Category Archives: Books and Reading

A royal story fit for these times

 

Presidents’ Day greetings!

The nation’s history is rich with elegant stories of our leaders who have demonstrated bravery, creativity, honesty, magnanimity, common sense, strategic thinking, business acumen and genuine concern for the good of all Americans. These men (!) have earned this day on which 21st Century Americans honor their contributions to the public good.   Most young Americans have a “day off” – and many of these will be spending some of the day with adults who care mightily about their welfare.

The concerning truth is, on Presidents’ Day 2017, our children are stressed.

As an ardent believer that facts matter and truth will out, I fancied a post about this democracy’s system of checks and balance – or about the First Amendment and the role of the press – or about the logistical fallacy of injecting a “red herring” into otherwise civil discourse…. Though I told myself that truth will out I soon realized that logical arguments, historic concept and diagrams of our tripartite government structure were too logical for young thinkers for whom illogic has been normalized.

The wisdom of Flannery O’Connor called out to me — “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way.” 

The story for Presidents’ Day 2017 is handed down to us by the world’s most iconic storyteller, Hans Christian Andersen – Though we all know both name and message of The Emperor’s New Clothes, today seems the right day to refresh, then share, the story.

Refresh your memory by listening here before you et out to share the retelling with youngsters – or grownups – in your life: https://archive.org/details/emperorsnewclothes_1311_librivox/emperorsnewclothes_01_andersen_128kb.mp3 (It’s better with book in hand, of course.)

Listening is a first step, it’s talking about the meaning of the story that will prompt lines of reasoning for the young thinker. I enjoyed this comfortable approach to talking about the lessons of the tale of the hapless Emperor: http://www.teachingchildrenphilosophy.org/BookModule/TheEmperorsNewClothes

If, like me, you’re compelled to follow the story of the story, there’s always the source of last – sometimes first – resort. Wikipedia’s entry on The Emperor’s New Clothes offers context and insight on a story that has stood the test of time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emperor’s_New_Clothes

 

 

African American History Month -So much to read, view and learn

As we enter the second week of Black History Month many of us are overwhelmed by the issues, digital options and live events that are happening in communities, sponsored by a host of nonprofits, educational and advocacy groups. An abundance of riches, to be sure. Still, the opportunities to learn are so robust that we don’t know where to start! In an effort to focus, not limit, here are some thoughts:

Some time back I posted a listing of sources of Black History Month public events and activities. It’s not the most recent but it’s a starting point: https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/black-history-month-2017-theme/

Still, events are not the only way to learn the history of African Americans and their contributions to Minnesota and the world. David V. Taylor produced a significant guide to historical resources published as the Minnesota Historical Guide in 1976.

Though dated, it offers a firm foundation to the topic. Dr. Taylor also produced a readily accessible e-book exploring resources on African Americans in Minnesota – it’s available commercially through most e-book vendors. http://www.mnhs.org/mnhspress/books/african-americans-minnesota-0

Sometimes biographies or autobiographies tell the story best. Though there are hundreds of African Americans who have shaped Minnesota history it took the intrepid staff of the St Paul Pioneer Press to suggest just a few historic icons in this 2016 article: http://www.twincities.com/2016/02/09/15-trailblazing-black-minnesotans-you-should-know-more-about/

In 2004 TPT produced North Star: Minnesota’s Black Pioneers, the story of twelve early Minnesotans who helped to shape the state. Happily, it’s still accessible online at http://video.tpt.org/video/2365018705/

Another approach is to focus on a specific era or issue. Again, to narrow the universe, the reader might want to start with a significant book written by William D. Green, former Superintendent of Minneapolis Schools, now on the Augsburg College faculty. Dr. Green’s informative and readable history. Degrees of Freedom, covers the story of civil rights in Minnesota 1865-1912. Get to know Dr. Green and his significant study by listening to these interviews with the author:

Last, but definitely not least, you might want to check out this recent publication from the University of Minnesota Press. https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/who-writes-for-black-children, edited by Katharine Capshaw and Anna Mae Duane. Here’s the publisher’s description of this unique resource:

Who Writes for Black Children? unlocks a rich archive of largely overlooked literature read by black children. From poetry written by a slave for a plantation school to joyful “death biographies” of African Americans in the antebellum North to literature penned by African American children themselves, this volume presents compelling new definitions of both African American literature and children’s literature.

