June 25th--Act of Grace: A Conversation with Karen Simpson and Robbie Ransom

On Saturday, June 25th authors Karen Simpson and Robbie Ransom will discuss their new book Act of Grace from 5:00 to 6:30 PM at the University of Michigan's North Quad, room 2435. Act of Grace explores the story of Grace Johnson, an African American from Michigan who saves the life of a Klan member named Jonathan Gilmore--and the controversy which follows. Simpson and Ransom are both Michigan residents and graduates of Eastern Michigan University well known for their work in gender and cultural studies. The discussion is free and open to the public, and is presented by the Author’s Forum, a collaboration between the U-M Institute for the Humanities, University Library, Great Lakes Literary Arts Center, and the Ann Arbor Book Festival. Don't miss the discussion on this amazing story of forgiveness!

For the official UM Library event posting, click here.

Every Color of the Rainbow

Rainbow peopleRainbow peopleAh, the month of June! The days are long, summer is in the air, and people across the country and around the world are celebrating LGBT pride! For those of us sporting rainbow flags, it’s important to remember what they symbolize; diversity and inclusion.

It’s no secret that the most highly represented color in the rainbow is white. White privilege and the invisibility of other ethnicities in the LGBT community has been a constant problem ever since there was an LGBT community to speak of. Marlon Riggs was one of the first to confront the position of gay African-American men in his 1989 film, Tongues Untied. Fifteen years later, Dwight A. McBride released a collection of essays on race and sexuality called, Why I hate Abercrombie & Fitch, demonstrating that not much has changed. An assortment of recent articles, online essays, and blog postings has been compiled to show the current state of affairs, including the experience of LGBT Asian-Americans.

Many of the wisest and brightest minds to write about the intersections of race and sexuality come from the school of black feminism. Authors such as Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, Barbara Smith, and many others have been fighting and educating for equality for years.
For additional reading, check out these titles: Dangerous Liaisons, The Truth That Never Hurts, One More River to Cross.

Let’s make this June a time to recognize the inequalities that exist, take a step away from our own habits, and look around at all the people who have different features, different cultures, and different stories than our own. We’ll all benefit!

African American Downtown Festival & the history of African Americans in Ann Arbor

This Saturday, June 4th, will be the annual African American Downtown Festival in Ann Arbor! The festival will be a multicultural and multi-generational celebration of African American history in Ann Arbor. The location of the festival (4th and Ann) is significant due to it being the historical epicenter in Ann Arbor of African American owned businesses, culture and family life. Fun times to be had by all!

If you're interested in doing some research into the history of African Americans in Washtenaw County, the AADL has several resources for you:

Additional local resources include:

Award Winning Journalist Eugene Robinson to Speak at U of M

Eugene RobinsonEugene Robinson

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Eugene Robinson will be speaking Friday, April 29th from 1:00 to 2:30pm at the Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery Room. A former U of M student, Robinson was the first African American co-editor-in-chief of the Michigan Daily. He has since written for the San Francisco Chronicle and later the Washington Post as both foreign correspondent and foreign editor. Robinson was honored with a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for Commentary for his work and insight on political and social movement. He currently appears on MSNBC as a Political Analyst. Sponsored by the University of Michigan's Center for Afroamerican & African Studies and The Michigan Daily, the event is free and open to the public. For the University's listing of the event, click here. For books by Eugene Robinson held by the AADL, click here.

Author Birthdays: Hersh, Kingsolver, Okorafor-Mbachu

April 8th marks the birthday of authors Seymour Hersh, Barbara Kingsolver, and Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu.

Seymour Hersh is an American award-winning journalist and author. Many of his articles were written for The New Yorker. He won a Pulitzer in journalism for his writing on the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War.

Hersh's books include a biography of JFK, called The Dark Side of Camelot, which portrays the late president as reckless, and was very controversial after its publication. He also wrote Chain Of Command: The Road From 9/11 To Abu Ghraib, which discusses topics like the torture and mistreatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib.

Barbara Kingsolver is a multi-award-winning American author, whose latest novel was the popular The Lacuna, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2010.

Kingsolver's best known work might be The Poisonwood Bible, which is about a missionary family who moves to the Belgian Congo in the mid-20th century. Her most interesting book, in my opinion, might be her non-fiction book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year Of Food Life, which outlines Kingsolver and her family as they attempt to eat solely locally-grown food for one year.

Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu is a Nigerian-American fantasy writer. Her newest book, Who Fears Death, was nominated for the Nebula Award in 2010.

Okorafor-Mbachu has written some young adult novels, which may be of interest to many teens in world literature classes who are looking for something a bit more modern than the classics. Her novel The Shadow Speaker is set in a futuristic West Africa and relays the tale of a girl with magical powers who is seeking vengeance.

Author Birthdays: Giono, Cullen, Sharpe

March 30th marks the birthday of authors Jean Giono, Countee Cullen, and Tom Sharpe.

Jean Giono was a French writer and veteran of WWI. One of his later novels, Le hussard sur le toit, was made into a French film, The Horseman On The Roof, starring Juliette Binoche (whom you may recognize from Chocolat or The English Patient).

Giono's other novels include The Man Who Planted Trees (which is about, oddly enough, a man who plants trees), and The Solitude of Compassion, which Library Journal called "a throwback to a simpler place and time, when through communion with nature Giono sought to evade the harsh realities of his time".

