U.P. Reader Volume #6: Bringing Upper Michigan Literature to the World
Edited by Deborah K. Frontiera and Mikel B. Classen
Modern History Press (2022)
Reviewed by Dawn Colclasure for Reader Views (04/2023)
Most regional publications showcase the best work of the area’s writers, and the U.P. Reader is just one among the many such publications. Featuring short stories, essays, commentary, poems and more, this magazine that is more like a booklet offers entertaining, thought-provoking and curious works to delight and enlighten readers.
Confession time: I have never given regional magazines much love. As a freelance writer, of course, I was aware of them, but the only time I ever read one was if I wanted to submit something to them. In this case, the U.P. Reader, while not something a freelance writer based elsewhere can submit to, has taught me a very important lesson: There is outstanding and helpful material within their pages. So, if one comes across a regional magazine they have never read before, mostly because it consists of work from writers in that region, one would do well to check it out. In the event I happen to come across another type of regional publication, I will definitely think twice before passing it by. After this experience, I will likely take an interest in having a look at what treasures lie within their pages!
At least, that is the lesson I have learned from reading this particular issue of the U.P. Reader. Now that I have read this issue, I want to read all the other issues! This particular issue is definitely one I will keep in my home and share with others. I can’t believe I would have missed out on some amazing stories, poems and essays had I not had the opportunity to review it. And I am indeed grateful I had the opportunity. I loved it! The press release accompanying this book states, “Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is blessed with a treasure trove of storytellers, poets, and historians, all seeking to capture a sense of Yooper Life from settler’s days to the far-flung future.” I could not agree more! The writing is wonderful and the stories, poems, essays, and reviews were all enjoyable reads. I am so glad these writers have had their wonderful works published for all to read. The best part is that there is a variety of material. The stories are not all literary, the poems are not all free verse, and the essays cover a variety of topics. There is even one about a beloved family dog, which I really enjoyed reading.
Before I jump in to share which things I liked, let me just say that reading this volume is like exploring the history of Michigan I never knew about before. The historical photos only added to this effect. Some of the writers do share a bit of history of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (which includes Chippewa, Mackinac and Keweenaw), but it’s the regional dialect, regional issues and regional life of the U.P. shared in these works that captures life in that particular part of the state. One person, for example, reacted in a calm manner when seeing a wolf near the front porch. And another person detailed the necessities required when living around or near Lake Superior, which is known to overflow. It almost puts me into the story or essay right along with the characters and people, although I have never visited there.
It is hard for me to choose a favorite story so I will list the ones that I really liked: “Lucy and Maud” by Tyler Tichelaar, “Astrid the Lighthouse Keeper” by Nikki Mitchell, “Christmas Eve at the Dead Wolf Bar” by Chris Kent, “Finders & Keepers” by Elizabeth Fust, “The Stubborn Snowblower” by Deborah K. Frontiera, and “Extinct” by Douglas Hoover.
Okay, actually, yes. I do have a favorite story from this publication: “Extinct.” This story was freaking amazing! It just really blew me away! When I saw the typos, I thought maybe the proofreader or copyeditor for this publication missed them. But, no. The typos are intentional. And there is a very good reason why. I won’t spoil anything, but let me just say this story had me glued to the pages and full of suspense. The ending was just really pivotal. It was so good and I couldn’t stop thinking about that story after I finished reading it.
As to the essays, the ones I really liked reading were “The Freshman” by Victor R. Volkman, “Seeds Well Planted: Healing Balm from a Keweenaw Garden” by Cyndi Perkins and “Maxwell” by Richard Hill. My favorite, of course, was about Maxwell. It’s a dog-lover thing.
Now for the poems. I could never really pick one that I liked most. I truly liked all of them, and it was great to see some poetry by my favorite U.P. poet, Raymond Luczak.
Readers are in for a real treat at the end of this volume: The editors have included the winning entries from young writers of the U.P.’s schools. The contest was called the Dandelion Cottage Short Story Award and I was delighted to come across this section, because I enjoy reading work from young writers. My own two kids are young writers, so I am not new to reading work from the under-25 crowd. If I thought the adult writers in this volume were talented scribes, I could only imagine just how talented and prizeworthy these future adult writers of the U.P. will grow up to be, provided they continue writing. I really enjoyed reading all of the stories included in this section of the publication.
The U.P. Reader is a fantastic collection of some of the U.P.s best writers and I really enjoyed reading it. It served as a satisfying volume to read when I had some free time, as well as an entertaining source of fantastic fiction. I highly recommend this volume to anyone who enjoys reading a variety of short stories, poems and essays, as well as anyone interested in the works that capture the regional essence of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.