Monthly Archives: May 2015

On the road with Minnesota’s writers and readers

Minnesota’s robust community of the book is thriving and sharing this summer.   It’s likely that there is a book-related event within reach – geographic and financial – of every Minnesotan.

One highlight, the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards (NEMBA), now in its 27th year, has become an honored tradition. The awards were announced a week ago, so though it’s too late to attend the gala event, it’s not too late to enjoy the great reads.

Following is an incomplete smattering of what’s happening around the state in weeks to come – just enough to give the flavor…

On June 1 Chel Anderson and Adelheid Fischer, authors of North Shore, will offer a book talk, slide presentation and signing of their book. It’s at 7:00 at the Hartley Nature Center, 3001 Woodland Avenue, Duluth. North Shore is described as “a comprehensive environmental history of one of Minnesota’s most beloved places.”

The Minnesota Association of Library Friends (MALF) and their community partners in Ely will dedicate the Sigurd Olson Literary Landmark on Friday, June 5. This, the sixth and newest Literary Landmark in the state, honors the renowned conservationist; the official site of the Literary Landmark will be housed at Vermillion Community College, Olson’s academic home. The program includes reflections and memories of Olson shared by his close personal friend Chuck Wick. Doug Wood, president of the Listening Point Foundation, Shawn Bina, Vermilion Community College provost and representatives of MALF will are share remarks. Organizers encourage attendees to “make a weekend of it.” The Ely-Winton Historical Society invites all to a free exhibit on the life and career of Sigurd Olson while local Friends will host a tour of the new Ely Public Library. On Saturday, June 6, guests are invited to attend Author!Author!, a local literary showcase sponsored by Ely Greenstone Public Art.

The week of June 8-13 features the Bemidji Library Book Festival sponsored by Kitchigami Regional Library system. It’s a star-studded week that features a multi-generational musical show with the Ross and Bart Sutter, a book presentation with Heid Erdrich, programs from the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, an evening of poetry, writing workshops and more! Most programs are held at the Bemidji Public Library and all are free and open to the public. More information at http://bemidji, or

If you move fast you can make it to the Jon Hassler Festival, June 14-15 in Brainerd. There’s a slide tour of Hassler’s art, a panel discussion on “Teaching Jon Hassler,” opportunities to tour the Jon Hassler Library, and much more. There is a $100 registration fee for the full program.

Then it’s back to Brainerd for Wine and Words, August 13 at Grand View Lodge. The gala event is sponsored by Friends of The Brainerd Public Library. Emcee Lorna Landvik will host a program that includes several authors – Jenna Blum, Peter Geye, Kathleen McCleary, William Kent Krueger and Nadia Hashimi. Find author bios and more about their works at!untitled/mainPage

As the new school year starts and you plan your autumn reads, you’ll want to check out Marshall Festival ‘15, October 22-24 at Southwest Minnesota State University. The “celebration of rural writing and culture” features Susan Power, Gordon Henry, Philip Dacey, David Allan Evans and Bart and Ross Sutter.

These are just a few of the literary possibilities that invite Minnesotans and tourists alike to sample the rich resources that reflect Minnesota’s writing and reading community of the book. If you know of others, please share here in a comment. These literary events are not always listed on tourism calendars so take time to check out what’s happening along the roads you will be traveling. Stop by or call ahead to the local library to find out what’s happening in town – you will probably be amazed by the wealth of opportunities for bibliophiles and bibliophile wanabes. Don’t miss the chance to learn more about the town, the region, and the writers who call the community home!





Shared stories shed light on the horrors of Vietnam

Several weeks ago Minnesota leaders of Veterans for Peace began a conversation that continues to engage vets and concerned others in discussions of the power of stories to inform and engage storytellers and listeners alike. ( The discussion continues on Friday, June 5, with an evening of story circles focused on stories being intentionally left out of the current commemoration of the War in Vietnam.

The lively sharing of stories will be at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, June 5, at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Avenue South. The evening will open with a couple of short stories, one told by Plymouth minister Gary Smith, about the 60’s involvement with Clergy and Laity Concerned. Gary Gilson, journalist, veteran, and former head of the Minnesota News Council, will tell a story and comment on the importance of not omitting parts of the narrative.

