Dec 13

Addiction by Design Casino Gambling Book

Recent decades have seen a dramatic shift away from social forms of gambling played around roulette wheels and card tables to solitary gambling at electronic terminals. Slot machines, revamped by ever more compelling digital and video technology, have unseated traditional casino games as the gambling industry’s revenue mainstay. Addiction by Design takes readers into the intriguing world of machine gambling, an increasingly popular and absorbing form of play that blurs the line between human and machine, compulsion and control, risk and reward.

Drawing on fifteen years of field research in Las Vegas, anthropologist Natasha Dow Schüll shows how the mechanical rhythm of electronic gambling pulls players into a trancelike state they call the “machine zone,” in which daily worries, social demands, and even bodily awareness fade away. Once in the zone, gambling addicts play not to win but simply to keep playing, for as long as possible–even at the cost of physical and economic exhaustion. In continuous machine play, gamblers seek to lose themselves while the gambling industry seeks profit. Schüll describes the strategic calculations behind game algorithms and machine ergonomics, casino architecture and “ambience management,” player tracking and cash access systems–all designed to meet the market’s desire for maximum “time on device.” Her account moves from casino floors into gamblers’ everyday lives, from gambling industry conventions and Gamblers Anonymous meetings to regulatory debates over whether addiction to gambling machines stems from the consumer, the product, or the interplay between the two.

Addiction by Design is a compelling inquiry into the intensifying traffic between people and machines of chance, offering clues to some of the broader anxieties and predicaments of contemporary life. At stake in Schüll’s account of the intensifying traffic between people and machines of chance is a blurring of the line between design and experience, profit and loss, control and compulsion.


Natasha Dow Schüll is associate professor in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Schüll graduated Summa Cum Laude from UC Berkeley’s Department of Anthropology in 1993 and returned to receive her PhD in 2003. She held postdoctoral positions as a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at Columbia University’s Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy and as a fellow at NYU’s International Center for Advanced Studies. She was a professor at MIT from 2007-2015, before joining the faculty at New York University. Schüll’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among other sources.

Schüll’s research and op-eds have been featured in such national media venues as 60 minutes, The New York Times, The Economist, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Capital Gazette, Financial Times, Forbes, Boston Globe, Salon, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Daily Herald, Las Vegas Sun, 99% Invisible, NPR, WGBH, and WNYC.



Mar 13

Michigan Antiquarian Book Show attracts collectors

Booksellers from across the Midwest are packing boxes this week with books of all stripes for the 59th Michigan Antiquarian Book & Paper Show which will be held Sunday April 6 at the Lansing Center, 333 E. Michigan Ave.

Show hours are 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. and admission is $4.50 with children under 13 free.

The show attracts collectors of all categories and Ray Walsh of Curious Book Shop in East Lansing Michigan emphasizes that the show isn’t just for high-end collectors who are looking for a first edition of J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye”, but also is geared for beginning collectors or those who are looking for unusual books to read.

In addition to books, the more than 65 dealers will be selling maps, postcards, advertising items, sports material, autographs, sheet music and just about every type of ephemera you can imagine.

Dealers at the Spring sale like to showcase new items in their inventory, gathered over the Winter.
When the doors open at 9:30 a.m. there is a flurry of activity as collectors head off to their favorite dealers to see what they are offering, quickly moving from one dealer to the next. In a couple hours the crowd begins to methodically walk up and down the aisles to slowly browse the dealer’s booth.

Many collectors also like the idea that twice a year they get to run into other collectors to talk about their collections and to catch up on the world of books.

In the world of e-books one thing that hasn’t diminished is the passion for collecting print books and you will see  some of the most passionate people in the world at the 59th Antiquarian Book & Paper Show. For more information on the show visit Curious Book Shop online and for a complete list of dealers and their specialties go Lansing City Pulse.

Jan 13

Poet Thomas Lynch to speak about the language of death

Lynch to speak in Lansing Michigan 7:30 p.m., Thursday September 23 at Creole Gallery, 1218 Turner Street.

