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April 28, 2016

Twin Cities Independent Bookstore Day is this Saturday!

Filed under: Authors, Event — Alison Aten @ 12:43 pm

independent-bookstore-dayA Good Time for the TruthI Live Inside

We’re excited to be a sponsor of this year’s Twin Cities Independent Bookstores Passport!

This Saturday, April 30 is the Second Annual Independent Bookstore Day, and to celebrate, ten Twin Cities area bookstores have teamed up to produce a Bookstore Day Passport.

As noted on the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association website:

Customers pick up a copy of the passport at any of the participating stores and receive their first stamp. Any individual who travels to all ten stores during business hours on Independent Bookstore Day and receives a stamp from each store will receive a $10 gift card from every participating bookstore–$100 in total value. When all the stamps have been collected, customers snap a photo of their completed stamp page and send it to the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association via twitter (@MidwestBooks), and we will gather contact info and send them their gift cards.

Moon Palace Books in South Minneapolis will also be producing a new and updated edition of its Twin Cities Bookstore Map, which will include all bookstores in the Twin Cities, not just those participating in the passport, Independent Bookstore Day, or members of MIBA.

We’re also honored to have several of our authors participate in Independent Bookstore Day activities:

Birchbark Books at Noon
Heid E. Erdrich signs and shares her book, Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories and Recipes from the Upper Midwest

Common Good Books from 2:00-3:30 pm
Sun Yung Shin and IBé sign A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota

Magers & Quinn at 7:00 pm
Michelle Leon reads and signs her new book, I Live Inside: Memoirs of a Babe in Toyland

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April 21, 2016

Q & A with Cheri Register, author of The Big Marsh

Filed under: Authors, Event, Interview, Nature/Enviroment — Alison Aten @ 3:53 pm

The Big Marsh

Cheri Register’s newest book, The Big Marsh: The Story of a Lost Landscape, recounts how a rural community is changed forever when moneyed interests conspire to transform a treasured wetland. As Sue Leaf, author of Potato City and The Bullhead Queen, notes:

The Big Marsh describes the glorious dreams, the grandiose schemes, the lies, the deception, the ignorance, the avarice, and the unheeded pleas of those who saw beauty where others saw a wasteland. Minnesota has lost more than 50 percent of its pre-settlement wetlands. In lyrical prose, Cheri Register tells us how this happened.”

We asked Cheri to tell us more about how and why she came to write The Big Marsh.

The Big Marsh is set in your home territory and even involves your family. Did you grow up with this story?

No, I didn’t. I knew only the final piece—the Hollandale story—about how a lake was drained in the early 1920s and Dutch people were brought in to farm vegetables in the peat soil. I didn’t know that there was a long, contentious backstory that pitted local farmers against outside real estate developers. I didn’t know that the “lake” was actually 18,000 acres of wetland. That earlier history has been lost. My first inkling of it was an essay written in 1935 that I found by happenstance. The headline grabbed me: “Connivings of Dishonest Men Cheat Nature as Well as Fellow Beings, Writer Avers.” The writer turned out to be my great-grandfather! With that fairly cryptic article as my starting point, I had to piece together the story—or watch it take shape—from county records, newspaper mentions, family memorabilia, and revealing entries in a young, enterprising lawyer’s archived diary. It took years of research.

Agricultural drainage is hardly a sexy, or even literary topic. What kept you at it?

I’ve got both a practical answer and a spooky answer to that question. Drainage is an essential theme in Midwestern history. We can’t fully understand rural life or the flourishing of the “heartland” or “breadbasket” of the United States without acknowledging the radical transformation of the landscape that drainage brought about. My daughters used to come home from elementary school upset over what was happening to the Amazon rainforest, and I’d think, what about the loss of Minnesota’s forests and prairies and savannas and wetlands? I’ve talked to intelligent, educated Midwesterners who have no idea that we live atop a network of buried drainage tiles, miles and miles of plumbing. The history of drainage needs to be told, and I felt lucky to be able to contribute one small story. My spooky answer is that my great-grandfather would not let me go. He followed me everywhere, dropping hints, drawing unexpected connections, reminding me of my obligation. I never saw his ghost, but I sure did feel his moral conscience bearing down on mine.

So is this an environmentalist book?

