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2013 Michigan Notable Book Author Biographies

American Poet: A Novel

Jeff Vande Zande writes poetry, fiction, and screenplays. In addition to American Poet: A Novel, his fiction includes Emergency Stopping and Other Stories and Landscape with Fragmented Figures. He lives in Midland, MI and teaches at Delta College.

The Amphibians and Reptiles of Michigan

J. Alan Holman was Curator Emeritus of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Michigan State University Museum, Emeritus Professor of Geology and Zoology at Michigan State University, and a museum associate at the University of Nebraska State Museum. Holman is considered the leading authority of New World fossil snakes and published more than 260 works in paleoherpetology, herpetology, and vertebrate paleontology. Al Holman died in August, 2006.

Balthazar Korab Architect of Photography

John Comazzi is an Associate Professor of Architecture in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. He received a B.S. in Architecture from the University of Virginia and both a M. Arch and M.S. in Architecture History and Theory from the University of Michigan. He taught at the University of Michigan as a Lecturer in Architecture (1999-2006) before joining the University of Minnesota as an Assistant Professor in Fall 2006.

Bear Has a Story to Tell

Philip C. Stead is the author of the Caldecott Medal winning book A Sick Day for Amos McGee, also named a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2010 and a Publishers Weekly Best Children's Book of 2010, illustrated by his wife, Erin E. Stead. Philip, also an artist, has written and illustrated several of his own books including Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat, A Home for Bird, and his debut Creamed Tuna Fish and Peas on Toast, which was applauded by School Library Journal for "its wry humor and illustrations worthy of a Roald Dahl creation." Philip lives with Erin and their dog, Wednesday, in a 100-year-old barn in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Erin E. Stead is the Caldecott Medal winning illustrator of A Sick Day for Amos McGee, also named a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2010 and a Publishers Weekly Best Children's Book of 2010 (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2010). She and her husband, author and artist Philip Stead, with whom she co-created A Sick Day for Amos McGee and Bear Has a Story to Tell, live in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Erin has also illustrated And Then It's Spring written by Julie Fogliano.

The Boy Governor: Stevens T. Mason and the Birth of Michigan Politics

Don Faber is author of The Toledo War, winner of the 2009 Michigan Notable Book Award. Former editor of the Ann Arbor News, he also served on the staff of the Michigan Constitutional Convention, won a Ford Foundation Fellowship to work in the Michigan Senate, and was a speechwriter for Michigan governor George Romney.


Richard Ford is an American novelist and short story writer. His best-known works are the novel The Sportswriter and its sequels, Independence Day and The Lay of the Land, and the short story collection Rock Springs, which contains several widely anthologized stories. Ford received a B.A. from Michigan State University. Having enrolled to study hotel management, he switched to English. After graduating he taught junior high school in Flint, Michigan, and enlisted in the US Marines but was discharged after contracting hepatitis. At university he met Kristina Hensley, his future wife; the two married in 1968. They currently reside in Maine.

Death Dance of a Butterfly

Dr. Melba Joyce Boyd is the author of 13 books, nine of which are poetry. Roses and Revolutions: The Selected Writings of Dudley Randall received a 2010 Michigan Notable Book Award, and the Independent Publishers Book of the Year Gold Award. Other awards for her literary work include: Finalist for ForeWord Book of the Year Award; Finalist for 2010 NAACP Image Award in Poetry; a Black Caucus of the American Library Association Book Honor for Nonfiction; and a Michigan Independent Artist Award for Song for Maya. She was commissioned to write the official poem for the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, which was inscribed in the museum. Lines from her poem, "We Want Our City Back," were chiseled into the sculpture, Transcending: Michigan's Tribute to Labor, installed in downtown Detroit. Her poem, "Maple Red," appears below the painting of the same title by Ed Clark in the Detroit Institute of Arts. Her poetry has been published in numerous academic journals, such as The African American Review, The Black Scholar, and Abandon Automobile: Detroit City Poetry 2001, to name a few. Her poetry has been translated into German, Italian and Spanish. She has read her poetry throughout the United States, the Caribbean, as well as in Europe, Africa, and China.

