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READING RECOMMENDATIONS (NEW!)
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Michigan Notable Books 2020
We Hope for Better Things
"In this powerful first novel . . . Bartels successfully weaves American history into a deeply moving story of heartbreak, long-held secrets, and the bonds of family."--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"A forbidden interracial marriage, an escaped slave, an expectant mother waiting for her Union soldier to return--all of these stories are deftly told by Bartels, as she explores the hard realities of racism and its many faces during various eras of American history. . . .Compelling characters make this winning debut also appealing for fans of general historical fiction."--Library Journal
"Bartels' debut tells the story of three Balsam women, each of a different era, told against the backdrop of racism and violence in America. . . .will appeal to fans of faith-based women's fiction authors like Colleen Coble."--Booklist
When Detroit Free Press reporter Elizabeth Balsam meets James Rich, his strange request--that she look up a relative she didn't know she had in order to deliver an old camera and a box of photos--seems like it isn't worth her time. But when she loses her job after a botched investigation, she suddenly finds herself with nothing but time.
At her great-aunt's 150-year-old farmhouse north of Detroit, Elizabeth uncovers a series of mysterious items, locked doors, and hidden graves. As she searches for answers to the riddles around her, the remarkable stories of two women who lived in this very house emerge as testaments to love, resilience, and courage in the face of war, racism, and misunderstanding. And as Elizabeth soon discovers, the past is never as past as we might like to think.
Debut novelist Erin Bartels takes readers on an emotional journey through time--from the volatile streets of 1960s Detroit to the Michigan's Underground Railroad during the Civil War--to uncover the past, confront the seeds of hatred, and discover where love goes to hide.
"We Hope for Better Things has it all: fabulous storytelling, an emotional impact that lingers long after you turn the last page, and a setting that immerses you. I haven't read such a powerful, moving story since I read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school. This book will change how you look at the world we live in. Highly recommended!"--Colleen Coble, USAToday bestselling author of the Rock Harbor series and The View from Rainshadow Bay
"A timely exploration of race in America, We Hope for Better Things is an exercise of empathy that will shape many a soul."--Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Perennials
"I applaud [Erin's] courage, her authenticity, her beautiful turn of phrase, the freshness of her imagery, and the depth of her story that speaks to a contemporary world where understanding is often absent. We Hope for Better Things is a remarkable debut novel."--Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of Everything She Didn't Say
"Erin Bartels's We Hope for Better Things shares the joys and sorrows of three women from different generations. A roller coaster of emotions awaits as you share the lives of these women and hope along with them for better things."--Ann H. Gabhart, bestselling author of River to Redemption
"Storytelling at its finest. Erin Bartels delivers a riveting story of forbidden love, family bonds, racial injustice, and the power of forgiveness. We Hope for Better Things is a timely, sobering, moving account of how far we've come . . . and how much distance remains to be covered. A compulsively readable, incredibly powerful novel."--Lori Nelson Spielman, New York Times bestselling author of The Life List
"There is the Detroit we think we know, and there is the Detroit full of stories that are never brought to the forefront. With We Hope for Better Things, Erin Bartels brings full circle an understanding of contemporary Detroit firmly rooted in the past, with enthralling characters and acute attention to detail. It's a must not just for Detroit lovers but also for those who need to understand that Detroit history is also American history."--Aaron Foley, city of Detroit's chief storyteller and editor of The Detroit Neighborhood Guidebook
The Women of the Copper Country
From the bestselling and award-winning author of The Sparrow comes an inspiring historical novel about “America’s Joan of Arc” Annie Clements—the courageous woman who started a rebellion by leading a strike against the largest copper mining company in the world.
In July 1913, twenty-five-year-old Annie Clements had seen enough of the world to know that it was unfair. She’s spent her whole life in the copper-mining town of Calumet, Michigan where men risk their lives for meager salaries—and had barely enough to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. The women labor in the houses of the elite, and send their husbands and sons deep underground each day, dreading the fateful call of the company man telling them their loved ones aren’t coming home. When Annie decides to stand up for herself, and the entire town of Calumet, nearly everyone believes she may have taken on more than she is prepared to handle.
