Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own

Kate Bolick’s 2011 Atlantic cover story “All the Single Ladies,” abruptly started a much-needed conversation about the role of single women in America, and about how our increasing numbers are changing contemporary culture. Stating that she “wanted to take advantage of the intimacy that a book offers, and draw the reader into my imaginary life, to better share the nuances of my single experience,” Bolick expanded the article into the recently published book Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own. The book’s premise is that solitude is a thing to treasure, not fear. How do women who are living, working, and aging alone construct meaningful lives? How do single women find a sense of community while also embracing their solitude—be it temporary or permanent? Bolick emphasizes that the number of women living alone in this country continues to increase: we marry later, the divorce rate is high, and life expectancies are getting longer. All these factors contribute to the 50% of women who consider themselves single today.

It’s refreshing to see the typical stereotypes of spinsters—cat ladies, strange aunts, etc—debunked in Bolick’s book. She highlights women like herself who have chosen to put work, friends, hobbies, travel, and other pursuits at the center of their lives. Of course, she also writes candidly about the challenges of a single life. Spinster offers a fresh look at singlehood, and the unique chances that it offers to live our lives authentically.

Library Lists: Americana

The amazing variation of lifestyles in the United States make for fascinating literary portraits of the people, families and groups living in this country. Compiled here are ten amazing books, both fiction and nonfiction, that explore deeply the culture and beliefs of our nation.

South of Superior: An eye-opening book, set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, that offers subtle explanations for why people make the choices that they do, and why we often find ourselves unable to escape our pasts.

Shotgun Lovesongs: A moving portrait of the relationships between four men who all grew up in the same small Wisconsin town, and of what holds them there and what drives them away.

Rock Springs: In ten stories all set in the American West, author Richard Ford employs carefully sculpted prose to explore the themes of loneliness and hope that permeate the lives of people who live there.

A Thousand Acres: Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is unexpectedly fast-paced and shocking. Set on a family farm in Iowa, the exclusion of the youngest daughter from the will sets off a chain of events that bring long-suppressed truths and emotions to the surface. Also try Smiley’s most recent book, Some Luck, for another fantastic American family drama.

Pulphead: Essays: Author John Jeremiah Sullivan takes readers on a whirlwind tour of America’s cultural landscape, describing unique aspects of popular culture and drawing forgotten and unknown groups and areas into the light.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café: Fannie Flagg’s classic novel takes place simultaneously in the 1980s and 1920s, and has been beloved since its initial publication in 1987. Fried Green Tomatoes is he story of the famous Whistle Stop Café, operational from the 1920s-1960s and the amazing cast of characters that kept it operational, as well as of modern-day woman, Evelyn, who is inspired to change her life after hearing stories about the Whistle Stop Café from a woman living at the nursing home where she visits her mother-in-law weekly. Many of Flagg’s other books are also hilarious and heartwarming portrayals of life in the South.

Winesburg, Ohio has been touted as one of the 100 greatest novels of all time. Before Richard Ford, there was Sherwood Anderson, who wrote Winesburg, Ohio in 1919 and, with it, evoked “with lyrical simplicity quiet moments of epiphany in the lives of ordinary men and women.”

The English Major: Jim Harrison tells a unique version of the American road trip story through the eyes of protagonist Cliff, a divorced sixty-something ex-teacher who has just lost his share of the family farm. His adventures take him on a whirlwind tour of America, on a personal mission to rename all the states with names he feels are better suited.

Prodigal Summer: Barbara Kingsolver’s 2000 book is set in rural Appalachia, and delves deeply into three separate storylines that gradually merge together with Kingsolver’s expert grace.

East of Eden: Described as Steinbeck's magnum opus, the sprawling novel follows the destinies of two families in the Salinas Valley in California whose lives mirror the fall of Adam and Eve and rivalry between Cain and Abel. Even those who typically don’t enjoy Steinbeck have a soft spot for East of Eden and its intensely developed characters and faster-paced action.

Want more Americana? Check out this list for tons more books, both classics and lesser-knowns, on traditional and non-traditional American culture.

Film & Discussion: Race To Nowhere

Wednesday March 18, 2015: 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm -- Downtown Library Multi-Purpose Room

This event is intended for adults and teens grade 9 and up.

Parents today are expected to raise high-achieving children, skilled in a multitude of talents, and ready to respond to many complex challenges. Bombarded by academic standards, competition for educational opportunities, and run-away schedules, young people struggle to accommodate the intense demands. From preschool through college, children are pressured, pushed, coached, sculpted, scheduled and reviewed, running a never-ending gauntlet towards adulthood.

Race To Nowhere, rated PG-13, is a call to families, educators, experts and policy makers to examine current assumptions on how to best prepare the youth of America to become the healthy, bright, contributing and leading citizens in the 21st century.

A community discussion led by Elizabeth Koschmann, PhD, Research Investigator in the U-M Department of Psychiatry and a member of the U-M Depression Center, will follow this screening.

The End of Always deals beautifully with timeless issues

The setting of the new book The End of Always, by Randi Davenport, is unexpectedly haunting: turn-of-the-century Waukesha, Wisconsin, provides a stark backdrop to the chilling story that Davenport unveils slowly to readers. Seventeen-year-old Marie Reehs is consumed with memories of her mother, who died in a mysterious accident to which her father was the only witness. In her heart, Marie knows that her violent, abusive father murdered her mother, but her older sister is desperate to keep what remains of the family together and begs Marie to forget what she has seen. As Marie toils away every day at the local laundry, she vows that she will not marry a violent man, as seems to be the legacy for the women in her family. When she starts a love affair with a handsome and charismatic young man, she thinks that he may be the answer to her prayers for freedom, but readers must press on until the end of this luminescent book to find out if Marie will be able to break free from the Reehs women’s dark family curse.

