The second writer in Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s “About Writing” visiting author series, Andy Kroll, will be coming home to West Michigan from Washington, D.C., where he is a reporter for Mother Jones magazine. He is also an associate editor at TomDispatch and writes about the economy and national politics. He has appeared on MSNBC, Al Jazeera English, and Countdown with Keith Olbermann. He won the 2010 National Magazine Award for General Excellence. Kroll will visit KVCC’s Texas Township campus on Nov. 22, presenting a craft talk geared toward students at 10 a.m. and reading some of his own essays at 2:15 p.m. Both sessions are free and open to the public.
“I’m a hometown boy,” said Kroll. He attended Portage Central High School for two years before transferring to a small private high school in Florida, where he graduated in 2004. The 2009 University of Michigan graduate has lived and worked in D.C. since February 2010. Prior to that, he spent a year in San Francisco working for the Mother Jones bureau there. Kroll’s parents are both teachers. His mother, Lisa Wininger, teaches at Plainwell Middle School and his father, Keith Kroll, is an English instructor at KVCC. Kroll said his parents fostered his love of politics and his passion for reading.
“The house I grew up in was—and still is—packed with books,” he said. “On the shelves, tucked into spare corners, stacked on tables and chairs, pretty much everywhere. When you walk past rows of Jack London books and Sherlock Holmes books and Dashiell Hammett and Umberto Eco and Joan Didion, as I did every single day growing up, you can't not take an interest in literature and writing. My folks are voracious readers, and so am I, and it felt natural to start writing. They didn't nudge me that way, but you could say they "inspired" me. I'd say they rubbed off on me.”
Kroll said he last returned home in August. “I miss the pace of life in Kalamazoo, slower than it is here in D.C., and also that Midwest humility, down-to-earth take on the world and a person's place in it,” Kroll said. “There are so many egomaniacs here in Washington, many of them in politics. Kalamazoo is a refreshing break from that!”
KVCC English instructor Rob Haight coordinates the college’s About Writing series. He said Kroll’s recent work, especially his investigative articles on the mortgage crisis and on the Wisconsin governor's agenda, has been a service to the people of this country. “It's a thrill to see someone from our community playing such an important role on the national stage,” Haight said.
“Politics is a family thing, too,” Kroll said. “My younger brother, Nick, and I were raised with a sense of what's fair and not, raised to be engaged in politics which have such a direct impact on the day to day—whether it's the Michigan state legislature or the White House. Writing about politics was a natural merger, plus that's where the action's at, the big national stories.”
Kroll transferred colleges several times and even took a class at KVCC before graduating from U of M. He said he thinks KVCC students will be able to relate to his 10 a.m. craft talk. “What I want to talk about is how I wanted to write and be a journalist and what it’s like to be a young and former idealist in Washington, D.C., trying to capture what’s going on here.”
In the afternoon, Kroll plans to read from an essay on education reform. As the child of two teachers, he says the topic is both intriguing and puzzling to him. He is still editing his piece, in which he examines the way it’s popular to criticize educators and pillage school budgets. “It’s a work in progress and it’s certainly entertaining to read,” he said.
KVCC’s “About Writing” series offers students the opportunity to dialogue with professional writers and listen to their work. For more information, call Rob Haight at 269.488.4452.