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March 2010

Motown Burning
by John Jeffire



MON MAR. 22 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. Bradner Library L 105
TUE MAR. 23 1:30 - 2:30 p.m.
210 B
THU MAR. 25 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. VisTa Tech Center VT 550 Meet the Author Event


Detroit, late July of 1967, and the city boils over. For Aram Pehlivanian, aka Motown, the Grande Ballroom and the music of the MC5 and Iggy Pop and The Temptations no longer provide a haven as destruction engulfs his city. However, escaping death in the streets during the 1967 Detroit Riots only leads him to the jungles of Vietnam and away from Katie, the girl who might be his salvation. Beaten on the streets of Detroit, hunted in the jungles of Vietnam, and fueled to survive by the music of the Motor City, Aram burns with one see Katie again.


John Jeffire was born in Detroit and still lives in the metro Detroit area with his wife, daughter, son, and two hyperactive Jack Russells. Currently, he is the head wrestling coach and English teacher at Chippewa Valley High School. His debut novel, Motown Burning, won Grand Prize in the 2005 Mount Arrowsmith Novel Competition and the 2007 Independent Publishing Awards Gold Medal for Regional Fiction. Jeffire's stories, poems, and essays have appeared in magazines and journals such as Parenting, The English Journal, America, Into the Teeth of the Wind, and The South Coast Poetry Journal. His first collection of poems, Stone + Fist + Brick + Bone, was released in 2008 and was nominated for the 2009 Michigan Notable Book Award.
Compiled by Wayne Pricer, Schoolcraft College Librarian

1. The Official Website of John Jeffire


Prepared by Samuel Hays, English Instructor

1. This novel provides 24 points to view. It is as if the author with each chapter plants a microchip camera in the reader’s brain. The “camera eye” in each chapter projects the character’s observations and thoughts on the reader’s brain. What do you, the reader, cut and add to each point to view? What does your “camera eye” cut and add to the whole Motown Burning panorama?

2. Some characters in Motown Burning use generously profanity. Others never or rarely do. Why? Differences in: Maturity? Ethics? Class?

3. Qua Tang and her brother Vu are described as “trapped between two mountains” (46). They seek to protect their family from the opposing forces of the Americans and the North Vietnamese. View how “trapped between two mountains” may describe the dilemmas of other characters such as Motown and Mrs. Schmidt.

4. It can be argued that the two main characters are: the Detroit Riot of 1967 and the Vietnam War. What is the story of each main character? How are the two characters interconnected? See Judge Donaldson and Brother Numair’s points to view (152-154, 128-132). Add the ingredient of MC5.

5. Dicky Phelps (92) and Motown, A.P. (225), agree that Katie is perfect: “Little Miss Perfect” and “This perfect girl.” Clarify the divergent interpretations of Katie’s perfection. Mix in this clarification process Mary Jo’s comment, “My sweet cousin Katie from Never-Neverland” (163).

6. Mrs. Schmidt sees Motown as “this problem” (208). Judge Donaldson calls him “this living piece of societal feces” (153). Motown cries, “i couldnt handle being somebody’s problem” (231-232). Click on three of the 24 camera eyes and discern the different interpretations of “the problem.”

7. Motown wants to keep himself sexually clean in Vietnam so that he has a reason to come home to Katie (31). Vu is fighting for his family and for his sister’s purity. Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt are fighting for their daughter Kate’s purity. Discern the similarities and differences in these struggles for purity.

8. Katie: “Just as I reached him, to touch him, to hold him, to take him in my arms and hug him as tight as I could, he just collapsed forward, bending at the waist, his face disappearing in his hands” (262). Click on your eye camera and create your point to view as to what happens next.
Deb Bee,
Feb 26, 2010, 8:28 AM