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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Lisa Lenzo's Unblinking

In Unblinking (Wayne State University Press, 2019), her new collection of stories, Lisa Lenzo writes about her native Detroit as well as race, class, disability, aging, and family. Her earlier novel-in-stories, Strange Love, was a 2015 Michigan Notable Book Award winner. Unblinking is part of the Made in Michigan Writers Series.

“It’s a collection of ten stories,” Lenzo says. “About half of them are based on people I know, and many of those people are my family members. In the other half, I take a little bit of one person, a little bit of another person, and use my imagination.”

A conversation with Lisa Lenzo

The final story in the collection, “Marching,” is based on Lenzo’s father, who marched fifty miles with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the Civil Rights era.

“My father was active in the civil rights movement,” Lenzo says. “He never spoke much to us about that. I was about eight when he went to march with Martin Luther King. He marched all the way from Selma to Montgomery.”

Credit Wayne State University Press
Wayne State University Press

Lenzo says it was only on the fiftieth anniversary of King’s march that her father, prompted by her brother, began to share his experience with the family. Lenzo is an activist in civil rights today, continuing the legacy of her father and mother in taking part fighting for rights.

In other stories, Lenzo writes about an older black man reliving his days on a basketball team torn by racial divisions. She writes about an angel helping someone cope with his anger. She writes about a man falling out of the tree and enjoying the freedom of the fall even though it ends in his becoming paraplegic.

Lenzo’s honors include the John Simmons Short Fiction Award, a Hemingway Days Festival Award, a PEN Syndicated Fiction Project Award, and First Place for Fiction in the 2017 Literature + Medicine Writing Contest. Her stories and essays have appeared in Arts & Letters, Michigan Quarterly Review, Sacred Ground: Stories About Home, Fresh Water: Women Writing on the Great Lakes, and on NPR. Lenzo grew up in Detroit and is a graduate of the MFA writing program at Western Michigan University.

Lisa Lenzo will read with Michigan poet Jack Ridl at Michigan News Agency in downtown Kalamazoo on Thursday, May 16, at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

“We’re going to be doing a dramatic reading,” Lenzo says. “I choose parts that have a lot of dialogue and I have some actor friends who will be with me.”

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

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Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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