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Author Anna Clark explores Michigan's rich literary history

May 19, 2015

Anna Clark is a freelance journalist in Detroit.
Credit Michelle and Chris Gerard

Michigan has a long and well-known history of car manufacturing, mining, logging, and agriculture.

But there's something else this state produces: writers. 

Anna Clark's new book explores the lives of ten of Michigan's most notable writers. Michigan Literary Luminaries: from Elmore Leonard to Robert Hayden is a collection of essays that are not just biographies.

"When I began this project, I wanted to make sure it wasn't just stringing together extended Wikipedia entries that you could just find on the internet," says Clark.

These profiles go beyond basic timelines and major milestones. Clark examines her subjects' day-to-day lives in a way that adds context to their literary works. Lost in the flurry of the thousand biographies in existence is how these larger-than-life characters juggled their responsibilities, rents, families, and jobs with a rarely lucrative passion.

With images of childhood homes and where they grew up, Clark provides detail to create incredibly personal portraits of writers such as Robert Hayden, Dudley Randall, Jim Harrison,  Elmore Leonard, Donald Goines, and Phillip Levine.

Credit The History Press

She looks into Ernest Hemingway's life in northern Michigan, and reveals a man and a family who were once, and still are, closely tied to Petoskey, Michigan.

She rediscovers a little-known but once best-selling author in Harriet Simpson Arnow, who had several chances to win the Pulitzer were it not for one William Faulkner.

By the end of the book, Clark intends to leave us with an extensive reading list and idea of what it takes to write and create a literary culture within a community.