The WNIJ listening area is a hotbed of literature, according to Dan Klefstad, host of Morning Edition and editor for the Book Series. Since the summer of 2012, Dan has interviewed more than twenty writers of fiction, poetry, creative essays and memoirs -- all from northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.
This year's Summer Book Series airs Fridays in June. It begins with Rockford native Gary Lawrence, author of Baffled and Other Stories, a collection of fiction set in Rockford and the surrounding area. 1970s graduates of West High School will find familiar coaches and teachers, and might remember tensions arising from race, class and other factors. Baffled is Lawrence's debut collection of short stories. He'll talk about the book on June 6.
On June 13, Joseph Gastiger talks about Loose Talk, his debut collection of poetry. Rev. Gastiger is a pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ in DeKalb. Fellow poet John Bradley says Gastiger's poems take us to "the corner of Memory and Desire" and feature a diverse cast, including Commander Cody, Snow White and Kurt Vonnegut.
On June 20, Dan interviews Chicagoan Barrie Jean Borich about Body Geographic. This book borrows images of maps and tattoos to chart Borich's journey of self-discovery from the steel mills of her South Side childhood to the "prairie college town" of Champaign, to Minneapolis, hometown of her spouse Linnea.
Borich's book recently won a gold medal at the Independent Publisher Book Awards or IPPYs. It also won a Lambda Book Award, or LAMMY, which recognizes LGBT authors.
On June 27, Robert Hellenga returns to WNIJ to discuss his newest book, to be released in July. The Confessions of Frances Godwin is the fictional memoir of a retired high school Latin teacher. The story moves between Illinois and Italy during various times in Godwin's life. After her husband dies, she begins a series of conversations with God, who takes a sudden interest in her life. Hellenga was featured during the 2013-14 Winter Book Series.
Listen in on our conversations after NPR news at 6:30 and 8:30. Then come back here for author readings and other information. And if there's room in your book bag this summer, be sure to include these!