She is the producer, writer and director of The Black Unicorn: Dudley Randall and the Broadside Press, co-producer of Star by Star: The Poetry and Publishing of Naomi Long Madgett. She is the author of two literary biographies: Wrestling with the Muse: Dudley Randall and the Broadside Press (2004); and Discarded Legacy: Politics and Poetics in the Life of Frances E. W. Harper, 1825-1911. Wrestling with the Muse received the American Library Association's Black Caucus Honor for Nonfiction. Discarded Legacy has been widely reviewed and acclaimed as the seminal work on Frances Harper. She is also the editor of the African American Life Series at Wayne State University Press, and was the assistant editor to Dudley Randall at Broadside Press, 1972-77.

She was a Visiting Professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, China (2009), and a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Bremen in Germany (1983-4). She is currently a Distinguished University Professor and Chair of the Department of Africana Studies at Wayne State University, and is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Ann Arbor in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies. She received a Doctor of Arts in English from the University of Michigan in 1979, and a M.A. (1972) and a B. A. (1971) in English from Western Michigan University.

Detroit City Is the Place to Be

Mark Binelli is the author of the novel Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! and a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. Born and raised in the Detroit area, he moved away in 1993, but returned for a three-year period from 2009 to 2012. He now lives in New York City.

Detroit's Historic Places of Worship

Marla O. Collum is grants manager at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, DC. From 1998 to 2008 she was the historic review officer for the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department and also served on the board of directors of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network for six years during that time. She has an MS in historic preservation from Eastern Michigan University.

Barbara E. Krueger is a graduate (MS) of Eastern Michigan Universitys historic preservation program. Krueger is a research associate (folk arts) with Michigan State University Museums Michigan Stained Glass Census, a past president of the Hartland Area Historical Society, and a founding member and board member of the American Glass Guild.

Dorothy Kostuch was a longtime instructor of art history at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit (formerly the Center for Creative Studies), who died in 2005 after a long battle with cancer. Kostuch received a PhD in art history from Columbia University and traveled extensively through Europe to visit architecturally significant buildings. Her expertise in art history and medieval architecture led her to teach a course on historic Detroit churches and spawned the beginnings of this book project.

Dirk Bakker is a fine art photographer and former director of visual resources at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Bakker studied architecture and photography at the Academy for the Visual Arts in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and graduated with a M.A. in applied photographic. Since the early 1990's, he has devoted his time to a project that seeks to record all known Mayan architectural sites in Mexico and Central America. Bakker is a former director of visual resources at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Dust to Dust: A Memoir

Benjamin Busch is an actor, writer, director, producer, and photographer. He was born in Manhattan and grew up in rural central New York state. Following his graduation from Vassar College he served as an infantry officer in the United States Marine Corps deploying for two combat tours in Iraq. His written work has been published in Harper's, and was notable in the 2010 Best American Essays anthology. His photographs have been featured in Five Points, Connecticut Review, Photography Quarterly, and War, Literature, & the Arts. As an actor, he is best known for his appearances in Homicide, The Wire, Generation Kill, and The Beast. His first film, Sympathetic Details, came out in 2008 winning numerous international film awards, and his new film as writer/director, BRIGHT, was released in January 2011. His first book is forthcoming from Ecco Press, an imprint of HarperCollins. He lives on a farm in Michigan with his wife and two fantastic daughters.

Fishtown: Leland Michigan's Historic Fishery

Laurie Kay Sommers is a freelance folklorist and historic preservation consultant based in Okemos, Michigan. She has been writing about Michigan history and culture since the 1970s. In addition to writing, Laurie teaches Suzuki violin in the Michigan State University Community Music School in East Lansing, Michigan, and in her private home studio. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Music (1977) and the folklore and ethnomusicology program at Indiana University (PhD, 1986).


Jim Abbott was born September 19, 1967, in Flint, Michigan without a right hand. He was an All-America hurler at Michigan; won the Sullivan Award in 1987; was the pitcher for the Gold Medal Olympic Team in 1988; and threw a 4-0 no-hitter for the New York Yankees versus Cleveland (September 4, 1993). Jim played for 10 seasons on 4 different teams and ended his big league playing career in 1999. Abbott has worked with The Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) on several initiatives encouraging businesses to hire people with disabilities. Today, in addition to often being a Guest Pitching Instructor during Spring Training for the Los Angeles Angels, Jim Abbott is a motivational speaker.