So much to learn, so little time – especially when African American History Month gets short shrift by being celebrated during the shortest month of the year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Langston Hughes, the “O.Henry of Harlem”

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed – 
Let it be that great strong land of love 
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme 
That any man be crushed by one above.   Langston Hughes

The words of hope were written by African American poet Langston Hughes, born this day in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902. His early years were difficult, many moves and the loss of parents and his caregiving grandmother. Hughes found solace in reading, reflecting later, “then it was that books began to happen to me, and I began to believe in nothing but books and the wonderful world of books – where if people suffered, they suffered in beautiful language not in monosyllables, as in Kansas.”

Restless and apparently weary of traveling the world, Hughes settled in Harlem where he was active in the Harlem Renaissance, a utopian environment for creative African Americans. His writing reflecting the world around him; when asked, Hughes shared this description of the topics he explored and reflected in his prolific writing. His words ring true for many in these times:

People up today and down tomorrow, working this week and fired the next, beaten and baffled, but determined not to be wholly beaten, buying furniture on the installment plan, filling the house with rooms to help pay the rent, hoping to get a new suit for Easter – and pawning that suit before the Fourth of July.

When Hughes died of cancer in 1967 the New York Times reported: “Mr. Hughes was sometimes characterized as the ‘O. Henry of Harlem.’ He was an extremely versatile and productive author who was particularly well known for his folksy humor.'”

There’s much to learn about this renowned poet, essayist, novelist, playwright and prolific letter writer:

  • Learn about the Langston Hughes Center at the University of Kansas, a repository of Hughes’ work and a center for research and teaching about his life and literary contributions. https://langstonhughes.ku.edu

UPDATE:  Read more Langston Hughes quotes here: http://mentalfloss.com/article/91742/20-inspiring-quotes-langston-hughes

 

 

Black History Month 2017 – Ideas, resources, events

Through first-class education, a generation marches down the long uncertain road of the future with confidence. Wynton Marsalis

“The crisis in Black education” is the theme – and challenge – of Black History Month 2017. Perhaps more than ever resources and learning opportunities abound. And, more than even, the challenge is well nigh overwhelming – for families, or schools, or this democracy. At the national, state and local levels concerned individuals and organizations are struggling to stem the tide of fake news, alternative facts, pull-back on funding for arts and humanities, and potential disruption of the very premise of public education.

Fortunately, the concern is nonpartisan and ubiquitous – and the resources expand by the hour!

Background:

Carter G. Woodson, (1875-1950) noted Black scholar and historian and son of former slaves, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915, which was later renamed the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). He initiated Black History Week, February 12, 1926. For many years the second week of February (chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln) was celebrated by Black people in the United States. In 1976, as part of the nation’s Bicentennial, it was expanded and became established as Black History Month, and is now celebrated throughout North America.

Here are just a few of the opportunities to learn, to gather, to focus on how best we can individually and as communities fully understand then meet the challenge. We won’t find answers in one short month – but we won’t seek answers until we come to grip with the questions. Not all but some, or even one, may speak to you as a parent, grandparent, student, teacher, voter, employer and citizen aware that “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

 

Resources:

http://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov – brief background on the history of the month, resources of national agencies – many of which are accessible online.

http://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2017/cb17-ff01.html – relevant statistics from the Census Bureau

http://www.naapidatnight.com – Help planning African American Parents Involvement Day/Night – many local schools will sponsor related events

http://www.educationworld.com/a_special/black_history.shtml – Lesson plans – various

Things to do:

http://www.si.edu/events/heritagemonth – Smithsonian resources

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/national-museum-of-african-american-history-and-culture – Resources of the National Museum of African American History and Culture 

Local calendars – a few of the many:

http://spokesman-recorder.com/2016/02/01/2016-black-history-month-calendar/

http://365twincities.com/black-history-month-events/

http://tcdailyplanet.tumblr.com/post/43174118372/black-history-month-calendar-of-events-through

Other local events – very incomplete list!

http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/event/open-mic-black-history/

http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/event/a-conversation-with-daniel-alexander-jones/

http://oshag.stkate.edu/all-events – Threads Dance Project–The Secrets of Slave Songs

http://www.mnhs.org/event/2193 – music by African American composers

http://www.sowahmensah.com/calendar/February 11, 2017 – Macalester Ensemble Black History Month Concert, Mairs Concert Hal, Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center, Macalester College, 8:00 pm – Free

http://www.exploreminnesota.com/events/31661/mill-city-string-quartet-presents-african-american-history-month

https://civilrightsminneapolis.wordpress.com/black-history-month/ – check the blogs

Good reads

http://www.hclib.org/about/news/2017/january/black-history-month -Includes a good list of related readings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minnesota Book Awards 2017 – Nominees Named

HOT OFF THE PRESS!

