U-M creative writing alum to speak Friday

On Friday at 4 p.m., author and Nigerian priest Uwem Akpan -- a 2006 graduate of the U-M MFA creative writing program -- will speak at Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library about his debut short story collection, Say You're One of Them, which won a 2009 Oprah book award. The five stories in the book, set in five separate African countries, reflect the wisdom and resilience of children, even in horrible circumstances. At U-M, the author is a former Career-in-the-Making Fellow in the Institute for the Humanities.

AAFF Releases Unexplored Territories on DVD

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Even if you missed the 47th annual Ann Arbor Film Festival this past March, you can still experience nine of the award winning and favorite short films that were screened there. The AAFF has recently released the DVD collection titled Unexplored Territories, which promises to cross independent and experimental boundaries of film making. Also included on the DVD is a behind the scenes bonus film, "Making the Arbor Art Mobile."

Of the many intriguing inclusions here are Michael Langan's Dahlia (San Francisco, CA), which portrays "a stunning city-scape of San Francisco timed to beat box hypnotic breathe rhythms," and Jeremy Bailey's Video Terraform Dance Party (Toronto, Canada), a film that "provides comic relief and social commentary on ideas of gentrification through a live software performance, programmed by the filmmaker himself." The Library does not yet own Unexplored Territories but does have several copies of last year's AAFF DVD collection, Time Pieces.

Young People’s Literature Award announced by NBA

Claudette Colvin: Twice toward Justice was given the 2009 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. This biography tells about African American Claudette Colvin who at age 15 refused to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama. Her action in 1955 was nine months before Rosa Parks’ famous refusal to give up her bus seat.

Author Phillip Hoose told the audience it was “his job to pull her story out from under history's rug”. Based on extensive interviews with Claudette Colvin and many others, Hoose presents the first in-depth account of an important yet largely unknown civil rights figure, skillfully weaving her dramatic story into the fabric of the historic Montgomery bus boycott and court case that would change the course of American history. Ms. Colvin now 70 years old joined Hoose at the podium to accept the award.

What to read?

IMPACIMPAC

On November 2, the longlist was announced for the 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award - the largest prize worldwide for a single work of fiction published in English.

The prize is open to novels written in any language and by authors of any nationality, provided the work has been published in English or as an English translation. The annual award is €100,000 and is administered by Dublin City Public Libraries. The titles are nominated by 163 libraries in 43 different countries.

The list includes 156 authors from 46 countries, written in 18 languages. 41 are translated from languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, Icelandic, Serbian and Slovenian. 33 are first novels (Look for more FFF to come).

Among the nominated is the winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize - (The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga); the winner of the 2009 Commonwealth Writers Prize - (The Slap by Christos Tsiolka); the winner of the 2009 Orange Prize - (Home by Marilynne Robinson); and the winner of the 2009 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize - (The Armies by Evelio Rosero).

Dublin City Council will announce the shortlist on 14th April 2010. The Lord Mayor will reveal the winning novel on 17th June 2010.

Want to share your shortlist with us?

October Books to Film, Part 1

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An Education, winner of the Audience Choice award and the Cinematography award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival is adapted from British journalist Lynn Barber's "short, sharp" memoir (currently only available in the US @ amazon.com in the kindle edition).

Jenny, Oxford bound, is a bright young girl on the cusp of her 17th birthday who finds herself in a whirlwind romance with a much older David. Smooth, dashing and worldly, he offers Jenny the lifestyle she never imagined might so easily be hers and an education of another kind. Oxford goes out the window.

Critics like Rex Reed, Joe Morgenstern, Kenneth Turan and Peter Travers all agreed that Education is " one of the year's best" . With the script written by Nick Hornby, one could expect his trademark pitch-perfect dialogue, mordant wit and resonant humanity. (Limited release this weekend).

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is based on Tucker Max's shocking, ridiculous and hilarious real-life adventures - an impromptu bachelor party gone horribly awry thanks to a midget, a fat girl, a gaggle of strippers, public intoxication ordinances, and the consequence of Tucker’s unflinching narcissism and selfishness.

Where the Wild Things Are tells the story of Max, a rambunctious and sensitive boy who feels misunderstood at home and escapes to an island where he meets mysterious and strange creatures whose emotions are as wild and unpredictable as their actions.

