In Arts & Entertainment

Required reading, Milwaukee.

Michaelis-Kaleka's powerful memoir tops list of new Milwaukee books

In the six years since the tragic shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, former white supremacist Arno Michaelis and temple member Pardeep Singh Kaleka not only formed what some might call an unlikely friendship, they also have worked hard in the community to help us move past hate to a better place.

Michaelis formed Life After Hate after moving away from his violently racist and homophobic beliefs, and, after the shooting, Kaleka created Serve2Unite.

They tell their separate stories and the tale of how they came together to fight against hate in their new book "The Gift of Our Wounds: A Sikh and a Former White Supremacist Find Forgiveness After Hate," published in hardcover by St. Martin's Press.

Reading it, I found that the only thing more astonishing than Michaelis' 180 in his beliefs is Kaleka's – and the entire Sikh community's – capacity for forgiveness after suffering an unspeakably horrific community-wide loss.

How, if guys like these can find the strength to move to a better place and try to construct love and understanding from the ashes of violence and hate, can any of us not at least make an honest effort to do the same?

"The Gift of Our Wounds" is not overtly a "self-help" book – in the traditional sense – but it's hard to imagine anyone will read it cover to cover and not look inward and think about ways to be a part of the solution rather than a part – active or passive – of the problems of hate and violence that we face in America today.

Required reading, Milwaukee.

Some other great recent books about Milwaukee and Wisconsin, albeit on much lighter notes, include:

Legendary radio personality Bob Barry's memoir, "Rock 'N' Roll Radio Milwaukee: Stories from the Fifth Beatle," is published in paperback by The History Press.

Barry talks about his early days in radio at stations like WEMP and, of course, WOKY, where he was tapped to emcee concerts by all the big names in rock 'n' roll of the day, including, most famously, The Beatles, at the Arena in September 1964.

There are photos, big names and some classic Milwaukee personalities in this breezy walk down memory lane.

Barry will read from and sign copies of his book on Wednesday, May 9 at 7 p.m. at Boswell Books, 2559 N. Downer Ave.

Also on the subject of music is Kurt Dietrich's "Wisconsin Riffs: Jazz Profiles from the Heartland," a hefty hardcover packed full of biographies of Dairyland jazz personalities of all stripes and working at all levels and in all styles.

There's Les Paul, Brian Lynch, Bunny Berrigan, Al Jarreau and Woody Herman. There are modern jazz performers, Dixieland players, bebop cats and fusion folks.

I was a little disappointed to see Scat Johnson, Baby Face Willette and the Georges – Pritchett and Braith – overlooked, but I'm picking nits, because this important encyclopedic work still catalogs the contributions of dozens of talented folks who have lived and worked in Milwaukee and Wisconsin.

Scott Spoolman digs down into the state's loveliest parks in "Wisconsin State Parks: Extraordinary Stories of Geology and Natural History," a lavishly illustrated paperback from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

If you think you know Governor Dodge and Devil's Lake and Kohler-Andrae and Peninsula and Rib Mountain, think again, because Spoolman's got great stories about them all that will make you appreciate Wisconsin's amazing collection of state parks even more.

As summer approaches, you can use the book as a travel guide to explore parks you haven't yet visited and to rediscover ones you've long loved.

Though the subject is not from Wisconsin, the author is and so, I'd like to give a hat tip to prolific author on diverse topics, Michael Schumacher for his new in-depth biography of folk legend Phil Ochs.

"There But for Fortune: The Life of Phil Ochs" is out now in paperback from the University of Minnesota Press.

And don't forget Carl Swanson's fabulous "Lost Milwaukee," which you can read about here.


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