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Panel discussion will explore Detroit’s past and its future

detroit resurgentThis year’s Kerrytown BookFest will feature a panel discussion on “The Art of the Comeback” about the city of Detroit’s remarkable path to what will become a new American city totally reinvented by its people.

Panel members include Yui Allen, Janet Webster Jones and Gary Wozniak (all featured in the new book “Detroit Resurgent” published by MSU Press. They will be joined by Bob Morris who has written “Built in Detroit” an amazing story of his dad’s leadership in the early days of the UAW. The panel will be moderated by MSU labor professor John Beck who also is one of the editors of “Detroit Resurgent”.

Not all summer reading necessitates a whisking away to exotic locales. “Detroit Resurgent” is a photography book by Parisian photographer Gilles Perrin and documentarian-interviewer Nicole Ewenczyk. The book showcases the portraits of more than 60 Detroiters taken by the world-class portrait photographer accompanied by poignant interviews by his partner.

The behind-the-scenes development of this book makes for a wonderful story all its own. Both Howard Bossen, an MSU photography professor, and John Beck, associate professor in the School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, had a hand in making this book a reality. They provided point-of-view essays, but what isn’t said is how they worked diligently to make an idea become a book.

The journey started in 1988 when Bossen met Perrin and Ewenczyk at the Rencontres d’Arles, an international photo show in France. Perrin does documentary photography cycles that are intimately associated with occupations. He uses a largeformat camera. His shoots are complex, requiring long setups. When Bossen ran into Perrin again in 2008 at the Houston FotoFest, he suggested Perrin and Ewenczyk visit Michigan for their next project. Bossen enlisted Beck, who coordinates the Our Daily Work, Our Daily Life program at MSU, to bring Perrin to Detroit to photograph Detroiters at work. But once the idea was laid out and the project unfolded, a new facet was added.

“This is too good — it has to be a book,” he said. That’s when MSU Press stepped up to be the publisher. The photographer spent three weeks shooting in Detroit in the summer of 2012.

“You just don’t walk into a General Motors plant and start shooting,” Bossen said. Although much of the shoot was planned, Bossen said Perrin likes to see “where the shoot goes.” The city may be bankrupt, but the book’s photos seem to say, its people aren’t. The people who will remake the city are among those in this book: Artists, musicians, small business owners, poets and those involved in the local food movement.

Beck contacted his old MSU friends Larry Gabriel and W. Kim Herron, former editor of Detroit Metro Times, to serve as guides, helping the editors identify potential photo subjects. The approach seems to have worked: The book’s photos represent an incredible cross section of Detroiters without resorting to boosterism — this is no Chamber of Commerce poobah hustle.

Gabriel, a journalist, writer and musician, was also enlisted to write an essay on Detroit for the book, jazzily titled “detroit dreams: no rust belt scene.” Herron was one of the subjects. The book, and its collection of stunning portraits of Detroiters is in a sense a modern-day adventure spanning two continents, two languages and a city that in everyone’s imagination says is on the brink of Armageddon. Not so, says Beck.

“The book is about the power of the people of Detroit and the power of their ideas and their passion for getting stuff done,” Beck said. “Everyone thinks there is a monolithic answer to Detroit’s problems, but the interviews and essays in the book show that the future of Detroit is being invented person by person.”

It can also be easily used as a travel guide for Detroit providing for a grand summer adventure. Bossen sees the book as unusual since it is not just an exquisite collection of portraits. They are paired with interviews, an essay and a poem. He also offers in his essay an intriguing look at documentary photography and the mind of a photographer.

“It really doesn’t fit any category (of photo book), but it does show an awful lot of people doing pretty amazing things at all levels of society,” Bossen said. “It clearly shows that the perception of Detroit does not extend to its people.”

All the 60-plus photographs in the book can be viewed at MSU’s Detroit Center in Midtown Detroit and the editors plan on a map detailing locations of the public places used in the book. The recently published book “Canvas Detroit” (Wayne State Press) offers up another way to look at Detroit and not just through the popular lens of ruin-porn photography. Editors Julie Pincus and Nichole Christian teamed up to explore more than 300 works of art in the city ranging from murals to a Banksy installation that was cut out of the Packard plant.

Perhaps stencil artist Nicole MacDonald describes the overall feeling of the book best when she says, “I’m really driven by an old Italian anarchist idea: Let your voice be heard and do it out on the street.”