I’m not making an argument or proposing solutions. What I have written is history and family memoir, with an emphasis on landscape and the meaning of place. I am, however, a lover of wetlands, having grown up among the remnants of them, and I’m happy to show that wetlands were not universally dismissed as wasteland but in fact had value to those who lived around them. I do hope my story of how this one drainage happened will serve some purpose in our current public discussion of the unintended consequences of drainage: flooding, soil depletion, water pollution, loss of wildlife, etc.

Your memoir, Packinghouse Daughter, was quite successful. This is a very different book, isn’t it?

Not really. It may not have the immediacy of a memoir that draws on firsthand experience, but I do make clear my personal stake in the story, and I use family memoir throughout. I am pursuing, once again, the central question that motivates all of my writing, even my books about chronic illness and international adoption: What can we learn from the intersection of personal experience with larger, public events? As for the specific subject matter of The Big Marsh, I think of it as a prequel to Packinghouse Daughter. Ultimately it’s about the industrialization of agriculture, and it helps explain how the offspring of family farmers ended up working in the food processing industry, including meatpacking plants.

The structure of this book may surprise and even puzzle readers, because it doesn’t just relate the facts of the drainage. It seems to go off on tangents and even change styles at times. Why did you do that?

When I write, I’m propelled forward by the sounds of words and the rhythm of sentences, even as I’m committed to precision and clarity of meaning. I want to share my pleasure in the writing with the reader. Sometimes, when I’m conveying complex information, a simple, straight narrative is the best course. But at other times, say, when I want the reader to experience the sensation of being by the marsh, I can be more lyrical, or even fanciful. I like a little whimsy now and then. Also, the story isn’t just about the drainage of the marsh; it’s about the life of the marsh and of wetlands in general. So it’s not a tangent to write about Native life on the marshy landscape, or dairy cows grazing in the wet meadow, or binder twine, which is made of marsh reeds. The context of the drainage story is long and wide and deep. I chose to explore it the way an essayist does, by approaching it from many angles, “wheeling and diving like a hawk,” as Phillip Lopate says. A hawk even shows up in the story.

Upcoming author events:
Book Launch Celebration: Magers & Quinn, Thursday, May 12 at 7pm
Book Talk and Signing: Subtext, Tuesday, May 24 at 7 pm
Book Talk and Signing: Prairie Lights, Thursday, June 9 at 7 pm

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April 7, 2016

MNHS Press Announces New Editor of Minnesota History Magazine

Filed under: Literary, MHS press — Alison Aten @ 3:01 pm

Minnesota History Spring 2016

Minnesota Historical Society Press announces the appointment of Laura Weber as editor of Minnesota History magazine. Weber succeeds Anne R. Kaplan, who retired in January 2016 after 37 years at MNHS Press. “Minnesota History is a premiere publication of MNHS, loved and valued by our members, teachers and scholars, and history lovers throughout the state and beyond. Laura’s deep experience as editor, writer and public historian make her an outstanding choice to helm the magazine and guide its future,” said Pamela J. McClanahan, publisher, MNHS Press.

After earning a BA in journalism and an MA in U.S. history at the University of Minnesota (where she studied under the late Professor Hy Berman), Weber worked in nonprofit communications before returning to the “U” as an editor in 1991. During her 20 years as a university editor and communications director, she also pursued an independent public history practice that included writing, editing, public presentations and walking tours. A recent highlight was being engaged by the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest from 2012 to 2015 to create a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage (Legacy) Grant-funded series of 32 articles on Minnesota Jewish history for MNopedia, MNHS Press’ free, authoritative online encyclopedia about Minnesota.

Weber joined MNHS in April 2014 as communications manager in the Marketing & Communications department. Her association with Minnesota History, however, began in 1991 with the publication of “’Gentiles Preferred’: Minneapolis Jews and Employment: 1920-1950,” which won the Solon J. Buck Award, awarded annually to the best article published in Minnesota History. Her second Minnesota History article, on the National Register of Historic Places, received the David Stanley Gebhard Award from the Minnesota Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (MNSAH). Weber went on to serve MNSAH for 10 years as a member of its board of directors.

“Minnesotans of all ages and origins have demonstrated in many ways their abiding interest in the shared stories of our past and how these stories contribute to our understanding of our present and future,” Weber said. “As it has been for over a century, Minnesota History will be at the center of that ever-evolving conversation. I am thrilled to be part of it.”

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March 24, 2016

MNHS Press Recipient of 2016 David Stanley Gebhard Awards

Filed under: Awards — Alison Aten @ 12:36 pm

Minnesota's Own: Preserving Our Grand Homes

MNHS Press swept top spots in the two categories, best book and best article, of the 2016 David Stanley Gebhard Award, given biennially by the the Minnesota Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (MNSAH).

The winning book is Minnesota’s Own: Preserving Our Grand Homes by Larry Millett and photography by Matt Schmitt is the award winner in the book category.​

The winner in the article category is “Constructing Suburbia: The Hidden Role of Prestressed Concrete,” by Robert M. Frame, III, and Richard E. Mitchell, Minnesota History 64/4.

The awards were officially announced March 16 at the MNSAH annual meeting at the Minnesota Humanities Commission. Long-time Minnesota History editor Anne Kaplan was honored for her tenure at the journal and for being a mentor to many writers in the field; Laura Weber (a former MNSAH board member) was also recognized (and cheered!) as the newly named journal editor.

Larry Millett, in his acceptance for the book award, praised the Jeffris Family Foundation for their generosity in funding the book and said the Minnesota’s Own project was “one of the highlights of his career.”

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January 11, 2016

Galley Giveaway for I Live Inside: Memoirs of a Babe in Toyland

Filed under: Contest, Literary, Music — Alison Aten @ 12:20 pm

I Live Inside

Enter to win a SIGNED ADVANCE COPY of Michelle Leon’s forthcoming book I Live Inside: Memoirs of a Babe in Toyland, available March 15. Michelle played bass for the influential punk band Babes in Toyland from 1987 to 1992 and again in 1997.

We are giving away 25 signed ADVANCE READER COPIES of I Live Inside: Memoirs of a Babe in Toyland by Michelle Leon. Contest ends Thursday, January 28, and winners will be announced that afternoon.

The hardcover edition will be available March 15. Follow Michelle on Facebook.

Stay tuned for more information about upcoming events with Michelle!

In the meantime, check out what people are saying about I Live Inside:

“A crucial and compelling account of what it was to be a woman making music in the nineties. . . . Fantastic and ferocious.”

Jessica Hopper, music and culture critic and author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic

“Profound, poetic, badass, tender, and inspiring.”

Will Hermes, author of Love Goes to Buildings on Fire

I Live Inside feels as real and personal as reading your own memories. . . . Parts read like a fairy tale while others are so haunting they will never leave you.”

Kelli Mayo, musician (Skating Polly)

“Leon draws you right into the Babes in Toyland van, shows you the after-party tensions and what is in the mind of this particular girl in a band.”

Darcey Steinke, author of Sister Golden Hair: A Novel and others

“[Leon’s] prose is stunning, her eye is wry, and her heart enormous; the result is a compelling memoir filled with pop culture, travel, intrigue, and a young artist’s quest to find her voice.”

Laurie Lindeen, musician (Zuzu’s Petals) and author of Petal Pusher: A Rock and Roll Cinderella Story

“By the end of this lyrical, tough, and moving memoir, you’ll not only feel like you know Michelle Leon, you’ll also want to talk and dance and listen to music with her.”

Scott Heim, author of Mysterious Skin and We Disappear

“A vivid, poetic memoir.”

Mark Yarm, author of Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge

“This is Planet Leon.”

David Markey, filmmaker, author, and musician

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December 4, 2015

MNHS Member Double Discount Weekend

Filed under: Event — Alison Aten @ 1:33 pm

North Woods GirlThink SouthDowntownHungry Coyote

Head to the History Center, Mill City Museum and select historic sites statewide for your holiday shopping! During this four-day weekend sale, MNHS members can enjoy a 20 percent discount on a wide array of uniquely Minnesotan books, jewelry and other items available in the stores and online. Members also receive a discount at the History Center’s Cafe Minnesota and D’Amico and Sons Cafe at Mill City Museum. Purchases help support MNHS programs.

At the Minnesota History Center: Saturday, December 5, 2015

At the Mill City Museum: Saturday, December 5, 2015

At the Minnesota History Center: Sunday, December 6, 2015

  • Noon to 2 pm: a signing from Cheryl Blackford, MNHS Press author of Hungry Coyote
  • 1 pm to 5 pm: a handmade jewelry trunk show from For the Journey Jewelry
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November 12, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Downtown Minneapolis in the 1970s

Filed under: Event, History, MHS press — Alison Aten @ 11:16 am

Did you know that the Minnesota Historical Society Press is a member of the Association of American University Presses (AAUP)? In recognition of University Press Week, today’s post is by MNHS Press editor Josh Leventhal.

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A favorite activity on social media, and particularly Facebook, is posting old photos, articles, or other items that evoke days gone by. Whereas nowadays a photo is posted for all the world to see the minute it’s taken, photos that were taken decades ago have to be dug out of an old shoe box or photo album, scanned, and then uploaded to the digital world of the internet.

When Mike Evangelist revisited the photos he had taken as a teenager of downtown Minneapolis during the early 1970s—photos that had been all but forgotten for forty years—and began posting them to the “Old Minneapolis” community on Facebook, the response was enthusiastic. Images showing local businesses long since replaced by chain stores; classic buildings that are today shadowed by modern skyscrapers; funky fashions now worn only by young hipsters evoking a time they did not experience themselves; and the overall look and vibe of Minneapolis in the ‘70s sparked many thoughtful reminiscences and lively discussion. “Oh, I remember. . .” or “Whatever happened to . . . ?”

This fascination with reliving, or perhaps reimagining, the past through old photos is on display in a new book of Mike’s photography, Downtown: Minneapolis in the 1970s, published by MNHS Press. With accompanying text by writer and artist Andy Sturdevant providing historical context and contemporary perspectives, the nearly 200 color and black-and-white photos in the book depict a city both foreign and familiar.

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Many identifiable landmarks are evident, and even some of the people featured in the images appear as if they could be dropped into the downtown Minneapolis of 2015 and look right at home, albeit with a throwback style. But, for the most part the photos tell of a city that was undergoing a transformation forty years ago, with new modern office buildings rising to the sky and elevated skyways crisscrossing the downtown streets. Their days numbered, independent retailers, restaurants, and movie theaters—now all since disappeared—were holding on to their places in the commercial landscape. The classic ’70s cars, the bell-bottom pants, the hairstyles, and other fashions all capture this distinct moment in the city’s history.

It was an interesting experiment, of sorts, to see how images and subjects that had inspired such avid reactions on social media would translate to the printed pages of a book. Would the people who “liked” and commented on the images on Facebook go the extra step of purchasing the book? Did the fleeting posts on Old Minneapolis satisfy the viewer’s intrigue?

The book has been out for only a few weeks, but if the response to the book’s launch event—being held this evening at the Mill City Museum in, of course, downtown Minneapolis to kick off an exhibit of Mike’s photos—is any indication, the experiment worked. With nearly 1,800 people responding with positive RSVPs—for a space that holds roughly 700 people—the event’s hours had to be extended and extra copies of the book brought on hand.

Downtown offers a throwback look at an earlier time through stunning photos and the special characters—and the distinctive character of a city—they capture. The book is also a twenty-first-century reflection of the immediacy and impact of social media for sharing photos and memories and for bringing people together, both virtually and in person, to celebrate those recollections.

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October 8, 2015

My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks Wins Jon Gjerde Prize

Filed under: Awards, History, Native American — Alison Aten @ 7:32 am

Brenda J. ChildMy Grandfather's Knocking SticksThe Minnesota Historical Society Press is pleased to announce My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks: Ojibwe Family Life and Labor on the Reservation by Brenda J. Child as the winner of the Jon Gjerde Prize for the best book in midwestern history published in 2014 as awarded by the Midwestern History Association.

My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks explores the innovative ways Ojibwe men and women on reservations around the Great Lakes sustained both their families and their cultural identity in the face of extreme prejudice and hardship.  Brenda J. Child is professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota and author of two other books, Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940 and Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community.

My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks is also the winner of the Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award.

The mission of the Midwestern History Association is to promote the study of the history of the American Midwest by way of organizing and supporting academic discussions and conference presentations and panels related to the region’s history and culture.

Jon Gjerde was professor of American History at the University of California at Berkeley and distinguished historian of immigration and European-American ethnic groups in the Middle West. He completed his doctorate at the University of Minnesota.

More information on the Star Tribune “On Books” blog.

