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Feb. 9, 2024

MSU Libraries and WRAC bring award-winning Michigan author to campus

This month the Michigan State University Libraries, in partnership with the MSU Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Cultures, will be welcoming National Book Award finalist and Michigan author Bonnie Jo Campbell for a discussion and book signing featuring Campbell’s latest novel “The Waters.”

Bonnie Jo Campbell
Bonnie Jo Campbell. Courtesy photo.

“An Evening with Bonnie Jo Campbell” will take place on Feb. 19 at 5 p.m. in the MSU Library Green Room with light refreshments provided. Attendees can look forward to an engaging conversation about “The Waters” between Campbell and Bill Castanier of the Lansing City Pulse, followed by a Q and A session. Books will be available for sale at the event from Lansing bookstore Everybody Reads. The event will be recorded as part of the MSU Libraries’ Michigan Writers Series.

Campbell highlighted the significance of visiting MSU as part of her book launch tour. “I’m thrilled to be visiting Michigan State University at this time, with my new novel, ‘The Waters,’” Campbell said. “As the nation’s premier land-grant university, located in the heart of our state, with an excellent university press and library system, and with a commitment to high standards, MSU is destined to be the center of celebrating Michigan literature.”  

The Waters, a novel by Bonnie Jo Campbell

A native of Kalamazoo, Campbell grounds her fiction in landscapes that will feel like home to readers familiar with the lushness of Michigan’s wilderness as she explores the fictional Great Massasauga Swamp and the women who inhabit its mystical island. It’s here that herbalist and eccentric Hermine “Herself” Zook has healed the local women from a neighboring small town called Whiteheart of their ailments for generations. The reader follows Donkey, the 11-year-old daughter of Herself’s own youngest, Rose Thorn, in a coming-of-age story that illuminates family secrets and passionate love against an unfurling backdrop anchored in the brutality and tenderness of Whiteheart’s community. 

MSU Libraries Dean Neil Romanosky shared his excitement for the upcoming event. “The impact of Bonnie Jo Campbell’s writing on place and in specifically foregrounding the Rust Belt region makes the MSU Libraries an ideal host for her most recent rural masterpiece,” Romanosky said. “I am extremely pleased to be able to partner with WRAC in this event, as it emphasizes the importance of community in celebrating works that ultimately embrace community.”

Recognized as a master of rural noir, Campbell is known for her national bestseller “Once Upon a River” (2012) and the story collections “Mothers, Tell Your Daughters” (2016) and “American Salvage” (2009), which was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award. Freshly released in 2024, “The Waters” is already making waves as the “Today” show’s January pick for their Read With Jenna book club; it’s also featured on Oprah Daily’s list of “Most Anticipated Books of 2024” and the Chicago Review of Books’ “12 Must-Read Books of January 2024.”

WRAC Chair and William J. Beal Distinguished Professor Dànielle Nicole DeVoss also expressed enthusiasm for Campbell’s upcoming campus visit. “It’s an honor to work with MSU Libraries and to welcome Bonnie Jo Campbell to MSU’s campus,” DeVoss said. “Bonnie Jo’s eloquent, powerful writing resonates with the ways in which we see and situate writing as the act and art of making and sharing meaning.”

More information about “An Evening with Bonnie Jo Campbell” can be found on the Libraries’ event page.

This article was originally featured on the MSU Libraries website.

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