Countee Cullen was an American poet and a part of the Harlem Renaissance, as well as the husband to the only child of W. E. B. Du Bois. He won more literary prizes than any other African-American writer of the 1920s.

Cullen's poetry is collected in a few volumes here at AADL. One, Caroling Dusk, includes works by other Harlem Renaissance writers, like Cullen's father-in-law. Another collection (of only his poetry) is My Soul's High Song, which Booklist has described as "as concerned with beauty as it was with commenting on racial problems; and his espousal of the loveliness of the poetic line and the prose sentence with social critique results in a beguiling iron-fist-sheathed-in-velvet-glove effect".

Tom Sharpe is an English satirist. His novel Porterhouse Blue was made into a short TV series. Set in an all-male college, it makes fun of Cambridge and many of the people who might go there.

Sharpe's works have been criticized by many, including Publishers Weekly, which deems his novels to be unappealing to an American audience because of their harsh and biting contents. One novel, The Midden, while laughing at aristocrats and the well-to-do, contains "exuberant slapstick comedy, a ridiculously high body count, and a no-nonsense British matron to sort through the whole mess", according to Booklist.

Author Birthdays: Bernhard, Coetzee, Walker

February 9th marks the birthday of authors Thomas Bernhard, J. M. Coetzee, and Alice Walker.

Thomas Bernhard was an Austrian writer of novels and plays. While we have many of his works in English, according to the man himself, they can't be the same as his original, German novels. Bernhard believed that "translation is impossible".

Among Bernhard's books are Wittgenstein's Nephew, which has been called "a vehicle for Bernhard's captivating prose, his bitter pessimism and anger and his clever, if sarcastic wit"; The Voice Imitator, a collection of 104 short stories; and The Loser, a story of three piano virtuosos, written in first-person monologues.

J. M. Coetzee is a South African-American-Australian writer, and winner of the Booker Prize and Nobel Prize in Literature, among other awards. His novels Life & Times of Michael K and Disgrace are among the books that have won.

Coetzee, a vegetarian, writes about subject like animal cruelty and welfare, in novels like Disgrace and Elizabeth Costello. He has also written a few "fictionalized" autobiographies, including Youth, which focuses on the few years he spent in London after fleeing South Africa.

Alice Walker is an American writer of novels and poetry, and is widely known for her work The Color Purple, which won the Pulitzer Prize and has been made into a film and Broadway musical. She was also the first African-American woman to win the National Book Award, also for The Color Purple.

Walker has also written Possessing The Secret Of Joy, which Booklist says depicts female circumcision "as mutilation of not only the body but the psyche", the multi-historical fiction novel The Temple Of My Familiar, and perhaps the poetry collection with one of the greatest titles I've ever seen, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing.

Happy Birthday, Langston Hughes!

Today is legendary African American poet, playwright, novelist and short story author Langston Hughes' birthday! Born February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri, Hughes is considered by many to be one of the biggest figures in the Harlem Renaissance, an influential cultural movement of black artists, writers and intellectuals in Harlem, New York during the 1920's and 30's. Hughes was also deep into the Jazz music scene and created a good bit of "Jazz Poetry", structuring his work with bebop and jazz cadences.

If you're interested in reading more about Langston Hughes, the AADL has some great collections of and about Langston Hughes' work, including:

Author's Forum: The Protest Psychosis

A conversation with Jonathan Metzl, Derek Griffith and Gregory Dalack -- all of the U-M faculty -- is coming up Wednesday Jan. 19 at 5:30 pm in Hatcher Graduate Library, Library Gallery. This Author's Forum is called "The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease." In his book The Protest Psychosis, author Metzl writes about how schizophrenia became the diagnostic term overwhelmingly applied to African American men at the Ionia State Hospital and how that mirrored national trends linking civil rights, blackness, and mental illness.

Author Birthdays: Franklin, Asimov, Michaels

January 2nd marks the birthday of authors John Hope Franklin, Isaac Asimov, and Leonard Michaels.

John Hope Franklin was an American historian who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His best known work is From Slavery to Freedom, which is often regarded as the definitive history of African-Americans, outlines African origins, slavery, and the fight for freedom.

Franklin's other works include Runaway Slaves: Rebels On The Plantation, a book about the resistance and escape of African-American slaves, and an autobiography which Library Journal described as "worth knowing and understanding because at its heart it is a particularly American story about the challenges of being black in this country, about personal triumphs, and about his feeling of urgency regarding the promises America has yet to realize."

Isaac Asimov is best known as a Russian-American science-fiction writer. Among his books, he is probably most widely recognized for his series, especially the Foundation series, which actually includes dozens of stories, one of them being the basis for the film I, Robot.

Asimov's many, many--and I mean many--other works include the two award-winners The Gods Themselves and The Bicentennial Man. There is also Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, which first came out in 1977, named for Asimov because of his huge standing in the science-fiction genre.

Leonard Michaels was an American writer of short stories, novels, and essays, who graduated with his Master's and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. One of his novels, Sylvia, is based upon his first wife, who committed suicide.

Michaels also wrote some autobiographical fiction collected in the book Shuffle. Publishers Weekly discusses it as "Created in fragments of journal entries, short stories and memoir-like confessions, a matrix of past and present formations is slowly brought into focus; thus, a life."

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