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    Reflections Of … Motown, Cars, and Libraries

    By Michele Karlsberg–

    Michele Karlsberg: Author Cheryl Head, who describes herself as a mysterious writer who also writes crime/mystery books, is featured in this issue of the San Francisco Bay Times. I recently saw a social network post where Cheryl referred to the importance of libraries. I agree and it led me to ask Cheryl to write about what libraries mean to her. Her fourth book in the Charlie Mack Motown Mystery Series, Judge Me When I Am Wrong, was recently published.

    Cheryl Head: As a black girl growing up in Detroit’s inner city in the 60s, I held in reverence three things: Motown, cars, and the library. Each offered joy, adventure, and the freedom to explore. Each had the potential to transport me to places I hadn’t seen; reveal ideas beyond my experience; and spark dreams I couldn’t imagine. One thing gave the library an edge—unlike the latest model Corvette, or the newest hit by the Supremes–it never went out of style.

    I lived on Detroit’s east side, without proximity to a walkable library branch, so we got monthly (Saturday) visits from a bookmobile. Standing in line, waiting my turn to enter, was comparable in anticipation only to queuing for the Good Humor ice cream truck. Crammed into that tiny library space was an expansive amount of knowledge and entertainment. Sections on science, mythology, adventure stories, biographies, and my favorite: juvenile detective novels. In my eyes, the bookmobile librarian was doubly interesting because she loved books, and she got to drive. Had she allowed a Temptations album to be the vehicle’s ambient sound, well, she’d have been perfection.

    My first solo trip to a branch library involved a 17-minute bus ride downtown. My mother allotted two hours for my visit and return. I clutched my library card in one hand, and tugged at the handle of the double doors with the other. After a few tentative steps on the marble floor I stopped to take in the quiet.

    The oldest of five siblings, and with no alone time at home, I was enthralled by the library’s peacefulness. But I was in search of more detective stories, and the game was afoot, so I moved quickly to the card catalog to unlock the clues. Within an hour I had five books to checkout. The desk librarian peered at me through cat-eye glasses, smiling; sharing my enthusiasm for my finds. The date-stamp in the back of each book not only mandated its timely return, but also assured me of a second visit. 

    The first inkling that I was probably queer came from my visits to the library. (Being smitten with the bookmobile librarian went right over my head.) I loved Nancy Drew, but I wanted to be a Hardy Boy. They flew Piper Cubs, explored cemeteries at night, and hid in empty train cars. It was action that appealed to my tomboyish nature. Years later, my gayness was confirmed as I sat for hours in a corner of the Wayne State University library reading non-fiction about queer life, and fiction with women-loving-women themes. These were books I didn’t dare read, or have, at home.

    My love of the mystery/crime genre, honed at the library, is why I now write my own private eye series. I still visit libraries—often for research; sometimes to read for book clubs. Because, for me there’s still nothing better than to hear a Motown beat, ride in a sweet car, or sit in the creative refuge of a library. 

    Cheryl Head writes the Charlie Mack Motown Mystery series (Lambda Literary finalist for Book One). Head was installed in the 2019 Saints and Sinners Hall of Fame and is a board member of the Golden Crown Literary Society. 

    Michele Karlsberg Marketing and Management specializes in publicity for the LGBTQI community. This year, Karlsberg celebrates 31 years of successful book campaigns. For more information:

    Published on November 14, 2019