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Hear from some of this year's Michigan Notable Books winners

Jan 4, 2016

The Library of Michigan announced the 2016 Michigan Notable Books over the weekend. These 20 books are recognized as stories that prove "that some of the greatest stories are found in the Great Lakes State."

Here's that full list, with descriptions from the Michigan Notable Books team, and links to interviews with many of the winners from Stateside with Cynthia Canty.

"What Happens" 
by John Herrmann
  

"What Happens" was originally published in France in 1926 and seized by U.S. Customs for violating the 1922 Tariff Act, which banned the importing of obscene materials from foreign countries; the novel has never been published in the United States, until now. John Herrmann, a Lansing native and friend of Ernest Hemingway, tells the coming-of-age story of Winfield Payne, a young man from a wealthy Michigan family. Winfield's struggles to make his way in the world are complicated by his awakening sexuality and fickle affections. He wants to be a hero, but modern life isn't made for heroes.

Herrmann's biographer, Sara Kosiba, spoke to us about breaking the 89-year ban. 

"Garden for the Blind"
by Kelly Fordon

Set in suburban Detroit between 1974 and 2012, Fordon’s intricately woven stories follow Alice and Mike through high school, college, and into middle age. It incorporates stories of their friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers who are touched by the same themes of privilege, folly, neglect, and resilience. "Garden for the Blind" visits suburban and working-class homes, hidden sanctuaries and dangerous neighborhoods.  All readers of fiction will enjoy the nimble unfolding of Fordon’s narrative in this collection.

We spoke to Fordon about her book and what growing up with privilege can do to people.

"Great Girls in Michigan History"
by Patricia Majher

"Great Girls in Michigan History" highlights 20 girls from Michigan’s past who did amazing things before they turned twenty years old.  Featured are aviator Nancy Harkness (Love), pioneer Anna Howard Shaw, escaped slave Dorothy Butler, professional baseball player Marilyn Jenkins, union leader Myra Komaroff (Wolfgang), and Native American writer Jane Johnston (Schoolcraft). Other more famous figures—including First Lady Betty Bloomer (Ford), jockey Julie Krone, Motown star Diana Ross, and tennis champion Serena Williams--are also included.

In our conversation with Majher she said, "I think this book shows that even young people can make an impact."

"Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit"
by Mark Rosenthal

From April 1932 through March 1933, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo spent time in Detroit while Rivera created his Detroit Industry murals for the Detroit Institute of Arts. Kahlo, meanwhile, developed her own artistic identity. For this catalogue, featuring more than 100 color illustrations, Mark Rosenthal and a team of scholars have written essays that examine the artists, the city of Detroit in this period, and the commissioning of the murals by Edsel Ford and William Valentiner, then-director of the DIA.

Here’s our conversation about the Detroit Institute of the Art’s exhibition about the artist couple.

"Mothers, Tell Your Daughters: Stories" 
by Bonnie Jo Campbell

A new story collection of fearless and darkly funny tales about women and those they love. The strong but flawed women of "Mothers, Tell Your Daughters" must negotiate a sexually-charged atmosphere as they love, honor, and betray one another against the backdrop of all the men in their world. Relationships can be lifelines and anchors; or they can sink a woman like a stone. In "My Dog Roscoe," a new bride becomes obsessed with the notion that her dead ex-boyfriend has returned to her in the form of a mongrel. In "Blood Work, 1999," a phlebotomist's desire to give away everything to the needy awakens her own sensuality. In "Home to Die," an abused woman takes revenge on her bedridden husband.

Campbell told us all about this collection, and those stories about relationships that are never tidy or neat.

"Scrapper" 
by Matt Bell

"Scrapper," a novel, is a devastating reimagining of one of America’s greatest cities: its beautiful architecture, its lost houses, shuttered factories, boxing gyms, and storefront churches. Detroit has descended into ruin. A scrap metal thief finds a kidnapped boy, is celebrated as a hero, and becomes his erstwhile avenger--forcing him into a confrontation with his own past and long-buried traumas.

Bell told us that "a lot of what happens in the book is based really specifically in real places."

"Rose Water and Orange Blossoms: Fresh & Classic Recipes from My Lebanese Kitchen"
by Maureen Abood

Maureen Abood's childhood, growing up as a Lebanese-American in Michigan, inspired her to launch her blog, Rose Water & Orange Blossoms. In her book of the same name, she revisits the recipes she was reared on, exploring her heritage through its most-beloved foods and chronicling her versions of traditional cuisine.  Taking an ingredient-focused approach that makes the most of every season’s bounty, Abood presents more than 100 irresistible recipes that will delight readers with their evocative flavors. Woven throughout are the stories of Maureen’s Michigan upbringing, the path that led her to culinary school and to launch her blog, and life in Harbor Springs, Michigan.

Abood spoke to us in May about her "love letter" to Lebanese cuisine.

"Stone Circle Poems: The Collected Poems of Terry Wooten"
by Terry Wooten

Terry Wooten is a poet and the creator of the Michigan Stone Circle poetry recitation venue in Antrim County.  In 1980, Terry Wooten met poet Max Ellison;  Stone Circle Poems emerged from that chance encounter. The culmination of his work so far, this book is a collection of poems of a Midwest naturalist and bard, written and spoken from memory.  The Stone Circle is a triple ring of 88 large boulders where Wooten shares his poems with others, and invited all to reciprocate the favor in traditional gatherings.

When Wooten joined us on Stateside, he told us about how his work makes poetry accessible to everyone.

