PETE KARMANOS: A LIFE IN PROGRESS
There’s a familiar narrative that wants us to believe every successful person once had it hard. That they all started out just like us. This is no different with regard to Peter Karmanos Jr., the co-founder of Compuware whose roots in a working-class Greek-American family taught him the value of a buck. His parents kept their daily profits from the family restaurant in a cigar box, and would use that same money to buy supplies for the next day. If there was anything left over, they knew they were doing well.
“I never forgot that you had to take in more money than you spent,” says Karmanos in Pete Karmanos: A Life in Progress (Word Karma Books, $44.95). The book chronicles his journey from “scraping chewing gum from under the counters” to starting one of America’s largest computer companies in an abandoned motel in Southfield. He became one of the city’s most significant financial givers, too, with the founding of the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute after his wife, Barbara Ann, died of breast cancer.
Written by his second wife, Danialle, and including editing and interviews by former Hour Detroit Editor Rebecca Powers, A Life in Progress reads like an intimate family scrapbook with countless photos and inspirational quotes.
Danialle’s honesty, perhaps, is its most endearing quality. With just one anecdote from their domestic life — Karmanos refused to stop smoking cigars during one of Danialle’s pregnancies and the odors caused her nausea — we can almost picture a normal life and marriage.
The message, of course, seems to be that Karmanos is flawed. That he really is just like everyone else. While that’s not exactly true, if you’ve ever been skeptical of big business — or that oh-so-American belief that hard work will get you everywhere — the book does an admirable job demystifying these paradigms in a man who is unapologetic of his values and ideals. “(M)ake no mistake,” Danialle writes, “If Peter Karmanos did it, he believed with all his heart that it was the right thing to do.”
The book is available at The Detroit Shoppe downtown and at the Somerset Collection location in Troy. — Monica Mercer
THE PALEO MANIFESTO
The trending paleo diet can bring to mind to the uninitiated an image of people gnawing on huge hunks of meat as the main form of sustenance. Grosse Pointe native and University Liggett School grad John Durant sets out to dispel this preconceived notion and more, going beyond food lists and menu plans in his new book The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health (Harmony Books, $25).
Blending scientific research, historical narratives, and personal experiences, Durant not only lays out the tenets of living a paleo lifestyle but also issues a call to action against the industrial food system, which sets his book apart from the typical diet book.
Much like food activist writers Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman, Durant strikes at the industrial food system. “As a result, almost any change in diet that results in eating less industrial food will improve one’s health. It doesn’t matter whether it’s due to veganism or Atkins—people who stop drinking soda will get healthier.” He also takes aim at mainstream advice: “Yet as scientifically sound health advice, ‘Everything in moderation’ is as nourishing as white bread.”
Durant turned to a paleo diet after finding himself fatigued and 20 pounds heavier while working his first job. As an evolutionary psychology major at Harvard, he was influenced by an essay by Art De Vany, who wrote about taking an evolutionary perspective on human health.
In Manifesto, Durant takes readers on a journey through the ages, from the Animal Age to the Information Age with stops in the Paleolithic era and Industrial Age. With extensive research, engaging chronicles, and dashes of humor, Durant touts his message of modifying our modern lifestyles (too much “non movement” and processed foods, not enough whole foods) to match our ancestors. He doesn’t look back at our hunter-gatherer ancestors but rather looks forward to fashioning a sustainable mode of existence. — Dorothy Hernandez
CRUSADER FOR JUSTICE: FEDERAL JUDGE DAMON J. KEITH
The magnificent, two-year-old Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, gleaming from a corner of the Wayne State University Law School like a diamond in a classic setting, is a majestic testament to the life and achievements of the senior judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District. It’s more impressive when one considers that its namesake is still among us, a living legend whose entire career has been devoted to the constitutional and civil rights of all Americans.
And now, it has a companion guidebook.
Crusader for Justice, published in November (Wayne State University Press, $29.95), is a thorough, absorbing biography of the Detroit-born federal judge and his decisions on school desegregation, housing and employment discrimination, and illegal wiretapping that have advanced the quality of our society. And, says Peter J. Hammer, Wayne Law professor and director of the center who shares co-author credit with Detroit journalist Trevor W. Coleman, book and building are equally significant.
“When I started [with the Center] I had three check-off items,” Hammer says. “One was to form the Center. Another was to build the Center, and we’ve done that. And the third was the biography, to show you the importance of that. In my mind, it’s just as important as the center in preserving this history and making it as available as we can.”
Born on the Fourth of July, Keith, a track standout at Northwestern High School; first member of his family to earn a college degree; U.S. Army veteran of World War II, and proud graduate of Howard University Law School where his professors included future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, was reduced to cleaning bathrooms at The Detroit News while studying for the bar exam. Such was the lot for black attorneys in the 1940s.
