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Ferndale Sci Fi Book Club explores dystopias, utopias and things between

Kevin Deegan-Krause served on the library’s Board of Trustees from 2004-2009, and played an integral role in communicating the need for a millage that voters approved in 2007, to renovate and expand the building into a technologically advanced, environmentally friendly space. A longtime Ferndale resident, he has coordinated its sci-fi book club for several years, now.

sci fi book club dystopias (1)

There’s a quiet exhilaration we all feel when we finish a really great book. It’s natural to often want to share your sentiments with someone immediately after that page. Problem is, nearly everyone’s reading experience is solitary. Perhaps it’s time to consider joining a book club?

The Ferndale Library hosts several monthly book clubs for kids, teens, and adults. One of their book clubs even meets at a bar! Reading Groups give you the chance to meet other bookworms. It’s a much more affordable social activity then brunch dates or bar nights, and you get to meet, mingle, and have enlightening and friendly debates with a diverse group of people. You’ll also expand your status quo reading list with a greater variety of genres and authors you may not have otherwise encountered.

Plus, some books really need to be discussed! And that’s the case with Ferndale’s next group meeting on Sept 13 for the Science Fiction Book Club. Curated by Kevin Deegan-Krause, Prof. of Political Science at Wayne State, this year its participants will be exploring and discussing the genre of dystopias, post-apocalyptic, or “speculative” fiction titles, like the iconic 1935 Sinclair Lewis novel It Can’t Happen Here.

Of course “sci-fi” conjures pop-culture entities like Star Trek or Star Wars, but Deegan-Krause said that “aliens and space battles are only a tiny part of a literature that encompasses far more.” Sci-fi applies to “any work that envisions a world that’s notably different than the one we have experienced. As such, it certainly includes stories about the future, but also about any past or present that is different than the one we remember.”

You might be a fiction fan, preferring thrillers or mysteries set in familiar world of courtrooms, skyscrapers, or small towns. But the thrill of science fiction is having an author invent for you an undreamed of world! In this way, Deegan-Krause said, “Science fiction becomes the perfect genre for social exploration, because which authors can tinker with the setting as well as with the characters? Want to think up a world where we used up all the oil? Done. A world with prolonged lifespans? Fine. A world in which Hitler was never born? No problem. And, it can have space battles too, but it doesn’t have to!”

This is the second installment of the Ferndale Sci-Fi Book Club’s year-long series of dystopias, utopias, and everything in between. Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here is a dark satire imagining an incendiary fascist political candidate’s shocking defeat of Franklin Roosevelt in the 1936 US Presidential Election, essentially transplanting a Mussolini-esque character onto American soil. “I know many have commented on the similarities between Donald Trump and Lewis’ character Buzz Windrip,” he said, “but I’m not sure that these go much beyond the unorthodox personal style, fiery rhetoric, the shadowy campaign manager, and violence at some campaign rallies.”

In Lewis’ novel, this newly elected leader sets to fundamentally remake America into what resembles a totalitarian state supported by a paramilitary organization that rounds up dissidents. “But the fact that that’s not what we’re seeing today doesn’t make Lewis’ vision any less disconcerting,” said Deegan-Krause. “Because the troubling, transcendent part of the novel is not the policies that the new leader pursues, but the ways in which Lewis portrays Americans turning on one another in the process. In an era of such high polarization, I think we’re more threatened by deep social divisions rather than by authoritarianism, and more by the danger of civil-strife rather than dictatorship.”

On Dystopias & Utopias, in science/speculative fiction
Kevin Deegan-Krause: “I have been reading a lot of very old science fiction lately—stuff from the 19th and early 20th centuries—and it’s becoming pretty clear to me that science fiction was not always a literature of “what can go wrong?”  The last centuries had their share of dystopias—quite familiar ones, actually, including exploding suns, alien invasions, worldwide plagues and brutal dictatorships–but they also had a lot of heartfelt utopias that envisioned new and better ways of living.  I tend to agree with the science fiction writer William Gibson who sees something interesting and troubling in the triumph of dark futures over hopeful ones: “Seriously, what I find far more ominous [than the popularity of dystopia] is how seldom, today, we see the phrase ‘the 22nd century.’ Almost never. Compare this with the frequency with which the 21st century was evoked in popular culture during, say, the 1920s”

I think there are some good reasons for the absence of utopias.  We spent a big part of the 20th century seeing what happened when self-proclaimed utopian movements in Germany and the Soviet Union went catastrophically wrong, so we are entitled to some skepticism.  We also now know how difficult and expensive space travel is and so one of the big outlets for “progress” is no longer as easy to envision.  Our futures are mostly stuck on a fully-explored earth and it is a lot harder to talk about utopia in a world that’s already so full of historical baggage than it is a new (or newly discovered) planet.

