Summer Reading Recs, 2023

Each summer, the Detroit Mercy English Department offers reading recommendations for the season of rest and relaxation. We hope you find time to curl up, stretch out, and read a stack of good books. Leave your own recommendation in the comments!

The Hurting Kind by Ada Limón and Such Color by Tracy K. Smith

Prof. Michael Lauchlan

“Fine, elegant, direct poems by our national Poet Laureate and a wonderful selection of poems by a vibrant, urgent voice.”

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Kristin Murphy, Detroit Mercy Class of 2023

“Margaret Atwood is a go-to author for me when I want to read a really good novel. Her writing falls under the category of speculative fiction, so there is much truth about our reality in her work. This is a great dystopian novel that is the first book of an amazing trilogy. “

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Prof. Erin Bell

“Here, Egan plays with style and form. I was initially drawn to the text when I read that one chapter in the book was told through PowerPoint slides. (It works!) Although the novel focuses on two main characters: Bennie (a punk rock star turned music executive) and his assistant Sasha, Egan interweaves a number of narratives connecting a range of secondary characters who also make appearances in her later novel, The Candy House.  Quirky characters and a plethora of subplots make this an entertaining summer read.”

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Rebecca Tull, Librarian

“The love story of Nadia and Saeed is set in an unnamed city damaged by sectarian violence, militias, government forces, and an unnamed city in the west, to which the pair flee. It is so bittersweet, simply and beautifully written, with sort of a speculative feel to it. If you are a fast reader, you can read it in a long afternoon!”

The Wall by Marlen Haushofer

Prof. Heather Hill

“The narrative simplicity of this novel allowed me to put it aside for days at a time and then return to it easily and fluidly. During the “gaps,” however, it stayed with me and I was eager to return to this subtle mixture of dystopian exploration and feminist inquiry. A woman wakes up to discover that she is perhaps the only human being to survive the appearance of an invisible wall which has (mercifully?) separated her from the rest of humanity. The Wall could be considered an earlier version of Wild, but it resonates more deeply, urging its reader to reflect—as its narrator is rather forced to do—on the condition of humanity in the modern world. (And, if you are not already an animal lover, Lynx the dog, Pearl the cat, and Bella the cow, may just make you one.)”

Weather by Jenny Offill

Prof. Amanda Hiber

“I’m a sucker for a compelling and witty narrative voice and this novel has it. It’s written in fragments seemingly transmitted directly from the narrator’s superego. Despite her increasing sense of doom about the world around her, we can’t help wanting to follow her and watch it all through her eyes. You’ll have a hard time not consuming this in one sitting.”

The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty

Prof. Mary-Catherine Harrison

“I was hypnotized from the first chapter. Gunty’s rabbit hutch is a run-down apartment building in a run-down midwestern town. She takes us inside the lives of those who dwell side by side, and the result is haunting. I’m not surprised that it won last year’s National Book Award winner for fiction.”

Little Fury by Casey Bell

Prof. Stacy Gnall

“Bell is a great writer and a dear friend of mine. From the press: ‘Winner of The Metatron Prize for Rising Authors (Fiction), Casey Bell’s slipstream feminist fiction pulses with otherworldly lyricism.'”

Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad

Prof. Rosemary Weatherston

“A beautifully written and brutally realized alternate history in which Colson Whitehead ‘takes the Underground Railroad — the loosely interlocking network of black and white activists who helped slaves escape to freedom in the decades before the Civil War — and turns it from a metaphor into an actual train that ferries fugitives northward.'” (NYT Review of Books)

Jarrod & Neal Shusterman’s Dry

Prof. Lauren Rinke

“A gripping story about what could (and probably will) happen when the taps go dry.”

A New Literary History of America, edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors

Prof. Stephen Pasqualina

“This book helps us rethink what we mean by “history” and what we mean by “literature.” It’s a grand, sweeping account of the United States, broken into over 200 short, accessible, chronologically organized essays on an enormous range of topics, including the first time “America” appeared on a map in 1507, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, and the inventions of the Winchester Rifle and the Atomic Bomb, framing all of its wide-ranging topics as contributions to the United States’ construction as a “nation of texts and documents.” I often dip into this book for teaching, research, and plain curiosity.”

