Twin Cities weekly literary round up

Fellow Twin Cities book lovers!

There’s so many new things to write about now that my motivation is coming back (seriously, I was wondering if I could even consider myself a blogger anymore), so I think I’m going to try to compile the latest and greatest for you to peruse. Here’s just a few recently awesome local literary news on my radar:

loft_facebook1. Get reading recommendations and a writing prompt from Kao Kalia Yang: 

Even if you don’t live in the Twin Cities, this still applies to you! If you support the Loft Literary Center by becoming a member—with a contribution of any amountby November 9you will receive an exclusive writing prompt and reading recommendations from our very own local author Kao Kalia Yang! Contribute here at loft.org/support.

kao-kalia-yang(If you don’t know who she is, get on that! Kao Kalia Yang is the author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir (Coffee House Press, 2008) and more recently The Song Poet (Metropolitan Books, 2016) and a speaker and teacher.)

I can’t get over how incredible this opportunity is! the-latehomecomerReally a win-win for everyone! For more information, visit the Loft’s website or their Facebook page with this announcement for more information.

 

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2. The winners of the Minnesota State Arts Board Grants were announced yesterday!
No one is better at reporting local literary book news than Laurie Hertzel, so head on over to the Star Trib to learn about who won Minnesota State Arts Board Grants. Among the winners are 10 poets and 32 prose writers including familiar names such as Sun Yung Shin, Kao Kalia Yang, and Ed Bok Lee. Congratulations to everyone!

3. NaNoWriMo 2016 (National Novel Writing Month) has begun!
I’m sure most writers are going to busy typing furiously at their keyboards this month. I am honestly jealous of all of you! I participated in years past and “won” a few times, but those novels were always trash and I never ever wanted to see them again. This year I get to watch my husband participate while I sit back nanoand partake in NaNoREADMo, so I’m fairly pleased. There’s even a website over on Tumblr so like, it’s pretty official guys. Haven’t made any goals yet, but I’ll get back to you if I do. And heck, I may decide to just try writing personal essays or something this month anyway.
Happy writing!
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Review: You Can’t Touch My Hair by Pheobe Robinson

you-cantReview: You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson (Plume Books, 320 pages)

Goodreads synopsis: A hilarious and affecting essay collection about race, gender, and pop culture from celebrated stand-up comedian and WNYC podcaster Phoebe Robinson.

Phoebe Robinson is a stand-up comic, which means that, often, her everyday experiences become points of comedic fodder. And as a black woman in America, she maintains, sometimes you need to have a sense of humor to deal with the absurdity you are handed on the daily. Robinson has experienced her fair share over the years: she’s been unceremoniously relegated to the role of “the black friend,” as if she is somehow the authority on all things racial; she’s been questioned about her love of U2 and Billy Joel (“isn t that . . . white people music?”); she’s been called “uppity” for having an opinion in the workplace; she’s been followed around stores by security guards; and yes, people do ask her whether they can touch her hair all. the. time. Now, she’s ready to take these topics to the page and she s going to make you laugh as she s doing it. . . As personal as it is political, You Can’t Touch My Hair examines our cultural climate and skewers our biases with humor and heart, announcing Robinson as a writer on the rise.”

Recommended for: Readers of humor memoirs such as Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, anyone looking for diverse authors/women authors, those who seriously need to stop asking to touch a black woman’s hair, etc. Basically everyone should read this.

Phoebe Robinson is the creator and cohost of podcast 2 Dope Queens and is a gem of a comedian. Her hilarious, down-to-earth voice on the intersection of sexism and racism in comedy (and everywhere) is refreshing and, albeit sadly, so needed. This exposition of pop culture, gender, race told in very charming, conversational essay form is highly entertaining and thought-provoking. In an age where we have more women comedians in the industry than ever, you won’t want to miss Phoebe’s experienced perspective of being a black woman in comedy today.

