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Twin Cities Independent Bookstore Day is this Saturday!

Posted byAlison Aten on 28 Apr 2016 | Tagged as: Authors, Event

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

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

Posted byAlison Aten on 21 Apr 2016 | Tagged as: Authors, Event, Interview, Nature/Enviroment

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

MNHS Member Double Discount Weekend

Posted byAlison Aten on 04 Dec 2015 | Tagged as: Event

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

Throwback Thursday: Downtown Minneapolis in the 1970s

Posted byAlison Aten on 12 Nov 2015 | Tagged as: Event, History, MHS press

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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Astonishing Apples

Posted byAlison Aten on 30 Sep 2015 | Tagged as: Authors, Event, Food

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.

Sharing Family History

Posted byAlison Aten on 16 Jun 2015 | Tagged as: Authors, Event, History, Interview

Sara DeLuca and her granddaughter Emma

Sara DeLuca and her granddaughter Emma

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.)

From Sara:

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.

Braiding Dandelions

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

we rise

and crown each other with our handiwork.


Readers and writers, take note!

Posted byregana on 03 Apr 2015 | Tagged as: Event, Fiction, MHS press

AWP-photo-by-Robb-CohenBook-loving Minnesotans, here’s a word to the wise and a great opportunity: AWP—the Association of Writers and Writing Programs—is holding its annual meeting at the Convention Center in Minneapolis next week, April 9-11. This is a Very Big Deal: more than 12,000 attendees, 1,900 presenters, 550 sessions, scores of free offsite events, and—best of all—a book fair with 700 publishers and literary organizations strutting their stuff. You can register for a day pass here.

AWP is an overwhelming experience, with so many delicious options. Thousands of energetic teachers and writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry are gathered to talk about what we’re doing, where we’ve been, where we’re going with books and literature. The program is tantalizing, and you can’t be everywhere at once. Laura I. Miller, a seasoned attendee, has compiled a helpful list of tips for doing AWP.  Me? I often retreat to our book table, where every person stopping by has a good story.

At the MNHS Press exhibit, we’re proudly showing off books by our fine authors. But my colleagues and I are also on a mission—a treasure hunt for books-to-be on the history and culture of Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. We’re searching for manuscripts with strong Midwestern themes and a strong sense of place: Well-researched and well-written stories that use the best tools of narrative journalism to tell history for general audiences. Narrative nonfiction on food, adventure and travel, true crime, war and conflict, Native American studies, environment and the land, popular culture, and women’s and ethnic histories.  Good books to help people live richer lives in Minnesota and beyond.

Thursday, April 9 from 10:00-11:30 we’re hosting a signing with Bruce Joshua Miller and Ned Stuckey-French, editor and contributor to Curiosity’s Cats: Writers on Research. Contributors to Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota will be dropping by to sign on Saturday morning. Stop by to say hello and get a copy!

MNHS press director, Pam McClanahan, editors Shannon Pennefeather and Josh Leventhal, and sales manager Jerry Bilek and I look forward to seeing you at Booth 412—and hearing what you’re writing about.

Ann Regan, MNHS Editor-in-Chief

Book Launch Celebration & HowlRound LiveStream Tonight for “All the Lights On: Reimagining Theater with Ten Thousand Things”

Posted byAlison Aten on 09 Mar 2015 | Tagged as: Arts, Authors, Event, Videos

“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

All the Lights On Michelle Hensley

“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

Book Launch Celebration for Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota

Posted byAlison Aten on 14 Jan 2015 | Tagged as: African American, Event, Literary

Blues VisionPlease join us Thursday February 5, 2015 from 6-9 pm at the Minnesota History Center to celebrate the publication of  Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota edited by Alexs Pate with co-editors Pamela R. Fletcher and J. Otis Powell‽.

Blues Vision is a surprising and compelling anthology that reveals complex realities—beautiful, infuriating, painful, and uplifting—as described by African American writers in Minnesota over the past century.

The book is co-published with the Minnesota Humanities Center, sponsor of this anthology, which was made possible in part by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on November 4, 2004.

Book Launch Celebration
Thursday February 5, 2015 from 6-9 pm
Minnesota History Center
345 Kellogg Ave. W. St. Paul, MN
6-7 pm Refreshments & cash bar
7-8 pm Book Talk and Readings by Contributors
8-9 Book Signing
Share the Facebook invitation


Minnesota’s Own: Preserving Our Grand Homes

Posted byAlison Aten on 29 Oct 2014 | Tagged as: Event, Videos

In this video, architectural historian and award-winning author Larry Millett and photographer Matt Schmitt walk us through the Lawrence S. Donaldson house in Minneapolis, one of the twenty-two homes profiled in their new book, Minnesota’s Own: Preserving Our Grand Homes. The home was the recipient of a 2014 Minnesota Preservation Award.

Join us for the book launch celebration at the American Swedish Institute next Wednesday, November 5, at 6:30 pm. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended.

Also of interest: Historic Preservation Tour at the American Swedish Institute with architect Laura Faucher. This special tour begins at 5:00 pm, before the Minnesota’s Own book launch. The tour is $10 for ASI and MNHS members/$12 for nonmembers. Registration is required and space is limited.

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