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Reader Spotlight 

Every month we'll highlight a reader in the Great Lakes Bay region and learn more about them, their work, and their reading life. We'll also discuss books and share a conversation about their journey.

Read on to learn more about Moira and her quest to uplift women in the area. 

M Branigan 2022.jpg

Are you originally from Bay City? If not, where?

I am a transplant to Bay City, our family moved here in 2012. I’ve lived all over the state - Lansing, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and now Bay City.


My family is my husband Zachary, our son Leo (who is 14), and our dog Fergie.

Tell us a little bit about the YWCA and its purpose/role in the community?

The YWCA Great Lakes Bay Region has been serving the Bay City area since 1891, and our mission is to “eliminate racism and empower women.” In 2009, we expanded our service area to include Midland and Saginaw Counties. Our largest is the Women’s Economic Empowerment Program: the classes in this program are designed for women who are struggling with instability, joblessness, underemployment and in some cases, being unhoused. Through this program, women write their own economic action plan and a budget. In 2020, we started our InterACT Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program which is designed to help counteract bias and to increase understanding of others. 

What are you most proud of as the executive director?

Connecting to the women in our programs is the thing I’ve found to be the most rewarding. My coworkers and I all facilitate classes, and I’ve been able to see how conversation, resources and even just listening helps our program participants see new possibilities.

What has surprised you most in your role?

Prior to working for the YWCA, I had planned events but the emotional rollercoaster fundraising events was brand new to me. Planning and execution of the events comes with so many highs and lows, especially over Covid.

What are some lesser known activities/programs that are available?

We’re joining forces with other YWCAs throughout the country in April for Stand Against Racism. This year we’re doing a book club and a community InterACT session open to the public. We have done InterACT for civic groups, nonprofit organizations large and small, and individuals but we wanted to do one for anyone in the community that was interested in learning more about dismantling bias.

You'll be hosting a book club in April. What inspired it? Why did you choose the book - You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar?

I read a lot of books about racial justice and the history of racism in our country and I picked this book because racism shows itself on not just an institutional level, but on an interpersonal level too. Folks who believe they aren’t racist sometimes say things that are insensitive or clueless, but these remarks can be hurtful. What would it be like to be negotiating a new car purchase and realize you were being charged more than your white friend, or to feel on guard at every new job you start once you hear a new coworker say something casually racist. Amber Ruffin is so funny and it can be cathartic to laugh about awful things. You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey opened my eyes in a way that not many other books haven’t.

When and where?

The book clubs will meet on April 12, 2023 in Saginaw (at the Lee Commons) 6:00-7:30 pm, and April 19, 2023 in Midland (at the Grace A. Dow Library) 6:00-7:30 pm. It's free to attend and the first five people to register will be given a free copy of the book. (Head to for more info!) Anyone who wants their own copy can also head to Leopard Print Books to pick one up!

What other upcoming events are you looking forward to?

Riverside Art Festival is an annual fundraiser for us and this year it’ll be June 10 & 11, 2023, Downtown Bay City.


Do you have any go-to inspiring books that you return to or recommend? If so, what are they?

For nonfiction Maid by Stephanie Land is such a stark picture of a real-life struggles and triumph of a single mom. For fiction (which I read more frequently), I’d say: Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead about an adventurous female pilot in the golden age of aviation. The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley is a thriller set

in the Upper Peninsula

on an Ojibwe reservation,

and Daunis Fontaine is

an amazing heroine. I

can’t wait to reread it.

If you went on a

three-hour boat

tour on the

Appledore with a

well-known person,

who would you

invite? Why?

I think Governor Whitmer would be fun to spend time with, and I think she’d appreciate the time spent on a Great Lake in a beautiful schooner!

Who is your favorite book character? Why?

Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. I reread that book so many times that my copy of the book fell apart! She was creative and imaginative in a way that I was when I was a kid, but she also was more impulsive and very talkative in ways that I wasn't (but wanted to be.)

Why are books and reading play so important for empowering and uplifting women?

As we’re entering Women’s History Month, it's important to learn about the hidden stories of women. I feel like women for generations have been culturally conditioned to downplay their experiences, to hide their accomplishments. Through reading we can put ourselves in the shoes of women who may experience things we never have - and that increases understanding and empathy.

Favorite Bay City spot?

Either one of my favorite downtown coffee shops: Populace or Harless & Hugh.

For more information about the YWCA Great Lakes Bay Region, visit

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