In Annie’s hands lie the miners’ fortunes and their health, her husband’s wrath over her growing independence, and her own reputation as she faces the threat of prison and discovers a forbidden love. On her fierce quest for justice, Annie will discover just how much she is willing to sacrifice for her own independence and the families of Calumet.
From one of the most versatile writers in contemporary fiction, this novel is an authentic and moving historical portrait of the lives of the men and women of the early 20th century labor movement, and of a turbulent, violent political landscape that may feel startlingly relevant to today.
The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother's Life in the Detroit Numbers
As seen on the Today Show: This true story of an unforgettable mother, her devoted daughter, and their life in the Detroit numbers of the 1960s and 1970s highlights "the outstanding humanity of black America" (James McBride).
In 1958, the very same year that an unknown songwriter named Berry Gordy borrowed $800 to found Motown Records, a pretty young mother from Nashville, Tennessee, borrowed $100 from her brother to run a numbers racket out of her home. That woman was Fannie Davis, Bridgett M. Davis's mother.
Part bookie, part banker, mother, wife, and granddaughter of slaves, Fannie ran her numbers business for thirty-four years, doing what it took to survive in a legitimate business that just happened to be illegal. She created a loving, joyful home, sent her children to the best schools, bought them the best clothes, mothered them to the highest standard, and when the tragedy of urban life struck, soldiered on with her stated belief: "Dying is easy. Living takes guts."
A daughter's moving homage to an extraordinary parent, The World According to Fannie Davis is also the suspenseful, unforgettable story about the lengths to which a mother will go to "make a way out of no way" and provide a prosperous life for her family -- and how those sacrifices resonate over time.
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls
"If you enjoyed An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, read The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls...an absorbing commentary on love, family and forgiveness."--The Washington Post
"A fast-paced, intriguing story...the novel's real achievement is its uncommon perceptiveness on the origins and variations of addiction."--The New York Times Book Review
One of the most anticipated reads of 2019 from Vogue, Vanity Fair, Washington Post, Buzzfeed, Essence, Bustle, HelloGiggles and Cosmo!
"The Mothers meets An American Marriage" (HelloGiggles) in this dazzling debut novel about mothers and daughters, identity and family, and how the relationships that sustain you can also be the ones that consume you.
The Butler family has had their share of trials--as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lillian can attest--but nothing prepared them for the literal trial that will upend their lives.
Althea, the eldest sister and substitute matriarch, is a force to be reckoned with and her younger sisters have alternately appreciated and chafed at her strong will. They are as stunned as the rest of the small community when she and her husband, Proctor, are arrested, and in a heartbeat the family goes from one of the most respected in town to utter disgrace. The worst part is, not even her sisters are sure exactly what happened.
As Althea awaits her fate, Lillian and Viola must come together in the house they grew up in to care for their sister's teenage daughters. What unfolds is a stunning portrait of the heart and core of an American family in a story that is as page-turning as it is important.
Sport: Ship Dog of the Great Lakes
In 1914 crew members of the lighthouse tender Hyacinth rescued a stray puppy from the Milwaukee River and named him Sport. For the next twelve years, this charming Newfoundland-retriever mix lived the life of a ship dog, helping the Hyacinth crew as they carried supplies to lighthouses and maintained the buoys and other safety features around Lake Michigan. Sport quickly became a valued companion to his crew and a recognizable mascot of the lake—making friends in every port.
In this beautifully illustrated children’s book based on historical documents and photographs, readers share in Sport’s adventures while discovering the various ways lighthouse tender ships helped keep the lake safe for others. Helpful diagrams, a map, and a historical note supplement this engaging story for young readers.
