TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City has special meaning for author Rachel Simon.
For starters it's the first city to choose her 2011 book, "The Story of Beautiful Girl," for a community reading project. It also was the home of her late friend and journalist Bethany Broadwell, who died in 2009 at age 36 from complications from muscular dystrophy.
"She interviewed me through email and we continued being in touch after the interview and became regular correspondents," said Simon, whose New York Times bestselling book deals with two characters with disabilities, and who lists Broadwell in the acknowledgements. "When I started 'Beautiful Girl' I couldn't wait for her to see it. Before I got the first draft, I got an email informing me of Bethany's death.
"Even though she isn't in Traverse City anymore my heart has been with Bethany and my heart is in Traverse City. Her spirit to me is very much part of that book."
Simon will make her first trip to Traverse City — not counting the time she landed at Cherry Capital Airport to speak at a transportation convention at nearby Crystal Mountain Resort — on Tuesday, Oct. 30. She'll give a presentation and book signing at the City Opera House as the culmination of this year's Traverse City Reads "One Book, One Community" reading project.
She'll also conduct a master class with Front Street Writers, a creative writing program for public high school students organized by Traverse City Area Public Schools and the National Writers Series.
"The Story of Beautiful Girl" follows the 40-year journey of a young white woman with a developmental disability and a deaf black man who find love together despite being locked away in an institution. Eventually the two escape and find temporary refuge with a retired schoolteacher. But when they are captured and returned to the institution, where they are kept apart for years, the young woman gives the schoolteacher her baby and asks her to hide it — and the couple's secret.
TC Reads committee member Ruth Bay said the committee chose the book for Traverse City's 11th community reading project partly because of its tie-in to the former Traverse City State Hospital and the region's resulting familiarity with developmental disability issues.
"Everybody that's reading it says it's a great book and, interestingly enough, most people have people with developmental disability issues in their family somewhere, whether it's a sibling, a child, an aunt or an uncle," Bay said.
Simon said she wrote the book to encourage thought and discussion about society's treatment of developmental disabilities, both now and historically. She said a long tradition of institutionalizing those with disabilities and treating them as "a big secret" has resulted in a society that doesn't know how to interact with them.
Though she was taken over by the story's intensity and power, she said she was surprised by the book's success. In its first year it became even more popular than her 2002 national bestselling memoir "Riding the Bus with My Sister," which was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie starring Rosie O'Donnell as Simon's real-life developmentally disabled sister, Beth, and sparked a flurry of speaking engagements on diversity and disabilities that continues today. So far "Beautiful Girl" has been translated into 10 languages.
Simon said she focused on writing toward the book's pivotal ending, in which the lovers are finally reunited and begin a new life together.
"Part of why the ending of 'Beautiful Girl' is so joyful is because so many of those books I read as a kid about people with disabilities had them die at the end. Over and over they end in these sad ways," said the author, who earned a master's in creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and taught the same at Bryn Mawr College. "It doesn't have to end in tragedy. It can end how any story about lovers can end: with them in bed."
Currently Simon is at work on her seventh book, another novel, about which she declined to elaborate. But she hinted that readers can expect more of the same.
"It's hard to imagine I would write outside the themes I write about: compassion, struggles, differences, the universality of love and loss and the importance of support," she said. "As ("Beautiful Girl") shows, disability is the one thing that crosses all boundaries. And if there is any spiritual message embodied in the book, it's that disability is God's way of letting us know we are all one family and therefore we must all care for one another."
Readers can meet the author at a 6 p.m. reception preceding her Oct. 30 talk. Tickets are $15 at the City Opera House Box Office and online at www.cityoperahouse.org, at all Traverse Area District Library locations, at Horizon Books and Brilliant Books, and at the door.
Rachel Simon to give talk at Opera House
TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City has special meaning for author Rachel Simon.
Sled dog rescue team makes winter debut
Sarah Dobbrastine has three words for this winter: Keep it coming. That’s because Dobbrastine is spending her first season giving sled dog rides with her dream team.Continued ...