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Prof. Sigrid Streit

“First published in 1929, this novel is still incredibly relevant today. Maybe now more so than ever. A true anti-war story that will make you think.”

Lawrence Thornton’s Imagining Argentina

Prof. Molly Barlow

“It’s storytelling about storytelling, magical realism set in a place most of us could never dream of (the Argentina Dirty War of the 1970’s).  The imagery and emotion found me as an undergrad and has stayed with me through everything since.  A lot of treasure to be found here.”

Support your local library or bookseller, and happy reading!

Dudley Randall Poetry Exhibit

In recognition of National Poetry Month, the University of Detroit Mercy’s English Department has curated an exhibit at the McNichols Campus Library honoring Dudley Randall and the annual poetry prize the department sponsors in his memory. Now in its 53rd year, the Dudley Randall Poetry Prize continues Randall’s legacy of amplifying creative voices within the Detroit Mercy community.

Dudley Randall (1914-2000) was a poet, translator, editor, publisher, and reference librarian who served as the poet-in-residence at the University of Detroit Mercy from 1969 to 1976. Randall was named Detroit’s first Poet Laureate in 1981. Prior to his work at the University of Detroit Mercy, Dudley Randall founded Broadside Press, which published the work of major black poets including Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Giovanni, Robert Hayden, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Etheridge Knight, Audre Lord, Sonia Sanchez, Alice Walker, and Margaret Walker. Following his death, the McNichols Campus Library was designated as a National Literary Landmark in honor of Randall’s contributions to American literature.

A staunch advocate for student writers, Randall inaugurated the award that we now call the Dudley Randall Poetry Prize. Randall served as a judge from 1970 until his death in 2000. Other esteemed judges have included Marcello Hernandez Castillo, Emily Corwin, Claire Crabtree, Cal Freeman, Stacy Gnall, Rose Gorman, Gloria House, Michael Lauchlan, Sarah Pazur, and Alison Powell.

The winners of the 2023 Dudley Randall Poetry Prize are: First Place, ‘Persona’ by Collin Schacht; Second Place, ‘I Forgot Your Middle Name” by Olivia Vitale: Third Place, ‘Evening Bats’ by Lydia Chapman. Honorable mentions are ‘Dearest Audience’ by Aly Porcerelli and ‘The Man In The Below Poem Has Become Aware He Is In A Poem’ by Jeremy St. Martin.

The Dudley Randall exhibit, curated by English major Erin Letourneau, will be on display throughout the month of April. Be sure to stop by the McNichols Campus Library to read the prize-winning pieces and learn more about the Dudley Randall Poetry Prize. Read winning poems since 2015 at

Triptych with Adam Giannelli

By Josh Otten

I had the pleasure of attending the most recent Triptych Reading, featuring Adam Giannelli. He opened with a wry smile, making himself known through his beard, lavender striped oxford shirt, and his stutter. He also made sure to mention the spider plant that hung behind him. I’d like to consider it as another member of the audience. 

His introduction through appearance was a perfect transition to the poems that he read from Tremulous Hinge, his first and most recent poetry collection. Focusing on the sensory, physical aspects of life and memory, he read poems that swept me away in detail and precision.   

From an exploration of bodies and the way that they hang, sway, and shift, both intimately and in discomfort, to a meditation on gravity and its very presence in our every step, embrace, or tumble to the floor, the poems Giannelli read struck me in the way that they made me think about the relationship I have to my own body. And I emphasize the word relationship. In “My Insomnia,” Giannelli leads us through a description of, well, his insomnia, in all its quirks and idiosyncrasies. His insomnia is curious. it likes to drive, look at the night sky and through closed storefront windows. It takes “chamomile and warm baths as bribes.” This poem, in addition to the others that were read, probes at the intangible, ethereal relationship we have with our bodies. As much as we are our bodies, we are all separate from them at the same time. We can place our palm over our chest and feel our heart beating, but the heart beats of its own accord. Giannelli explores this relationship brilliantly, in all its minute and spectacular detail. 

