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Archived Posts from this Category
Michelle Leon was the bass player for the influential punk band Babes in Toyland from 1987 to 1992, and again in 1997. In her new memoir, I Live Inside: Memoirs of a Babe in Toyland, she takes readers on the roller coaster ride of the rock-and-roll lifestyle and her own journey of self-discovery.
Meet Michelle on Thursday, May 26, at Moon Palace Books. I Live Inside is their Rock n Roll Book Club pick for May!
We asked Michelle to tell us more about how and why she came to write I Live Inside.
I Live Inside documents the five years you spent in Babes in Toyland, but also flashes back to your childhood. Why did you decide to incorporate these vignettes from your youth?
I wrote the book very non-linearly. I was all over the place, creating scenes as they came to me, bouncing from childhood to the present day and back to the Babes days. As I looked through the pieces later, there were so many parallels—family road trips in a station wagon and touring in a van with the band; feeling out of place as a kid and again later as a young adult; moments of loss. So it was very fun to play with that, refining the scenes so they were even more echoing and reflective of each other.
Your prose is so sensitive and sensory and your style poetic. What were your literary influences?
Flannery O’Connor, Joyce Carol Oates, Tennessee Williams, Lydia Davis, Mark Doty, Joan Didion, Amy Hempel. I love the Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement; her style of writing in vignettes was something my adviser at Goddard, Douglas Martin, showed me when he saw how I was writing my book, and it gave me confidence working in that style. Patti Smith, Eileen Myles. Darcey Steinke’s new book Sister Golden Hair is killer; she was also an adviser at Goddard. Anything Maggie Nelson, but especially Bluets—more vignettes. Half a Life by Darin Strauss is another. The Seal Wife by Kathryn Harrison. Mary Karr’s Cherry. I read tons of memoirs preparing for this book. I definitely have a literary comfort zone—I should branch out.
Why did you want to share your story?
I didn’t want to share it at first. I was very protective and defensive about the subject for a long time; I felt a lot of sadness and loss. I didn’t want my identity to revolve around being the former bass player in Babes in Toyland. But people always asked me what it was like being in the band. I never had the answer they wanted, like I was supposed to tell stories about trashing dressing rooms and throwing TVs out hotel windows and hanging out with Bono. What I had was a very complicated and intense relationship with two other women that was like a marriage, while running a business together, living together, creating art together, experiencing the highest of highs and navigating horrific loss together. Loving each other like a family, driving each other crazy with our weird habits and egos, the unique bond of making and playing music together; these beautiful and singular life experiences we shared, and it still not being enough to keep us together. The day came when I HAD to write this story as a way to understand it all.
What do you miss most about being in the band?
I miss the energy of playing music onstage, the elation in that, the freedom; not knowing what town you are in when you are touring, not brushing your hair or going to Target for toilet paper. Living in that weird alternative universe. I miss co-writing songs and drinking beer at practice, having inside jokes and laughing my ass off with my band. I miss going to music stores and trying out new distortion pedals and strings and guitars. I miss having a job where a pair of American flag bell-bottoms is the perfect thing to wear. I miss traveling to places I never dreamed in my life I would see. I miss making new friends and seeing old friends out on the road.
But I am someone who loves home, loves staying in and being quiet; being in a touring band is very challenging for me. I don’t like being away from my family, friends, pets, kitchen, bed, bathtub, garden, neighborhood, and lovely old home, even though there are so many things I love about being in a band.
Do you still play the bass?
A little bit. My step-kid, Jae, goes to a performing arts high school, and I just went to the school and played with Jae’s classmates. We played “Smoke on the Water” together and it was awesome. Jae plays my old bass—a 1975 Fender Jazz we call “Lionheart,” a combination of our last names—and that makes me very proud.
What is your relationship with the band like now?
We have always remained close friends through so many different phases of life. Not that it was always easy. There was a lot of healing that occurred over the years. Still, I was really scared about how they were going to react to the book. It is such a personal story and a serious invasion of their privacy. So I have been overwhelmed and moved by their support. Lori was amazing at helping me remember details; she has an incredible memory. I’d text her questions like, “Have I ever been to Belgium?” And she’d know the answer. The experience of writing this text has brought us closer, which was a beautiful surprise.
What have you been up to since your departure from the band?
