Born at the turn of the twentieth century in Glen Arbor, near the dunes of Northern Michigan, young Belle is the first child of a gruff stove works boss and a crippled mother who weaned Belle on the verse of Emily Dickenson. When a natural disaster results in her mother’s death and nearly takes the life of her younger brother Pip, Belle creates a fierce, almost ecstatic farewell song. Thus begins her journey to compose a perfect Goodbye to Mama.
At 21, Belle ventures south to Ann Arbor for university, with teenaged Pip in tow. There, she befriends Robert Frost, Ted Roethke and Wystan Auden and finds that her poetry stands alongside theirs, and even with that of her hero, Dickinson. Her lyrics capture the sounds, sights, and rhythms of the changing seasons in the northern forests, amidst the rolling dunes by the shores of the Great Lake.
Despite the peace she finds, Belle also struggles in both homes. Up north, she battles her father who thinks a woman can’t run the family business; and clashes against developers who would scar the natural landscape. In Ann Arbor, she challenges the status quo of academic pedants and chauvinists.
Belle’s narrative brings these two places to life in their historic context: a growing Midwestern town driven by a public university, striving for greatness; and a rural peninsula seeking prosperity while preserving its natural heritage. Through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, World War II, and the Post-War Boom, Belle’s story is hard to put down. Her voice and songs will be even harder to forget.
About the Author
For more than 70 years Paul Dimond has split most of his time between Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, and Glen Arbor, amidst Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Prior to researching and writing The Belle of Two Arbors, Paul Dimond served as the Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law, tried several major race cases that challenged a divided Supreme Court, became a Professor Law, and served as Special Assistant to President Clinton for Economic Policy. He has also practiced law, chaired a national real estate firm and continues to spend his time between his two Arbors. Currently, he works on behalf of several non-profits in Michigan so the heart of the Great Lakes can once again become a thriving home for fresh water and fresh ideas.
Dimond is the author of numerous articles and three books on policy, law and history, including Beyond Busing, recipient of the Ralph J. Bunche Book of the Year in 1986, as well as the author of three novels, including the youth title North Coast Almanac.
He is an alumnus of Amherst College and the University of Michigan Law School.
Martha (Marty) Buhr Grimes, a lifelong resident of Ann Arbor, also summered at her family cottage up north near Lake Michigan. She taught English, creative writing and poetry at secondary schools for 24 years, co-authored Summerskills language arts workbooks, and shared many hundreds of poems with her Paper Kite poetry group. Marty earned a BA in English and an MA in English and Education from the University of Michigan.