At the same time, though, the poems he read were about much more than just bodies and sensory detail. In two separate odes to his nana, Giannelli explores the winter snow, as he remembers it, at her old house. Simultaneously, he gives us a moving glimpse into her memory loss, frozen alongside the snowbanks. 

Another standout moment for me was the poem about porcupines, which was both adorable and fiercely, exuberantly expressive (much like the quilled critters themselves). I really loved how Giannelli welcomed and celebrated their quills, what we know best about porcupines, but also talked about how their noses and the pads of their little feet are soft and squishy. Porcupines are much more than just shiny, bristling quills, and among the themes of bodily acceptance, this poem conveys a truly positive message about taking pride in the beauty of our own bodies, in each different and unique aspect. 

Finally, Giannelli closed with three new poems from his new project, which I really appreciated. I love getting the chance to experience a brand-new creative endeavor. These three poems centered around language, as well as his stutter. In the first, he tells the reader about his stutter with confident ownership. Not something to be concerned about or to pity, but a wonderful aspect of himself and his own self-expression. His poem “Stutterfied” continued with this theme, taking in stride and with pride each aspect of this stutter, in all the ways it’s a part of his speech and his expression. Finally, (my personal favorite) was “Alphabet Acrobats,” which was a spectacularly physical description of each letter of the alphabet through stomping, chewing, and kisses on the cheek. 

When the zoom meeting closed at the end of the reading, I found myself pondering the way my shirt clung to my skin, listening to wind whistle through the open window. 

Adam Giannelli shared his work as part of the Triptych Writers Series, sponsored by University of Detroit Mercy’s English department and hosted by Stacy Gnall, poet-in-residence at Detroit Mercy.


Author Note: Josh Otten is a freshman at the University of Detroit Mercy. He is an English major and track athlete. He is passionate about sports and the arts, and hopes to explore the world through writing.

An Eye-Opening Trip to the Detroit Institute of Arts

By Ahmad Putra Karunia

On March 2, Dr. Stephen Pasqualina and students in his ENL 3170: Transnational Modernisms course visited the Detroit Institute of Arts to study Diego Rivera’s iconic Detroit Industry murals (1932/33). Below is a reflection by Ahmad Putra Karunia on his experience at the DIA.

“An eye-opening experience”: this statement best describes my visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), which was one of the most amazing field-trip experiences of my life. While I do not have a great appreciation for art in general, seeing Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry murals in person left me in awe. Even though Dr. Pasqualina provided us with a thorough description and virtual walkthrough of the murals ahead of our visit, experiencing the actual space of Rivera Court—and how massive it is—was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Caption: A view of the South Wall of Rivera Court. Photo by Ahmad Putra Karunia.

I was very impressed with the details and commitments of Diego Rivera, to not only capture the auto industry of Detroit but to complete the project despite the many critiques he faced while in Detroit in the 1930s. I certainly believed that he used every single penny of the $10,000 funding that he received to create these outstanding murals. Regarding the artwork itself, I found that Rivera points out the prominent distinction of both valuable and destructive aspects of human intelligence, as described by the DIA: “The murals assert the benefits of industrial processes, but warns of their destructive side effects. The aviation industry produces planes for war as well as for travel. Scientific discoveries allow us to fight disease—and create poison gases.” In other words, human intelligence has certainly shaped civilizations, whether that entails applying our abilities for improvements or bringing catastrophe and chaos into the future. Detroit, as one of the most advanced technological manufacturing cities in world history, plays a huge role in this matter; Detroit, of course, was one of the most crucial manufacturing cities for the U.S. during WWII, largely due to the Ford Motor company led by Henry Ford (who Rivera admired greatly, despite their political disagreements).

Caption: A view of the West Wall of Rivera Court, which depicts aviation as both life-affirming and destructive. Photo by Ahmad Putra Karunia.

Rivera depicts numerous elements in these murals, from spiritual and political phenomena to the rise of civilizations and the span of life cycles. The subjects of the murals are much more complex than just the Detroit auto industry. As we stepped inside Rivera court, a docent by the name of Linda Cadariu provided us with descriptions of the paintings, including the presence of multiple races represented by enormous white, red, black, and yellow figures, all of them benefiting from the Earth’s natural resources. Rivera’s Detroit Industry represents an enormous sweep of human creation, innovation, and destruction.