Everything! I worked at a flower shop, owned a flower shop, lived for almost a decade in New Orleans, where I renovated old houses and worked as a real estate agent, stayed for a year after Katrina. I finished college and grad school, then also earned my teaching license. I work as an elementary school special education teacher, with an emphasis on autism spectrum disorders. I married an amazing man a few years ago, gave birth to our son River the week after my forty-sixth birthday, and help co-parent Jae. We have three crazy, sweet dogs—two are therapy-certified and come to school with me. I am very blessed in this life. I am ready for more.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Meet MNHS Press authors at the Minnesota State Fair!
Please see the schedule below for details.
Monday, August 31, 10 am to 3 pm
Cheryl Blackford, author of Hungry Coyote
Tuesday, September 1, 10 am to 3 pm
Molly Beth Griffin, author of Rhoda’s Rock Hunt
Tuesday, September 2, 10 am to 3 pm
Friday, September 4, 11 am to 12 noon
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!
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
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!
Today’s post is by Sara DeLuca, author of The Crops Look Good: News from a Midwestern Family Farm. Sara will be touring Wisconsin later this month. (Click on the title link for her event schedule, media interviews, and book club guide.)
This photo of me with my granddaughter, Emma Drury, was taken at Folsom House in Taylors Falls, Minnesota, on April 25, 2015. We were celebrating the recent publication of my book, The Crops Look Good: News from a Midwestern Family Farm. Based on a collection of family letters, the book is an intimate portrayal of family farm life in the region – first-person history, written as it was being lived. My mother’s letters to her eldest sister, beginning when she was seven and continuing throughout middle age, make a significant contribution to the story.
The Folsom House event on April 25 was very special to me, for several reasons.
Fifteen-year-old Emma planned and hosted my reading in this gracious home, built in 1855 by lumberman, historian, and Minnesota state senator W. H. C. Folsom. Five generations of the Folsom family occupied the house, which still contains their original furnishings, library, and personal effects. It is now operated by the Taylors Falls Historical Society, in partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society.
My parents, Harvey and Helen Hellerud, who farmed for decades in Polk County, Wisconsin, retired in 1976 and moved across the St. Croix River to Taylors Falls. As an accomplished pianist, my mother entertained Folsom House visitors on the Hews rectangular grand piano (shown in the background of this photo) on many occasions. She also served as a volunteer guide during the 1980s and 1990s. Her affiliation with the Taylors Falls Historical Society was a great joy to her during many productive years of retirement.
Now Helen Hellerud’s great-granddaughter Emma is volunteering at this beautifully preserved historic site. And I have enjoyed the privilege of sharing my book about a place that has been important to my family and history lovers throughout the Upper Midwest.
Here is a poem I wrote ten years ago, in recognition of a rich heritage, a craving for deep identity, and our interwoven lives.
We find a bright, prolific crops of dandelions
splashing the vacant lot behind my mother’s house.
She’s eighty-nine this spring, but she remembers being nine,
braiding yellow heads and milky stems, crowning
and necklacing herself with blooms.
Now she demonstrates for me
and for my grandchild Emma – six years old –
how you can braid an ornamental rope from flowers.
The trick, my mother says,
is working three stems at a time, all different lengths.
When one runs out you splice a new one in its place –
that way you never break the chain.
Emma plops down in the deep wet grass.
Mom squats. I kneel
between the generations.
We laugh at rough beginnings, ragged endings,
but we persevere. We practice,
practice till we get it right, Emma, Mom and me,
our heads bent low, lost
in a field of yellow tassels.
When our circles hold
and crown each other with our handiwork.
Coyotes are smart, curious, and adaptable. They live on prairies, in forests, and on farmland. They even live in cities such as Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York. City coyotes might make their homes in parks or in nature preserves or on golf courses—all places where they can find plenty of food and shelter. Sometimes they live in small family groups, and sometimes they live alone.
Hungry Coyote by Cheryl Blackford with illustrations by Laurie Caple offers kids a glimpse into the life of an urban coyote as he struggles to feed himself and his famished family.
We asked Cheryl and Laurie to share some of their inspiration for the book.
“The idea for this picture book came to me as I watched a lone coyote trot across a frozen lake one January morning. He turned his head to look at me, decided I was no threat, and continued on his way. Although we don’t often see the coyotes themselves, just signs of their presence such as scat on the trails, I saw him twice more. I wondered what he ate and how he lived. I did some research and became interested in urban coyotes and their success at living beside humans in many American cities. While many people are suspicious of coyotes (probably based upon their reputation as ‘tricksters’), or think of them as vermin, I admire the intelligence and adaptability of these animals. They thrive in many different natural habitats ranging from desert to lush grasslands, and now they’re also thriving in our cities. How could you not admire such a smart, successful creature?”