This book starts out personal and ends personal. You’ll get to know Phoebe better than you would ever have possibly wanted to, but she has the gift of pulling you in and making you feel at home. There is a ton of goofy stuff in here that I think only Phoebe could get away with sharing. As some have said, perhaps her pop culture references are a little too current and will be hard to understand twenty years from now, but they are hilarious AF. They made me laugh out loud and I learned a thing or two I could stand to know, like how awesome Lisa Bonet is even though I never watched The Cosby Show growing up. And yes, you’ll learn all about a black woman’s hair.

Which is so important. Her perspective on race is invaluable, but she literally delivers sucker punch after sucker punch and isn’t afraid to call [specific and general] white people out for their micro-aggressions and general lack of understanding. Some other topics include the ABW (Angry Black Woman) myth, being the black friend, and Hollywood type casting. There’s something for everyone to learn here, even if it’s just to understand that each person’s experience is going to be different. And, if you mess up, the best thing to do is apologize and admit that you were stupid (unlike a few people she talks about in the book who messed up and then put their defenses up). Racism still exists even in the most subtle of ways and Phoebe isn’t afraid to get really upfront and blunt about what has happened to her.

In conclusion, if you haven’t ever heard of Phoebe Robinson (or her 2 Dope Queens cohost Jessica Williams!) you should get on that! I would recommend this wise, relevant, joy of a book for anyone to read.

Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

P.S! I saw Phoebe speak at the Twin Cities Book Festival, and everything is true. She is AMAZING and as awesome in person as in the book–even better! I’ll be posting about that soon (:

 

get these October events on your calendar!

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Here’s a rundown of things to get on your radar for October.We’re in FULL SWING busy season, so yes, you’re going to have to choose when there’s two events on the same night!

Again, I know I’m not super consistent with posting the same events every time (if they’re monthly or recurring) but just shoot me a line to include what I missed! I’ve tried to be more inclusive by focusing on each bookstore and linking to all their upcoming events after featuring just one on here.

As always, in the “Events” tab above you’ll find the Rain Taxi official literary calendar and other resources to help with finding book readings  and lit events in the Twin Cities area.

  • Rain Taxi’s Twin Cities Book Festival is on Saturday, October 15th!  You don’t want to miss one of the most important TC literary events of the year! 
    • Normally I write this post in chronological order, but this event is just TOO COOL to pass up. It’s 1) at the MN State Fairgrounds and 2) it’s ABSOLUTELY FREE. I hope to see you there!!
    • And there’s an Opening Night Party!

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming 😉

  • Friday, October 7th: Dave Eggers will be chatting with guests and signing books at new Milkweed Books! Don’t miss checking out the new bookstore, if you haven’t already!
    • There’s also an event also on Tuesday, October 4th:Poets in Conversation with Milkweed Editions featuring Michael Bazzett, Patricia Kirkpatrick, Chris Santiago, and Jennifer Willoughby and that will be a conversation about the formation of poets and the supporting ecosystem here in Minnesota, with Milkweed Editions’ publisher, Daniel Slager.
    • Though they’re a powerhouse press, they’re still a baby bookstore, so a lot of events are hosted or run by Milkweed Editions! For a list of all events at Milkweed Books/Editions, check out their Facebook events here, or visit their website!
  • Thursday, October 6th: Poetry Happy Hour hosted by MN Book Awards and Friends of the St. Paul Library featuring Todd Boss, Heid Erdrich, Dobby Gibson, Ed Bok Lee, and Katrina Vandenberg.
  • Also Wednesday, October 12th: Nathan Hill reads from The Nix at Magers & Quinn Booksellers!
    • Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost presents The Secret History of Twin Peaks on Saturday, October 22!
    • There’s more great ones this month including authors Charlie Quimby, Karen Brennan presenting her new book Monsters (get in the Halloween spirit!), James P. Lenfestey, and many others! For a list of all events at Magers & Quinn Booksellers, check out their Facebook events here, or visit their website!
  • Monday, October 17th: Gary Dop and Amy Munson at Common Good Books! In undergrad, Amy Munson was my poetry professor and Gary Dob was my sister’s (though she turned out to be a better poet than me, I don’t think that has anything to do with our professors), so I’m a little biased but I think you should check them out. Amy Munson’s debut poetry volume Yes Thorn is now out from Tupelo Press!

