Inspiring younger readers is a difficult task at a time when the most highly publicized literature geared toward people under 30 consists of the “Harry Potter” series and cotton-candy chick-lit (see “The Devil Wears Prada”).
Tomorrow night at 7 p.m., some of Ann Arbor’s literary figures will slice through all the fluff at the release of the anthology “Unsquared: Ann Arbor Writers Unleash Their Edgiest Poems and Stories” at Shaman Drum.
The anthology, and the series of readings surrounding its release, is the joint effort of Jeff Kass of The Neutral Zone and Amy Sumerton of 826 Michigan. Both of these writers, like the organizations they work with, are dedicated to fostering literary creativity in young people. All the profits from the sale of “Unsquared” will benefit the writing workshops and other projects helmed by the two organizations.
The inspiration for “Unsquared” came from “The Best American Nonrequired Reading,” an anthology of fiction and non-fiction compiled annually by Dave Eggers, author of “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” and creator of 826 Valencia, the organization that began the 826 franchise. Like Eggers’s anthology, “Unsquared” attempts to peak the interest of people in their teens and 20s who may not be interested in popular literature by assembling a collection of gritty, accessible work by a variety of authors.
“It’s essentially targeted toward young people who aren’t necessarily interested in mainstream literature, but are looking for something a little more off-beat,” Jeff Kass wrote in an email. “There had to be something about the piece that (Amy Sumerton and I) thought would catch the interest of a 19-year-old kid who may or may not be in school, but spent a fair amount of time kind of lost in his or her parents’ basement.”
The anthology’s title cleverly suggest its premise: All the poems, stories and essays in the anthology are by local writers, some with established, high-profile writing careers and some who have never been published before. Today’s reading at Shaman Drum will feature department of English Profs. Peter Ho Davis and Julie Orringer, RC sophomore Claire Forster and teenage slam poets Angel Nafis and Ben Alfaro. Other contributors to the anthology include, among many others, New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Kostova, previously published faculty members Eileen Pollack, Thomas Lynch and Keith Taylor, and current and former undergraduate students Adam Falkner, Molly Raynor, and Lauren Whitehead.
“The purpose is to get younger people involved in reading. It’s hoped that if the subject matter is edgier it would attract a younger audience,” said Julie Orringer, who will read from her story “Care” tomorrow tonight. The story follows a young woman in San Francisco struggling with drug addiction, and loses track of her niece because she is on drugs while she is supposed to be babysitting. “I wanted to focus on the mind of someone who is barely hanging on to her composure.”
Tomorrow at 7 p.m.
At Shaman Drum