Serendipity in poetry: Judy Hartley finds an outlet in language
Judy Hartley has written poems about almost everything under the sun. And she has stacks of composition books to prove it.Continued ...
Marta Hepler Drahos: Crowdfunding reaches height of absurdity
It takes a village to raise a child — and, apparently, money for your wedding, your prom dress and even your next vacation.Continued ...
Ed Hungness: Now this was a 'real' winter
"When I was a kid, I walked three miles down a country road during the middle of winter to get to school. There were no sidewalks, we walked in the wagon ruts and the snow was higher than our heads!"Continued ...
Books in Brief: 03/09/2014
Author signings; Poet workshop.Continued ...
Best Sellers: 03/09/2014
Best-selling books across northwest Michigan and the country:Continued ...
Community in Brief: 03/09/2014
Grow Benzie dinner; Northwest MI Jazz Experience hosts concert; League of Women Voters Leelanau County screens documentary; and more.Continued ...
- Saturday, March 8, 2014
A little payback for a 'Good Samaritan'
Jenice Kroon knows almost nothing about Scott Peterson except that he was there offering a hand when she needed help.Continued ...
Adapted in TC: Reminiscence offers different view
The stylish, middle-aged woman standing at the mirrored sink washing her hands has her back to me. I’m headed to the other sink just as my small black evening bag slides off my lap.Continued ...
Body&Soul in Brief: 03/08/2014
Lenten Luncheon series continues; Moomer's "Taste of Summer" benefit for Munson Hospice; and more.Continued ...
Body&Soul Newsmakers: 03/08/2014
People in the news:Continued ...
Blood Drive Calendar: 03/08/2014
Blood drives in the region:Continued ...
Doctors hope for cure in a 2nd baby born with HIV
A second baby born with the AIDS virus may have had her infection put into remission and possibly cured by very early treatment — in this instance, four hours after birth.Continued ...
Did Jesus really look like Brad Pitt?
They say you can never be too rich or too thin. Surely it goes without saying that you can’t be too good-looking, either, right? Especially in Hollywood.Continued ...
Commission lags, Pope defensive
Pope Francis is coming under increasing criticism that he simply doesn’t get it on sex abuse.Continued ...
2-year extension seen for canceled health plans
The Obama administration will allow a two-year extension for people whose individual health insurance policies don’t comply with requirements of the new health care law, helping to defuse a politically difficult election-year issue for Democrats.Continued ...
New abortion law in Texas results in closure of two more clinics
The last abortion clinic in the vast, impoverished Rio Grande Valley closed Thursday, along with the sole remaining clinic in the 100-mile stretch between Houston and the Louisiana border, posing a tall obstacle to women seeking to end pregnancies across a wide swath of the nation’s second-largest state.Continued ...
Education Newsmakers: 03/08/2014
The following area students graduated from Central Michigan University following the fall 2013 semester:Continued ...
Community in Brief: 03/08/2014
TC Roller Derby birthday party; program on fall prevention and fire safety; Greenspire School hosts Family Arts Night; and more.Continued ...
- Friday, March 7, 2014
TC native joins Team Blake on TV's 'The Voice'
Ryan Whyte Maloney finally can spill the beans: he’s a bona fide contestant on “The Voice.”Continued ...
OTP revives 'Sound of Music' after 20 years
Kathy Verstraete unearthed some familiar artifacts while she packed her mother’s home two years ago.Continued ...
And the Oscar (contest) goes to ...
Holly MacAulay did her homework and it showed when she her Oscar contest entry landed among four with perfect scores.Continued ...
Former TC student teacher returns as singer-songwriter
Josh Rose found musical inspiration in some unusual places growing up on a sheep farm in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.Continued ...
Weekend in Brief: 03/07/2014
"Pure A Cappella" showcase; Mel Larimer concert series continues; and more.Continued ...
Night Life Calendar: 03/07/2014
What's going on after dark:Continued ...
- Sled dog rescue team makes winter debut