MINNESOTA BOOK AWARDS – SAVE THE DATE – APRIL 8, 2017

We have just received this message from Friends of the St Paul Library, current sponsor of the Minnesota Book Awards:

We are pleased to announce the finalists in all nine categories for the 29th Annual Minnesota Book Awards. Chosen on Saturday, January 28, by 27 judges from around the state – writers, teachers, librarians, booksellers, and others from the literary community – the finalists are….

CHILDREN’S LITERATURE

Tell Me a Tattoo Story, by Alison McGhee, illus. by Eliza Wheeler (Chronicle Books)

This Is NOT a Cat! By David LaRochelle, illus. by Mike Wohnoutka (Sterling Children’s Books)

Worm Loves Worm, by .J. Austrian, illus. by Mike Curato (Balzer + Bray)

Yellow Time, by Lauren Stringer (Beach Lane Books)

GENERAL NONFICTION

Canoes: A natural history in North America, by Mark Neuzil and Norman Sims (University of Minnesota Press *)

Designing Our Way to a Better World, by Thomas Fisher (University of Minnesota Press *)

Thrill Me: Essays on fiction, by Benjamin Percy (Graywolf Press *)

The War on Science: Who’s waging it, Why it matters, What we can do about it, by Shawn Otto (Milkweed Editions *)

GENRE FICTION

The Born and the Made, by Robert Spande (Self-published)

The Heavens May Fall, by Aalen Eskens (Seventh Street Books)

Rise of the Spring Tide, by James Stitt (Self-published)

Stealing the Countess, by David Housewright (Minotaur Books)

MEMOIR /CREATIVE NONFICTION

I Like Inside: Memoirs of a babe in toyland, by Michelle Leon (Minnesota Historical Society Press *)

The Song Poet: A memoir of my father, by Kao Kalia Young (Metropolitan Books)

This Is Where I Am: A memoir, by Zike Caigiuri  (University of Minnesota Press*)

The Thunder Before the Storm: The autobiography of Clyde Bellecourt, by Clyde Bellecourt, as told to Jon Lurie (Minnesota Historical Society Press *)

MIDDLE GRADE LITERATURE

Little Cat’s Luck, by Marion Dane Bauer, illus. by Jennifer A. Bell (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster)

Sachiko: A Nagasaki bomb survivor’s story, by Caren Stelson (Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group *)

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse, by Brian Farrey (Algonquin Young Readers/Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)

Sticks & Stones, by Abby Cooper (Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan)

MINNESOTA NONFICTION

The Big March: The story of a lost landscape, by Cheri Register (Minnesota Historical Society Press *)

The Ford Century in Minnesota, by Brian McMahon (University of Minnesota Press *)

Women of Mayo Clinic: The founding generation, by Virginia M. Wright-Peterson (Minnesota Historical Society Press*)

NOVEL & SHORT STORY

The Annie Year, by Stephanie Wilbur Ash (Unnamd press)

Do Not Find, by Kathleen Novak (The Permanent Press)

LaRose, by Louise Erdrich (Harper Collins Publishers)

Wintering, by Peter Geye (Alfred A Knopf)

POETRY

May Day, by Gretchen Marquette (Graywolf Press *)

Tula, by Chris Santiago (Milkweed Editions *)

Unbearable Splendor, by Sun Yung Shin (Coffee House Press *)

Yes Thorn, by Amy Munson (Tupelo Press)

YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE

Assassin’s Heart, by Sarah Ahlers (HarperTeen/HarperCollins Publishers)

LGBTQ+ Athletes Claim the Field: Striving for equality, by Kristin Cronn-Mills (Twenty-First Century Books/Lerner Publishing Group *)

The Memory Book, by Lara Avery (Poppy/Little Brown and Company)

Original Fake, by Kristin Cronn-Mills, art by E. Eero Johnson (GP.Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Random House)

* Indicates Minnesota publisher

+++++

Award winners will be announced at the 29th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony on Saturday, April 8, at the InterContinental Hotel Saint Paul Riverfront.   The Preface reception begins at 6:30 p.m. followed by the Awards Ceremony at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40-$55 and available by visiting http://www.thefriends.org or calling 651-222-3242. The official hashtag for social media is #mnbookawards. All are encouraged to use it when posting comments, status updates or tweeting about any of the authors or their books.

