Category Archives: Kevin Boyle

Author Boyle Returns Home for Great Michigan Read

Author and Detroit native Kevin Boyle is pretty pumped about the idea of coming home. The reason? Boyle’s compelling book, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age is the Michigan Humanities Council featured title for the 2011-2012 Great Michigan Read.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have Arc of Justice selected for the Great Michigan Read,” Boyle shared in an email, and said the choice of his book holds “particularly powerful meaning.”

Boyle’s Arc of Justice “tells the story of African American Dr. Ossian Sweet and the chain of events that occurred after he purchased a home for his family in an all-white Detroit neighborhood in 1925.”* After an altercation one evening with his enraged white neighbors, Sweet’s life – and the course of Detroit’s racial history – are forever altered.

Published in 2004 (Henry Holt and Co.), Boyle’s Arc of Justice was released to high praise. Called “electrifying” and “powerful” by critics, Arc of Justice snagged several coveted literary prizes such as the 2004 National Book Award for Nonfiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was nominated as a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Arc of Justice has also made its mark on Michigan’s literary scene. Boyle’s nonfiction book was selected in 2005 as a Michigan Notable Book and was the 2007 pick for the Detroit metro community-wide Everyone’s Reading program. Now Arc of Justice returns for another appearance in the state as the star of this year’s Great Michigan Read.

The Great Michigan Read is a free statewide initiative intended to encourage Michiganians of all ages to read and participate in book discussions and events that take place across the state. It targets Michigan themes so the literature will be more accessible and interesting to citizens of communities throughout the state.

Free is certainly a word that catches the eye these days. As our literary and   educational resources continue to dwindle, programs such as the Great Michigan Read are a boon to local communities and to those of us who relish fine reading. Book clubs, classrooms, colleges and museums are but a few of the potential sites that can sponsor a reading or get directly involved with Arc of Justice and bring fine literature to life.

Boyle currently lives in Ohio but is, in fact, excited to be “coming home” this fall for a six-city author tour as part of the Read program. “It’ll be great to talk about Detroit, about Arc of Justice, and about the big questions the story raised,” Boyle says, “Most of all, it’ll be great to be home.”

Kevin Boyle will be appearing in Detroit at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 7:00 pm. His discussion of Arc of Justice will take place at the General Motors Theater at 315 E. Warren Ave (www.thewright.org). If you aren’t in the metro area, feel free to link here for a full schedule of Great Michigan Read exhibits and events.

*Information from Michigan Humanities Council

– Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

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Detroit’s Kevin Boyle Reviews New Darrow Biographies in New York Times

Cover ImageIt’s not surprising to find author and Detroit native Kevin Boyle handling reviews of the new Clarence Darrow biographies in this week’s New York Times Book Review. As a history professor and author of the nonfiction work Arc of Justice:  A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age, Boyle has crossed literary paths with defender Clarence Darrow many times before, and has become a go-to for input surrounding American history’s best-known trial lawyer.

In his New York Times review Clarence Darrow, Equal Opportunity Defender, Boyle lists a slew of Darrow’s notorious clients including famed union militants, anarchists, corrupt politicians, “homicidal socialites” and other high-profile defendants. To Boyle’s credit, however, he only hints at the mention of Darrow’s case involving African-American physician Ossian Sweet who “dared to move into a white neighborhood in 1920’s Detroit.”

The quick mention of Ossian Sweet is a testament to Boyle’s own humility. Sweet sits at the center of Boyle’s compelling book Arc of Justice, which has been selected by the Michigan Humanities Council as this year’s featured title for the 2011-2012 Great Michigan Read.

Published in 2004, Boyle’s Arc of Justice was released to high praise. Called “electrifying” and “powerful” by critics, Arc of Justice snagged several coveted literary prizes such as the 2004 National Book Award for Nonfiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was nominated as a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Arc of Justice tells the story of Ossian Sweet and the chain of events that occurred after the African-American physician purchased a home for his family in a completely white Detroit neighborhood in 1925. After Sweet has an altercation with his new, enraged neighbors, Clarence Darrow steps in to act as his defender in what would become the famous Sweet Trials. Ultimately, Sweet’s life and the course of Detroit’s racial history  are forever altered.

“Four decades of courtroom battles,” writes Boyle, “- one trial of the century after another. The best of them turned into great dramas of systemic injustice and human frailty, with Darrow always at the center, basking in the spotlight.”

Knowledge is power, and it often rounds out the reading experience when you can bring a bit more with you to a title. If you’re planning on reading Boyle’s Arc of Justice, you might want to check out his take on authors Andrew E. Kersten and John A. Farrell’s new Darrow biographies. For a much briefer but thorough article on Clarence Darrow, try The New Yorker piece Objection, which quotes from Kersten’s new work.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

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