The Queen Next Door: Aretha Franklin, an Intimate Portrait
"Aretha was private. I respected this and she trusted me." Linda Solomon met Aretha Franklin in 1983 when she was just beginning her career as a photojournalist and newspaper columnist. Franklin’s brother and business manager arranged for Solomon to capture the singer’s major career events—just as she was coming back home to Detroit from California—while Franklin requested that Solomon document everything else. Everything. And she did just that. What developed over these years of photographing birthday and Christmas parties in her home, annual celebrity galas, private backstage moments during national awards ceremonies, photo shoots with the iconic pink Cadillac, and more was a friendship between two women who grew to enjoy and respect one another. The Queen Next Door: Aretha Franklin, An Intimate Portrait is a book full of firsts as Solomon was invited not only to capture historical events in Aretha’s music career showcasing Detroit but to join in with the Franklin family’s most intimate and cherished moments in her beloved hometown. From performance rehearsals with James Brown to off-camera shenanigans while filming a music video with the Rolling Stones, from her first television special to her first time performing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, to her last performance with her sisters at her father’s church and her son’s college graduation celebration. In the book’s afterword, Sabrina Vonne' Owens, Franklin’s niece, honors her aunt, a woman who was an overwhelming supporter of civil rights, women’s rights, and fundraising campaigns that helped to benefit her hometown. There was a time in her career—when Franklin was more in demand than ever before—when she insisted that if someone wanted her to perform, they had to come to Detroit. During this time all of her major concerts, national television specials, music videos, and commercials would happen in Detroit. Aretha Franklin showed her respect for the people in the city who championed her from the very beginning when she started singing as a young girl in the church choir. Franklin used to say, "I am the lady next door when I am not on stage." The Queen Next Door offers fans a personal and unseen look at an extraordinary woman in her most natural moments—both regal and intimate—and highlights her devotion to her family and her hometown Detroit—"forever and ever."
Guardians of Detroit: Architectural Sculpture in the Motor City
Detroit is home to amazing architectural sculpture--a host of gargoyles, grotesques, and other silent guardians that watch over the city from high above its streets and sidewalks, often unnoticed or ignored by the people passing below. Jeff Morrison's Guardians of Detroit: Architectural Sculpture in the Motor City documents these incredible features in a city that began as a small frontier fort and quickly grew to become a major metropolis and industrial titan.
Detroit developed steadily following its founding in 1701. From 1850 to 1930 it experienced unprecedented population growth, increasing from 21,019 to over 1,500,000 people. A city of giants, Detroit became home to people of towering ambition and vision who gained wealth and sought to leave their mark on the city they loved. This aspiration created a massive building boom during a time when architectural styles favored detailed ornamentation, resulting in a collection of architectural sculpture unmatched by any other U.S. city. Guardians of Detroit is a first-of-its-kind project to explore, document, and explain this singular collection on a building-by-building basis and to discover and share the stories of these structures and the artists, artisans, and architects who created them. Using a 600-millimeter lens and 23-megapixel camera, Morrison brings sculptural building details barely visible to the naked eye down from the heights, making them available for up-close appreciation. The photos are arranged in a collage format that emphasizes the variety of and relationships between each building's sculptural ornamentation. Well-researched text complements the photography, delving into the lives of those who created these wonderful works of architectural art.
Guardians of Detroit is an extended love letter to the historic architecture of a city that would become the driving force of America's industrial and economic power. Fans of art, architecture, and hidden gems will love poring over these pages.
The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down
The inside story of how serial predator Larry Nassar got away with abusing hundreds of gymnasts for decades -- and how a team of brave women banded together to bring him down.
We think of Larry Nassar as the despicable sexual predator of Olympic gymnasts -- but there is an astonishing, untold story. For decades, in a small-town gym in Michigan, he honed his manipulations on generations of aspiring gymnasts. Kids from the neighborhood. Girls with hopes of a college scholarship. Athletes and parents with a dream. In The Girls, these brave women for the first time describe Nassar's increasingly bold predations through the years, recount their warning calls unheeded, and demonstrate their resiliency in the face of a nightmare.
The Girls is a profound exploration of trust, ambition, betrayal, and self-discovery. Award-winning journalist Abigail Pesta unveils this deeply reported narrative at a time when the nation is wrestling with the implications of the MeToo movement. How do the women who grew up with Nassar reconcile the monster in the news with the man they once trusted? In The Girls, we learn that their answers to that wrenching question are as rich, insightful, and varied as the human experience itself.
