Curled up on a couch, hot cocoa placed neatly on the nearest coaster, you turn a page in near-synchronization with the sound of the fire crackling. It’s bitterly cold outside, but you don’t care. If the long, fleece blanket, warm fire and steaming hot chocolate wasn’t enough to keep you toasty, you’re far away from reality thanks to your latest journey through literature.
A book has the power to ignite imagination and that’s exactly what these Detroit-area authors have done throughout their voluminous and transportive work. While Detroit is home to many accomplished writers, here are a few we think are worth checking out.
Known as “The Dickens of Detroit,” Elmore Leonard penned many well-known works, several of which have been adapted into movies and television shows. Some of these works include Get Shorty, Out of Sight and Rum Punch (adapted as Jackie Brown). He also wrote short stories that were adapted into the film 3:10 to Yuma and the TV series Justified.
A native of Detroit, Claudia Whitsitt used her personal beliefs, upbringing and friendship with two women (“Crackers” and “Beverly”) as the basis for the first installment of what is now a trilogy. Between the Lines tells the story of three girls and their blossoming friendship following the 1967 Detroit Riots. The self-proclaimed “Dream Girls” stand up to bigotry and intolerance by holding onto their friendship.
In order to mask her gender, Harriette Simpson Arnow published her first short stories under the pseudonym H.L. Simpson with a photo of her brother-in-law. She would go on to become a renowned American novelist, earning critical acclaim for several works, including The Dollmaker. The 1954 novel follows a family who, much like Arnow’s family, moves from Kentucky to Detroit.
Published last year, Black Detroit by Herb Boyd chronicles the history of black culture, politics, economics and spirituality in Detroit. A resident of Detroit after moving there in 1943, Boyd saw first-hand much of the plight of black Detroiters in the midst of race riots and offers his account of not only what he literally witnessed, but also the landmark progressive movements that were led by black Detroiters.
Born in Detroit in 1960, Jeffrey Eugenides is the author of Middlesex, a novel that tackles themes of the American Dream and gender identity through the lens of a Greek-American family that travels to Detroit during the Prohibition era, staying there until the 1967 riots. The protagonist, Cal, is an intersex person born with 5-alpha-reductase deficiency (their anatomy doesn’t fit the typical definitions of male or female) who seeks to find their place within themselves, their family and the world. The 2002 novel earned Eugenides a Pulitzer Prize the following year.
If you want to find works by these and other Detroit authors, check out this list of local bookstores, such as Literati Bookstore and John K. King Used & Rare Books.