And because this is literally only the first half of the month, but I’m already all our room, see below for other bookstores and their events pages, featuring authors such as Ben Percy, Caroline Burau, Cheri Register, Nick Flynn, and many others!

If you can, I encourage you to check one or two of these great events out and perhaps discover some new awesome reads along the way! Let me know in the comments if there are any others you’re excited about this month! 

so I finally read The Cursed Child but I’m not gonna spoil it for you

I finally got my hands on a copy of the highly hyped Harry Potter and the Cursed Child last week on a loan from a friend! I was so excited to dive in right away but decided to save it for Labor Day weekend when I went up north to stay at a cabin with family.

harry potter cursed child hammock.pngI ended up reading it mostly in a hammock right on the lakeshore. Heaven! (That was my in-law’s cabin in the background.)

First off, NO SPOILERS HERE. I’ll do my best to describe my thoughts briefly. It’s not like J. K. Rowling or Jack Thorne really need another review to boost book sales 😉 This was like a vacation book because of simply that: it was reading for fun. It’s also a play, so not really a book book.

My “rating”: 3 stars. Here’s why:

  • I really did enjoy reading it. It was definitely a little weird, but it was fun. Also because I didn’t get to read Harry Potter growing up, even though we’re the same age, so I didn’t finish the last book in the series until last summer. I’m a fan, I love them, but I’m not one of those dedicated people who begged for another book or are super critical of this one because they’ve spent so much time in that world.
  • That being said: please don’t call this “the 8th Harry Potter book” because it’s simply not. I only want this to be canon if we get to keep Scorpius. But also, no, please don’t let it be canon.
  • It reads like well-written fan fiction (I say well-written because one, this was actually published and most isn’t and two, I haven’t read any fan fiction. Except My Immortal but I couldn’t even finish that it was so bad).
  • Most of the characters didn’t feel true to themselves. Not a spoiler here, you know this from the synopsis: Harry was so insecure when I would have thought with all he had been through he would’ve been wiser and less immature. And also, isn’t Albus his second son? So why would he be having this parenting crisis now unless James was apparently the perfect child (we learn very little about James and that was kinda disappointing. Same with Rose, Ron and Hermione’s daughter).
  • The plot was very holey and contrived. Like, the central points of the plot were all WTF moments where I had to stop reading and ask, “why THIS? You had so many more places you could have gone with this story…”
  • Scorpius is the best ever, and the best thing to come out of this.
  • I wish I could see the play.

Yes, so there you have it.

The Cursed Child was a fun read to bring us back into the world of Hogwarts and get to see the legacy of Harry’s story, but it really only works as a play for the stage instead of taking the place of an “8th book” and being the say-all for our beloved characters. I’m sure the play is absolutely wonderful and I want to see how they bring all that magic to life. That’s the dream.

Have you read it yet? Without giving away spoilers, what did you think? Or, if you want to discuss spoilers, send me a message or email me! 

help make Milkweed Books happen!

open-book-inthenews
(photo from http://www.openbookmn.org)

I haven’t yet written about Milkweed Editions‘ new bookstore opening in the Open Book building in downtown Minneapolis called Milkweed Books! This store is particularly exciting because 1) any new independent bookstore is worth celebrating, and 2) it will be rather unique even among indie bookstores.

Originally the store planned to open in late June but now the grand opening will be on September 20th. The store will be located in the Open Book building in Minneapolis, shared by The Loft Literary Center: one of the biggest nonprofit literary centers in the United States, which also houses the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Imagine all of these businesses in one building! There’s a small coffee shop/cafe inside as well as the MN Center for Book Arts’ retail store, meaning that if you like books or writing at ALL, you’ll be pretty happy hanging out there for hours on end. The Milkweed Books store will be open before that but the grand opening is scheduled for the 20th.

You can read more about the bookstore here, where there’s a Kickstarter raising money (their goal is $25,000) to help make the bookstore happen. You can pledge as little as $5, just the price of one fancy Starbucks coffee, to help make a difference. As of my writing this, they’re almost to $15,000 in just a few days since its launch.