Caption: A view of the North Wall of Rivera Court. Photo by Ahmad Putra Karunia.

Another amazing experience that I had during our DIA trip was seeing an actual mummy, along with X-Ray photos of the human skeleton and descriptions of the Egyptian beliefs that the human soul can live eternally within it. Well, I had very mixed feelings: I was creeped out and amazed at the same time, especially since I had only seen a mummy in Hollywood movies such as Indiana Jones and National Treasure. Other highlights included sculptures of Jesus Christ from different parts of Europe (Italy and Bavaria), the Nightmare painting by Henry Fuseli, and Asian exhibits featuring rugs and beautiful handmade ceramics from Lahore, Korea, and China.

Caption: Dr. Pasqualina (center, back row) and students in his Transnational Modernisms course pose in front of the South Wall of Rivera Court. Ahmad Putra Karunia pictured second to the right (in hat and hoodie).

Whether you are passionate about art or not (I certainly was not until this trip), I would highly recommend that everyone visit the Detroit Institute of Arts. I feel very lucky and honored to have been part of the field trip with all my amazing classmates and Professor Pasqualina. This was truly the best field trip I have ever been on—no cap!

Ahmad Putra Karunia is a junior majoring in Political Science at the University of Detroit Mercy.

A Multi-Media Venture with Paisley Rekdal

by Sam Gillmore

On Thursday, February 16th, I was honored to join a number of Detroit Mercy students and community members for a poetry reading performed by Paisley Rekdal. As the Chinese-American poet introduced us to her multi-media project about the impact of the transcontinental railroad, I noticed she could not keep the smile off her face. This was my first encounter with poetry that used more than simple ink and paper, and her excitement was contagious as she navigated the website she built.

West: A Translation will be available for purchase in May of 2023, but the author noted that the information within the book should be widely accessible, so her website is open-access and free to the public.

There is a strong focus on the intersection of Chinese identity and the construction of the railroad in this project, as the majority of those who constructed the transcontinental railroad were Chinese immigrants. Rekdal connects this construction to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which occurred 13 years after the completion of the railroad. Through a mix of videos and poems—old and new—she gives voice to a number of marginalized workers in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the railroad’s construction, creating a triumphal elegy for the souls lost to the progress of American civilization.

As Rekdal introduced us to, the poetry reading turned into an interactive celebration of lost history: unpleasant, lyrical, and in her words, “fractal” in nature. The reading took place over an hour-long Zoom session, but she utilized the platform by asking the viewers to call out what topics we wanted to explore. The chat was flooded with votes to learn more about migrant labor, polygamy, and sex work in this time and place. We began the journey by watching a video honoring a poem written by an unnamed Chinese detainee after the Chinese Exclusion Act barred Chinese immigrants from entering America. Her choice of using videos was a result of a “wealth of visual material” she found during her research, and it gave people the opportunity to visualize the past that otherwise might not have made it into history books.

On the website, each poem from West: A Translation is organized under a Chinese symbol. In these poems, Rekdal uses various strategies to give the reader a sense of what it was like to live during this period, such as jarring enjambment to reflect the harsh sensations of riding a train. Rekdal shared that this medium is “entirely appropriative,” as she included poems and images central to the time period. She also shared her experience of navigating this appropriation in an ethical fashion since it was important to preserve these individuals’ voices. She expressed that the only thing poems can do that history cannot is to highlight the fractal nature of how history unfolds.

There are multiple layers to the controversial and sometimes uncomfortable stories from the past, and Rekdal’s work navigates those layers efficiently. By taking advantage of the medium itself, she allows readers to delve into the trenches of history unscathed. Paisley Rekdal’s distinctive passion for her culture brings new life to an old story, and she transforms omitted history into a true memorial for what has previously been lost.

Paisley Rekdal shared her work as part of the Triptych Writers Series, sponsored by University of Detroit Mercy’s English department and hosted by Stacy Gnall, poet-in-residence at Detroit Mercy.


Author Note: Sam Gillmore (they/them) is a sophomore at the University of Detroit Mercy with a passion for creative prose and poetry. As a double major in both English and Developmental Psychology, they look for the humanity in all things and hope to connect with people through language. 

