Ironwood Library to host author Mary Doria Russell

Ironwood Carnegie Takes Part in Great Michigan Read with Mining Theme

Ironwood, MI – Local residents will have the opportunity to join in reading and discussing the current Great Michigan Read book selection and meeting the author later this month, thanks to a partnership between the Ironwood Carnegie Library and Michigan Humanities.

The Women of the Copper Country is Mary Doria Russell’s riveting account of 25 year old Annie Clements as she stood up for the miners and their families during the 1913 copper strikes.  The book takes place in Calumet, Michigan, making it a perfect choice for local U.P readers who identify with mining as part of their own heritage.

“I’m so honored Michigan Humanities chose ‛The Women of the Copper Country’ for the 2021-2022 Great Michigan Read,” said Russell. “The copper strike itself has been studied and written about by historians and legal experts, but those accounts are not meant to engage the reader’s emotions. That was my job – to combine imagination and empathy with research.”

Russell spent time in the Keweenaw Peninsula visiting Calumet, touring mines and visiting local museums to prepare for writing the fictional account of real-life Big Annie.

“Here was a 25-year-old woman who is central to a strike against the most powerful company in the most dangerous industry of her time. A child of despised immigrants,” said Russell. “A housewife with a simple education in a time when women couldn’t vote and weren’t supposed to take part in public life. Somehow, she mobilized 10,000 miners and kept everyone going, day after day, month after month. So, my task was to tell readers: What makes a woman like Annie Clements?”

“We’ve participated in almost every Michigan Read for the past fifteen years,” said Lynne Wiercinski, Ironwood Carnegie Library Director.  “We are especially excited about this year’s selection, as so many of us have family members who worked the copper and iron ore mines.  There were a number of local book clubs who read Russell’s book when it was first published, and they are reading it again in preparation for the author’s visit the end of this month.”

Local events

The library has scheduled an in person visit and book talk by the author to take place on April 28th at 5:30 p.m. at Cold Iron Brewing in Ironwood. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.  Prior to the author’s visit, a book club will take place at the library on April 5th at 4:00 p.m. at the Ironwood Carnegie Library, with additional book clubs to be scheduled via Zoom.

Copies of the book have also been distributed to Ironwood Area Schools students in Ted Sim’s history class and the library will hold a book talk with the class in May.

The library will also work with younger students by sharing fictional books on mining, as well as doing a tour of Miner’s Memorial Park with historian Ivan Hellen and copper art projects with local artist Arlene Schneller.

The Great Michigan Read aims to connect Michigan residents by deepening reader’s understanding of the state, society and humanity. The Great Michigan Read is selected every two years by a statewide panel of teachers, librarians, community leaders and book lovers.

The 2019-2020 book, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s What the Eyes Don’t See, told of her discovery that Flint’s children were being poisoned by lead leaching into the city’s drinking water. The 2017-18 book was X: A Novel, a fictionalized account of the early life and Michigan roots of civil rights leader Malcolm X.

The Great Michigan Read starts in September 2021 continuing through fall 2022. As a partner, the Ironwood Carnegie has free books, reader’s guides, teacher’s guides, bookmarks, and other supplemental materials a part of the program.

For more information on The Great Michigan Read or other library programs, contact Lynne Wiercinski at 906-932-0203.