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September 30, 2015

Astonishing Apples

Filed under: Authors, Event, Food — Alison Aten @ 8:44 am

Astonishing Apples Joan Donatelle

Astonishing Apples by Joan Donatelle is the newest cookbook in our Northern Plate series, which celebrates the bounty of the Upper Midwest by focusing on a single ingredient, exploring its historical uses as well as culinary applications across a range of dishes.

At Lunds & Byerlys cooking school, Joan Donatelle brings a focus on healthful and tasty dishes to her kitchen classrooms. There’s no better guide to this season’s apple abundance than Joan, whose fondness for the fruit goes beyond the standard slices-and-Brie or apple crisp. Below is her recipe for Roasted Pumpkin Apple Soup.

Joan will sign copies and share samples from her new cookbook at the following events. Click on the title’s hyperlink, above, for more information:

Thursday, October 1, 2015, from 5 to 6:30 pm
Outdoor Diva Night
Midwest Mountaineering

Saturday, October 3, 2015, from 1 to 3 pm
Café Minnesota, Minnesota History Center’s Heffelfinger Room

Sunday, October 4, 2015, from 9 am to 1 pm
Linden Hills Farmers Market

Saturday, October 10, 2015, at 12:30 and 2 pm
Baking Lab Demo with Joan Donatelle and Sue Doeden, author of Homemade with Honey
Mill City Museum Baking Lab
Free with museum admission

Roasted Pumpkin Apple Soup

It’s hard not to just use the versatile and delicious Honeycrisp all the time. I sometimes feel like I’m slighting the other available apples. Go ahead and substitute any firm, sweet-tart apple you like in this lovely starter.

Serves 10

1 (2-pound) baking pumpkin, quartered and seeded

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 ½  pounds apples (see head note), cored and chopped, plus 1 for garnish

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 small shallots, chopped

1 rib celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh sage

½  teaspoon grated nutmeg

4 cups chicken stock

2 cups apple cider

¼  cup honey

1 tablespoon pepitas (pumpkin seeds), or substitute sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil, or substitute walnut or olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle the pumpkin quarters with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for about 45 minutes. As the pumpkin is roasting, core and slice the garnish apple into 20 thin slices. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and lay on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for about 15 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool. When the pumpkin is tender, set aside to cool. Scoop out the flesh.

Meanwhile, in a large stockpot set over medium-high heat, warm remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the carrots, shallots, celery, chopped apples, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the vegetables and apples are beginning to soften, add the garlic, sage, and nutmeg. Stir for about 1 minute, until garlic is fragrant. Stir in the pumpkin, stock, and cider, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir in the honey.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. (Alternatively, work in batches to carefully puree the soup in a blender.) Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve in warmed soup bowls. Garnish each serving with 2 slices of roasted apple, a pinch of pepitas, and a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil.

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August 24, 2015

Countdown to the Minnesota State Fair!

Filed under: Authors — Alison Aten @ 10:55 am

Rhoda's Rock Hunt Hungry CoyoteMinnesota Weather AlmanacState Fair

Meet MNHS Press authors at the Minnesota State Fair!

Please see the schedule below for details.

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Monday, August 31, 10 am to 3 pm

Alphabet Forest

Cheryl Blackford, author of Hungry Coyote

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Tuesday, September 1, 10 am to 3 pm

Alphabet Forest

Molly Beth Griffin, author of Rhoda’s Rock Hunt

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Tuesday, September 2, 10 am to 3 pm

Alphabet Forest

Chris Monroe, illustrator of Big Little Brother and Big Little Mother

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Friday, September 4, 11 am to 12 noon

MPR at the Minnesota State Fair

Tom Weber hosts Mark Seeley, author of Minnesota Weather Almanac, Second Edition from 11 am- 12 noon, followed by a book signing from 12noon-1 pm in Carousel Park!

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And if you can’t wait until Thursday, check out our books and articles about
the Great Minnesota Get-Together:

State Fair: The Great Minnesota Get-Together, photos by Susan Lambert Miller with a foreword by Lorna Landvik

Blue Ribbon: A Social and Pictorial History of the Minnesota State Fair by Karal Ann Marling

Related: Seed Queen: The Story of Crop Art and the Amazing Lillian Colton by Colleen Sheehy with a foreword by Karal Ann Marling

MNopedia: Minnesota State Fair: Origins and Traditions

And finally: MNHS presents History On-a-Schtick every day at 9:30 am at Schell’s Stage at West End Market

See you at the fair!

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