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."

Author Birthdays: Miller, Toomer, Sedaris

December 26th marks the birthday of authors Henry Miller, Jean Toomer, and David Sedaris.

Henry Miller was an American writer whose book Tropic of Cancer was tried as "obscene" in the U.S. Supreme Court; the book was found to be a work of literature, and was then published.

Almost all of Miller's works are at least semi-autobiographical. Among such "fictional" novels are the three books of the series The Rosy Crucifixion: Sexus, Plexus, and Nexus. The first discusses his divorce and remarriage, the second describes his second marriage and struggle to find himself, and the third focuses on his problems with his second wife and her lover.

Jean Toomer was an American writer and figure of the Harlem Renaissance, and grandson of the first African-American governor of a U.S. state. His novel Cane, a short story cycle, describes the origins of African-Americans in the United States; the most well-known of the stories within the novel is called "Harvest Song".

While he is most well known for Cane, Toomer also wrote many essays on race relations, as well as literary criticisms of other authors--many of these are collected in one volume.

David Sedaris is an American writer and humorist, and brother to actress and fellow author Amy Sedaris, with whom he has written plays under the name "The Talent Family".

Sedaris mostly writes short, autobiographical stories, almost always funny. My personal favorite is Me Talk Pretty One Day, which discusses very important and serious subjects like menu options and mistaken identity. His latest, however, called Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, is animal-related, and looks to be pretty hilarious itself.

Pulitzer-Winning Play Adapted for the Silver Screen

The recently released film For Colored Girls is based on the 1975 Pulitzer-winning play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange, long considered to be a landmark piece in African American literature.

Billed as "a theatrical celebration, in verse and prose, of being female and black, it incorporates the triumphs, joys, griefs, and losses of black women in America".

The original text is in the form for a "choreopoem" - consisting of a series of 20 poems. It is performed by a cast of seven women characters, each of whom is known only by a color. Written, directed and produced by Tyler Perry, the film features Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, Thandie Newton, Loretta Devine, Anika Noni Rose, among others.

Check out the movie reviews by New York Times and Variety.

Ann Arbor Blues in Black & White

Lightnin' Hopkins, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, B. B. King, Albert King, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner, Junior Wells--that's the short list. The Ann Arbor blues festivals of 1969 and 1970 saw one of the most astonishing lineups of musical artists of any genre at any time (including the more famed Woodstock festival of 1969).

"Were you there?" was the question many blues fans were asking each another in 1969. But they didn't mean Woodstock, they meant Ann Arbor.

Michael and Stanley and thousands of others were here in Ann Arbor to witness and facilitate the spread of electric city blues as it made its way from the small Chitlin' Circuit to an enthusiastic larger audience hungry for this new, powerful roots-inspired American "folk" music.

Join us Thursday, August 19, 7-9 p.m. as Michael Erlewine, chronicler of popular music and founder of the largest music review database in the world, All-Music Guide, discusses Blues in Black & White: The Landmark Ann Arbor Blues Festivals, with stunning photographs by Stanley Livingston. A book signing, with books for sale, will follow the talk.

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