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Doughnut Diary

Spring 2012 | By William Meiners. Photo by Andrew Hancock of Sparks at O'Rear's Pastry Shop.

Glenn SparksMemoirs are undoubtedly popular, with hundreds of them making their way to bookstores in the past year. Readers clearly relish them; perhaps because they enjoy gaining insights into other people's lives. Three professors in the College of Liberal Arts have written works that contribute to this literary genre.

Poet and English professor Marianne Boruch turned to memoir in The Glimpse Traveler, in which she recounts her nine-day hitchhiking journey to California in 1971. Bich Minh Nguyen, associate professor of English and director of Asian American Studies, penned Stealing Buddha's Dinner, a critically acclaimed 2007 work that recalls her attempt to adopt an American identity as a Vietnamese girl growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For Glenn Sparks, professor and associate head of the Brian Lamb School of Communication, the story of family takes place in a doughnut shop.

Sparks' Rolling in the Dough: Lessons I Learned in a Doughnut Shop is a memoir of his family's business in the sweet trade. A collection of funny, sometimes somber, stories, it takes the form of how-to advice for business owners. From the energy required to stay open 24 hours a day to the shenanigans Sparks and his three brothers pulled on doughnut duty, the author gives a behind-the scenes look at what happens behind the counter. When his father quit a job in aeronautical engineering to start the doughnut business, he wanted to spend more time with his family. Sparks, who started working in the shop when he was 12, says it didn't turn out to be the quality time his father envisioned.

Sparks, who has handled an estimated 8.5 million doughnuts in his lifetime, often told tales of his doughnut days and was encouraged by departmental colleagues to write the memories he shared with them. The result is a book that he worked on for more than 13 years. Although somewhat liberating from the demands of scholarly work, Sparks drew on different reserves. "With the focus on storytelling, it's a different kind of writing. I enjoyed it, but it was also very challenging."

Sparks doesn't name the franchise or the city of its location. "The purpose wasn't to tell tales out of school," he says. "I want people to have the sense that this could happen anywhere."

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