There are plethora of celebrity chefs and to some extent celebrity duck hunters, but there is only one celebrity mortician. Thomas Lynch of Milford, Michigan has been a mortician for nearly four decades as director of Lynch & Sons Funeral Home and almost as long he has been a poet, essayist and lecturer gathering national and international awards and accolades for his writing. He speaks what has been called the language of mourning.

This past year, was a sad one for Lynch burying two of his great pals and fellow poets Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney and Dennis O’Driscoll, both from Ireland where Lynch traces his roots and now owns an ancestral cottage in Moveen, County Clare.
In his career, Lynch who was a finalist for the National Book Award has repeatedly returned to write about what he knows-death-as he did in “The Undertaking: Life Studies of the Dismal Trade”. This past year was no different, revisiting one of his favorite characters Argyle, a sin eater, in “The Sin Eater: A Breviary”, a collection of poetry and co-authoring “The Good Funeral” a book on contemporary funeral practices and their modern idiosyncrasies which Lynch and his co-author, Thomas G. Long, a theologian, feel “have gone astray”.

Lynch said the book was written as a guide for seminarians, clergy, morticians-in-training and funeral directors, but it has also garnered a wider readership outside the profession of death.
“The single most evident thing we’ve lost (in modern funerals) is the welcome we extend to the corpse-the dead guy,” Lynch said. As anyone knows who has been to a funeral lately the corpse is often absent burned up earlier leaving us with scrapbook photos and accolades all around.
“These celebrations of life are noted for fine finger food and everyone is invited. What is missing is the dead guy,” he said.
Lynch said he traces the unraveling of funeral traditions to Jessica Mitford’s stinging (and very funny) 1963 (updated 1998) book “The American Way of Death” on funerals and the subsequent, 1965 dark-comedy movie “The Loved One” co-written by Terry Southern and Christopher Isherwood.
“Mitford had a lot to do with it and frankly there was a lot to laugh at,” Lynch said.
The Milford mortician who comes from a family of morticians which included his father and six brothers and sisters strongly believes that too many funerals have become “a kind of performance art-karaoke-and funeral lite.”
Although Lynch has an entertaining way of criticizing modern funeral practices he is deadly serious when he says modern funerals lack the gravity of the graveside service where mourners wonder what’s going to happen to them in death.
“We talk about the dead in terms of bike rides and long walks and we’re burying hobbyists not Methodists,” he said.
He particularly thinks that the corpse must be present at the ceremony of death.
“We wouldn’t go to a baptism without the baby or a wedding without the bride,” he asks rhetorically.
“Too many dead are put away by cell phone and credit card, when we should go there (the gravesite) to the edge of oblivion and ask ourselves serious questions. He himself travelled half across the world to attend funeral services for O’Driscoll and Heaney where he watched the casket being lowered into the ground.
In another form, through Argyle, the irreverent sin-eater, Lynch pillories his own religious training and beliefs. In “Sin Eater” he writes “I was raised by Irish Catholics. Even as I write that it sounds like “wolves”.
In his “Introit” or introduction to the poetry collection Lynch tells stories of his own family and the many superstitions his ancestors brought with them to America. The myth of a sin eater is one of them and it was believed that a sin eater by eating a loaf of bread and drinking beer in the presence of a corpse takes on that person’s sins. A funeral goer should keep that in mind the next time he sits down for a post funeral luncheon.
Lynch describes the sin eater in an autobiographical sense as his “mouthpiece for my mixed religious feelings” and calls himself “seriously devout and devoutly lapsed.”

