March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Bonnie Jo Campbell kicks off a series devoted to authors addressing Michigan life


Wednesday, Jan. 25 — Michigan State University associate dean and writing professor Edward Watts wants to make the Midwest less of a flyover zone when it comes to literature. Watts, who has long been teaching the works of Midwest writers, is the driving force behind a series of three events featuring Michigan writers who delve into socioeconomic issues.

The first offering of “Fiction & Michigan’s Public Concerns” features National Book Award nominee Bonnie Jo Campbell, who will be on a panel with a professor who writes about addiction, the director of the State Police Meth Task Force and a neuroscientist who specializes in addictive drugs. Campbell’s book, “American Salvage,” is a series of interconnected short stories set in rural Michigan; many of them involve meth and its aftermath.

Campbell and the addiction experts will speak at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road, in East Lansing.

White says literary works have often used contemporary social problems to tell a good story. He cited mid-19th-century Michigan writer Caroline Kirkland, whose book, “A New Home — Who’ll Follow,” in which a settler terrorizes a family while drunk on homemade whiskey.

Other programs in the series:

  • Lolita Hernandez, author of “Autopsy of an Engine,” showcases factory life in Detroit at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22, at the UAW Local 652, 426 Clare St. in Lansing
  • At 4 p.m. Thursday, March 22, author Joseph Heywood discusses writing about a Michigan “woods cop” who becomes entangled in issues as varied as poaching, invasive species and illegal drugs; the location of Heywood’s event is to be announced.