Ink Trails

Jack Dempsey is a historian and writer who has practiced law in Michigan for over 30 years. President of the Michigan Historical Commission, he also serves on the board of the Michigan History Foundation and is a past board member of the Historical Society of Michigan. Jack served as assistant attorney general for the State of Michigan from 1980-84.

Dave Dempsey is author and co-author of seven books and was 2009 Michigan Author of the Year. His titles include a biography of Michigan's longest-serving governor, William G. Milliken, and a conservation history of Michigan. Dave has a bachelor of arts degree from Western Michigan University and a master's degree in resource development from Michigan State University. Protecting and enjoying the Great Lakes is his passion.

Kirtland's Warbler

William Rapai is president of Grosse Pointe Audubon Society and has traveled across North America and to Cuba, Iceland, and Thailand to view and research birds. He was an award-winning reporter and editor for the Grand Forks Herald, the Detroit Free Press, and the Boston Globe.

Michigan's Historic Railroad Stations

Michael H. Hodges covers art and architecture for the Detroit News, where he has worked since the early 1990s. He also writes and photographs the newspaper's architecture blog. A native of the Detroit area, Hodges grew up on a dairy farm thirty miles north of the city. He confesses to being crazy about architecture, an obsession he blames on the six years he spent as a student at Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, one of North America's great, idyllic campuses.

Mighty Miss Malone

Christopher Paul Curtis was born in Flint, Michigan, on May 10, 1953 to Dr. Herman Elmer Curtis, a chiropodist and factory worker/supervisor, and Leslie Jane Curtis, an educator. Curtis is an alumnus of the University of Michigan-Flint (UM-Flint). Curtis is the father of two daughters, Ayaan Leslie, born in 2010, and Ebyaan Hothan, born in 2012 to Curtis and his wife, Habon Aden Curtis. Christopher modeled characters in Bud, Not Buddy, one of his previous works, after his two grandfathers — Earl "Lefty" Lewis, a Negro league baseball pitcher, and 1930s bandleader Herman E. Curtis, Sr., of Herman Curtis and the Dusky Devastators of the Depression. The city of Flint plays an important role in many of Curtis' books.

Skeleton Box

Bryan Gruley is the author of three novels. In addition to the critically acclaimed The Skeleton Box, he has achieved accolades for his previous works, Starvation Lake and The Hanging Tree. He's a reporter at large for Bloomberg News. The former Chicago bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal shared in the Pulitzer Prize awarded to the paper in 2002 for coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks. A graduate of Notre Dame, Gruley was raised in Michigan and spent the beginnings of his journalism career working at newspapers in Kalamazoo and Detroit. An avid hockey player and amateur musician, he currently lives with his family in Chicago.

Summer of '68

Tim Wendel is a writer in residence at Johns Hopkins University, where he received the 2009 Award for Teaching Excellence and the Professional Achievement Award in 2004 and 2010. He is a Walter E. Dakin Fellow and Tennessee Williams Scholar to the Sewanee Writing Conference, and a Pen/Faulkner visiting writer to the Washington, D.C. Public Schools. He received his master's in writing from Johns Hopkins and a bachelor's degree in magazine journalism from Syracuse University. Born in Philadelphia, he was raised in Lockport, N.Y. One of his first jobs was writing music reviews for The Buffalo Courier-Express. Since then he's worked on both coasts and in between, covering everything from the Olympics to politics to the America's Cup.

Woman Like Me

Bettye LaVette is an American soul singer-songwriter who made her first record at sixteen, but achieved only intermittent fame until 2005, with her album, I've Got My Own Hell to Raise. Her eclectic musical style combines elements of soul, blues, rock and roll, funk, gospel, and country music.

World of A Few Minutes Ago

Jack Driscoll is the author of four novels, four poetry collections, and the AWP Short Fiction Award winner Wanting Only to Be Heard. He has also received the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, the PEN/Nelson Algren Fiction Award, the Pushcart Editors Book Award, Pushcart Prizes, PEN Syndicated Fiction Awards, and Best American Short Story citations. He currently teaches in Pacific University's acclaimed low-residency MFA program in Oregon.


Updated 04/23/2013