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Flint water crisis doctor, MC5 guitarist among Michigan Notables

It’s no coincidence that three Michigan Notable Book-recognized authors, Richard Ford, Michael Zadoorian and Josh Malerman, had their work turned into movies this past year.

The film adaptation of Malerman’s 2014 apocalyptic novel, “Bird Box,” starring Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich, is crushing the ratings on Netflix. Zadoorian, a Royal Oak native, also hit the big time with his novel “The Leisure Seeker,” starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland, which follows an aging couple on their final cross-country trip. The Pulitzer Prizewinning Ford also had one of his early books, “Wildlife,” adapted for the screen this year.

Ford once cautioned me not to measure an author’s worth by whether a book is made into a movie. Case in point: It took more than three decades for “A Confederacy of Dunces” to become a movie.

Another of Zadoorian’s books made the 2019 Michigan Notable Book list, “Beautiful Music,” tells the tale of a teenager’s love of music and how it enables him to rise above his father’s death and the resulting dysfunctional family life. The book, set in Detroit circa 1970, takes you back to the sights and sounds of that era.

Two books on the list about the Flint water crisis provide high drama speckled with corruption and greed. Anna Clark’s “The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy” is a piece of stunning investigative journalism, while Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s “What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance and Hope in an American City” towers among this year’s memoirs.

Two children’s picture books were singled out for their depiction of Michigan women.

Gary Schmidt’s “So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom” considers the life of the trail-blazing woman who was born a slave, and Lindsey McDivitt’s “Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story” is a look at the pioneering Michigan artist and entrepreneur.

Other books on the list: “Notes from a Public Typewriter,” by Michael Gustafson, which makes sense of the musings of bookstore customers, “Abbott;” a series comic book by Saladin Ahmed, turns to a journalist caught in a brutal and corrupt Detroit in ‘70s; “The Truth Lies Here,” by Lindsey Klingele, follows an aspiring journalist as she investigates some unusual happenings; “Across the Great Lake,” by Lee Zacharias, reflects on an 85-year-old boat ride across Lake Michigan through the eyes of a 5-yearold; and “Drum Roll, Please,” by Lisa Jenn Bigelow, shows how music and a same-sex love affair changes a teen girl’s life.

Also included on the list are five Detroit-centric books that explore the complexities and soaring accomplishments of Michigan’s largest city. “The Russian Five: A Story of Espionage, Defection, Bribery and Courage,” by Keith Gave, is the story of the Detroit Red Wings’ “recruitment” of Soviet Union hockey players.

Two books consider Detroit’s love of Faygo pop and pie. “Faygo Book,” by Joe Grimm, is a fascinating look into a mostly unknown history of this carbonated beverage and the family who created it. “Sister Pie: The Recipes & Stories of a Big-Hearted Bakery in Detroit,” by Lisa Ludwinski, isn’t a typical cookbook — although it does have 75 recipes. The bakery created a pay-forward system for customers wanting a piece of pie but without any money.

Two other Detroit loves — the rock group MC5 and modern architecture — provide the topics for these next two books. Wayne Kramer, one of the leaders of the MC5, leaves no drug or stone unturned in the memoir “Hard Stuff:

Dope, Crime, the MC5 & My Life of Impossibilities” and “Building the Modern World: Albert Kahn in Detroit,” by previous Notablewinner Michael Hodges, is the story of the amazing architect.

Anne-Marie Oomen scored two wins: one for “Lake Michigan Mermaid,” a poetic tale of friendship and the life giving power of water co-written with Linda Nemec Foster, and another for “Elemental: A Collection of Michigan Creative Nonfiction,” which she edited.

“Manoomin: The Story of Wild Rice in Michigan,” by Lansing resident Barbara J. Barton, was also singled out. The story of an Adrian, Michigan, all-star black baseball team from the 1890s will surprise a lot of readers. “The Page Fence Giants: A History of Black Baseball’s Pioneering Champions,” by Mitch Lutzke, is the first book written about this incredible team.

Finally, a book that could be easily overlooked in the deserved first-lady frenzy of Michele Obama’s memoir is the biography “Betty Ford: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer,” by Lisa McCubbin.

The 2019 Michigan Notable Book List is issued each year by the Library of Michigan, and to be considered for the list authors must be from Michigan or write about Michigan. The authors will be feted at “The Night for Notables” on April 6 at the Library of Michigan. City Pulse is a cosponsor of the event. This writer serves on the selection committee.


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