Later, small story circles will interact, with each participant deciding whether to share or listen to the stories of others. Planners say that “the intent is to surface and empower many people to tell the stories being left out of the massive PR effort shaped to lead people to conclude that what happened in Vietnam in the 60’s and early 60’s and early 70’s “was a wondrous thing.”

For more information or for a compilation of related resources contact Larry Johnson at








May is Asian Pacific AmericanHeritage Month – So much to celebrate, so little time

Late in the month as this post may be, the celebration of Asian Pacific Americans Heritage Month cannot be limited to one short month. There is too much to celebrate to cram it all into 31 days…..

Asian Pacific Americans Heritage Month has its roots nearly four decades ago when Representatives Frank Horton of New York and Norman Y. Mineta of California introduced a House resolution that called upon the president to proclaim the first ten days of May as Asian/Pacific Heritage Week. The following month Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Passed by both houses of Congress the joint resolution designating the annual celebration was signed on October 5, 1978 by President Jimmy Carter. The commemoration was expanded in May 1990 when President George H.W. Bush designated the entire month of May as Asian Pacific Heritage Month.

The month of May was chosen to recognize the immigration of the first Japanese to the U.S. in 1843.   Masses of Chinese immigrants soon followed, in large part to work on the Transcontinental Railroad, which was completed in May 10, 1869 with the famous golden spike at Utah’s Promontory Summit.

Today the month is a time set aside to celebrate all of the Asian Pacific Americans who are now part of mainstream America – people from a host of countries including New Guinea, Fiji, the Marianas, Guam, New Zealand, the Hawaiian Island and many others.

There are countless resources to assist independent learners, teachers and groups that want to expand their understanding of the role of Asian Pacific Americans – not just this month but throughout the year.   Among these are the following: – The Library of Congress, in collaboration with the Smithsonian, National Archives and other federal entities, offers a robust library of audio and video as well as print materials and information about related events. The Center for Educational Telecommunications provides an extensive listing of materials in all formats; many of the listed items are in fact links to additional resources.

Closer to home, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights links to several resources including these:

  • Becoming Minnesotan, Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees, Minnesota Historical Society Museum.
  • Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans
The Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans (CAPM) is a state agency created by the Minnesota state legislature to: advise the governor and members of the legislature on issues pertaining to Asian Pacific Minnesotans; advocate on issues of importance to the Asian Pacific community, and; act as a broker between the Asian Pacific community and mainstream society.
  • Asian American Press 
Asian American Press is the first Asian American publication in Minnesota. Founded in 1982 as Asian Business & Community News, and renamed to the Asian American Press in 1990. This publication covers local, national and international news and information related to Asian American culture.

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I met a woman who told me that she wasn’t attracted to Asians. “No worries,” I said. “I’m not attracted to racists” ― Simon Tam







Venture forth to celebrate Indie Bookstore Day!

Today’s the second day of May

First-ever Indie Bookstore Day

So browse the shelves, explore the nooks

Talk with folks about the books

Not just the books that grab the news

But those with fresh ideas and views.

Get to know the friendly clerks

Who know the authors and their works.

Today’s a day to celebrate

What makes each indie bookstore great!

Yes, this is a bit tardy, but it’s not too late – because your indie is likely to be within walking distance. And there will be a warm welcome, possibly a cup of tea, waiting for you. There may also be special Independent Bookstore literary gifts available only at indies, gifts including signed prints by graphic novelist Chris Ware and Captain Underpants creator Dav Pilkey, a Roz Chast tote bag, a signed collection of essays by Roxanne Gay, or a set of tea towels with sayings by Lemony Snicket and Pat Conroy – stuff you won’t find online.

Over 400 stores around the country are participating in this new national holiday – each with its own unique panache, of course. The media offer some good points of entry to the many local options — MPR heralded Indie Bookstore Day with a lively discussion on Kerri Miller’s show and nice profiles and photos of some of the area’s indie’s by Tracy Mumford (

Meanwhile, the Strib’s Laurie Hertzel provides an informative post about what’s happening at some of the TC’s indies. ( Laurie offers a gentle suggestion that readers might want to spend the day visiting all of the area’s indie treasures. It’s a fun – if overwhelming – idea.

I’m thinking of an opposite approach – spending a few hours exploring the nooks and crannies –physical and intellectual – of just one neighborhood gem.   Either approach offers a lovely way to learn more about the creative ways in which independent bookstores enhance and expand this community of the book.