Wayne State University Press

Made in Michigan Writers Series

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Made in Michigan Writers Series

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Love, Sex, and 4-H

A memoir by Anne-Marie Oomen

As the 1960s dawned in small-town Michigan, Anne-Marie Oomen was a naive farm girl whose mother was determined to keep her out of trouble—by keeping her in 4-H. In Love, Sex, and 4-H, Oomen sets the wholesomeness of her domestic lessons in 4-H club from 1959 to 1969 against the political and sexual revolution of the time. Between sewing her first dish towel and finishing the yellow dress she wears to senior prom, Oomen brings readers along as she falls in and out of love, wins her first prize, learns to kiss, survives her first heartbreak, and makes almost all of her clothes. Love, Sex, and 4-H begins as Oomen struggles to sew a straight seam and works hard to embody the 4-H pledge of loyalty, service, and better living. But even as she wins her first modeling competition and masters more difficult stitches and patterns, Oomen finds that she is not immune to the chaos of the outside world. After the Kennedy assassination, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and her own short stay in a convent, Oomen encounters the biggest change of all—public school. In this new world of school dances, short skirts, and raging hormones, Oomen’s orderly life will be complicated by her first kiss, first boyfriend, first store-bought dress, and finally, first love. All the while, she must negotiate her mother’s expectations, her identity as a good 4-H girl, and her awareness of growing social and political unrest. Oomen brings an insightful and humorous eye to her evolving sexuality, religious beliefs, and sense of self. Fans of memoir will appreciate the honest portrayal of growing up between rebellion and tradition in Love, Sex, and 4-H.

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Lying in the River's Dark Bed

The Confluence of the Deadman and the Mad Angler

Poems by Michael Delp

Lying in the River's Dark Bed: The Confluence of the Deadman and the Mad Angler by Michael Delp is a collection of fifty-six poems that brings together two characters Delp has been perfecting for years: Deadman and the Mad Angler. The Deadman, a spirit that constantly shifts, is one part troublemaker, one part truth-teller, and one part demon who demands respect. The Mad Angler, on the other hand, could be called the Mad Shaman or Mad Activist, as he speaks of the water and nature and then of the greed of man. While these two personas are distinct in the collection (highlighted beautifully in the unique double-sided book design) they also come together at times in perfect harmony.The Deadman and the Mad Angler are walking contradictions-twin sons of different mothers. The Deadman is a trickster figure, a hive of contradictions. He can be killed but cannot die. He is supremely intelligent, yet is as dumb as a stone. He is an enigma to himself and to all others, yet he understands the origins and the meanings of the inner lives of all things. He is impossible to understand, yet somehow through his musings enlightenment occurs. His poems inspire contentedness, even though they might frighten you first in order to do so. The Mad Angler is more finely tuned, focused primarily on the environment. He exercises more restraint and resistance than his scattered brother, focusing on nature and on what is flowing in the water around him and inside of him. His voice is sure and firm on all things water related because he is as much river as person. The collection embraces these voices as separate and unique identities, while highlighting a center section called "Confluence," the place where these two come together to meditate on some of the most profound emotions evoked by the contemporary world.Lying in the River's Dark Bed reflects the compatibilities and contradictions of the natural world. These ritualized poems are both funny and thought provoking and an example of persona writing at its best. Those interested in conversational poetry and environmental writing will be enthralled with this stirring yet soothing collection.

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Making Callaloo in Detroit

Stories by Lolita Hernandez

The daughter of parents from Trinidad and Tobago and St. Vincent, Lolita Hernandez gained a unique perspective on growing up in Detroit. In Making Callaloo in Detroit she weaves her memories of food, language, music, and family into twelve stories of outsiders looking at a strange world, wondering how to fit in, and making it through in their own way. The linguistic rhythms and phrases of her childhood bring distinctive characters to life: mothers, sons, daughters, friends, and neighbors who crave sun and saltwater and would rather dance on a bare wood floor than give in to despair. In their kitchens, they make callaloo, bakes, buljol, sanchocho, and pelau—foods not usually associated with Detroit. Hernandez’s characters sing and dance, curse and love, and cook and eat. A niece races to make a favorite family dish correctly for an uncle in the hospital, three friends watch an unfamiliar and official-looking man in the neighborhood, lovers and daughters cope with sudden deaths of the men in their lives, a man who can no longer speak escapes his life in imagination, and families gather to celebrate the new year with joyful dancing against a backdrop of calypso music. Hernandez’s stories reflect the diversity of characters to be found at the intersection between cultures while also offering a window into a very particular and rich Caribbean culture that survives in the deepest recesses of Detroit. In addition to being a compelling and colorful read, Making Callaloo in Detroit explores questions of how we assimilate and retain identity, how families evolve as generations pass, how memory guides the present, and how the spirit world stays close to the living. All readers of fiction will enjoy this lush collection.