“Milkweed Books will showcase and sell titles primarily published by independent presses, nonprofit presses, and other publishers working to bring the most exciting literary art to the marketplace. If you want to find the best new poetry, or creative nonfiction, or short stories, or translations, this bookstore is for you.”

The manager is Hans Weyandt, who edited a book with Coffee House Press called Read This! Handpicked Favorites From America’s Indie BookstoresI loved this book when I picked it up before National Indie Bookstore Day this year, and I especially love knowing the book recommendations come from experienced booksellers who have waded the vast pool of literature before me. I’ve said this before: the hardest part about being a bookseller myself is the ever-growing, endless TBR (to-be-read) list I create by talking with coworkers and customers!

Consider pledging to this fantastic new bookstore and supporting one of the coolest centers for books in the States. For more information, check this article by the American Booksellers Association. Hope to see you at the grand opening!

get these September events on your calendar!

I know I’ve skipped… well, way too many months. Summer IS much slower for literary events compared to the spring and fall. Are you ready for fall things like leaves changing and cider? I know, too soon, too soon.

Ever read Jonathan Safran Soer, Emily St. John Mandel, or Liane Moriarty? They, among many other great writers, are coming to MN!

Here’s a rundown of things to get on your radar for September. Again, I know I’m not super consistent with posting the same events every time (if they’re monthly or recurring) but just shoot me a line to include what I missed! I’ve tried to be more inclusive by focusing on each bookstore and linking to all their upcoming events after featuring just one on here.

As always, in the “Events” tab above you’ll find the Rain Taxi official literary calendar and other resources to help with finding book readings  and lit events in the Twin Cities area.

  • Thursday, September 8th: Graywolf Literary Salon: A World of Voices
    • Featuring authors Anuradha Roy, Solmaz Sharif, and Monica Youn in conversation with Graywolf publisher Fiona McCrae and executive editor Jeff Shotts about fiction, poetry, and twenty-first century ideas. With musical performances by cellists Jacqueline Ultan and Michelle Kinney, and percussionist Gary Waryan.
    • This event does require tickets, and they’re on the higher end, but consider it a donation to a FANTASTIC independent press.
    • It’s going to be so great.
  • Wednesday, September 14th: Sky Blue Water Book Launch hosted by Wild Rumpus Books for Young Readers, the release of short story collection that celebrates Minnesota’s vibrant storytelling tradition, edited by Jay D. Peterson and Collette A. Morgan.
    • This event is offsite, but only a block from Wild Rumpus and they will be selling books for signing.
    • For a list of all events at Wild Rumpus, check out their Facebook events here!
  • Thursday, September 15th: Eric Dregni presents Let’s Go Fishing
    • Looking for the perfect Minnesotan coffee table book for dad for Christmas? This is your best bet! But shhhh (my dad doesn’t read this blog… I don’t think.)
    • For a list of all events at Subtext: A Bookstore, check out their Facebook events here, or visit their website! They have a monthly book club, too!

If you can, I encourage you to check one or two of these great events out and perhaps discover some new awesome reads along the way! Let me know in the comments if there are any others you’re excited about this month! 

 

where I went in May

Here is my long overdue recap of the literary events I was able to attend in May! It’s a big season of change in my life right now, so bear with my lateness. I will also be posting very soon a post of literary news of things happening in the Twin Cities area that aren’t event-specific.

May was a busy month due to a wedding I was in and being out of town, but I caught some really great events featured below!

May Event Recap

On May 1, I was able to attend the Twin Cities bookstore Rep Night where we listened to Random House representatives talk about the exciting new books coming out this summer. I landed an ARC of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (review to come soon!) as well as some others I’m really excited to dive into quite soon. We also listened to short readings and talks by authors Peter Geye, author of recently released Wintering and Nathan Hill, author of The Nix. Other perks of being a bookseller include meeting other booksellers in the area and nerding over our love of books.

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Poetry bingo & Strongbow at honey mpls!