Through the voice of Argyle, in the poem “He Consider Not the Lillies but Their Excellencies”, he questions “the intentions of the Episcopal vexations: their excellencies, eminences and graces, red cassocked dandies and mitered wankers…For all their vestiture, rings and unctions, preaching to bishops, like farting at skunks, was nothing but a mug’s game to the sin eater.”
Lynch admits that poetry has moved him closer to his religious upbringing where as a young boy he was thought to have a vocation. The funeral director still greatly admires the “priest, or pastor, rabbi or imam” who he describes as the “infantry and holy corpsmen in the wars long waged between faith and fear.”
He says in the Introit in “Sin Eater” that “the church has long suffered from mostly self-inflicted wounds and mostly at the hands of upper echelon sorts.”
Throughout the collection of poetry, Argyle when he sits with the dead questions his own complex being which clearly Lynch believes “is us.”
Adding a delight to the 25 poems in the “Sin Eater” is a collection of photographs by Michael Lynch who like his father and grandfather before him is a funeral director. The elder Lynch has also placed his poems in varying locations in Ireland providing a pleasant excursion across the verdant landscape of what he calls “Holy Ireland”.
Lynch will be a guest of the Old Town Poetry Series at Creole Gallery, 1218 Turner St., Lansing Michigan 7:30 p.m., Thursday January 23. There is a suggested donation of $5, $3 for students.

Nov 13

A pie cookbook that is perfect for the holidays

Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber and national pie-baking champion Linda Hundt have more in common than just winning spirits and a shared hometown of DeWitt: One of Hundt’s 52 pie recipes in her new cookbook, “Sweetie-licious Pies: Eat Pie, Love Life” was inspired by Wieber. Hundt, who has won 16 Crisco National Pie championships, named one of her pies Jordyn’s True Champion Blueberry Raspberry Cherry Pie and called Wieber “our hometown sweetheart.”

Hundt, in a interview at her redolent and kitschy-by-design Sweetie-licious Bakery Café, 108 N. Bridge St. in DeWitt, said her mission is to change the world “one pie at a time.” If the steady stream of customers on a recent Friday is any indication of success, she is well on her way.

Hundt said when she opened her bakerycafé in 2005, people told her DeWitt was too small. But she has transformed her little corner of the world into a retro 1950s pink paean to what she likes to refer to as “simple and lovely.” At any given time, Sinatra or Crosby could be crooning on the sound system.

One of her creations, Laura’s Sticky Toffee Pudding Caramel Apple Pie, was named “best apple pie in America” by Food & Wine magazine. On Labor Day, she took her award-winning pies and the upbeat ‘50s design to Grand Rapids where she set up shop at the city’s new $30 million Downtown Market.

“It has a big city feel and we had 30,000 (guests) at the grand opening,” she said. Once Hundt took the leap into the competitive world of food service, she did not shy away from success. She’s been on “The Today Show,” and the Food Channel and has received many accolades for her creative and tasty pies. One of her bigger media events last year was when Mitt and Ann Romney made Sweetie-licious a stop on the campaign trail to help her make cherry pies. A photo of Hundt and the Romneys graced The New York Times.

Hundt’s natural tele-presence might very soon lead to a national reality TV program (she is in negotiations). The new cookbook also continues to showcase her deep community roots. Her mother, Joan McComb, wrote the foreword, and a photo of her family on bicycles shows up before shots of any of her delicious pies. Her daughters Betsie, a Central Michigan University student, and Ellie, a food scientist in Nebraska, still work in the store when they are home. Hundt has plans to open stores in southeast Michigan and somewhere up north, and she is in the process of converting an old store in downtown DeWitt into a commercial kitchen to handle the demand for her pies.

Now about that cookbook: Each pie is dedicated to someone important in her life and her mission. For example, her award winning Tom’s Cherry Cherry Cherry Berry Pie is dedicated to her late brother-in-law. She writes: “He continues to inspire others to be outstanding in everything they do.” Another pie is named after one of those once-ina-lifetime coincidences that brought Hundt to tears. In the book, she tells how her Little Miracle Fresh Rhubarb Custard Pie was created while working in her shop early one morning. She was preparing a special-order rhubarb pie when a couple on their way to Saginaw to visit a brother in hospice became lost and stopped by. The woman mentioned it would be nice to take a pie to her brother and asked Hundt if she happened to have a rhubarb pie, his favorite. Boy did she.

