Prolific poverty expert chosen by U-M

A leading expert on poverty and women's issues will become dean of the U-M School of Social Work, if U-M regents approve. Laura Lein, of the University of Texas, was chosen as the new dean, according to a U-M press release. Read more in The Ann Arbor News.

Finally! It IS easy to be green!

If you are like me, you are interested in being more socially responsible, like going beyond simple recycling and doing your part to help save our planet for future generations, but you don't have lots of money and time to devote to "going green". Sound familiar? If so, then you need to get yourself a copy of Renee Loux's Easy green living : the ultimate guide to simple, eco-friendly choices for you and your home. This lifestyle guide is PACKED with information about the simple, affordable choices we can make to avoid toxins, conserve natural resources and generally be more eco-smart. Whether you choose to take tiny baby steps or completely overhaul your wasteful self, you will find the answers you need. One of my favorite easy eco-tips is the following: "About 100 million trees and 28 billion gallons of water are used annually to produce the 5.8 million tons of catalogs and unsolicited wads of preapproved credit card offers and other junk that arrive at our homes - 44 percent of which are thrown away unopened....Stop credit card offers. Go to, where the consumer credit report industry lets you opt out of receiving preapproved and prescreened credit card offers." Now imagine if we all did that!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #119

In Finding Nouf*, young, privileged Nouf disappears just before her wedding. Her wealthy Saudi family first hires desert tracker Nayir al-Sharqi to find her and then to investigate her death discreetly.

Nayir, a conservative Palestinian Muslim finds it difficult to traverse the world of women, especially with Katya Hijazi - an intelligent, insightful female medical examiner, and his unexpected ally in the investigations.

Debut novelist Zoë Ferraris, who has lived in Saudi Arabia, "gets deep inside Nadir’s and Katya’s very different perspectives, giving a fascinating glimpse into the workings and assumptions of Saudi society." As a mystery, it's fairly well-turned, "but it's the characters and setting that sparkle". An utterly gripping read.

* = Starred Reviews

Brothers, Sisters, Life and Death

Apples and Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found by Marie Brenner is an artfully constructed memoir that calls attention to an astounding number of life issues, including sibling issues. What drew me to the book was that my older brother gave it to me, but what kept me reading was the author’s sharp reporting and frankness. A chorus of favorable reviews is here.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #112

Malaysian Preeta Samarasan scores high marks with critics for her debut Evening is the Whole Day*.

This impressive novel is based on an earlier version that won the 2005-6 Avery and Jule Hopwood Awards while Preeta Samarasan (check out her website) was a graduate student at The University of Michigan.

On the outskirts of Ipoh (Malaysia), The Rajasekharans, a wealthy Indian family, suffers a series of personal and familial tragedies that begin with the death of the matriach, Paati, and the disgraceful dismissal of a young servant girl. Most affected by all of the uproar is 6 year-old Aasha, who is harboring a secret that could further devastate not only her family, but the entire community.

Samarasan "scores impressively with the creation of an intimate, gossipy omniscient narrative voice that's the perfect vehicle for her slowly unfloding, intricately layered story".

For fans of Kiran Desai and Arundhati Roy.

Insight into Amish Culture

Although it is an older release, Randy-Michael Testa's After the Fire: Destruction of the Lancaster County Amish (1992) is an interesting read which provides insight into the lifestyles of the Amish. The book can be easily paired with the movie Witness (1985), yet another older release showcasing Harrison Ford. Both pieces are good for illustrating a picture of Amish living; however, Testa's book is the product of his thesis work and can be somewhat statistical at times. The book was written while Testa lived within the Lancaster community, among one of the Amish families, and it is helpful to read the book's foreward. For more information on one of the major issues discussed in the book, feel free to also check out this website, but read the book first!

Forgiveness May Be Good For You

Do you think that you are a forgiving person? Take a quiz to find out.

What's so great about forgiveness? Turns out, the act of forgiveness may benefit you and the people around you. The Power of Forgiveness is an incredible film that takes a look at forgiveness from the perspectives of academic research, faith, and the victim. Check it out.

Pedal Power

Hey Commuter Challenge enthusiasts! Check out the book Pedal Power: The Quiet Rise of the Bicycle in American Public Life. DePaul University Professor J. Harry Wray takes a look at how the simple act of riding a bike may impact perceptions of the world. Professor Wray says, "Because the world is experienced in a different way on a bike than it is in a car, the rider inevitably thinks of that world differently than does the driver." (page 18). The author had the idea for the "Biking and Politics" class in which he and his students ride 35 miles through the South and West side of Chicago.

Affordable Housing in Ann Arbor


The Housing and Human Services Advisory Board will hold a Public Meeting on Tuesday, May 13, 6 - 8:30 p.m. to discuss recommendations on the replacement of the 100-affordable housing units at the former YMCA. The meeting will be held at the Washtenaw County Building, 200 N. Main, Lower Level Conference Room. Following a 15-minute presentation, the public is invited to comment. CTN will replay the meeting throughout the week.

Poet Marvin Bell on Politics and Aging

Marvin Bell is now retired from teaching poetry at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, but this wordsmith isn't slowing down. His nineteenth book, Mars Being Red, is a gutsy meditation on politics and aging. In "I Didn't Sleep," we read "I thought maybe I could sleep after the war / or catch a nap after the next election." And from "Assisted Living Quarters," Bell observes "All / the mothers have seventy-year-old babies." These are difficult themes for poems without coming across preachy or trite. Bell succeeds with measured doses of humor and grace, surprise and anger, and a fearless spirit.

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