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Practicing to Walk Like a Heron

Poems by Jack Ridl

In Practicing to Walk Like a Heron multiple-award-winning Michigan poet Jack Ridl shares lines of well-earned wisdom in the face of a constantly changing world. The familiar comforts of life-a warm fire in winter, a lush garden in summer-become the settings for transcendent and universal truths in these poems, as moments of grief, sadness, and melancholy trigger a deeper appreciation for small but important joys. The simple clarity of Ridl's lines and diction make the poems accessible to all readers, but especially rewarding for those who appreciate carefully honed, masterful verse. Many of the poems take solace in nature-quiet deer outside in the woods, deep snow, a thrush's empty nest in the eaves-as well as man-made things in the world-a steamer trunk, glass jars, tea cups, and books piled high near an easy chair. Yet Ridl avoids becoming nostalgic or romantic in his surroundings, and shows that there is nothing easy in his celebration of topics like "The Letters," "But He Loved His Dog," "A Christmas List for Santa," and "The Enormous Mystery of Couples." An interlude of full-color pages divides Ridl's more personal poems with a section of circus-themed pieces, adding visions of elephants, trumpets, tents, sequins, and sideshows, and the uniquely travel-weary perspectives of jugglers, trapeze artists, roustabouts, and clowns. Practicing to Walk Like a Heron unabashedly affirms the quirky and eccentric, the small and mundane, and the intellectual and experiential in life. This relatable and emotionally powerful volume will appeal to all poetry readers.

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Quality Snacks

Stories by Andy Mozina

In a wide range of forms and tones, the fifteen stories in Andy Mozina’s new collection, Quality Snacks, center on high-stakes performances by characters trying to gratify both deep and superficial needs, often with unexpected consequences. Driven by strange ambitions, bungled love, and a taste for—or abject fear of—physical danger, the collection’s characters enact the paradox in the concept of a quality snack: the dream of transmuting the mundane into something extraordinary. Two teenage boys play chicken on a Milwaukee freeway. A man experiencing a career crisis watches a seventy-four-year-old great grandmother perform an aerial acrobatics routine at the top of a swaying 110-foot pole. Desperate to find a full-time job, a pizza delivery man is fooled into a humiliating sexual demonstration by a couple at a Midway Motor Lodge. A troubled young man tries to end his father’s verbal harassment by successfully hunting a polar bear. After an elf civil war destroys his Christmas operation, Santa Claus reinvents himself as a one-man baseball team and ends up desperate to win a single game. And in the title story, a flavor engineer at Frito-Lay tries to win his boss’s heart with a new strategy for Doritos that aims to reposition the brand from snack food to main course. While some stories embrace pathos and some are humorous and some are realistic and some contain surreal elements, all of the stories in Quality Snacks share striking insight and a cast of compelling, well-conceived characters. This collection, in an earlier form, has been a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award, the Dzanc Short Story Collection Contest, the Elixir Press Fiction Award, and the Autumn House Fiction Contest, and a semi-finalist for the Mary McCarthy Prize. Readers of fiction will be satisfied by the variety of fare offered by Quality Snacks.

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Rowing Inland

poems by Jim Daniels

Rowing Inland, Jim Daniels's fifteenth book of poetry is a time machine that takes the reader back to the Metro Detroit of his youth and then accelerates toward the future. With humor and empathy, the author looks at his own family's challenges and those of the surrounding community where the legacy handed down from generation to generation is one of survival. The economic hits that this community has to endure create both an uncertainty about its future and a determined tenacity. Divided into four sections, Rowing Inland calls out key moments from the author's life. The events that inspire many of these poems took place a long time ago and often it has taken the poet his entire life to write about those experiences and write about them with the necessary emotional distance. For example, some of the poems in the section "Late Invocation for Magic" reference the first girl he ever kissed and her accidental death by fire. In the last section of the book, Daniels approaches the current political and social standings in Detroit with lines like, "The distance to Baghdad or Kandahar / is measured in rowboat coffins / while here in the fatty palm of The Mitten / minor skirmishes electrify tedium." Although it focuses on Detroit's metropolitan area, the book can be considered a snapshot of working-class life anywhere across the country. Daniels casts his lens on a way of life that is often distorted or ignored by the powers that be. He zooms in on street level where all the houses may look alike but each holds its own secrets and dreams. To paraphrase novelist and screenwriter Richard Price, Detroit is the "zip code for [Daniels's] heart"-a place that his writing will always come back to. Readers of contemporary poetry with a regional persuasion will enjoy this collection.