She’s named pies for her husband, John; her twin sister, Laura; her Mom, her Dad, a grandma, aunts Ella and Grace, her high school English teacher and a number of friends.

Hundt’s persistence and creativity in finding an agent and publisher for her book is not quite as miraculous as the rhubarb pie story. While searching for an agent and publisher, Hundt said she would not take no” for an answer. She said the photograph sessions for the cookbook lasted several days and involved more than 45 hours of photography. She and her staff’s pie-making abilities were stretched to the limit.

“Each pie for the book required three pies for the photography,” she said. In particular, she recalls the process for Grandma Rosella’s Lovely Lemon Meringue Pie — preserving a stiff meringue is difficult proposition under the best of circumstances. She said she made it at the shop about 10 minutes away from her home where the vast majority of the shoot was done.

“(I) drove 10 miles an hour with my flashers on,” she said. Then, five minutes after the shoot was done, “the meringue slid off.” Hundt writes how the inspiration for her business goes back to her honeymoon on Cape Cod when she and her husband stumbled across “a darling pie shop.” She wrote she was “enamored with the thought of creating my own little shop.” More than 20 years later her dreams became reality, right down to the “pink bakery boxes.”

She can also trace her love of baking back to a Christmas when she and her sister received an Easy-Bake Oven from her parents.

Sadly, the original was lost in a fire, but her husband located an identical one on eBay and surprised her with it one Christmas.

Hundt’s apple pie was recently selected by Food & Wine Magazine as one of the best apple pies in America.

Her first cookbook is more than a handy recitation of recipes; it is meant to be an inspiration for a way of life. The award-winning pie queen stresses that pie changed her world and it can yours too. All you have to do is follow the recipes and be sure that while making your crust it is kept cold. Read more about the sweetie-licious bakery and Linda here.

Oct 13

East Lansing coffee shop adopts library

The local East Lansing Biggby Coffee shop is donating $1 on Wednesday, October 9 for every grande/super specialty brew to the East Lansing Public Library in honor of their 90th birthday. The Lake Lansing and Abbott road (3499 East Lake Lansing Rd.) Biggbys also has a special featured “Library Latte” drink in honor of the birthday.

Library staff will be on hand to serve lattes between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

Drink some joe and tip the library.

Oct 13

“Just desserts” find their way into two new books

The literary table  in Lansing has been a gourmet treat of fine reading from authors who are as different as Little Debbie and Baked Alaska. Jeffery Deaver is among the leading thriller writers in the world; Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, aka “the Beekman boys,” are reality TV stars. The Beekman Boys appeared in the Lansing area this past Sunday to speak and sign copies of their new book and Deaver is in Lansing Wednesday October 9 at Schuler Books in Okemos.

Deaver’s most recent book, “The Kill Room,” is his 31st in the competitive genre of thrillers. He writes complex plots with surprise endings through a flurry of adrenaline rushes. Readers might remember his novel “The Bone Collector,” which was adapted for the screen starring Angelina Jolie and Denzel Washington, as Deaver’s quadriplegic New York detective, Lincoln Rhyme.
“The Kill Room” again features Rhyme, and it’s as contemporary as the Sunday New York Times. Deaver admits his imagination may been a little cutting edge for the plot of “Kill Room”; he said it was only a couple of weeks before publication that President Obama confirmed the U.S. had used a drone to kill U.S. citizen Anwar al- Awlaqi.
“I’ve never written a political book, mostly because they move too slowly,” he said recently in a phone interview.
However, “slowly” is certainly not a word  that could be used to  describe the action in “Kill Room,” which sees  Rhyme racing to avoid a  major assassination. Deaver, 63, a  journalist turned-corporate  lawyer-turned-full-time writer, weaves  high-tech government spying on  its citizenry and a whistleblower who tips off investigators into a  taut, fastpaced story line.
With  “Kill Room,” he gives his killer a penchant for gourmet meals and  conveniently provides the killer’s recipes online at  He said he created an assassin chef who is almost as creepy as Hannibal  Lecter to make his character real and to “create a product that makes an  emotional connection to the reader.”
“Too  often we see the clichéd villain as a balding thug with a pony tail,”  Deaver said. The admitted foodie posted recipes for 14 dishes that the  fictional assassin prepares, including one for a sponge cake that was  handed down from his grandmother.
As  with all of Deaver’s thrillers, in the end the bad guys get their just  deserts, but what makes his books intriguing is that you don’t know who  the bad guys are until the last few pages. While in town, Deaver will also discuss his newest book, “The October List”, a ”Memento”-style thriller written from the end to the beginning. Deaver said that his newest book was the “hardest per word” book he has ever written.

