Monday, September 28, 2015

Between the Lines: Bonnie Jo Campbell on Mothers, Tell Your Daughters

by Zinta Aistars
for WMUK 102.1 FM
Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: Bonnie Jo Campbell

Bonnie (Photo by Christopher Magson)

The women Bonnie Jo Campbell writes about face abuse in many ugly forms, yet they emerge empowered. The award-winning writer launches her new story collection Mothers, Tell Your Daughters (Norton) in October. It continues Campbell's exploration of the relationships between women.

“We put this collection together from stories I’ve written over the years,” Campbell says. “My editor and I saw a theme about motherhood and daughter-hood, and also sisterhood and aunt-hood, and what it means to be a grandmother. But maybe the most potent of the stories address the issues and difficulties between mothers and daughters.”

Campbell’s women are tough. They love and hate their men; they endure abuse but know also how to dish it out while taking their power back. They smoke. They drink. They castrate pigs and drown kittens. They butcher livestock and skin squirrels and shoot guns and hit bulls-eyes. But even while she's taking on serious themes in her work, Campbell maintains a sometimes wry and dark sense of humor, finding the joke in humanity.
Her stories may skirt the edges of the bizarre and be filled with the grit of everyday life. But Campbell's own life story is rich fodder for her fiction. Campbell grew up on a small farm in southwest Michigan with her mother and four siblings. It was then that she learned how to care for farm animals and developed a love for donkeys. She still has two on her own property today in Kalamazoo. Campbell hitchhiked across the United States and Canada —something she does not recommend to others—and scaled the Swiss Alps on her bicycle. She ran away with the circus and sold snow cones. Campbell also founded Goulash Tours, Inc., which lead conducted adventure tours in Russia, the Baltic countries, Romania and Bulgaria.
Referring to her penchant for chasing down adventures, Campbell says, “I don’t admit this often, but ...

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