Reading about domestic violence in a historical context was interesting and eye-opening. Although difficult to read at times, The End of Always is ultimately an uplifting and powerful story of a courageous woman trying to take charge of her own life.

Center for Japanese Studies Special Event

Each year, approximately 30,000 Japanese die by suicide, a rate nearly double that of the U.S. The Center for Japanese Studies is hosting a local effort to educate the public about this problem by sponsoring a series of three free events over three days that combines film, lecture and discussion. It begins Thursday, February 5th, 12-1:30 at the School of Social Work with four brief presentations by Japanese Studies experts and U of M faculty, under the theme "Beyond Seppuku: A multidisciplinary Context to Suicide in Japan". On Friday, February 6th from 6:00-8:00 PM will be the screening of the award winning documentary Saving 10,000: Winning a War on Suicide in Japan at Palmer Commons. A discussion on suicide issues in the Japanese population will be led by a diverse panel after the screening.On Saturday, February 7th from 10:00 AM-Noon at the Holiday Inn, Livonia this film will be screened and the discussion afterword will be in Japanese. For more information email: umcjs@umich.edu

Josephine Baker Biography

If Jacqueline Woodson’s award-winning memoir Brown Girl Dreaming has you craving more stories-in-verse that share the African-American experience, check out this fantastic title:

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker written by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Christian Robinson is picture-book biography of dancer Josephine Baker. Beginning with her childhood in the segregated South, the book traces her life as a teenager in a traveling dance troupe, her star-making Paris debut, her work as a spy during World War II, and her adoption of twelve children of different nationalities, always highlighting her desire for racial acceptance. With its bright, bold illustrations and free-verse text that mixes quotations from Baker with energetic narration, this 100-page picture book is a perfect showcase for the dancer’s story.

Grief 101: What To Expect When Grieving

Tuesday October 6, 2015: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Pittsfield Branch: Program Room

Presented by Arbor Hospice’s Grief Support Services, this educational meeting will provide you with the resources and information you are looking for when coping with the loss of a loved one. The session will help examine what is normal during the grief process, strategies for coping, suggestions for self-care, and what support is available to you. There will be time for questions at the end.

Arbor Hospice is a community resource that provides grief support services to any member of our community who has experienced a loss through death. In addition to providing support services to family members who have utilized Arbor Hospice’s services, programs are open to any member of the community who has experienced a loss.

For more information about Arbor Hospice Grief Support Services, please call 734-794-5460 or contact mschultz@arborhospice.org.

Ann Arbor Elections: What Works? What Doesn’t?

Tuesday March 3, 2015: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

This event will be recorded

The League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area (LWV-AAA) host this first in a series of two public conversations on the current process of electing local public officials. This session will explore both the strengths and weaknesses of our current system, discussing such issues as voter turn-out, student participation, and cost in terms of both dollars and effort of running for office, independent candidates, and other related topics.

Panelists include David Askins, former Editor of the Ann Arbor Chronicle; Lou Belcher, former Mayor of Ann Arbor; and Jean Carlberg, former City Council Member.

Hot Holiday Meals for the Hungry

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The Salvation Army will co-host a dinner TODAY, Wednesday November 26th, with the Ypsilanti Free Methodist Church from 4:30-6:30 PM. Be sure to RSVP by calling either the Salvation Army or the church to enjoy a meal and fellowship at 734-482-2055. St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Ann Arbor will serve its daily hot breakfast on Thanksgiving from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. as it does every day of the year. The Original Cottage Inn will offer its annual Thanksgiving meal for the needy and homeless, a tradition that dates back more than 30 years. The dinner is served on Thanksgiving between 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor will have hourly shuttles from the Delonis Shelter to its Thanksgiving Meal, the first one leaves at 11:00 am, the last will leave at 5:00 PM.

There are also churches in Ypsi providing meals: St. Matthew's United Methodist Church, 1344 Borgstrom Ave. from 2:00-5:00 PM; Brown Chapel AME Church, 1043 W. Michigan on Thanksgiving, right after a worship service beginning at 10:00 AM. People are welcome to attend the service but it's not required.

How Faith Communities Can Change the World One Meal at a Time

Thursday March 19, 2015: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

This event is intended for adults and teens grades 9 and up.
This event will be recorded

In this event, part of a year-long Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice program entitled Food & Justice: An Interfaith Exploration of How Our Food Choices Impact Our Environment, Our Economy and Our Neighbors, a panel of interfaith leaders will explore how their faith traditions take on issues of food justice and how their communities are making a meaningful impact in all areas of the food system addressing issues like hunger, worker's rights and climate change.

Hosted by Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice and Interfaith Round Table, the panelists include: Reverend Ryan Boes, Ann Arbor Christian Reformed Church; Yusuf Salloum, Islamic Center of Ann Arbor; Julie Ritter, Jewel Heart Ann Arbor; Reverend Kristin Reigel, First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor; and Rabbi Rob Dobrusin, Beth Israel Congregation.

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