Triptych Virtual Author Series

In 2023, University of Detroit Mercy’s Department of English presents Triptych, a virtual author series on 3rd Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. in January, February, and March.

There are incredible poets and writers on the roster—Marcelo Hernandez Castillo (1/19), Paisley Rekdal (2/16), and Adam Giannelli (3/16). Stacy Gnall, Detroit Mercy’s Poet-in-Residence, will be hosting the series.

All three Triptych readings are free and open to the public.

Register for the events at this link:

Summer Reading Recs from Detroit Mercy English

Each summer, the Detroit Mercy English Department offers reading recommendations for the season of rest and relaxation. We hope you find time to curl up, stretch out, and read a whole stack of good books. Leave your own recs in the comments!

Layli Long Soldier’s WHEREAS

Stephen Pasqualina, Assistant Professor

“An equal parts experimental and political poetry collection written as a direct response to the “Apology to Native Peoples” in the 2010 U.S. defense appropriations bill. In her response, Long Soldier, an Oglala Lakota poet, appropriates and reimagines the language of the federal government’s apology for its ‘long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies … regarding Indian tribes.'”

Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake

Liz Lulis, Adjunct Faculty

“Lahiri details the trials of understanding who we are against our backgrounds, our experiences, our parents, and our childhoods.  A family from Calcutta migrate to America and try to find the balance in shaping their home and children to be both Indian and American.  Their son Gogol searches for answers he thinks will change the trajectory of his life, or at bare minimum, find contentment.”

The short stories of Carol Emshwiller, especially “Pelt.” 

Stacy Gnall, Poet-in-Residence and Adjunct Faculty

“Emshwiller’s work is lyrical, “avant garde,” feminist sci-fi from the mid-twentieth century. A newer discovery for me, she belongs more solidly in the canon.”

Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See

Mary-Catherine Harrison, Associate Professor and Chair

“This novel follows the crossing paths of two children in WWII Occupied France–Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, a German boy. It is beautifully written and haunting. I read it several years ago on a trip through southern Europe, so it transports me, doubly, through time and space.”

Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun

Nick Rombes, Professor

“The story of Klara, an Artificial Friend (AF) hired to be friends with an ailing girl. But this is Ishiguro, and so it’s about so much more than that! The book’s meanings unfold gradually and culminate in a remarkable ending.”

John Williams’ Stoner

Heather Hill, Professor

“This novel is so beautifully written. It is focused with precision, depth, and understated passion on its main character, William Stoner. At first, Stoner seems like an American success story – overcoming a very poor background to become a college professor. Yet, as his life proceeds, the novel becomes a deeply moving study of the painful progression of how we define success–perhaps especially in American culture. It is an amazing, deeply moving book.”

The poetry of Tina Chang

Stacy Gnall, Poet-in-Residence and Adjunct Faculty

“Especially check out her poem “Lion” which appeared as a March 2022 Poem-a-Day on the Academy of American Poets website. I wish that I had written this piece myself, which I’ve always considered the highest praise.”

Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life

Erin Bell, Adjunct Faculty and Assistant Director for Educational Development at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

“This beautifully-written novel explores how the small moments in our lives can lead to an infinite number of possibilities. Atkinson’s protagonist, Ursula Todd dies and is reborn again (and again) as major 20the century events unfold around her.”

Richard Powers’s The Overstory

Lauren Rinke, Adjunct Faculty and Director of the Writing Center

“A beautiful tribute to nature and the magic of trees! This novel features several multi-generational timelines woven together… a story about listening to our inner voice, appreciating the natural world, and joining forces to preserve something bigger than us. “

Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments

Rosemary Weatherston, Associate Professor

“The sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. Moves in unexpected and satisfying directions.”

Zora Neale Hurston’s You Don’t Know Us Negroes

Stephen Pasqualina, Assistant Professor

“A new collection of essays by the Harlem Renaissance icon and “Genius of the South,” Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston is best known as a novelist (especially of Their Eyes Were Watching God). Her essays are only recently gaining wider acclaim. This collection includes some previously unpublished/out of print gems: “Art and Such” (on the expectations placed on Black artists), “What White Publishers Won’t Print,” and Hurston’s coverage of the Ruby McCollum murder trial. This collection is punchy, political, controversial, and clever.”

