harry, his wife Ruth, and the tenants residing above his store, we bear witness to the Jewish/Black relationship and their respective points of view as they move around each other at this juncture in history.
Through sharp dialogue, Susan Messer tackles the origins of the impending riot while revealing her characters’ varied angles of perspective. By fitting the jagged pieces of economic inequality, housing discrimination, black militancy, police brutality, and white flight into the larger puzzle of Detroit’s race relations, Messer brings her readers closer to the frontline of understanding.
Brimming with Detroit’s colorful history, Grand River and Joy holds plenty of “I did not know that” points of interest. Not only does Messer lift by touching on the finer arts and culture of both Judaism and the city, but also doesn’t fear taking us into darker territory with her chapter “Boiler”, which educates on the angrier art of the racial epithet.
Despite the heavy nature of the novel, it achieves in its examination of conscience. Providing each character with a distinct point of view facilitates Messer’s goal of “getting to emotional truth.” Raw and insightful, Grand River and Joy is a literary journey of understanding as it covers this seminal time in Detroit’s history.
*Freelance writer Megan Shaffer hosts the blog Night Light Revue and reviews for the online publication BookBrowse.