We are so excited to share another special edition of the News Digest! This week, Jessica and Laura have teamed up with TakeAction Minnesota member and avid reader, Charlie, to help unlock a list of AMAZING Minnesota-based authors and storytellers. So sit down in your fave reading chair (mine’s the swing on our back porch), and let’s dig in.
Here’s what we’re reading this week.
1. How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu
From Charlie: this book gave me an existential crisis but in an oddly uplifting way? I cried multiple times while reading it — it truly is a testament to the mystery of what makes us human, told in a series of sometimes heartwarming, sometimes dark, ultimately always hopeful vignettes. A powerful book for this moment in time as we are surviving through a global pandemic. And it was featured on NPR!
2. Sirens & Muses by Antonia Angress
From Charlie: this one is for the bisexual art girlies (and everyone else)! A biting, witty satire of the high art world that is, ultimately, a queer love story. Dig in and let yourself be enthralled and surprised by these flawed, full-bodied characters. Check out Antonia’s interview with Chicago Review of Books.
3. Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma Torzs
This debut fantasy dives into an enchanting journey about estranged half-sisters exploring their family’s supernatural book collection. Step into a world of mystery, magic and possibility through the words of Torzs and treat yourself to a dose of wonder.
4. Not a Lot of Reasons to Sing, but Enough by Kyle Tran Myhre
“So much of the stuff in the book is about the power of telling stories,” Kyle Tran Myhre said in this MinnPost write-up of his new book. Also known as Guante, Tran Myhre, who is a poet, hip-hop artist and educator wrote this form-bending book during the pandemic and uprising. Part poetry and part prose, this book explores themes of abolition, the collective vs. the individual and a call to resistance from authoritarian forces. Tran Myrhe speaks to artists, writers, activists and organizers in this book, so make sure to pick up a copy at your local bookstore.
5. Even the River Starts Small: A Collection of Stories from the Movement to Stop Line 3
As Jesse, Senior Climate Organizer at TakeAction, wrote “Even the River Starts Small is the culmination of the Line 3 Storytelling Anthology project. The book is finally complete, printed and ready to distribute to Water Protectors . . . Over 1000 folks were arrested as a part of the Line 3 movements and thousands more were a part of this fight for the past decade.” I (Laura) am deeply touched by this book, which grapples both with the immense grief of oil indeed pumping through Line 3 and spotlights beautifully the many voices of those who resisted. TakeAction fiscally sponsored this anthology project, and while copies are currently only available to those who were directly involved in the movement, we invite our News Digest readers to come to our office (or reach out to a friendly Water Protector!) to have a look. The Anthology project is currently fundraising to get the book to larger audiences!
6. Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History by Emily Strasser
“It began with a bloom of fire on an off-white wall,” Emily Strasser writes in her deeply researched memoir about her family’s troubled ties to the nuclear bomb. Her grandfather worked on the Manhattan Project – a story recently brought back to the big screen through Oppenheimer. Strasser explores the disturbing environmental destructions and human right violations committed in the pursuit of this bomb, including the Oak Ridge oil spill that occurred in her grandmother’s hometown. Encircling both the familial and the global, Strasser’s memoir grips at the tension in profound and detailed prose.
7. Can We Please Give the Police Department to the Grandmothers by Junauda Petrus
Junauda’s poem, under the same title, was first published after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson as a call to expand our imagination for what public safety can look like, rooted in community wellbeing and care. The poem re-emerged after the murder of George Floyd, turned into a picture book by Kristen Uroda, filled with joyful, provocative imagery of the fierce love Petrus is calling readers to embody.
8. The Sentence by Louise Erdich
I (Jessica) have been a life-long fan of Louise Erdrich’s work. And this recent novel is no exception. Sprinkled with elements of surrealism, Erdrich takes readers on a journey as the main character, Tookie, navigates the haunting of her local bookstore, the justice system and existential mystery. “Language provides our prison, our story, and our life,” shares Pop Matters writer, Jesse Kavadlo in his review of The Sentence. Soak up this wisdom and more in Erdrich’s novel offering.
9. Liberated to the Bone by Susan Raffo
Raffo has a deep fascination with learning anatomy. In an excerpt from her book Liberated to the Bone, she describes what she means: “Learning anatomy is not about assigning facts to parts but about sensing in and becoming that anatomy. It’s about experiencing our own lives in a place of nuance and detail, completely and always connected.” Our bodies, as Raffo describes, are our “first and original homes” – an interesting reflection that moves the reader throughout the book. We must not only liberate ourselves externally, but internally as well. To the bone!
10. You Are Life by Bao Phi
Phi is a former co-worker of Charlie’s at the Loft Literary Center, and in her words, “he’s the best <3” In his latest piece, Phi invites you (yes, you!) to explore who you are. Phi acknowledges that You Are Life strays from his previous children’s books, which had loose narratives and characters. “This is a poem . . . it’s full of images.” No matter how old you are, we invite you to immerse yourself in all the colors.
And that’s a wrap! Again, impossible to choose just ten.
Send us what’s in your ears.
Until next time,
Laura Kiernan (she/her)
Jessica Zimmerman (she/her)