Between the Lines: Politics and Community

May 15, 2015

Adam Schuitema and daughter Elizabeth
Credit Adam Schuitema

Haymaker is a fictional town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula created by Grand Rapids author Adam Schuitema. Haymaker is also the title of Schuitema’s newest book, published in April 2015 by Switchgrass Books. And, haymaker also refers to a forceful blow. All apply to the story.

The book was inspired by a 2014 NPR news story about a small town in New Hampshire that was taken over by a group of libertarians. That led to something of a civil war among the townspeople and the “outsiders.” Schuitema’s Haymaker illustrates what can happen when change is forced upon people, even with "good" intentions. Schuitema says he chose Michigan’s U.P. because it’s an area he knows well from his travels, and because “Yoopers,” are known for their rugged individualism.

Haymaker opens with town resident Donnie Sarver throwing a haymaker in his annual fist fight with some unfortunate who's decided to move to the town. More fights await as a libertarian group called The Freedom Congress targets the town for the Utopia it wants to construct based on a political philosophy of small government. While that concept fits well enough with Yooper thinking, the idea of a mass invasion does not. Resistance is predictable, but how that resistance unfolds will keep readers turning pages, guessing about the author’s own political slant (and failing to find answers).

“I didn’t want in any way to have a political agenda that’s thinly veiled in fiction,” Schuitema says. “I wanted it to be character- driven and to show heroes and villains on both sides.”

Credit Switchgrass Books

Haymaker residents react to the influx of hundreds of out-of- towners with varied degrees of hostility. Opposing sides clash in local cafes, shops, town meetings, parades, school yards and and even bedrooms. And, finally, they clash in an all-too common northern Michigan blizzard.

Adam Schuitema is also the author of the short story collection Freshwater Boys (picked as a "Michigan Notable Book" by the Library of Michigan), and his stories have appeared in maany journals, including the North American Review, TriQuarterly, Black Warrior Review, and Crazyhorse.

Schuitema earned his MFA and PhD from Western Michigan University, is an associate professor of English at Kendall College of Art and Design, and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife and daughter.

Schuitema will read from his work at the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo on May 19 at 6 p.m.

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