The Deer Camp: A Memoir of a Father, a Family, and the Land that Healed Them
For readers of The Stranger in the Woods and H Is for Hawk, a beautifully written and emotionally rewarding memoir about a father, his three sons, and a scrappy 100-acre piece of land in rural Michigan.
Some families have to dig hard to find the love that holds them together. Some have to grow it out of the ground.
Bruce Kuipers was good at hunting, fishing, and working, but not at much else that makes a real father or husband. Conflicted, angry, and a serial cheater, he destroyed his relationship with his wife, Nancy, and alienated his three sons-journalist Dean, woodsman Brett, and troubled yet brilliant fisherman Joe. He distrusted people and clung to rural America as a place to hide.
So when Bruce purchased a 100-acre hunting property as a way to reconnect with his sons, they resisted. The land was the perfect bait, but none of them knew how to be together as a family. Conflicts arose over whether the land-an old farm that had been degraded and reduced to a few stands of pine and blowing sand-should be left alone or be actively restored. After a decade-long impasse, Bruce acquiesced, and his sons proceeded with their restoration plan. What happened next was a miracle of nature.
Dean Kuipers weaves a beautiful and surprising story about the restorative power of land and of his own family, which so desperately needed healing. Heartwarming and profound, The Deer Camp is the perfect story of fathers, sons, and the beauty and magic of the natural world.
Broke: Hardship and Resilience in a City of Broken Promises
"Essential...in showcasing people who are persistent, clever, flawed, loving, struggling and full of contradictions, Broke affirms why it’s worth solving the hardest problems in our most challenging cities in the first place. " —Anna Clark, The New York Times
"Through in-depth reporting of structural inequality as it affects real people in Detroit, Jodie Adams Kirshner's Broke examines one side of the economic divide in America" —Salon
"What Broke really tells us is how systems of government, law and finance can crush even the hardiest of boot-strap pullers." —Brian Alexander, author of Glass House
A galvanizing, narrative account of a city’s bankruptcy and its aftermath told through the lives of seven valiantly struggling Detroiters
Bankruptcy and the austerity it represents have become a common "solution" for struggling American cities. What do the spending cuts and limited resources do to the lives of city residents? In Broke, Jodie Adams Kirshner follows seven Detroiters as they navigate life during and after their city's bankruptcy. Reggie loses his savings trying to make a habitable home for his family. Cindy fights drug use, prostitution, and dumping on her block. Lola commutes two hours a day to her suburban job. For them, financial issues are mired within the larger ramifications of poor urban policies, restorative negligence on the state and federal level and—even before the decision to declare Detroit bankrupt in 2013—the root causes of a city’s fiscal demise.
Like Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, Broke looks at what municipal distress means, not just on paper but in practical—and personal—terms. More than 40 percent of Detroit’s 700,000 residents fall below the poverty line. Post-bankruptcy, they struggle with a broken real estate market, school system, and job market—and their lives have not improved.
Detroit is emblematic. Kirshner makes a powerful argument that cities—the economic engine of America—are never quite given the aid that they need by either the state or federal government for their residents to survive, not to mention flourish. Success for all America’s citizens depends on equity of opportunity.
A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father
In a riveting book with powerful resonance today, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss captures the pervasive fear and paranoia that gripped America during the Red Scare of the 1950s through the chilling yet affirming story of his family’s ordeal, from blacklisting to vindication.
Elliott Maraniss, David’s father, a WWII veteran who had commanded an all-black company in the Pacific, was spied on by the FBI, named as a communist by an informant, called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952, fired from his newspaper job, and blacklisted for five years. Yet he never lost faith in America and emerged on the other side with his family and optimism intact.
In a sweeping drama that moves from the Depression and Spanish Civil War to the HUAC hearings and end of the McCarthy era, Maraniss weaves his father’s story through the lives of his inquisitors and defenders as they struggle with the vital twentieth-century issues of race, fascism, communism, and first amendment freedoms. A Good American Family powerfully evokes the political dysfunctions of the 1950s while underscoring what it really means to be an American. It is an unsparing yet moving tribute from a brilliant writer to his father and the family he protected in dangerous times.
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