When we picked the books this year, we made a decision to look at the bad and the good, the dystopias and the utopias, and (after reading Thomas More’s Utopia, itself just to get an idea of where the whole thing started) to work from the worse futures to the better ones (with a bunch of mixed ones in between).  It turns out there are a fair number of positive fictional futures out there, but it takes some work to find them, and even they tend to be rather guarded.  They aren’t futures of bliss and ease, but they are futures where people tend to be free, healthy, and able to live meaningful lives.  Maybe that’s pathetically unambitious compared to the utopias of the past, but it’s certainly better than the less pleasant futures that these days seem more likely.”

The Science Fiction Book Club, similar to other Ferndale Book Clubs, offer a wide-ranging discussion with fellow readers. The group starts by comparing what each attendee found most interesting, or most troubling, about a book, and that can naturally flow into how it recalls other works, or even similar films in that genre. “With a book as provocative as this one,” Deegan-Krause says, “I have no doubt we will have lot to talk about, and we’d love to have a lot of new people to enrich that discussion.”

Ferndale Library Sci Fi Book Club
Discussing Dystopias
It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
Thurs., Sept 13
222 E. 9 Mile Rd
Next month: The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

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River Street Anthology’s Listening Party at the Ferndale Library, Oct 6

Ferndale Library’s monthly local music concerts return on Fri., Oct 6, with a special live recording session and listening party hosted by the River Street Anthology. This grassroots music documentation project was started by Michigan singer/songwriter Matt Jones back in 2014, out of the basement of his home in Ypsilanti, (on River Street). After ten years of recording and performing his own music around the scene, Jones decided to follow the footsteps of Alan Lomax and begin archiving contributions from other singer/songwriters, poets, musicians, and more.


Jones has traveled thousands of miles and recorded hundreds of musicians from all over the state, with all of the intimate and exclusive performances captured and preserved in Lansing, by the State Archives of Michigan.

The RSA Listening Party is a special opportunity to witness live recordings of local artists, view exclusive videos of past performances from recent trips to Michigan cities, and listen to special recordings of live songs that are unavailable anywhere else.

State Archivist Mark Harvey will be joining Jones to talk about the Michigan History Center and his partnership with Jones and the RSA. Video, photographs and recordings will be shown and played for the audience. But what makes each RSA Listening Party special is that Jones always arranges for a couple artists to be recorded live in front of the audience, including a performance by ___, and a live reading by local music journalist Jeff Milo.

Let’s listen to what’s going into our state’s musical archives and be apart of a live recording, with the River Street Anthology!

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After School Activities For Teens Starts Soon

free time fridays

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Laughs In The Stacks

Typically, you’d think uproarious laughter in a library would get you sternly shushed, but not on Wed., Aug 30, when the Ferndale and Berkley Libraries co-host “Laughs In The Stacks,” featuring sharply witty sets from superb local comedians. Skip the club scene and take in some stand-up before the sun goes down in a public library setting.


The lineup for “Laughs In The Stacks” features Ken Witzgall, Samantha Rager, Wesley Ward, Garri Madera, and Heather Jay Harris. This a free event for an adult audience; no registration is required.


“Laughs In The Stacks” is just another fun way in which modern libraries are letting their hair down more when it comes to their community programming, with creative ways of providing enriching entertainment to their patrons as encouraging their support of local artists. It’s also an example of 21st century libraries opting to collaborate as a means of bolstering a cumulative enrichment of their respective communities.


More about the performing comedians
Heather Jay H is a stand-up comedienne, playwright and producer of short films based in Detroit. She is a “champion of the urban dweller” according to her biography on Goodreads, as well as an advocate for more diversity in the comedy scenes. Harris will have copies of her new book, Maybe Shorty Should Be A Detective, available for purchase during “Laughs In The Stacks.”

