Tag Archives: Chelsea Michigan

Midwest Literary Walk 2017: Part 2

11 May

Welcome to part 2 of my recap of the Midwest Literary Walk in Chelsea, Michigan. This is my second time attending and it was, again, a great experience.

The second stop on the walk was a non-fiction author, Heather Ann Thompson, who won the Pulitzer Prize in History for her book, Blood in the Water. Thompson was interested in the high rates of incarceration in the US versus other countries and wanted to know why. She traced this back to a single incident, the Attica Prison uprising in New York. The story of Attica that was released to the public at the time painted the prisoners in a very dark light, blaming them for the deaths of guards and soldiers brought in to settle the uprising. The truth that Thompson was able to uncover was that the state shut down access to the prison, brought soldiers into violently take the prison with no intention of settling for the prisoner’s demands, and changed the story to encourage a punitive system in America. Thompson took thirteen years to write her book because she had so much trouble getting records that were not redacted too far to read or were not released to the public. She’s fighting for safe conditions for those incarcerated and transparency of what goes on a public (state and national) jails. Thompson thinks there was direction from a national level but wasn’t able to find any proof or ‘smoking gun’ as she said she was looking for. There are some fingers to point at the state level for sure.

Airea D. Matthews and moderator

The final stop was for poet Airea D. Matthews. She’s local to Detroit and has been active in the spoken word poetry scene for a long time before moving to written poetry. She said she started writing when she was a stay-at-home mom. She felt people judged her for not having a traditional job. She likes to write about a person’s hidden identity, one that is not immediately visible such as what we inherit from our parents. She was talking specifically about disease and inclinations toward additions and abuse. She feels that sharing her struggles helps her create a kinship with her readers. I noticed during her speech that she is very open and spoke about her struggles with mental illness very plainly. She said multiple times that she has become comfortable being uncomfortable.

This was a really great event and I’m so thankful that I live within driving distance of it. I look forward to going for years to come.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Midwest Literary Walk 2017: Part 1

9 May

Palacio, Ho Davis, and moderator.

I’m very fortunate to live reasonably close to Chelsea, Michigan, home of the Midwest Literary Walk. I’ve decided to split the day into two posts because there’s way too much to share for one!

My friend Amy and I met up again for this event. It was a bit overcast, but a nice day compared to the weather we’ve been having in Southeast Michigan. The first event was Peter Ho Davis and Derek Palacio. I thought these two made for an odd pairing, but their books shared very similar themes. Both men wrote books about immigrants and each shares a heritage with the group they wrote about. The men saw it as a way to explore their heritage.

Ho Davis wrote in The Fortunes about Chinese immigration to the US. He went to China to do research for the book and had the odd feeling of not being Chinese. In the US and UK, people see him as Chinese instead of Welsh (where his other parent comes from). In China, he wasn’t seen as Chinese and it fostered a feeling of rejection. Ho Davis and Palacio both expressed anxieties about having the right to write about their cultures. Both had a generation’s remove from the people and places they were writing about and feared that they would not represent the place well.

Ho Davis’s book is split into several parts. He drew from historical figures for some of his characters, especially in the first part. He was able to incorporate some historical events as well. He pointed out to us that during the Gold Rush, much of the Chinese immigration was male, men coming to work. A lot of recent Chinese immigration has been through international adoption which has been highly female. I’d never thought about gender waves of immigration before. Speaking of being a writer, Ho Davis said that his parents stopped telling him as many stories as they had in his youth. Also, they’ve begun correcting some of the ones they used to tell. Oh, the power of the pen.

Derek Palacio didn’t go to Cuba until after The Mortifications was finished. He’d questioned if he could be Cuban if he’d never been to Cuba. The two discussed a feeling common to immigrants or the children of immigrants of being caught between two identities, one from the homeland and another from the new home. They both wanted to write about how impossible it is to leave your homeland behind. It comes with you and you have to adjust to where you end up.

Palacio’s characters did not live in Miami as one would expect with Cuban immigrants. Palacio didn’t grow up in Florida himself and put them in the Northeast to make them more relatable to himself. I was really intrigued by Palacio’s story especially considering my education in Spanish language, culture, and literature. I was surprised to read in his bio that his wife is Claire Vaye Watkins, the author whose book I got at the 2016 event. I asked Palacio for some advice on writing and told him I wanted to be a novelist. His advice was not to save something ‘good’ for the end of the book. He said to throw it in and see what happens. Maybe what comes from that event will be what’s really of interest.

I’ll be back Thursday with Part 2 of this event. Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!