Brent and Josh, the Beekman Boys

And  speaking of desserts (well, almost), lifestyle authors Ridge and  Kilmer-Purcell, a 1991 Michigan State University graduate, have created a  collection of recipes for mouthwatering  desserts in their newest book, “The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert  Cookbook.” It has 100 recipes, including Kilmer-Purcell’s favorite:  Pancakes with maple cream frosting.

“It’s  a great way to use leftovers,” he said in a recent phone interview. The  recipes, illustrated with 120 full-color photos, are divided by the  season and all are collected from family and friends, Kilmer-Purcell  said. The husband-and-husband team won the 21st season of “The Amazing  Race.” They also own a 60-acre farm in upstate New York where they stage  their lifestyle brand, which has the makings of a business empire.  Their progress is documented on the Cooking Channel’s reality show, “The  Fabulous Beekman Boys.”
“Heirloom  recipes are living things, and every generation puts their own twist on  them,” Kilmer-Purcell said. He said family recipe books will likely  have notations in the margins, and their new book leaves dedicated room  for these generational notations.
During his days in the dorm  at MSU, Kilmer-Purcell, 44, remembers gaining a lot of weight and  eating a lot of turkey tetrazzini. He says by contrast, at the Beekman  Farm he and Ridge, a physician and former consultant for Martha Stewart,  grow 110 fruits and vegetables along with raising their own meat.
“I  haven’t been to a grocery store in months, and I find it very  inspirational as a cook to deal with the restraints of the garden and  the livestock,” he said. “You go into the garden and you ask what do I  make today? If there’s a lot of Swiss chard, you tend to get creative.”
Kilmer-Purcell said he got his first cooking lessons by working alongside his mother.
“She was a very good Midwest cook,” he said. “She cooked on a tight budget and had three men to feed.”
One fond memory he has of food on the MSU campus comes from the dairy section.
“It’s the best ice cream I’ve ever had,” he said.
The Beekman Boys lived up to their reputation while at Schulers entertaining the crowd with stories ranging from their wedding to the Amazing Race. They told delish dishes about Martha Stewart who attended their wedding and did taste tests of the wedding food
Jeffery Deaver
Discussion,  Q&A and book signing 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9 Schuler Books &  Music, 1982 W. Grand River Ave., Okemos
Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge (“The Fabulous Beekman Boys”)
Discussion,  Q&A and book signing 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6 Schuler Books &   Music, 2820 Towne Center Blvd., Lansing Township

Oct 13

Lansing Carnegie Library recognized with historical marker

Lansing Community College today celebrated community history and education at the dedication of a Michigan Historical Marker at the LCC Carnegie Library.

The LCC Carnegie Library Building, whose cornerstone was laid 110 years ago in 1903, was funded by American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, along with local financial support approved by Lansing voters.   The Carnegie Library opened its doors in 1905, and within a year amassed 13,000 volumes.

