One year. One city. Endless opportunities.

Writing new stories about Detroit

Detroit can break your spirit: the constant flow of bad news, political scandals, missed opportunities.

Yet those of us who write about the city and suburbs find inspiration in the strangest places. Author Monica Marie Jones, who bases her novels in Detroit, has seen enough ugly to be able to recognize the beauty around her – even here.

Jones writes what some people might call street lit or urban fiction. Her characters live out dramas befitting this battle-scarred city, fighting the misperceptions and prejudices that come with living in a place used to being beaten down.

Tonight, Jones will host a book launch party at MotorCity Casino for her latest effort, Swag. It is a book with a message about hope, self-acceptance and, eventually, true love.

It is hard to call Jones a typical hip-hop writer. Her books and poetry go beyond this simple literary category. Rather than focus on sexual content, harsh language and cruelty, Jones has chosen to take a more sophisticated approach to her stories and characters.

Granted, some of her books' themes are mature. But she hopes readers (especially young women) walk away with a greater message – that they are worth something.

Jones knows how difficult self-acceptance can be. Born of a Jamaican mother and father from Belize, she has the kind of exotic beauty this little Polish girl longs for. Yet Jones has fought with her self-image and weight for years despite an impressive fitness regime that includes kickboxing (hence the name of one of her other works, The Ups and Downs of Being Round).

What makes her work even more impressive is that Jones is not a classically trained writer. She attended Eastern Michigan University for her undergraduate degree in elementary education and received her Masters of Social Work from the University of Michigan. Jones still works as a youth development expert and public speaker.

“I love my city,” said Jones, who also is a member of the Motown Writers Network. “Detroit is my home.”

It is something she notes on her blog, where I found this particular missive:

“Although people tend to focus on the negative, I am reminded of the raw and pure talent that oozes from each and every pore of this thick skinned city,” Jones writes. “The cultural and literary arts scene is so rich and vast that I would shamelessly dare to compare it to any other major metropolis.

“All we need is a Motor City Makeover of our mindsets. All we have to do is open our eyes to see all of the natural beauty that the city holds.”

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