The Wild Things, desperate for a leader, crowned Max king, and he soon finds that ruling his kingdom is not an easy thing. This animated feature film is adapted from Maurice Sendak's lovely tale that has captivated generations of young readers.

Teen Stuff: Spotlight on Pete Hautman

Pete Hautman is the National Book Award winning author of a strikingly unusual set of novels found in the AADL's Teen Fiction collection. Take his 1996 sci-fi, Mr. Was, where teenager Jack Lund discovers a secret door that takes him 50 years into the past inside the attic of a crumbling cliff estate that he and his mother share to escape from his abusive father. Or Invisible, the story of two boys who have been best friends forever, bound together by their fascination with fire though separated by their vastly different degrees of popularity at school.

Another great choice is the 2004 National Book Award winner, Godless, about Jason, a sharp 15-year-old who breaks from the tenets of his unshakably Catholic father and starts his own mock religion that worships the Ten-Legged God, a water tower at the center of town. One night's rituals on top of the water tower will test Jason, his religion, and his friendships in this quirky, yet thoughtful perspective on organized religion.

Harry Potter's Creator Denied U.S. Award

In the spirit of Banned Books Week, BBC News reported today that J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, was denied a top U.S. award because some White House officials believed her books encouraged witchcraft. According to the news article, Matt Latimer, a former speech writer for President Bush, said that certain members of the Bush administration prevented Rowling from receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom because they felt that the Harry Potter books promoted witchcraft.

The award has been given to other authors of challenged and banned books in the past, including John Steinbeck, author of The Grapes of Wrath, and Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird.

Teen Stuff: Being and Nothingness

In his 1943 essay, Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre claims, "It is evident that non-being always appears within the limits of a human expectation." Sartre's awareness of the ability of death and/or absence to create meaning in life continues to resonate with authors and readers sixty years later. What has brought the authors below to reexamine this theme of loss and recovery? The sudden destruction of the WTC towers perhaps, or the disappearance of a viable American job market, or maybe something darker still.

Take Gregory Galloway's 2005 fiction, As Simple As Snow, a teen/adult crossover novel about a homogenized high school boy whose life suddenly becomes meaningful when his quirky, spontaneous girlfriend disappears the day before Valentine's Day. Or Carol Plum-Ucci's 2001 Printz Honor Book, The Body of Christopher Creed, where the titular character's mysterious absence casts a menacing shadow over a small town, eventually exposing the dark secrets of the people closest to him. And in John Green's 2006 Printz Award Winner, Looking for Alaska, Miles Halter's new life at Culver Creek boarding school is everything he could have hoped for in the "great perhaps" he was seeking, until tragedy gives his life new focus. Check out all of these novels from the AADL today.

September's Books to Film

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Written by 2003 Nobel Prize laureate J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace was awarded the Man Booker Prize (1999). In stunning prose, it tells the story of Professor David Lurie's extended stay at his daughter's smallholding and the incident of unimaginable terror and violence that forces father and daughter to confront their strained relationship —and the equally complicated racial complexities of the new South Africa.

Starring John Malkovich, the film is shot in the ruggedly beautiful landscape outside of Cape Town, South Africa. See the New York Times review. Limited release September 18, nationally October 2nd.

The Informant, starring Matt Damon, is adapted from Kurt Eichenwald's 2000 bestseller, the "true story" about Mark Whitacre, a rising star at agri-industry giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) in the early 1990s, who blew the whistle on the company's price fixing tactics and became the highest-ranked executive to ever turn whistleblower in US history.

Coco avant Chanel (Coco before Chanel) is based on Edmonde Charles-Roux's biography of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, who begins her life as a headstrong orphan, and through an extraordinary journey, becomes the legendary couturier. In French - with Audrey Tautou playing the title role. Sumptuous cinematography and a sensational soundtrack.

60 Years of Honoring Great American Books

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For the first time in its history, the National Book Award for Fiction is open to public vote. To participate, cast your vote for your favorite National Book Award recipient from 1950 to 2008.

Why fiction? You might wonder. Well, for one thing, 74 of the 77 fiction winners are in-print and available, the highest percentage of any category. Here is a complete list of the winners.

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