The Carnegie served as Lansing’s main library until 1964. LCC took over the building soon after for use as administrative offices and a counseling center.  The building is now part of LCC’s University Center, housing classrooms for LCC’s partnerships with Michigan four-year colleges and universities.

Valerie Marvin, President of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing, served as master of ceremonies for the event.  Tom Truscott of the Michigan Historical Commission dedicated the marker on behalf of the State of Michigan.  LCC Board Chair Larry Meyer and President Brent Knight accepted the marker on behalf of the College.

All the participants entertained the audience with comments on the history of the building.

The Carnegie Building is located in downtown Lansing at 210 W. Shiawassee Street.

Oct 13

Lansing Poetry Club celebrates 75 years

Literary grafitti

The inspiration for Gary Stephens’ poem, “Meeting, the Challenge,” belies what one might envision as the romantic muse for a poem. There were no beautiful sunrises or sunsets, no pastoral fields of sheep, no fluffy clouds, no quiet rains. Rather, it was dozing off at work that pushed him to write his four-stanza poem, which opens:

“The meeting had a leaden tone. / Mindnumbing from the constant drone. / Time stretched out like an endless loop. / My eyelids lost their will to droop.”
Stephens, president of the Lansing Poetry Club, said he was fighting to stay awake at a 2005 tech meeting at his former workplace when he nodded off. Catching himself, he jerked his head upright and asked his fellow employee next to him, “Was I snoring?” Twenty minutes later, he passed his completed poem down the line for people to read.
“I heard the guys snickering,” he said. “Once I had the imagery, the words kind of flowed.” The Eaton Rapids resident said he sees his ability to write poetry as a gift from his mother, who also writes poetry.
“I hear something that needs to be said,” Stephens said. As president of the poetry club, Stephens, 64, is in the enviable position of reigning over the club’s 75th anniversary, one of the longest runs of any poetry organization in the state. Since it was founded in a Lansing diner on Oct. 29, 1938, the organization has met once a month, except in the summer, for three quarters of a century. One of the founding members, Marjorie Rey Hanhardt, was the grandmother of member and former president Dennis North of Lansing.Initially the club consisted of 28 charter members; membership has ballooned as high as 60 in its heyday in the ‘60s, but has settled back at 28.
Stephens believes that the reason the Poetry Club has had such longevity is because “people who care about poetry just keep coming.” Whether that continues for another 75 years is one of the questions Stephens and his organization hope to answer. He said the group hopes to attract younger members through future programs that interest them, such as writing hip hop lyrics. The club has two annual poetry writing contests with cash awards. Stephens said he believes that the variety of poetry that is read at the meetings is one of the characteristics of the Poetry Club that has made its longevity possible.
He prefers conventional rhyming poetry, but is also attracted to Shakespeare’s style of iambic pentameter. He said it is the poetry club’s goal to show the value in writing and reading poetry. He recalls a poetry reading where he stumbled trying to read his lyrics in dim lighting before a younger person, who stepped up with a tablet, had no problem.
“Poetry carries wisdom, ties us together and gives us a longer view of humanity,” he said. “We have to pay attention to younger people and where they are going, even if it’s a back-lit iPad. It’s important we reach out or that swirl of creativity will be lost.”
Another longtime member, Inge Logenberg Kyler of Eaton Rapids, joined the group in 1960. She said the Poetry Club is not thriving like it was when she joined and thinks the support that fellow poets give each other in the club format is lost online.
“There were double the members (when I joined),” she said. “Young people are writing or reading poetry on the Internet. It’s important to have people who understand you and support you.”
Kyler, 77, former assistant manager to Delhi Township, recently wrote a book of poetry based on local history. Preferring narrative ballads, she was inspired to write a maritime-themed poem after a recent walk across the Mackinac Bridge.
Michigan poetry has an illustrious history. Hillsdale poet Will Carleton (1845-1912), whose 1872 poem, “Over the Hill from the Poor-House,” featured in his seminal book, “Farm Ballads,” captured the imagination of America. At one time, his birthday, Oct. 21, was celebrated in Michigan, with all teachers being required to teach one of his poems each year. Carleton’s magazine, “Everywhere,” was a major force in America’s literary tradition.
Stephens and Kyler agree that one simple move that would help inspire poetry: If the State of Michigan named a poet laureate, something that is common across the U.S.; more than 40 states have one. Michigan’s only poet laureate was Detroit Free Press writer Edgar Guest, who wrote a daily poem for the newspaper from the 1920s through the ‘50s. The U.S. has had a poet laureate since 1937, including Phillip Levine, who lived and worked in Detroit for many years, but the post of an ongoing, official Michigan poet laureate has eluded the local literary community. It came close in 2000 when a bill establishing one passed the House and Senate but former Gov. John Engler never signed it into law.
The Lansing Poetry Club is looking for lost yearbooks from 1938, 1939, 1941 and 1950. If you have any information, please email Read Stephens “Meeting, The Challenge
“Meeting, The Challenge”
The meeting had a leaden tone, Mind-numbing from the constant drone. Time stretched out like an endless loop. My eyelids lost their will to droop.
I open eyes with starting jerk. Surprised to find I’m still at work. I did not snore or even drool. Still, looking ’round I feel a fool.
I’m praying God to hear my prayer. I need a break to breathe fresh air. Perhaps, caffeine could get me through. Its getting late and lunchtime too.
I’ve lost my mind in deep malaise. The words all blur in verbal haze. All hope is gone. It’ll never end. I’ve gone nowhere, but ’round the bend.
Gary Stephens, Nov. 22, 2005

