Thanks to a friend and a book club, I attended the Metro Detroit Book and Author Society Luncheon held at Burton Manor in Livonia, MI. The annual luncheon features talks by well-known authors, and books are available for purchase and signing.
This year featured authors were Claire Messud, Chris Bohjalian, Heather Ann Thompson and Drew Philp, the later not able to attend. I believe this is the largest such organization in the US. Over 1000 readers were in attendance.
Claire Messud, an award winning author of six novels including The Woman Upstairs and The Emperor’s Children talked to the group about her latest book, The Burning Girl, a coming-of-age story and one that addresses the complexities of female friendship. The less glamorous friend is the narrator. Messud told the group she wrote the story about middle school friends because she believes that what happens in middle school determines who we are as adults. (I hope that is not true.) The story deals with how friendship unravels. Is that ever a happy story? As readers we bring our own stories to the story of any novel. We fill in the uncertainties of the story the author has written.
Heather Ann Thompson gave a short and dynamite talk about the writing of her Pulitzer Prize Winning nonfiction book, Blood In the Water. It chronicles the Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its legacy. She began by reminding us 2 million people are behind bars in our country. What a staggering statistic; these are humans. Her book opens with the heartbreaking conditions for those behind bars at the time of the uprising in New York State. For example the 1300 men at Attica had a square of toilet tissue per person a day for their use.
She gave her audience a real look at the behind-the-scenes writing of this book. Incarceration is a subject we all need to talk about. I agree with her. The statistics and conditions shake a person’s faith in human nature. She tells the story of what really happened in 1971, what was covered up, and ultimately what happened afterwards. It is difficult to know what is more frightening: the story of what happened, the cover-up or the difficulty she had in finding the truth and writing the story. Many of the readers I attended this function with found her a most dynamic speaker and several of us wanted to obtain and read this book, in spite of its length and depth of subject matter.
Chris Bohjalian shared information about his latest book The Sleepwalker and about the misunderstood subject of sleepwalking. This novel is described as a spooky thriller about sex, secrets and the mysteries of sleep.
I have been a fan of this writer for some time. I have loved many of his books and I know he is a writer who appreciates his readers. He answers my blogs and tweets about his books. Among those I expecially liked: The Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, Skeletons at the Feast, and The Light In the Ruins. I’ve never been disappointed in one of his books. In The Guest Room, readers learned about sex trafficking and now with The Sleepwalker, we have the opportunity to learn about sleepwalking.
Drew Philp is the author of the memoir A $500 House in Detroit, described by the society website as the true story of a recent college graduate who wandered into Detroit and bought a ruined hulk of a once-grand house in an attempt at urban homesteading and as part history, part social commentary, part memoir. Sound interesting, doesn’t it?
Thanks to the Metro Detroit Book and Author Society for this outstanding program and the opportunity to hear about writing books from writers. Listed below are author websites: