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Archive for February, 2011

A Taste of Summertime at the Loft

Friday, February 25th, 2011

WIldflowers of the Boundary Waters CoverAt least, summertime is what I think of when I think about the Boundary Waters. And boy, could I use a little sunshine and warmth right now.

Authors of three MHS Press books will be reading and speaking about the BWCAW region at the Loft this Tuesday, March 1, at 7:00 PM: Betty Hemstad, author of Wildflowers of the Boundary Waters; Greg Breining, co-author of Paddle North; and Joe Paddock, author of Keeper of the Wild. Also, poet Stephen Wilbers will read from his chapbook, This Northern Nonsense, and his forthcoming Canoeing Across Time: A Boundary Waters History. Hope to see you there!

For your viewing pleasure, here’s a quintessential summertime image from Greg Breining and Layne Kennedy’s book, Paddle North:

Paddle North: Canoeing the Boundary Waters-Quetico Wilderness

Photo by Layne Kennedy

 

Anishinaabe Syndicated

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Anishinaabe SyndicatedJim Northrup’s newest book, Anishinaabe Syndicated: A View from the Rez, chronicles the years 1989-2001, a time when Indian Country saw enormous changes in treaty rights, casino gambling, language renewal, and tribal sovereignty. Northrup wrote about all these changes while he lived them, making observations and jokes and telling stories in his syndicated column, The Fond du Lac Follies.

Northrup recently appeared on Duluth’s WDIO-TV, talking about his book and upcoming event at the Fond du Lac Community Center on Saturday, February 26, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.  Jim will also be in the Twin Cities for a book signing and reading on Tuesday. March 15, at 7:00 p.m. at Birchbark Books.

For a taste of Jim’s writing, check out an excerpt here.

Gordon Parks, photographer, composer, writer, filmmaker, activist

Friday, February 18th, 2011

php7hvpXEIn 1928, sixteen-year-old Gordon Parks arrived alone on a train in St. Paul with plans to live with his sister after his mother’s untimely death. In St. Paul, homeless and hungry, he began his fight to survive, to educate himself, and to fulfill his dreams.

In his compelling autobiography, A Choice of Weapons, Parks, who went on to fame as the first African American to work at Life magazine and the first to write, direct, and score a Hollywood film, reported that he told an interviewer in 1999, “I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs. I knew at that point I had to have a camera.”

In a new foreword to the book, contemporary photographer Wing Young Huie writes, “St. Paul served as an incubator for us [Parks and Huie] both. I had dreamed of becoming a photographer in my early twenties, but it wasn’t until fifteen years later that I finally committed to the idea and set about doing it. I made many excuses along the way, but none of my barriers–real or self-imposed–were even as remotely challenging as the obstacles Gordon faced. His spectacular rise from poverty, personal hardships, and outright racism is astounding and inspiring.”

The MHS Press is proud to publish Parks’s poignant coming-of-age memoir, which has been embraced by many throughout the United States, from high schools in Los Angeles to community centers in New York City. As part of our celebration of Black History Month, we’re offering a free copy to the first person who e-mails us with the answer to this question:

What Hollywood movie is director/producer Gordon Parks best remembered for?

E-mail your answer to info-mhspress@mnhs.org.

And enjoy this excerpt from an early chapter in the book, set during Parks’s first months in St. Paul.

“Eelpout looks like Jesse Ventura with fins”

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

The 32nd Annual International Eelpout Festival on Leech Lake in Walker, MN, is this weekend, February 18-20. The recent thaw has improved travel conditions on the lake, and temperatures expected in the mid-twenties are perfect for this annual tradition.

Greg Breining and Layne Kennedy, author and photographer, respectively, of A Hard-Water World: Ice Fishing and Why We Do It, capture the festival in all its comic and ironic glory. Check out Layne and Greg’s images and words, below.

photo by Layne Kennedy photo by Layne Kennedy photo by Layne Kennedy photo by Layne Kennedy

Really, what makes the festival so promising from the get-go is the subject—not simply a fish, or a game fish, or a prized fish, or any fish that under other circumstances someone might actually try to catch. No, this festival celebrates the eelpout, or burbot, a fresh-water cousin of cod whose most notable trait is its appearance. Potbellied and barbeled, the eelpout looks like Jesse Ventura with fins. Its second-most notable trait: it’s covered with slime, a quality that perhaps gave rise to one of its many other names, “lawyer.” Which brings up its third-most notable trait, its spawning habits, as described by a fisheries biologist in 1936: “A dark shadow was noted at the edge of the ice, some­thing which appeared to be a large ball. Eventually this moved out into view and it was seen to be indeed a ball—a tangled, nearly globular mass of moving, writhing lawyers.”

The festival—that is, the international festival—is timed for mid-February, when the burbot bacchanalia is just beginning. The fish are staging and heading for shallower water. When the event started in 1980, the fes­tival was doing well to attract 500 people. Now 10,000 show up.

There are distractions, to be sure: a snowmo­bile race, a car race (it would mean something if the cars towed ice houses), a polar plunge, and a rugby match. Still, the festival remains true to its origi­nal intent—catching eelpout. In fact, the tournament awards prizes for the ten largest eelpout. In 2007, the prize for biggest went to a young woman for a fish that weighed 14.62 pounds. (Note that the serious­ness of this endeavor is carried to two decimal places.) But it doesn’t stop there. Awards are given for Puni­est Pout (0.36 pounds), Individual Tonnage (114.52 pounds), and Team Tonnage (431.98 pounds by Floyd’s Barber Shop). Total tonnage classes are enhanced by the fact that the only limit on eelpout, in the words of one competitor, is “all you can stand.” Finally, awards are given on style points, the élan, if you will, with which individuals and teams pursue their sport: Most Lavish Burbot Bivouac, and the Greatest Distance Traveled (from Anchorage in 2007).

There may not be limits. But there are rules. The most important is that eligible fish must not be frozen through and through—to prevent anglers from stock­piling eelpout throughout the winter. And if there is any doubt, according to the organizers, “a lie-detector test will . . . be used and if the eelpout fails, one will be administered to the angler.”

The festival acknowledges that someone who takes ice fishing seriously is someone who can’t quite be trusted. Perhaps his morals are questionable. Perhaps, by the nature of what she does, she can’t be entirely sane. At the very least, he or she is a kidder and can’t be assumed to be on the square. For all these shortcom­ings, the ice fisherman/woman isn’t quite fit for polite society. Not that this is anything to be ashamed of. It may even be cause for celebration.

It’s noteworthy that not least among the Eelpout Festival awards is the prize given for Hairiest Back. The winner of said award shall remain nameless, though nota­bly it is a man. And he won for the second time running.

Congratulations, All!

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

The Assassination of Hole in the Day php9i7MBn phpI7qvf1

The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library recently announced the finalists for the prestigious Minnesota Book Awards, and five MHS Press/Borealis Books authors are included in the mix. The Assassination of Hole in the Day by Anton Treuer is nominated in the category of General Nonfiction, as is Paddle North: Canoeing the Boundary Waters-Quetico Wilderness, which has photographs by Layne Kennedy and essays by Greg Breining. Prairie, Lake, Forest: Minnesota’s State Parks, with photographs by Doug Ohman and essays by Chris Niskanen, was nominated in the category of “Minnesota.”

We here at MHS Press wish to congratulate all nominees!

Women’s Prison Book Project

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Women's Prison Book ProjectMinneapolis is home to the Women’s Prison Book Project, an organization that has supplied paperback books to women in prisons since 1994. Formerly housed in the Arise! bookstore on Lyndale Avenue, the WPBP has relocated with Boneshaker Books to Twenty-third Avenue South just off Franklin in the Seward neighborhood. Boneshaker Books is a collective of former Arise! volunteers.

This Saturday, February 12, Walker Church in Minneapolis will host a pancake breakfast and book sale fundraiser for the WPBP. For more details, read the article about the WPBP by Mary Treacy in the TC Daily Planet, including letters from women grateful for this unique program.

If you have plans to lighten your bookshelves and are looking for a new home for paperback books on drug and alcohol recovery, health, abuse issues, and arts and crafts or English and Spanish language dictionaries, fiction and nonfiction by people of color, queer fiction and nonfiction, and mystery/horror novels, consider donating them to WPBP.

Race and Justice on the Minnesota Frontier

Friday, February 4th, 2011

A Peculiar ImbalanceIn honor of Black History Month, we bring you an amazing story of early Minnesota told by historian William Green in his book, A Peculiar Imbalance: The Fall and Rise of Racial Equality in Early Minnesota.

In 1827 a military officer brought Jim Thompson, born a slave on the Virginia plantation of James Monroe, to Fort Snelling. There the young Thompson became fluent in French and Dakota. Methodists in Ohio purchased his liberty in 1837 so he could work as a translator for a missionary at Little Crow’s village of Kaposia. The mission lasted just two years. Thompson married a daughter of the Dakota leader Cloud Man, was briefly one of the whiskey sellers in what would become St. Paul, ran the first ferry across the Mississippi, and was a major donor to the construction of the city’s First Methodist Church. But his efforts to protect a girl from rape and his testimony at her assailant’s trial left the best clues to his character and his position in the community.

“The Story of Jim Thompson” is just one of many surprising tales told in this fine book.

“The Problem with Memoirs” from The New York Times

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Tell Me TrueJudging by the comments on Neil Genzlinger’s roundup review of four recent memoirs in this past Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, many readers have a visceral reaction to the genre. Genzingler concluded:

“Three of the four did not need to be written, a ratio that probably applies to all memoirs published over the last two decades. Sorry to be so harsh, but this flood just has to be stopped. We don’t have that many trees left.”

Several years ago, the veracity of memoirs was under scrutiny; now it seems everyone thinks their life merits a memoir. The reviewer’s advice to would-be memoirists is, “if you still must write a memoir, consider making yourself the least important character in it.” What happens when you make “history” the main character?

Tell Me True: Memoir, History, and Writing a Life, edited by Patricia Hampl and Elaine Tyler May, gathers essays from award-winning memoirists and historians wrestling with the gray area where memory intersects with history and where the necessities of narrative collide with mundane facts. Read the intro here.