Rebecca Solnit’s Recollections of My Nonexistence

Amanda Hiber, Senior Lecturer

“If you love Rebecca Solnit, this is a look behind the curtain, where and how that brilliant mind might have sprouted. The memoir’s interiority reminds me of Patti Smith’s M Train but is more cerebral than sensual–and shot through with Solnit’s trademark feminist analysis.”

Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air

Liz Lulis, Adjunct Faculty

“Perhaps the most beautiful memoir I have ever read, Kalanithi is a neurosurgeon battling terminal cancer. The emphasis is placed upon understanding how we construct our lives when dealing with death.  His journey is both philosophically reflective and objectively scientific–simply sublime.”

Teju Cole’s Known and Strange Things: Essays

Nick Rombes, Professor

Cole’s essays and photos are so sharp and memorable and it’s a great book for dipping into at random.”

Rachel Kushner’s Telex from Cuba: A Novel

Erin Bell, Adjunct Faculty and Assistant Director for Educational Development at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

“I really enjoyed the sense of place and space in this novel as well as the multiple narrative threads. Kushner explores the complexities of colonialism’s end in Cuba through the eyes of numerous characters.”

Karan Mahajan’s The Association of Small Bombs

Amanda Hiber, Senior Lecturer

“This amazing novel centers around a 1996 terrorist bombing in Delhi, India. The reader sees the before, during, and after of the attack through the eyes of a victim’s father, a survivor, and the bombing’s mastermind.”

Ben Mcintyre’s Agent Sonya: Moscow’s Most Daring Wartime Spy 

Rebecca Tull (our English librarian!)

“I’m not usually drawn to spy stories, but this one, drawn from the subject’s diaries, correspondence and interviews with her two adult sons, was fascinating. It’s the story of German-born Ursula Hamburger, who goes on to become a Communist, secret agent, and colonel in the Red Army, living in China, the Soviet Union, and England, among other places, all while married and raising children. Ethical questions aside, how the subject could have kept the details of her life straight – not to mention secret – is completely beyond me!”

Angus Fletcher’s Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature

Rosemary Weatherston, Associate Professor

“We might not normally think of literature as a “technology,” but this book is a fascinating look at literary innovations like through the lens of the story science. From the book description: ‘Wonderworks reviews the blueprints for twenty-five of the most powerful developments in the history of literature. These inventions can be scientifically shown to alleviate grief, trauma, loneliness, anxiety, numbness, depression, pessimism, and ennui—all while sparking creativity, courage, love, empathy, hope, joy, and positive change.'”

Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate

Megan Novell, Adjunct Faculty and Interim Title IX Director

“The queen of all interwar British comic novels, Love in a Cold Climate is smart, light, and super funny.  Tell me you don’t hyperventilate at the chubb fuddling scene.”

Veronica Raimo’s The Girl at the Door

Heather Hill, Professor

“Told from the alternating perspectives of the two individuals involved in a romantic relationship and tinged with dystopian elements—the couple has moved to a country which has reinvented the rules of how people should live, work, and socialize with one another—this novel explores what happens when both the couple’s relationship as well as this alternative, utopia-seeking society are challenged by the misdeeds of the male half of the couple.”

Claude Steel’s Whistling Vivaldi

Mary-Catherine Harrison, Associate Professor and Chair

Whistling Vivaldi is one of my favorite pieces of academic research written for a general audience. Dr. Steele’s work changed how I understand the cognitive toll of stereotypes, what he calls stereotype threat.”

Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet

Heather Hill, Professor

“I just love this book—full of depth and texture, and plants and herbs, and disruptive women and, yes, Shakespeare but Shakespeare from a wonderfully different and revealing angle. ” (Prof. Harrison seconds this recommendation!)

Maggie O’Farrell’s The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox 

Michael Barry, Professor

“Maggie O’Farrell makes the list twice!”

Ronald Takaki’s Strangers From A Different Shore

Megan Novell, Adjunct Faculty and Interim Title IX Director

“This history of Asian Americans is excellent.”