"The Orbit Magazine Anthology: Re-Entry"
by Robert St. Mary

Local journal Orbit was an instantly recognizable arbiter of 1990s Detroit culture. But its irreverent tone and unique editorial features could be traced to two earlier local publications from creator Jerry Peterson, a.k.a. Jerry Vile: White Noise (1978–1980) and Fun: The Magazine for Swinging Intellectuals (1986–1990). In "The Orbit Magazine Anthology: Re-Entry," author Rob St. Mary details the full run of White Noise, Fun, and Orbit, collecting two decades’ worth of Detroit’s alternative publishing history into an oversized, heavily illustrated volume that situates the publications in the city’s pop culture and media history.

St. Mary came on the show along with the magazine's creator, Jerry Vile, earlier this year.

"The People's Lawyer: The Life and Times of Frank J. Kelley, the Nation's Longest-Serving Attorney General" 
by Frank J. Kelley and Jack Lessenberry 

Frank J. Kelley was unexpectedly appointed Michigan’s attorney general at the end of 1961. He never suspected that he would continue to serve until 1999, a national record.  He worked with everyone from John and Bobby Kennedy to Bill Clinton, and jump-started the careers of dozens of politicians and public figures. In "The People’s Lawyer: The Life and Times of Frank J. Kelley, the Nation’s Longest-Serving Attorney General," Kelley and co-author Jack Lessenberry chronicle Kelley’s early life as the son of second-generation Irish immigrants, and how he became a respected Democratic Party leader.

Our senior political analyst, Jack Lessenberry, wrote a column about the experience of writing this book with Kelley.

"Got to Give the People What They Want: True Stories and Flagrant Opinions from Center Court"
by Jalen Rose

In "Got to Give the People What They Want," no topic is off limits for this Detroit native athlete and sports commentator.  Honest, unfiltered, unbiased, raw, refreshing and real, this colorful collection of stories and opinions about basketball and life gives people the kind of insight and understanding they don’t get anywhere else in the sports world.

"Haymaker"
by Adam Schuitema

Haymaker tells the story of an isolated Michigan town that becomes the flashpoint for some of the principal ideological debates of our day. It is a story about the failure of best intentions, and the personal freedom of individuals to do good or to harm. A witty and politically charged novel.

"M Train"
by Patti Smith

An odyssey of a legendary artist, told through the prism of the cafés and haunts she has worked in around the world, "M Train" is a book Patti Smith has described as “a roadmap to my life.” From Greenwich Village to Mexico to Berlin to New York’s Far Rockaway, she weaves  reflections on the writer’s craft, on artistic creation and her personal life.

"Making Waves: Michigan’s Boat-Building Industry, 1865-2000"
by Scott M. Peters

The Great Lakes State boasts a rich heritage in the development of boat building in America. By the late 19th century, Michigan had emerged as the industry’s hub, producing some of the fastest and most innovative boats ever created.  Michigan entrepreneurs like Christopher Columbus Smith, John L. Hacker, and Gar Wood established some of the top boat brands and brought the prospect of boat ownership within reach for American consumers from all ranges of income. In "Making Waves," Scott M. Peters explores this intriguing story of people, processes, and products of an industry that evolved in Michigan, but would change boating across the world.

"My Near-Death Adventures (99% True!)"
by Alison DeCamp

This is a story about a boy on a mission to find his long-lost father in the logging camps of Michigan. Armed with his stupendous scrapbook, full of black-and-white 19th-century advertisements and photos, 11-year-old Stan’s attempt to locate his long-lost hero/cowboy/outlaw dad is a near-death adventure fraught with pesky relatives, killer lumberjacks, and poisonous pies! His tale will leave readers in stitches, but not the kind that require medical attention.

"Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story"
by David Maraniss

As David Maraniss captures it, Detroit summed up America’s path to music and prosperity that was already past history.  In 1963, Detroit’s leaders are among the most visionary in America: Grandson of the first Ford, Henry Ford II; influential labor leader Walter Reuther; Motown’s founder Berry Gordy; the Reverend C.L. Franklin and his daughter, the amazing Aretha; Governor George Romney, Mormon and Civil Rights advocate; super car salesman Lee Iacocca; Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, a Kennedy acolyte; Police Commissioner George Edwards; Martin Luther King.  Yet at its peak, Detroit was threatened by its own design. It was being abandoned by the new world. Yet so much of what Detroit gave America lasts.

"Russell Kirk: American Conservative"
by Bradley J. Birzer

Russell Kirk's 1953 masterpiece "The Conservative Mind" was very influential in its time. It was the intellectual touchstone for a reinvigorated movement, and began a sea change in Americans' attitudes toward traditionalism.  In "Russell Kirk," Bradley J. Birzer investigates the life and work of the man known as the founder of postwar conservatism in America, and its intellectual roots.

"The Turner House"
by Angela Flournoy

Flournoy’s debut novel follows the Turner family of Detroit’s east side.  "The Turner House" brings us a colorful, complicated American brood full of love and pride, sacrifice and unlikely inheritances. It's a striking examination of the price we pay for our dreams and futures, and the ways in which our families bring us home. The house still stands despite abandoned lots, an embattled Detroit, and the inevitable shift outward to the suburbs.

"X: A Novel"
by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

Featuring the award winning writer Kekla Magoon and co-written by Malcolm X’s daughter, this riveting and revealing tween novel follows the formative years of the man whose words and actions shook the world. "X" follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path--and command a voice that still resonates today.

"Yamasaki in Detroit: A Search for Serenity"
by John Gallagher

Best-known for the World Trade Center in New York City, Japanese-American architect Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986) worked to create moments of surprise, serenity, and delight in distinctive buildings around the world. In his adopted home of Detroit, Yamasaki produced many important designs that range from public buildings to offices and private residences. In "Yamasaki in Detroit: A Search for Serenity," author John Gallagher presents both a biography of Yamasaki, and surveys select projects spanning from the late 1940s to the end of Yamasaki's life.