Later that week on Wednesday, May 4, my partner and I went to honey mpls for a poetry reading with Coffee House and Graywolf presses complete with POETRY BINGO, and it was bomb. The release of Amanda Nadelberg’s Songs From a Mountain from Coffee House Press. She was hilarious and, in honor of Mother’s Day, read excerpts from her mom’s journal from when Amanda was a baby. Good drinks with good publishing friends.

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This is my ACR of his short story collection along with teasers of 3 of his re-released novels!

Over the weekend on Saturday, May 14, Andy and I listened to Brian Evanson read at Magers & Quinn from his new short story collection A Collapse of Horses just out from Coffee House Press! It’s a delightfully spooky short story collection best read in Evanson’s voice himself. Saw friends from Coffee House at this event as well!

alimon_brightdeadthingsOn Monday, May 16, Milkweed hosted “Taking the Risk to Change Your Life for Art: A Reading & Conversation with Ada Limón and Joan Vorderbruggen” at Open Book/The Loft Literary Center, which was an absolutely fantastic evening. Ada Limón read from her latest poetry volume Bright Dead Things, which was incredible, and they all had a lovely discussion about creativity and how it does or should fit into our lives. I will be writing up a whole separate post about this talk because it was just that good. And check out Ada’s poetry collection if you want to read some great poetry!

Unfortunately I didn’t make it to many events last month, but we are making up for it in June for sure!

Did you attend any awesome literary events in May, or listening to any readings on NPR or any book-related podcasts? Please share in the comments! 

get these June events on your calendar!

june events post graphic

You guys, June is seriously rocking it with well known and esteemed authors coming to town. It’s like, each day gets better and better. SERIOUSLY, I was blown away! I regret to say that I already have to miss many of these, but I hope you don’t have to. Here is your rundown of awesome June events coming to a Twin City near you:

(Each month, I will be posting a “looking ahead” post of events coming up that month to stay tuned for! These are events that are on my radar, either via Facebook or events I am personally interested in going to or have knowledge of the author/book. As always, in the “Events” tab above you’ll find the Rain Taxi official literary calendar and other resources to help with finding book readings in the Twin Cities area. If I’ve missed any that you think need more media attention and marketing, let me know!

  • Also that day: The June meeting of the MN Publishing Tweet Up from 5-7pm!
    • I REALLY HOPE TO BE THERE this time, so please come! We could go to Natalie Goldberg together afterwards (: Also, it’s at the Community Keg House which is wonderful place where you get to pour your own beer or cider! So yummy.
  • Tuesday, June 21: Rebecca Kanner at Common Good Books, 7pm

If you can, I encourage you to check one or two of these great events out and perhaps discover some new awesome reads along the way! Let me know in the comments if there are any others you’re excited about this month! 

featured event: Books & Bowling

So as you may know, one of my goals of this blog is to use it to promote and record (the ones I attend) literary events in the Twin Cities community. The more I grow in my network and meet new people, the more I realize how vibrant this community is! So why not have more to show for the events I attend than a few acquaintances?

downloadYesterday, my husband and I both drove to Bryant Lake Bowl in Uptown, Minneapolis for a Coffee House Press event: Books & Bowling. I was so timid going in: how does one play bowling games with people one has only interviewed with and seen in formal events before? But it was a really neat way to connect with CHP employees and other readers. We even had name tags that said “what are you reading?” which is my FAVORITE question and sparked a few good conversations.

I played a round of bowling with my husband Andy and Carla Valadez, Production Director at Coffee House, and met others such as Chris, Lizzie, and Rob, while seeing familiar faces from Graywolf and meeting authors as well! It was fantastic. Thanks, Coffee House, for hosting such a great event!

Next up is next Friday, April 29 is Milkweed Editions’ and Motionpoems’ National Poetry Month Party + Reading! Tickets are required if you are attending the party at 5:30, otherwise just an RSVP is needed for the “Being Among Strangers” reading at 7pm. From the Facebook event: “Celebrate new books by authors Adam Clay, Mary Austin Speaker, andAnders Nilsen. Find out how the ordinary can take on a generative new strangeness when cast in the light of a poem, and how the practice of drawing inspiration from strangers in public places can create new ways of seeing. Target Performance Hall, Open Book.”

Can’t wait to see you Minnesotans there!