Literati is thrilled to be the bookseller for the Zell Visiting Writers Series at the University of Michigan. More information about the Helen Zell Writers’ Program, including a full calendar of visiting writers, can be found here.
Laura Kasischke was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is the recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, 2012, for Space, in Chains. She has published nine novels, one short story collection, and eight books of poetry, most recently The Infinitesimals. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as several Pushcart Prizes and numerous poetry awards and her writing has appeared in Best American Poetry, The Kenyon Review, Harper’s and The New Republic. She has a son and step-daughter and lives with her family and husband in Chelsea, Michigan. She is Allan Seager Colleagiate Professor of English Language & Literature at the University of Michigan.
RC Creative Writing alumna Carrie Smith joins our book club to talk about and sign her new novel Forgotten City. Everyone is welcome.
Literati is pleased to welcome Laura Hulthen Thomas in support of her debut collection, States of Motion.
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.
Laura Hulthen Thomas’s short fiction and essays have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including The Cimarron Review, Nimrod International Journal, Epiphany, and Witness. She received her MFA in fiction writing from Warren Wilson College. She currently heads the undergraduate creative writing program at the University of Michigan’s Residential College, where she teaches fiction and creative nonfiction.
Literati is pleased to welcome Keith Lesmeister in support of his debut short story collection, We Could’ve Been Happy Here. Keith will be joined in reading by Markin Jenkins, a graduate of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program, and Alexander Weinstein, author of Children of the New World.
In his first collection of short fiction, Keith Lesmeister plows out a distinctive vision of the contemporary Midwest. These stories peer into the lives of those at the margins-the broken, the resigned, the misunderstood. Hopeful and humorous, tender and tragic, these stories illuminate how we are shaped and buoyed by our intimate connections.
Keith Lesmeister was born in North Carolina, raised in Iowa, and received his M.F.A. from the Bennington Writing Seminars. His fiction has appeared in American Short Fiction, Slice, Meridian, Redivider, Gettysburg Review, and many other print and online publications. His nonfiction has appeared in Tin House Open Bar, River Teeth, The Good Men Project, and elsewhere. He currently lives in northeast Iowa where he teaches at Northeast Iowa Community College. We Could’ve Been Happy Here is his first book.
Alexander Weinstein is the Director of The Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing and the author of the short story collection Children of the New World (Picador 2016). His fiction and translations have appeared in Cream City Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Notre-Dame Review, Pleiades, PRISM International, World Literature Today, and other journals. He is the recipient of a Sustainable Arts Foundation Award, and his fiction has been awarded the Lamar York, Gail Crump, Hamlin Garland, and New Millennium Prize. His stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, and appear in the anthologies 2013 New Stories from the Midwest, and the 2014 & 2015 Lascaux Prize Stories. He is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing and a freelance editor, and leads fiction workshops in the United States and Europe.
Marlin M. Jenkins was born and raised in Detroit. A poetry graduate from University of Michigan’s MFA program, his work has been given homes by The Collagist, The Offing, The Journal, and Bennington Review, among others. He has worked with students in Detroit Public Schools through the Inside Out Literary Arts program and received a fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. He is also a runner and a dancer.
Literati is pleased to welcome Rebecca J. Kinney and Stephen M. Ward for a discussion of their recent books about Detroit and the people who form its heart.
What is the “new Detroit” that everyone keeps talking about? In Beautiful Wasteland: The Rise of Detroit as America’s Postindustrial Frontier, Rebecca J. Kinney reveals that the contemporary story of Detroit’s rebirth is an upcycled version of the American Dream, which has long imagined access to work, home, and upward mobility as race-neutral projects. She tackles key questions about the future of postindustrial America, and shows how the narratives of Detroit’s history are deeply steeped in material and ideological investments in whiteness.
Rebecca J. Kinney, who grew up in metropolitan Detroit, is assistant professor in the School of Cultural and Critical Studies at Bowling Green State University.
In Love and Struggle: The Revolutionary Lives of James and Grace Lee Boggs details both the personal and the political dimensions of the Boggses’ lives, highlighting the vital contributions these two figures made to black activist thinking. At once a dual biography of two crucial figures and a vivid portrait of Detroit as a center of activism, Ward’s book restores the Boggses, and the intellectual strain of black radicalism they shaped, to their rightful place in postwar American history.
Stephen Ward is associate professor in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies (DAAS) and the Residential College at the University of Michigan. He is also a board member of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership in Detroit.
Creative Writing Faculty read from their works:
Lolita Hernandez, Lecturer, RC Creative Writing and Literature
Laura Kasischke, RC ’84, Lecturer, RC Creative Writing and Literature Christopher Matthews, Lecturer, RC Creative Writing and Literature
Ken Mikolowski, Lecturer Emeritus, RC Creative Writing and Literature
Laura Thomas, RC ’88, Lecturer and Program Head, RC Creative Writing and Literature
Literati is thrilled to welcome poet Diane Seuss who will be reading from her new collection Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl. Diane will be joined by fellow poet Laura Kasischke for conversation after the reading.
About Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl:
Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl takes its title from Rembrandt’s painting, a dark emblem of femininity, violence, and the viewer’s own troubled gaze. In Diane Seuss’s new collection, the notion of the still life is shattered and Rembrandt’s painting is presented across the book in pieces–details that hide more than they reveal until they’re assembled into a whole. With invention and irreverence, these poems escape gilded frames and overturn traditional representations of gender, class, and luxury. Instead, Seuss invites in the alienated, the washed-up, the ugly, and the freakish–the overlooked many of us who might more often stand in a Walmart parking lot than before the canvases of Pollock, O’Keeffe, and Rothko. Rendered with precision and profound empathy, this extraordinary gallery of lives in shards shows us that “our memories are local, acute, and unrelenting.”
