Michigan author T. Marie Bertineau has been awarded the 2021-2022 Stuart D. and Vernice M. Gross Award by SVSU.
The Gross Award is presented annually to literary works that tell stories set in Michigan, as told by its residents.
Bertineau who wrote “The Mason House,” won this year’s award. The debut memoir is centered in the small town of Mason located in the middle of the Keweenaw Peninsula at the northernmost reaches of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The book tells the story of Bertineau’s childhood and her experiences while staying at her grandmother’s house, affectionately called ‘the Mason house’.
When her grandmother dies, Bertineau must deal with her grief, and ultimately realizes the importance of her childhood homestead in her healing process.
Bertineau’s book was chosen from many potential candidates judged by a panel of five.
This year’s judges were Jules Gehrke, associate professor of history; Michelle Strasz, research and online course support librarian; Carlos Ramet, associate dean of the College of Arts and Behavioral Sciences; M. Patricia Cavanaugh, professor of English; and Matthew Buckley, research and collection development librarian.
Buckley explained the process of choosing a winner.
“We met earlier this year to select a group of possible finalists and then we met again fairly recently to discuss the books and pick one that we thought would be a good choice for the winner of the Gross Award, which was “The Mason House””, he said.
Fellow judge Carlos Ramet emphasized the importance of recognizing Michigan literature.
“Michigan authors can help us understand better the place we live in and the environment that shapes individuals,” he said. “Michigan authors can write authentically and honestly about experiences in a unique locale and make those experiences seem universal.”
M. Patricia Cavanaugh said the authenticity of “The Mason House” helped to earn it the award.
“[The book] is so Michigan, so Upper Peninsula, and so realistic”, she said. “The characters are engaging, interesting, and poignant. It is written clearly and descriptively.”
Ramet said he had similar reasons for choosing this year’s winner.
“Not only does [“The Mason House”] have solid literary qualities, but it vividly depicts a time and place held fondly in memory”, he said. “Given its setting in the Upper Peninsula a generation ago, it is a book very much in keeping with the purpose of the Gross Award, which is to honor works of literature or history with strong connections to Michigan.”
The overall message of the story is something that Ramet said many students will be able to relate to.
“Although “The Mason House” is about hardship and struggle, it is also about affirmation and the strength that even a flawed family provides”, he said. “I think many students can identify with Bertineau’s journey towards acceptance and understanding and the adult’s perspective on childhood.”
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