From that ignominious beginning, Keith went on to create one of the city’s first black law firms, spearhead the dominance of the Detroit NAACP chapter and, through a series of behind-the-scenes political maneuverings detailed in the book, eventually work his way onto the federal bench.
Drawing so many weighty and socially consequential cases through the court’s blind draw system that he asked the chief justice to investigate — “I think this blind draw has eyes on it,” Keith remarked — his greatest challenge may have been the 1971 case of United States vs. Sinclair (better known today as “the Keith Decision”). He ruled that the Nixon White House violated the constitutional rights of White Panther Party antiwar activists John Sinclair, “Pun” Plamondon, and John Forrest by wiretapping their Ann Arbor conversations without a warrant.
The Nixon administration fired back by filing a writ of mandamus against Keith, essentially suing him personally. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously in Keith’s favor. He challenged the power of a sitting president — and won.
Judge Damon Keith is a champion of the law and a bulwark for Detroit. Crusader for Justice reminds us of both at a time when our city needs all the heroes it can muster. — Jim McFarlin
FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL
Dr. Sheri Fink has been a relief worker in disaster and conflict zones. She received an M.D. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. Her first book, War Hospital: A True Story of Surgery and Survival, was about medical professionals working under siege in Bosnia-Herzegovina. She’s won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting.
Now, the Andover High grad can add another milestone: She’s a New York Times best-selling author. Make that two milestones. Her latest book, Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, has been optioned to become a movie by producer Scott Rudin, who was behind the movie Captain Phillips.
Needless to say, family and friends are proud. So when Fink came to town in November to talk about her book, she looked out over the assembly at Knollwood Country Club after her Detroit media lawyer father Herschel Fink’s glowing introduction and said it felt like being at her bat mitzvah all over again.
But the attention is well deserved. Five Days at Memorial (Crown Publishers, $27) is a gripping tale about the decisions doctors made at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After the building lost electrical power, the doctors were faced with deciding which patients to save.
Fink based the book on Pulitzer-winning articles she wrote for ProPublica and the New York Times Magazine in 2009. It recounts the actions of the hospital staff during the hurricane, and the subsequent attempt to prosecute a doctor and two nurses for homicide after an investigation showed elevated levels of drugs, including morphine, in patients who died during the hurricane.
Fink lays bare the ethical dilemma surrounding who gets care during emergencies. Who should get medical resources or the first spots on evacuation helicopters? The most vulnerable? Babies? The sickest? Fink explores the issue from all angles, and examines whether or not we’re more prepared since 2005.
“It’s a slippery slope if you hasten death,” Fink says.
“I don’t draw conclusions. I want readers to grapple with those questions.”
Five Days, the culmination of six years of reporting, raises questions surrounding health care rationing and end-of-life care and examines how prepared — or ill-prepared — we are to deal with the next large-scale disaster. — Steve Wilke
TUESDAYS: A MICHIGAN TRIBUTE
Let’s face it. Most “self-published” books look that way. But not Todd and Brad Reed’s Tuesdays: A Michigan Tribute. The 400-page, 11-by-14-inch hardcover book was built to grace the coffee tables of Mitten lovers’ homes and/or cabins. It features more than 1,000 images — 52 weeks’ worth of scenes shot every Tuesday throughout 2012.
Why Tuesdays? Well, the father/son team’s previous book was an ambitious project called 365: A Year in the Photograph Lives of Todd and Brad Reed. They shot every single day in 2010. This time around, they decided one day a week might be less exhausting. And Tuesdays, they figured, would be slower days for Michigan tourism so they could have some places to themselves.
The two set out each week — either together or separately — to places both familiar and new to look at Michigan through a tourist’s eyes. The photos capture Michigan in all seasons — an icicle-framed shot of the Charlevoix lighthouse, a lone fly fisherman casting for steelhead in the Pere Marquette River, tulips in Holland in April, and a mother otter in Leland, to name just a few.
While natural settings dominate, there are some man-made wonders featured as well: Zingerman’s Deli and The Big House in Ann Arbor, Beaumont Tower on the Michigan State campus, the Grosse Point Yacht Club, nighttime in downtown Grand Rapids, and a classic movie theater marquee in Frankfort.
The book also includes a two-disc DVD with a slideshow of the images, videos, and interviews. Todd Reed spent 23 years as a photojournalist for the Ludington Daily News. He also has 33 years of Coast Guard Reserve service. After graduating from Calvin College with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and working on a master’s degree
in social work, Brad Reed followed his father into the world of photography. The book is available for $95. A softcover book will be available in 2014. For information, visit toddandbradreed.com or call 231-843-0777. — Steve Wilke