Diane Seuss is the author of three previous poetry collections, including Four-Legged Girl, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open, winner of the Juniper Prize. She lives in Michigan.
Laura Kasischke is a poet and novelist whose fiction has been made into several feature-length films. Her book of poems, Space, in Chains, won the National Book Critics Circle Award. She currently teaches at the University of Michigan and lives in Chelsea, Michigan.
A startlingly beautiful debut, Half Gods brings together the exiled, the disappeared, the seekers. Following the fractured origins and destines of two brothers named after demigods from the ancient epic the Mahabharata, we meet a family struggling with the reverberations of the past in their lives. These ten interlinked stories redraw the map of our world in surprising ways: following an act of violence, a baby girl is renamed after a Hindu goddess but raised as a Muslim; a lonely butcher from Angola finds solace in a family of refugees in New Jersey; a gentle entomologist, in Sri Lanka, discovers unexpected reserves of courage while searching for his missing son.
By turns heartbreaking and fiercely inventive, Half Gods reveals with sharp clarity the ways that parents, children, and friends act as unknowing mirrors to each other, revealing in their all-too human weaknesses, hopes, and sorrows a connection to the divine.
Akil Kumarasamy is a writer from New Jersey. Her fiction has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, American Short Fiction, Boston Review, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from the University of Michigan and has been a fiction fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and the University of East Anglia. Half Gods is her first book.
About Little Wonder:
Kat Gardiner’s debut collection of microfiction, Little Wonder, springs from the year she spent in Anacortes, Washington. Young and idealistic, she and her husband moved to town to open a café and music venue in the hopes of finding a home there.
The experiment lasted exactly one year.
In interconnected fragments, Little Wonder reads like a series of love notes to a former self. Characters navigate frustration, loss, heartbreak, but they also come into new versions of themselves. Little Wonder sheds light on the idea that joy and pain are often two sides of the same coin — and that being alive in this world can necessitate embracing both.
“I can see the sun sinking down over Anacortes at the end of every page. Little Wonder has the ache of Raymond Carver, the honesty, the vulnerability. It’s so melancholic and honest and beautiful.” — Kyle Field (Little Wings)
Born in Oklahoma, raised in the Pacific Northwest, and based in Detroit, Kat Gardiner carries a restlessness through her writing that’s been honed by a lifelong search for roots. Her debut collection of short fiction, Little Wonder, springs from the year Gardiner spent in Anacortes, Washington, during her early twenties. Young and idealistic, she opened a coffee shop and music venue with her husband in the hopes of finding a home in the city’s artistic community. The experiment lasted exactly one year. Gardiner closed the coffee shop and moved away from Anacortes, ending a stressful and dreamlike chapter in her life.
Gardiner studied creative writing at Bennington College in Vermont, and later took workshops with Tom Spanbauer, the creator of the technique known as Dangerous Writing, in Portland, Oregon. In developing her craft, she found herself drawn to microfiction, citing Lydia Davis as a touchstone. “There’s something powerful in succinct details,” Gardiner says. Writing in short, interconnected fragments enabled her to revisit the year spent in Anacortes with a new sense of perspective. Little Wonder reads like a series of love notes to a former self, or a collection of Polaroids made golden with age. Gardiner’s characters navigate frustration, loss, and heartbreak, but they also come into new versions of themselves, a transformation they may not recognize in the moment. Through poignant vignettes furnished generously with detail, Gardiner looks into what it means to enter the world and realize that the world is not nearly as amenable to change as an optimistic young person might think. “It’s been liberating to make art out of both the painful and the joyous parts of that experience,” she says. With Little Wonder, she’s shed light on the idea that joy and pain are often two sides of the same coin — and that being alive in this world can necessitate embracing both.
Literati is excited to welcome author kim d. hunter who will be sharing his new story collection, The Official Report on Human Activity.
About The Official Report on Human Activity:
The Official Report on Human Activity by kim d. hunter, which is neither official nor a report, is a collection of long stories that are linked by reoccurring characters and their personal struggles in societies rife with bigotry, in which media technology and capitalism have run amok. These stories approach the holy trinity of gender, race, and class at a slant. They are concerned with the process and role of writing intertwined with the roles of music and sound.
The four stories range from the utterly surreal-a factory worker seeking recognition for his writing gives birth to a small black elephant with a mysterious message on its hide-to the utterly real-a nerdy black teen’s summer away from home takes a turn when he encounters half-white twins on the run from the police. Prominently known as a Detroit poet, hunter creates illusions and magic while pulling back the curtain to reveal humanity-the good, bad, and absurd. Readers will find their minds expanded and their conversations flowing after finishing The Official Report on Human Activity.
The Official Report on Human Activity is sure to appeal to readers of literary fiction, particularly those interested in postmodernism and social justice.
kim d. hunter has published two collections of poetry: borne on slow knives and edge of the time zone. His poetry appears in Rainbow Darkness, What I Say, Black Renaissance Noire, 6X6 #35, and elsewhere. He received a 2012 Kresge Artist Fellowship in the Literary Arts and he works in Detroit providing media support to social justice groups.