Oliver Sacks’s An Anthropologist on Mars

Michael Barry, Professor

“Essays by a neuroscientist, full of stories. I just read most of Musicophilia and really liked it, but it reminded me of how much I was intrigued by this earlier work.”

Andre Alexis’ s Fifteen Dogs

Rebecca Tull, English librarian

“Hermes and Apollo meet up at a pub in Toronto and speculate about how dogs would behave if given human intelligence. A wager and events at a nearby veterinary clinic drive the ensuing story. I can still remember that pit-in-my-stomach feeling as the short allegory unfolds.” 

Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars

Lauren Rinke, Adjunct Faculty and Director of the Writing Center

“Not your typical post-apocalyptic story. The story of a pilot, his dog, and the strangers surrounding him, and how they manage to survive a devastating sickness and recognize the remaining beauty in the world. Equal parts musings on human nature, gratitude, simple pleasures, and plenty of action, too!”

Happy reading, and don’t forget to support your local library or bookseller!

Adia Palmer–Moving

Adia Palmer’s poem “Moving” was a submission for the 52nd annual Dudley Randall Poetry Prize at University of Detroit Mercy. We were honored to have her as a member of the English department family.

Adia Janaye Palmer

Adia Palmer

Daggers scrape the floor she floats aimlessly
An arsenal of artificial light beams on the complexion of her tights
Brown, pink, tan, light pink, suntan, white
Black girls ballet in the light

Click clack shoe taps have the most rhythm
A show of song
Eyes watch
Ears stalk following along

Bare pattern practice arches the soles
Celebrating a modern style with cultural currents
Movement ancestors known before they arrived
And became lineage of lives

Said it wasn’t real music
The sound was a beat box
Jump, skip, hop and bop

On “Moving”
Amanda Hiber (Senior Lecturer, Detroit Mercy English Department)

Early writers frequently miss the essential element of compression in poetry. They have so much to say, so much to express, and poetry gives them license no other form has. It’s not a five-paragraph essay, it requires no thesis, no citations, no topic sentence. And so, they write. Poetry is beautiful this way; it gives so many people their first hint that language can be a form of play, a release, not a prison. And so, they write. They take the license and keep. writing. 

What strikes me most about Adia’s poem is its compression. There are few spare words. She harnesses diction, syntax, punctuation, and lineation to say more with less. 

Most poems are meant to be said aloud, but some more so than others. This is one of those. Daggers scrape the floor. Sharp, scratching, rough, hard. She floats aimlessly (no comma: perfect). The repetition of Black. Ballet as a verb. This is just the first stanza. 

Adia moves through dance genres as she moves through complexions, as she moves through and to the gravity of all of this. Black girls ballet in the light. Movement ancestors known before they arrived. She moves, too, between rhythms. “Eyes watch/Ears stalk” are like syllables in a haiku but then the prose (but not too prose-ey) of “Said it wasn’t real music.” She leaves out words when necessary. She infuses sounds—click clack shoe taps—for effect and, again, to alleviate surplus.  

There’s so much to Adia’s poem. There’s the power of music; there are glimpses of her childhood as a dancer. But this is also a political poem. Some people write dance poems, some people write political poems. Adia wrote political dance poems. 

If you knew her, this would come as no surprise. Adia was fierce but also sensitive. She spoke her mind but listened closely, too. She was keenly perceptive but completely self-possessed. She was self-protective but capable of great vulnerability. She’d look at you with the utmost skepticism and then break into that laugh. If you knew her, you’d know that laugh. You’d never forget it. 

A framed copy of “Moving” is hung in the 2nd floor of the Briggs Building

The Crown Jewel, by Mehar Soni

Dudley Randall Poetry Prize Winner (1st Prize), 2022

Mehar Soni

The Crown Jewel

My mother used to braid my hair;
her seasoned hands untangling my dark waves.
The percussion of the rain against the window;
a perfect counterpoint to her lilting voice.

With each pass of the comb, she wove a fairytale.
Stories of how she met my father laced into my mane alongside
fresh jasmine, gleaming thread, and golden bells.

She talked fondly of my father’s love of pakora in winter,
the British pocket watch he carried by his breast.
She called him a young king preparing for the throne,
or better yet, a military captain saving Indian lives.

