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February 17, 2016

Book examining the growth of Islam in Detroit wins SVSU literature award

The winner of the 2015-16 Saginaw Valley State University Stuart D. and Vernice M. Gross Award for Literature is an author of a book tracing the roots of Islam in Detroit.

Sally Howell, associate professor of history at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, received the award and its $1,000 prize.
Her book, "Old Islam in Detroit: Rediscovering the Muslim American Past," looks at the development of Muslim communities in Detroit since the first mosque was established in 1893. It analyzes the conflicts between new and established Muslims of 1970s Detroit over various subjects including manner of worship and the embrace of American identities.

Many Muslims, the book points out, came to Detroit after the invention of the assembly line, making the city their home during the auto industrial boom. In her book, Howell connects the phenomenon to current events, arguing that the 1970s view of Islam has influenced how many Americans view the religion today‌.

Howell has been published in multiple journals and was an editor for the book, "Arab Detroit 9/11: Life in the Terror Decade," and a co-author of the book, "Citizenship and Crisis: Arab Detroit after 9/11." She visited the SVSU campus Tuesday‌, Feb. 16 to receive her award.

Established by the late Stuart D. Gross and his wife, Vernice, the Gross Award for Literature is administered by SVSU.  Winners are selected by a panel of judges from SVSU's staff and faculty. Judges this year were M. Patricia Cavanaugh, professor of English; Catherine Curtis, reference librarian; Brad Jarvis, associate professor of history; Beth Johns, electronic resources and reference librarian; and Carlos Ramet, associate dean of the College of Arts & Behavioral Sciences.

Employed for many years as a journalist with The Saginaw News, Gross joined the SVSU staff in the school's early years and served in a variety of public affairs roles. He was recognized as a regional historian and published several books. Among his writings are, "Saginaw: A History of the Land and City," "When Timber was King," and "Where There is a Will." Following his retirement from SVSU, Gross wrote and produced a play, "Let's Have Lunch Sometime." He died in 1996; Mrs. Gross, in 2001.