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Milwaukee boy Andy Mozina returns home from Michigan to read from his new book. (PHOTO: Mary Whalen)

Mozina's "Quality Snacks" are Milwaukee-flavored

You can take the boy out of Milwaukee, but Andy Mozina's new collection of short stories proves you can't take the Milwaukee out of the boy.

Long since departed from Brew City, Mozina is now a professor of English at Kalamazoo College in Michigan and the author of "The Women Were Leaving the Men," published by the Wayne State University Press in 2007, and winner of the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award.

His new book, "Quality Snacks," is part of the "Made in Michigan Writers Series" from the same publisher. But, the collection of stories could just as easily have been published in a "Made in Wisconsin Writers Series," if one existed.

As Mozina prepares to return home to make a bookshop appearance, we caught up with him to ask about the Milwaukee influences in his work in general and in "Quality Snacks" specifically. Can you tell me a bit about the role Milwaukee has in the book?

Andy Mozina: Several of the stories take place in Milwaukee to some significant degree: "Pelvis" includes many Milwaukee bars and businesses in and around West Milwaukee, including old County Stadium. The climax of "Overpass" takes place where I-94 crosses 120th around Divine Mercy.

"Self-Reliance" takes place in West Allis and Elm Grove and Brookfield and centers on the old Salvatore's Pizzeria on Highway 100 (though it's not called that in the story). "Quality Snacks" concerns Milwaukee ex-pats living in Plano, Texas.

Those are specifics. More generally, Milwaukee has shaped the way I look at things. I came to consciousness as a teenager when the city was taking a rust belt body blow and that has influenced my take on life.

OMC: How long ago did you leave?

AM: I didn't realize it at the time, but when I went to college in Illinois, I wasn't coming back. That was more than 30 years ago!

OMC: Do you expect your life and experiences, and the places, here will always find their way into your work?

AM: Yeah, but kind of in the way a roof leak ends up dripping from your dining room ceiling -- can't always tell where the leak on the roof is from where the water finally puddles.

OMC: Do you still feel that closely connected?

AM: I have a lot of family in Milwaukee and some really good friends, and I follow all the Milwaukee teams and the Packers, so I feel fairly connected.

OMC: How often do you get back home?

AM: Four or five times a year.

Mozina returns to town this time to read from and sign copies of "Quality Snacks," Friday, July 18 at 7 p.m. at Boswell Book Co., 2559 N. Downer Ave. Admission is free and all are welcome.

Also on the Wisconsin bookshelf these days...

Acclaimed novelist Martha Bergland and veteran journalist Paul Hayes collaborated on a biographer of important Wisconsin figure Increase Lapham. "Studying Wisconsin: The Life of Increase Lapham," is published in hardcover by Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

The book is an in-depth look at the life and work of Lapham, who arrived in Milwaukee at age 25, already knowledgeable and experienced in a range of work, from canal building to engineering to botany to geology and beyond.

Drawn here by Byron Kilbourn after the two had met while working on canals, Lapham worked to survey land, draw maps and help Kilbourn build his canal to the Rock River, which was never completed.

Though it takes a while for the story to arrive on the banks of the Milwaukee River, "Studying Wisconsin" is a fascinating portrait of a true Renaissance man -- a life-long learner, as we'd say today -- who brought his considerable curiosity and keen eye and hands to Wisconsin at just the right moment.

Genevieve McBride and Stephen Byers focus on a different kind of Milwaukee pioneer in "'Dear Mrs. Griggs': Women Readers Pour Out Their Hearts from the Heartland," out in paperback from Marquette University Press.

Before America knew "Dear Abby" or "Ann Landers," Iona Quinby Griggs penned her advice column in the pages of the Milwaukee Journal, where for much of her half-century in the advice game, she was the best-read columnist on staff.

This scholarly history places Mrs. Griggs into the context of her time, a century in which women fought for their rights on all fronts and in which Milwaukee grew into an industrial powerhouse. So, there's Milwaukee history here, journalism history, women's history and more, all intertwined into an engaging and important story.

"Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader," edited by Michael Edmonds, isn't strictly speaking a Wisconsin book, but this look back at the summer 50 years ago when thousands of Americans stood up, risking their lives, to demand equal rights for all is culled from documents in the collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society, which also published the paperback.

The book does include information on the group of UW students who went south during the civil rights era to collect and preserve records and documents that are now housed in Madison.

A related exhibit was recently at the Milwaukee Public Library (it closes July 19) and will be on view at the Milwaukee Black Historical Society and Museum, 2620 W. Center St., Aug. 9-30.

Minnesota Historical Society Press recently published "Scoop: Notes from a Small Ice Cream Shop," which chronicles the first year of Jeff Miller and his partner Dean's ice cream shop in up in Hayward.

What makes the story especially interesting is that the two traded their successful and cosmopolitan lives in London -- they'd vacation in France and Tibet -- where Miller was a lawyer, to scoop ice cream in northern Wisconsin.

Read the book and then meet Miller on Tuesday, Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. at Purple Door, 205 S. 2nd St., when he visits to talk about and sign copies of his book and share ice cream.


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