“A fondness for nature provides the inspiration behind my artwork. I had the fascinating opportunity to spend time with one of only two known domesticated coyotes in the United States. ’Wiley’ lives with Rick Hanestad and his family in western Wisconsin, about an hour’s drive from St. Paul. A National Geographic film crew recently spent a number of hours documenting his behavior.
“Wiley is very tame and handles well on a leash, just like a friendly pup. He has never shown any type of aggressive behavior to humans and sleeps on a favorite recliner in the Hanestads’ living room!”
Cheryl and Laurie hope Hungry Coyote encourages readers to look at our own surroundings with fresh eyes and develop curiosity and respect for wildlife in our cities. They recommend the following links about urban coyotes:
We’re delighted to note that My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks: Ojibwe Family Life and Labor on the Reservation by Brenda J. Child has won the the seventh annual Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award.
Child uses her family’s own powerful stories to tell a different kind of history–one that puts her reader’s feet on the reservation. She shows how 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.
Winners of the Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award cross multiple disciplines or fields of study, are relevant to contemporary North American Indian communities, and focus on American Indian Studies, modern tribal studies, modern biographies, tribal governments or federal Indian policy.
Dedicated in 1993, the Labriola National American Indian Data Center in the Arizona State University (ASU) Libraries is one of the only repositories within a public university library devoted to American Indian collections. The Labriola Center holds both primary and secondary sources on American Indians across North America. The Center’s primary purpose is to promote a better understanding of American Indian language, culture, social, political and economic issues. The Labriola National American Indian Data Center has been endowed by Frank and Mary Labriola whose wish has been that “the Labriola Center be a source of education and pride for all Native Americans.”
My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks is also a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award.
CIVIL WAR HOMECOMING
Saturday, March 28 at 7:00 P.M.
The year 1865 saw inauguration, abolition, armistice, assassination, grief, celebration and reunion. The brand-new frontier state of Minnesota mourned and commemorated along with the rest of the nation. Minnesotans celebrated the return of the troops and got down to the business of building railroads and cities, sprinkling the countryside with farms and lumber camps and welcoming immigrants by the tens of thousands.
Dan Chouinard and an all-star group of friends gather to paint a Minnesota portrait of the times through songs, letters and newspaper accounts, in Civil War Homecoming. This live show at the Fitzgerald Theater on Saturday, March 28 is a co-production of the Minnesota Historical Society, MPR and the Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force.
Featuring Kevin Kling, Maria Jette, T Mychael Rambo, Prudence Johnson, members of the Roe Family Singers, and the Brass Messengers as well as Eric Jacobson, Annette Atkins, Gwen Westerman, Mark Ritchie, Dean Urdahl, Pat Bauer and David Geister.
Additional information available here.
Interested in learning more about Minnesota and the Civil War? Visit www.mnhs.org/civilwar
“This book tells the story of one of the most vital and important theater companies of our time.”
Oskar Eustis, The Public Theater
Join us tonight for the Book Launch Celebration at Open Book in Minneapolis for:
All the Lights On: Reimagining Theater with Ten Thousand Things by Michelle Hensley
Monday, March 9, 2015
Open Book: 1011 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis
Doors open at 6:30 pm, short program begins at 7:00 pm, followed by book signing
Also available via HowlRoundTV today at 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern via http://livestream.com/newplay
“Ten Thousand Things brings the best possible theater, plays of Shakespeare and Aeschylus and Beckett, to audiences who have seen little of it before, those in prisons and shelters and adult education centers and rural towns and housing projects and Indian reservations and chemical dependency treatment centers, as well as to enthusiastic veteran theatergoers in consistently sold-out performances for the general public, all performed in large bare rooms, with no stage, just right on the floor inside a small circle of folding chairs, with all the fluorescent lights in the room turned on. Our budget is modest, we don’t need our own building, our set supply budget is little more than that of our very first show, but we pay our highly skilled artists on a par with the largest theater companies in town. We have even become Johnny Appleseeds of a sort, taking this unique model to other theaters around the country who are also eager to find ways to reach outside their buildings with excellent work. And all along this journey, the honest, openhearted encounters of our first-time audiences with our first-rate artists have led us to make wonderful discoveries about theater—pinpointing just what makes it thrive and flourish.” Michelle Hensley, from All the Lights On