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A ‘noteworthy’ effort: Zoom sessions to focus on books with U.P. connection

Sault Ste. Marie-based author Mikel Classen is one of the driving forces behind the U.P. Notable Books List. The list features books by Upper Peninsula-based writers or books about the U.P. (Photo courtesy of Victor R. Volkman)

MARQUETTE — People who want to have meaningful discussions about something other than national politics, COVID-19 or the economy might want to consider joining the U.P. Notable Books Book Club.

The U.P. Publishers and Authors Association and the Crystal Falls District Library invite people to join the book club, which focuses on what its name says: notable books in the Upper Peninsula.

Ten books are on the first annual U.P. Notable Books List, with eight of the authors agreeing to a Zoom talk with readers about their works.

Participants may buy these books or check them out from their local libraries, with the UPPAA suggesting people purchase their books from their local independent booksellers should they decide to go that route.

The schedule is as follows, with all events starting at 7 p.m. Eastern time, 6 p.m. Central Time.

Regional literature is featured in the U.P. Notable Books effort. (Logo courtesy of Victor R. Volkman)

“The Marsh King’s Daughters” by Karen Dionne, Jan. 19;

“Three Fires Unity: The Anishnaabeg of Lake Huron Borderlands” by Phil Bellfy, Feb. 11;

“Out” by John Smolens, March 11;

“Cady and the Bear Necklace” by Ann Dallman, April 8;

“Murder on Sugar Island (Getting to Know Jack Book 2)” by Michael Carrier, May 13;

“Camera Hunter: George Shiras III and the Birth of Wildlife Photography” by James H. McCommons, June 10;

“Lake Superior Tales: Stories of Humor and Adventure” by Mikel Classen, July 8; and

“Go Find! My Journey to Find the Lost-and Myself” by Susan Purvis, Aug. 12.

The other two books on the list are “Hunter’s Moon: A Novel in Stories” by Philip Caputo and “Yoopernatural Haunts Upper Peninsula Paranormal Research Society Case file” by Tim Ellis.

Evelyn Gathu, director of the Crystal Falls District Community Library, created and organized the club.

“Last spring, I heard about the Summer Scares program, which is created by the Horror Writers Association, and is partnered with Library Journal, Book Riot and United for Libraries,” Gathu said in a rews release. “Yearly, there are nine books selected — three for each level: adult, young adult and middle grades.

“I read the books, and went on to create book clubs for the patrons of our library.”

They met monthly with the authors joining in via Zoom — a typical way of communicating during the COVID-19 pandemic in which social distancing and not gathering in large crowds is strongly suggested.

“It was amazing,” Gathu said. “While many libraries were closed and suffering from a disconnect from their patrons, our library actually grew, thanks to Summer Scares.”

It didn’t end there.

“The adults involved did not want to quit this type of book club where you get to meet and talk with the authors,” Gathu said. “I had read in the local paper that the first-ever U.P. Notable Books List was created by the editors of the U.P. Reader and the UPPAA.”

Gathu contacted UPPAA President Victor R. Volkman, who she said was “thrilled” with the idea.

In an email, Volkman said Gathu and author Classen are the primary movers in the U.P. Notable Books Book Club project.

“From Mikel’s perspective, as a writer with more than three decades of experience writing about the U.P., he saw that the literature of the U.P. was vastly overlooked in any kind of statewide recognition program,” Volkman said.“Together, Mikel and I polled reviewers, librarians and booksellers about what was going on in U.P. literature for the first annual award released in April 2020.”

The U.P. Notable Books List was announced in the fourth volume of the U.P. Reader.

“She saw the U.P. Notable Books Award as a chance to extend the concept to local literature and writers,” Volkman said of Gathu, with the two brainstorming last fall on bringing the club to fruition.

Volkman believes people should get involved in the effort.

“The reasons are as many and varied as the folks in the U.P. themselves,” he said, noting the club gives people a chance to participate in a cultural tradition of storytelling of which most Yoopers might be unaware.

“The club is a chance to experience pride in our own local writers, what they’ve achieved and how they’ve helped put the U.P. back on the map,” Volkman said.

He pointed out that the club provides an opportunity for busy people to reconnect with a leisure activity they might have left behind in “today’s tangle of streaming and binging media” and to meet oth

er like-minded souls who “appreciate a good yarn or the chance to reclaim a history that is often mistold through careless or lazy reporting.”

“In a world where social distancing has isolated a tribe who was already pretty isolated, the club is a chance to meet new people who might be just down the road from you,” Volkman said. “Most of all, it shows the world that the U.P. matters and its people have something to say to the world.”

Classen, an author based in Sault Ste. Marie and managing editor of the U.P. Reader, said the Michigan Notable Books site tends to pick books from university presses and not from the U.P.

“We have some incredible authors here, and we have some great books coming out of the U.P. and about the U.P.,” Classen said in a telephone interview.

He decided it might be interesting to publish in the U.P. Reader — which is published by the UPPAA, — a list of notable books by U.P. authors, or books about about the U.P.

“They had to have some Upper Peninsula connection to qualify for it,” Classen said.

Information was solicited from bookstores and various reviewers about what was performing well sales-wise, he said.

Classen noted that Gathu picked up on the effort.

“She’s really kind of taken this idea and run with it, which is great,” Classen said.

For more information on the Zoom sessions, contact Gathu at egathu@uproc.lib.mi.us or 906-8875-3344. For details on the project in general, visit www.UPNotable.com.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net

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