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Seasonal Roads

Stories by L. E. Kimball

"Inscrutable, inaccessible, indefinable. Even at the end. That's what her mother had always been to her." In Seasonal Roads, L. E. Kimball introduces Norna, Aissa, and Jane-mother, daughter, and granddaughter-who are as fierce and complex as the northern terrain they inhabit. Following a nonlinear timeline, Kimball's stories unravel the beautiful mess of layers that is their lives and allow the narratives to roam freely in time, thus granting the reader keen insights into the past, present, and future.Spiraling through time and perspective, the stories converge at Norna's two-room cabin in the woods, accessible only by "seasonal roads" that disappear under deep snow in the winter. The cabin is witness to Norna's years of solitude spent hunting, foraging, fishing, and defending herself from intruders, Aissa's escape from her divorce, and Jane's stubborn vigil as a forest fire rages dangerously nearby. Through raw and ephemeral memories, we learn the darkest kept secrets of these women and the ties that bind them to each other and to the land. Kimball's sensual descriptions of the Upper Peninsula, combined with her hauntingly vivid characters, paint an unforgettable picture in Seasonal Roads. Readers of fiction will enjoy the surprising turns of this collection.

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Sharp Blue Search of Flame

Poems by Zilka Joseph

Sharp Blue Search of Flame is an exploration in poetry of a complex network of nuanced journeys into a variety of worlds. The searingly rich poems reflect Zilka Joseph's own history of living in Eastern and Western cultures, as well as the influences of her Jewish Indian roots. Joseph's free verse and forms shift scenes from the real to the imagined landscapes of the mind, and search for fulfillment and solace amidst the terrifying beauty and chaos of the human condition. Joseph's poems, while dark and brooding in subject matter-bride burnings and infanticide in her native country, the loss of Eden, mourning for a beloved mother-offer a tactile insight into life in India and the United States. Through a flurry of sounds and smells, the reader learns an interpretation of the history of the sari, witnesses the horror of attacks on women, and wrestles with death, whether it be that of an elephant, an extinct frog, honey bees, humans, or goddesses. Her poems dig deep and aspire for something beyond. Colored by fire, blood, ash, and rain, these poems present images of great joy and deep loss in a complex harmony. Sharp Blue Search of Flame embraces worlds within worlds and worlds between worlds, which is not only intrinsic to the fabric of the poems but to the life of the poet as well. Readers of poetry will savor this sensory collection.

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Somewhere We'll Leave the World

Poems by Russell Thorburn

The poems in Russell Thorburn's Somewhere We'll Leave the World are fluid and masterful with a flow that captures an authentic consciousness. These poems breathe and allow the reader breathing room. Powerful images and deft endings arrive like the best kind of emotional left hook-the kind that leaves you wanting more. This book is for long-walkers and dreamers who don't mind the cold or heat or the miles ahead. The reader is taken on a journey through snowy woods, stopping to confront a wolf or meet with Jim Harrison. Divided into four sections, Somewhere We'll Leave the World draws on the poet's own experiences while imagining chance encounters with fictional characters and personal heroes. Before long, it is obvious to the reader that every moment is up for grabs-a late night viewing of Hell Is for Heroes, a drive down Woodward Avenue in a friend's Volkswagen, a hike through the Mojave National Preserve. Through the book's filmic scenes, imagine Wim Wenders behind the camera as the poet re-creates the scenes of his own life. In good company with the likes of Charles Bukowski and James Wright, Thorburn tips his hat to those who have come before him, while blazing his own winding and fantastical trail. This thoroughly unique poetry collection gives us an honest and lyrical assessment of national wounds. Fans of surreal poetry will relish Thorburn's work.

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States of Motion

Stories by Laura Hulthen Thomas

Newton's Laws of Motion describe the relationship between a body and its response to the forces acting upon it. For the men and women in States of Motion, imbalance is a way of life. Set in Michigan small towns both real and fictional, the stories in Laura Hulthen Thomas's collection take place against a backdrop of economic turmoil and the domestic cost of the war on terror. As familiar places, privilege, and faith disappear, what remains leaves these broken characters wondering what hope is left for them. These stories follow blue collars and white, cops and immigrants, and mothers and sons as they defend a world that is quickly vanishing. The eight stories in States of Motion follow tough, quixotic characters struggling to reinvent themselves even as they cling to what they've lost. A grieving father embraces his town's suspicions of him as the sole suspect in his daughter's disappearance. A driving instructor struggles to care for his abusive mother between training lessons with two flirtatious teens. A behavioral researcher studying the fear response must face her own fears when her childhood attacker returns to ask for her forgiveness. Conditioned by their traumatic pasts to be both sympathetic and numb to suffering, the characters in these stories clutch at a chance to find peace on the other side of terror. From the isolated roadways of Michigan's countryside to the research labs of a major university, the way forward is both one last hope and a deep-seated fear. The profoundly emotional stories in States of Motion will interest any reader of contemporary literary fiction.

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