Sep 13

Great Michigan Read program kicks off in Lansing

What’s your family secret —the one you want no one else to know, the one you’ll take to your grave? Most families have secrets held from even other family members. Maybe it’s a child out of wedlock, a half brother in a faraway country fathered by a G.I. in WWII or a love child with an unnamed father. The secret is kept until death, and only then the story emerges as the survivors go through the deceased’s papers.

That’s exactly what happened to Detroit native Steve Luxenberg, author of “Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret,” which has been selected as the Great Michigan Read for 2013 by the Michigan Humanities Council.

“As the story emerged I grasped the enormity of what my mom did,” he said. ”Since I was trained as a journalist, I reacted more analytical and never felt any revulsion.”

Luxenberg said he decided to tell what he calls “a universal story,” one that many  believe is ”better off left unwritten.” He said he firmly believes that every family has a secret that needs to be aired.

“The consequences of secrecy roll down into subsequent generations,” he said. He said since his mother was dead, he saw no downside to revealing his family secret. He hopes that by writing about his journey to explore the secret and its roots that other secret keepers will release what they have been hiding. He also said he wanted to shine a light on the shame of mental illness that we still carry more than six decades after his aunt was sent to a mental institution to be forgotten.

“Annie’s Ghost” is more than a memoir; it is an investigation into the mental health system and how Luxenberg’s aunt ended up institutionalized. It is also about how, in the name of secrecy, it is nearly impossible to delve into the process that saw her end up at Eloise.

Luxenberg launches a statewide tour in Lansing at the Michigan Historical Center at 7 p.m. Tuesday. He will be joined by another Michigan author, Mardi Jo Link, whose new book, “Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm,“ tells about her life as a divorced single mom raising three boys. Link admits to writing about what might be called “family secrets,” but she’s quick to point out that she let her boys read the manuscript before publication.

“The Great Read program is a unique opportunity to get Michiganians reading the same book at the same time, discussing important social topics like mental health, interacting with Michigan authors, and considering our shared ideas of what it means to be part of this great state,” said Erik Nordberg, executive director of the Michigan Humanities Council. Learn more about the Great Michigan Read here.  And check out the statewide tour information here.

Reservations are recommended for the 7 p.m., Tuesday, September 24 kickoff event at the auditorium in the Michigan Historical Center at 717 West Allegan, Lansing Michigan.