 

 

 

 

 

Poken Sword – A space where love of language matters

The evening’s program is so rich and varied that I contacted the planner to be certain that all of these people, all of the talent, all of these ideas will be shared in just one evening at Poken Sword!   Yes they are, and here are the details!!!

“A luminous evening dedicated to the Love of Language” is the tagline for Poken Sword.   The phrase sings out as we as a nation come to grips with the reality that words matter, truth matters.

The theme for this week’s Poken Sword literary salon is “Solitude.” Guests this week include Franklin Knoll, legislator, judge and poet.   Joining Franklin Knoll are writer and artist Hannah Kreibich, Judoka poet Gumo Orenji (Eric Tu), writer Noel Labine, Earl Crosby and Jason Wells. Each will share an original work on the theme of “Solitude.”

The evening is one in a monthly series of literary salons, gathered the fourth Friday of each month at 2001 A Space, located at 2001 5th Street NE in the heart of the vibrant Northeast Minneapolis Arts Area. Doors open at 6:30 PM.   Salons are free and open with a simple $5 voluntary contribution.

Each salon features original work by local writers and thinkers; each will focus on a specific theme – future salons are these:

  • February 24 – Passion
  • March 24 – Turbulence
  • April 28 – Fools
  • May 26 – Joy

Learn more about Poken Sword in this interview with  founders, Christine Jaspers and Dean Hawthorne:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Z6by48NS1V4&feature=youtu.be

Learn more about this month’s and future guests here: http://www.pokensword.com

 

 

Minneapolis Hosts Nation’s Indie Booksellers

If you happen to be trolling the Minneapolis skyways next week and bump into a tourist with her nose in a book it could by a stray attendee or escape exhibitor from the American Booksellers Association conference. Hundreds of members of ABA will be in town January 27-30 for the annual “bacchanal” (their word) known as the ABA Winter Institute. The truth is, the 1000+ attendees won’t have a lot of time to enjoy the skyways, construction on the Mall, the Mary Tyler Moore statue or the weather – they’ll be busy at action center at the Hyatt Regency. Their loss.

Local ports of call for the visitors include a welcome reception at the Open Book, a visit to the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota, and an event at the Mill City Museum. There are scores of exhibits, countless programs, and authors of past, current and future renown.

One session that caught my eye was a program on “Indie Next List Authors” featuring Kate DiCamillo, Alice Hoffman, Joshilyn Jackson, Ann Patchettt, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney and Ben Winters. Another was a talk about about the ABA partnership with Shelf Awareness that provides indies with a new monthly e-newsletter for customers. In a community that prides ourselves on incubating emerging writers, this has special interest.

Among the featured talks at the conference is one entitled “Partnering to create a dynamic city”, a brief history of the Open Book. (http://bookweb.org/news/minneapolis-arts-and-business-leaders-share-insights-creating-thriving-literary-community-35515)

Lots more about the wide range of programs and social events that will keep the booksellers busy during their brief stay can be found here: http://www.bookweb.org/wi2017/winter-institute

Let’s hope the guests find time to visit some of the Minnesota’s excellent indies while they’re in the land of independent booksellers and the independent readers who frequent – and support — them!

Update:

Minneapolis bookstore suggestions for ABA visitors: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/159dae4d5df2bff9

Roxane Gay Pulls Book from S&S to Protest Yiannopoulos Deal

Roxane Gay has pulled her next book, How to Be Heard (TED Books, 2018), from Simon & Schuster in protest over Milo Yiannopoulous’s controversial $250,000 book deal with the publisher. “I can’t in good conscience let them publish it while they also publish Milo. So I told my agent over the weekend to pull the project,” she told Buzzfeed News.

Gay will present the opening keynote this Saturday at Winter Institute 12 in Minneapolis. Her talk will focus on how people can proactively address the need for more diversity of both representation and thought in the book industry and beyond.

In a letter to authors, S&S president and CEO Carolyn Reidy addressed the controversy, noting that “we do not support or condone, nor will we publish, hate speech. Not from our authors. Not in our books. Not at our imprints. Not from our employees and not in our workplace.” Gay, however, tweeted that her decision stands.

Update from Shelf Awareness:  The Winter Institute’s app can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play.

The app contains a full schedule, a list of attending authors, maps of the hotel and Minneapolis and more. The ABA will use the app also for late-breaking news and schedule changes.

By the way, the list of attending authors is also available here.