She said he’d armed himself with Mahatma Gandhi’s
words: Satya. Ahimsa. Tapasya. Jai Hind!
As if he could rub the crown jewel right out with salt!

Her palms glistened with coconut oil, the smell
of Darjeeling tea in the air, as my plait formed,
molded by my mother’s hands, like Lord Ganesha.

When I asked where Papa was, she sometimes
pulled my hair too tight or stuck a pin into my scalp.
Ouch, ma, you’re hurting me!

She never told me he moved to Bombay years before.
Childish,         what a fool was I!
My father                 everywhere but here.

About the poem:

I am currently enrolled in Intermediate Creative Writing, and each week, we were required to submit a poem for revision. I was feeling particularly stuck one day, and decided to revise a piece I had left in my drafts about a year ago. 

When I first began editing, it was an exercise in imagery. I attempted to convey the scene of a mother braiding her daughter’s hair while bonding through storytelling. After several comments from my peers telling me to add more to this story, I decided to include a backstory that delved into the Salt March in 1930s India. I decided to name this poem Crown Jewel both as a reference to India and Britain’s history, and also to convey how this child was meant to be her father’s jewel, but was not.

I wrote from the perspective of an individual reflecting on their childhood: recalling these fairytales about their absent parent, and now comprehending their incoherence. Often, we recall painful events from years past, and there is a feeling of loss at how we bitterly wish our truths were different. This poem attempts to embody the song of this gutting emotion, juxtaposed with a fond, loving memory.

Sponsored by the Detroit Mercy English Department, the Dudley Randall Poetry Prizes honor the late poet, publisher, and University of Detroit Mercy librarian and poet-in-residence. Find out more about the Dudley Randall Poetry Prize, and read recent prize-winning poems, at

What They Don’t Tell You About Suicide, by Aly Porcerelli

Dudley Randall Poetry Prize Winner (3rd Prize), 2022

Aly Porcerelli

I’ve spent my life being easily impressed.
So when I overdosed on my bedroom floor
On lamotrigine, blood and tears
I couldn’t help but admire
The way the room started to shake
Or how my frail fingers could still dial 911;
How life only exists in patterns,
O, what a wicked cycle.
I laid weary in my hospital bed
Counting the ceiling tiles one by one
Like it was some sort of game,
Some figment outside of reality
Consuming my brain like bad TV,
Teaching me how to halt time.

When I first awoke from my coma
My father had surprise on his tired face
But me, I had plans in my thumping brain
To return to the life I knew;
Because the urge to do nothing, to move on
Overpowered any desire to get better
So I told my mind, “Be quiet!”
Between the concrete hospital walls
Until the doctor deemed me
Ready to go home.

What he didn’t tell me is that
This will never go away
That I’ll wake up choking on air,
Feeling as close to death as I did
On that June afternoon
And what no one told me is how
My mother will worry until she’s sick
And then worry some more
More than she did when I was small
And the world was large

What they will never tell anybody
Is that the self-help books lied
That it probably won’t get easier
That what doesn’t kill you almost did
But through all the suffering
There will be moments of ethereality
Of stardust and beacons of sun
Laughter and magic and hope.
So I’ll run, or walk, it won’t matter;
Until there’s no blood left in the cut
Because today I saw the sun
And it was shining in celebration

Infographic by Aly Porcerelli, inspired by The Depression Project

About the poem:

Writing “What They Don’t Tell You About Suicide” caused me a good amount of pain and tears, which I think is actually a sign of good, impactful art. My goal in writing the poem was not just to explore my own trauma and find catharsis in doing so, but to make other people who have dealt with mental illness or suicidal ideation feel a little less alone. I sat down at my computer and typed out exactly what you read here; there was no revision, no backtracking. It all felt very natural and very necessary in terms of my mental health and my personal growth. I thank you kindly for reading my words, and I hope they can leave a positive impact on you in some way.


Sponsored by the Detroit Mercy English Department, the Dudley Randall Poetry Prizes honor the late poet, publisher, and University of Detroit Mercy librarian and poet-in-residence. Find out more about the Dudley Randall Poetry Prize, and read recent prize-winning poems, at