And speaking of street art, world famous Detroit artist Tyree Guyton has been recreating abandoned homes into spectacular works of art for 27 years. In 2013, arsonists destroyed three of his homes, leaving only four of the original seven homes. But Guyton will not be hindered. He writes in the book, “My art is a medicine for the community.”

Expect something to rise from the ashes of Detroit.


Mystery writers will shine at this year’s Kerrytown BookFest

estlemanestlemanThe Kerrytown BookFest is like a magnet and each year, mystery writers from all over the country visit the BookFest to speak on panels, meet fans, and sign books.   This year the Bookfest is hosting two mystery panels with suspense and thriller writers and one with authors who write romantic suspense.

The suspense panel features Michigan treasure Loren D. Estleman.  The creator of the long-lived Amos Walker private eye series set in mostly in Detroit,  Estleman also is an award winning writer of Westerns, stand alone historical mysteries, and many other novels, more than 70 in all.

Estleman will be joined by Michael Harvey, whose private eye novels featuring Michael Kelley (The Chicago Way) are set in Chicago; and another Chicago based-author, Theresa Schwegel, who won the Edgar award for her first novel, Officer Down.  Her latest novel is The Good Boy.  Rounding out the panel is Michigan newcomer Elizabeth Heiter, whose first novel, Hunted, was published this winter.

The panel will be moderated by Detroit Noir editor E.J. Olsen.

The Romantic Suspense panel features New York Times Bestselling authors Tasha Alexander, who writes the Lady Emily Victorian mysteries (Behind the Shattered Glass) and Lauren Willig, whose series beginning with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation is a fan favorite.

Joining these two veterans are newcomers  New Yorker Susan Elia MacNeal and Toronto based Simone St. James.  Ms. MacNeal writes the Maggie Hope series set during WWII (The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent) and St. James writes historical ghost stories (Silence of the Dead). Both writers have been nominated or have won several major mystery industry awards, including the Edgar for Ms. MacNeal and the Arthur Ellis for Ms. St. James.

The panel is moderated by historical mystery writer Anna Lee Huber (A Grave Matter) whose novels are set in 19th century Scotland.

Also if you get the opportunity extend congratulations to Jamie and Robin Agnew, proprietors of Aunt Agatha’s mystery bookstore. This past spring the Agnew’s were awarded The Raven by the Mystery Writers of America. The award is annually given to a non-writer who contributes the most to the genre.

Nicola Rooney named the 2014 Community Book Award Winner

Nicola Rooney named the 2014 Community Book Award Winner by the Kerrytown BookFest

February 18, 2014
For Immediate Release
Contact: Bill Castanier or Robin Agnew

Nicola RooneyAnn Arbor, Mich. – The Kerrytown BookFest has named Nicola Rooney, owner of Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor, as the winner of the 2014 Community Book Award.  The award is annually awarded to the person in the Greater Ann Arbor area who helps create and retain “a vital book culture,” said Robin Agnew, president of the BookFest and owner of Aunt Agatha’s Bookshop.

“Rooney was recognized for her commitment as a bookseller for more than 20 years in Ann Arbor.  Her store is a big reason, even with the closing of stores like Borders, that the area has remained a city with an active book culture, and one with a busy and varied schedule of visiting authors from every part of the literary universe,” Agnew said. Nicola’s hosted or sponsored over 200 events in 2013.

Agnew said Rooney has made a long-time and serious commitment to the Ann Arbor Community, serving schools at bookfairs, providing books for library events in the area, serving on the board the Ann Arbor Book Festival, functioning as a vital sponsor and partner of the Kerrytown BookFest, as well as serving on the board of Washtenaw Literacy for 10 years.  Her store also hosts book clubs, writer’s groups and Master Gardeners’ lectures.

“Rooney feels bookstores are a vital part of any community and has made Nicola’s a comfortable gathering place,” said Agnew, who also owns another local bookstore,  Aunt Agatha’s Bookshop.  “I can’t imagine the Ann Arbor literary universe without Nicola’s enthusiasm for books and writers,” she said.

The Kerrytown BookFest will honor Rooney the day of the BookFest Sunday, September 7 at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market as a kickoff to the 12th annual day-long celebration of books which features more than 40 authors and illustrators and 100 exhibitors and book sellers.  She will receive a hand-made framed certificate and will be part of a bookseller’s panel along with some of her staff. Nicola Rooney joins the ranks of Ann Arbor librarian Josie Parker, bookseller Jay Platt, author Loren D. Estleman, BookFest founders Tom and Cindy Hollander, and others as the winner of the award which celebrates a significant contribution to the book community in Ann Arbor.