The Neutral Zone - Where Teens Lead, Create and Innovate - 310 E. Washington, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 - (734) 214 - 9995

Knuckleheads Book Release

Knuckleheads Book Release
Thursday, March 31
7 p.m.
FREE; open to the public

Neutral Zone’s Literary Arts Director and Ann Arbor high school teacher Jeff Kass grew tired of hearing from his male students that they don’t like reading or have never finished a book so he decided to do something about it. He wrote a collection of stories expressly for them to read.

“It’s not like no one has ever done this before,” says Kass. “Junot Diaz, Lewis Robinson, for instance, these writers have written terrific stories that young males adore, but I just wanted to add to what’s already out there. Wanted to create a collection that kids who are in my classroom could potentially fall in live with.”

“With the vivid, lyrical qualities of Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor, Knuckleheads is a high-octane protein shake, equal parts heartbreak and hilarity, a thing of both sweat-reeking adrenalin and nostalgic, time-stopping beauty,” says local novelist Steve Amick. “For those who know Jeff Kass’ gorilla-hearted poetry, this story collection is both a surprise and no surprise at all. Here we see his swing-for-the-fences skill with the line, but now it’s prose and jeez, what can’t this man do? Kass achieves what all fiction writers want—he makes us believe and makes us care. Even those of us who stayed as far away from the jocks as possible will want to cheer.”

Kass says he loves the word “knucklehead” because it’s sometimes an insult and sometimes a term of endearment and sometimes something in between. “Boys and men do a lot of goofy things as we try to figure out who we are,” Kass says. “Sometimes we need to recognize there’s a kind of beauty to our screw-ups, a kind of admirable sense of perseverance that goes along with the improbable things we hope for.”

While Kass believes the book can have a general audience, he really hopes it will go viral among young males and become a kind of Salinger-esque cult classic for them to treasure. “Reading is one of the primary ways we develop empathy,” Kass says. “If we write off young males as readers and don’t create literature that appeals to them, what are we saying about the kind of people we want them to turn into?”

Knuckleheads will be published by Dzanc Books. Kass will read from the short story collection and books will be available for purchase at the release event.

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