Ken Witzgall: A WMU grad, Witzgall cut his teeth in Chicago’s formidable stand-up scene in the late 2000’s. His style recalls the charmingly acerbic bombast of icons like the late Sam Kinison, or Lewis Black. He co-produces the weekly Detroit Comedy Underground showcase at the Park Bar, downtown.

Samantha Rager: Rager mines her own personal stories, some of which can be dark and provocative, and sweetens the bitter with a signature joie de vivre delivery, inevitably disarming an audience into laughing with empathy.

Wesley Ward and Garri Madera are both well-established stand-up comics around the metro area, both bringing their own signature and sometimes surreal satires of everyday life to the stage with alacrity and verve.  

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Relief for Back To School Stress with Two New Teen Programs at Ferndale Library

Encouraging teenagers to frequent their public library more often has always been an uphill battle, but the Ferndale Area District Library’s determined to turn that around this September.


Ferndale’s effort to increase their population of teenage library patrons begins with their new weekly Free Time Friday’s drop-in craft and movie program beginning on September 8, followed up by a new High School Book Club that starts September 25.

Teens might not realize it, yet, but their local library is an optimal place to hang out, relax, chat with friends, and just generally blow off some steam after a long day at school. It’s also, of course, an oasis of knowledge, literature, and online resources!

A recent Pew Research Study showed that coming-of-age groups such as Millennials are using the library far more frequently than past generations. Ferndale’s two new programs for teens can, in a small way, help assure that that trend continues into the next decade by stoking an enthusiasm in today’s young adults for visiting and utilizing their library. Today’s youngest Millennials are considered to be 18. While we don’t know how this next generation of 13-17-year-olds will be categorized, the Ferndale LIbrary will be doing their part to assure that they succeed the Millennials in their love for libraries.

free time fridays

Free Time Fridays for Teens: Starting Sept 8, at 3:30 pm, teens can come get their craft on by decorating school supplies. The weekly drop in activities will continue every Friday, with fun activities each week ranging from coloring giant table-sized mandalas, a screening of the modern classic Mean Girls, and making watercolor bookmarks. This casual, after-school recreational program for teens is hosted each Friday at 3:30 pm.


High School Book Club

The High School Book Club will meet on the last Monday of every month at the Ferndale Library.  For September, participating teens will be reading Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. We have five free copies of the book for those who sign up to attend! Pizza will also be provided.
No registration is required for either events, just an open mind to the possibility of how rewarding it can be–how cool it can be…to hang out more at your local library.

Free Time Friday will be held each week, from 3:30-6pm, with different activities throughout the month.
The High School Book Club will meet on the last Monday of each month at 6:30pm


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Outdoor Stroller Fitness Storytime at Harding Park, Sept 12

Ferndale Library’s Stroller Fitness Storytime
Tues., Sept 12
Harding Park, Ferndale
(Off 10 Mile Rd., West of Hilton)
More info:

The Ferndale Library takes its Tree Buds Storytime for infants and young toddlers outdoors on Tue., Sep. 12, giving parents a chance to get a workout when they roll their babies and toddlers up for a special Stroller Fitness session co-hosted by Ferndale Parks & Recreation. This will be a fun and engaging early literacy program for infants ages 2 and under, combined with a fitness demo for the parents and caregivers strolling them up to this newly renovated community space.


After a bouncy storytime with Ferndale Library’s Head of Youth Services Ashley Lehman, Recreation Director Lareina Wheeler will then lead participants through a demo stroller fitness along the park’s brand new pathway.

Stroller Fitness groups are a nationwide trend, and the benefits go beyond just the exercise and meeting of personal health goals, but also allow parents to connect; studies have shown that working out with a group yields a higher percentage of sticking with it. Stroller Fitness gives busy parents an outlet to literally stretch their legs.

Storytimes are also beneficial for both parent and child. By participating and interacting with your child at storytime, you are setting them up with great early literacy skills. They also love to interact and play with you!

“After a recent successful storytime in the park in August where we had more than 50 in attendance, we are thrilled to once again partner with Ferndale Parks and Recreation for another program,” stated Lehman.


Attendees can get a sneak peak of Harding Park renovations, which includes not only the new pathway, but a new play structure, as well. So be sure to bring a stroller on Sep. 12!

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