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The Red Parts: A Memoir Hardcover – March 13, 2007

4.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The grisly 1969 Michigan murder of 23-year-old law student Jane Mixer is evocatively re-examined here by her niece, poet Nelson, in light of new evidence in the case. Just as Nelson was completing a book of poetry about her aunt in 2004 (Jane: A Murder)—after 35 years of a closed case for which John Collins had been convicted in 1970—new DNA evidence linked a retired, now elderly nurse, Gary Leiterman, to Mixer's murder. Nelson's intimate memoir chronicles how she and her mother, older sister Emily and grandfather managed to harness their emotional pain and "bear witness" at the Ann Arbor trial and conviction of Leiterman. Nelson's search for answers in the murder of Mixer, who hitched a ride from a stranger and was shot twice at close range, strangled, then dragged to a cemetery, dilates into excruciating details about other cases of girls missing and mutilated. Nelson's cathartic narrative encompasses closure of unrelated events in her own life, such as mourning her dead father, dealing with a recent heartache and reconciling with her once-wayward sister. Her narrative is wrenching, though readers come no closer to understanding the character of Mixer or the motive for her murder. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Nelson's aunt, whom she never met, was brutally killed in 1969 and thought to be part of the infamous "Michigan Murders." Three decades later, DNA evidence leads investigators to a new suspect on the eve of the publication of Nelson's own personal investigation, a book of poetry about her aunt titled Jane (2005). This causes Nelson to reexamine the effect her aunt's murder had on her family and their habits (an understandable aversion to violence against women in movies, for example). Alternating between the current trial and her family history, Nelson's account is lucid, her head clear, and her writing strong. Memories of her childhood--particularly of her father, who died when she was a girl--are the most emotionally charged elements. But her wry and honest account of the clownish calamity of the courtroom and the impending media circus (Nelson was on 48 Hours Mystery) are also affecting. Given the popularity of crime TV, this is a much-needed reminder of the long, painful aftermath of heinous crimes. Emily Cook
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (March 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141653203X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416532033
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,222,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Cook on May 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A stunning piece of writing that haunts the space between memoir and true crime. I re-read sentences over and over again because they were so perfectly shaped. It's the first book I've read about crime that foregrounds the gendered spaces of victim and perpetrator.
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Format: Hardcover
Maggie Nelson has written a powerful and deeply personal memoir that explores the world of quiet, enduring grief that settles on a family after suffering a horrific act of violence. Nelson doesn't seek easy answers or sentimental comforts, but rather delves unflinchingly into her own complicated life and the lives of her family as they revisit a tragedy that has left its stamp on them all for over three decades. One of the most haunting and original works I have had the pleasure of reading.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love Maggie Nelson ' s bluets, so I gave this a try and love it. It's more so about the trial and her fascination and curiosity than emotional driven like I had expected. But I loved it and I would suggest Bluets to anyone who loves this one!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In late 2004, a Michigan man whose only previous conviction was for a forged prescription was charged with the murder of woman who was thought to be a victim of serial killer John Norman Collins. Collins murder spree occurred in the late sixties. Almsot forty years later, old ghosts were dug up at a courthouse in Ann Arbor. The Red Parts is the story of Collins case revisited, but focuses on the one murder that never really fit with the rest. Jane Mixer was not raped. She was not stabbed or dumped in a secluded area. All of John Collins victims fit that M.O. She was shot in the head once to kill her, shot again in the head and then strangled. Her body was then dumped in The Denton Road Cemetery off of Michigan Avenue, four miles outside Ypsilanti.

Author Maggie Nelson is the niece of Jane Mixer. She recalls as a child picking up a book called The Michigan Murders and looking for information on the aunt she never met. Years later, as an adult, she would go through her aunt's journals and discover what she was really like, no longer just the victim of a famous serial killer. This would lead to a book called Jane: A Murder, published in 2004. That same year, on the eve of it's publication she would get a phone call from an Ypsi detective saying "Your aunt's case is moving forward." After all this time, they had a suspect who was not John Norman Collins.

The rest of the book is the personal story of Nelson's life around the time of the trial of Gary Leiterman, the man who eventually was convicted of her aunt's murder. It reminded me more of a book like Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar than a true crime book like The Michigan Murders. It's not just the facts, but more of a reflection on life, death, and justice.
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Format: Hardcover
The Red Parts really is a wonderful book. And just like her book Bluets, she takes a single subject and tells and discusses so many important and vital things. This book, is in part, a meditation on the presence of God and how God manifests himself to individuals, a meditation on how such intense violence can effect an individual, an individual family and how violence is taken in American culture, in general.

Maggie Nelson tells quite a few stories about her life from several different stages of it in this book. And I'm really grateful that she does, at least for me, this book shows in so many ways how the life of a daughter, a student, a poet, a young woman, a friend, a scholar, lover, teacher and human being intersect.

There are a lot of chilling moments in this book, but she doesn't roll in the violence. Maggie Nelson's tone isn't cynical but isn't written in an overly emotive voice, either.

I'd say it's a pretty honest book, in other words, Maggie Nelson tells it like it is, or how all these situations developed, in her own literary voice.
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