Dallas Crow Poetry Reading

April 3, 2014

Dallas Crow and Rob Hardy will give a poetry reading Thursday, April 17, 7:30 pm.

 

In Small, Imperfect Paradise, Dallas Crow unflinchingly explores themes of love, sex, growing up, and growing older. The spine of the narrative is the speaker’s progression through a relationship, from the early possibility and romance, through marriage and parenthood, and on to the painful dissolution. The titular poem identifies a moment of stillness in this progression, where two realities exist, one aching, and one idyllic: that of the husband and wife, whose relationship is over, and that of the sleeping children, who do not yet know.

The small, imperfect paradise that Crow writes toward is shattered in “Separation”: “Like a home movie played backwards,” Crow intones, “the gifts / are rewrapped and taken away, the guests / sidle awkwardly out, and then your children leave, / smiling and waving.” In this collection, Crow creates a Möbius loop that mirrors the human experience; the poems wind through startling pain and realization and then loop back to hope and love again and again, each experience simultaneously fractured and precious.

Dallas Crow grew up in small towns in Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin, and attended Oberlin College. He now lives in St. Paul, Minnesota and teaches high school English at Breck School in Golden Valley, Minnesota. His poems have appeared in many periodicals (including English Journal, Poet Lore, and Tar River Poetry), two anthologies, and—as part of a public art project—in the sidewalks of St. Paul. He has also published a number of essays on contemporary poetry.


Stillwater-Midwest Connections

March 6, 2014

 

MC.March.Stillwater.JacketFraternal twins, separated at birth, are raised in the same small town, where they struggle for freedom from their families, their destinies, and, sometimes, each other– all with the underground railroad as a haunting presence in their lives.

Stillwater is that rare historical novel that shines as much light forward as it does back . . . Rascally and robust, saucy and sincere and serious as a logjam, Stillwater is celebration of this country’s coming of age from a writer staking her claim to greatness.” — Peter Geye, author of Safe from the Sea and The Lighthouse Road

Stillwater is a stunning achievement. Helget brings her keen sense for Southern Gothic to, of all places, the Northwoods of Minnesota. . . . A highly touching and believable tale.” — Jonathan Odell, author of The Healing

“The question of whether [this novel's characters] will—or won’t—take the risks to help each other survive gives the story some tension, but Helget’s lyricism is what elevates it.” — Publishers Weekly

Clement and Angel are fraternal twins separated at birth; they grow up in the same small, frontier logging town of Stillwater, Minnesota. Clement was left at the orphanage. Angel was adopted by the town’s richest couple, but is marked and threatened by her mother’s mental illness. They rarely meet, but Clement knows if he is truly in need, Angel will come to save him.

Stillwater, near the Mississippi River and Canada, becomes an important stop on the Underground Railroad. As Clement and Angel grow up and the country marches to war, their lives are changed by many battles for freedom and by losses in the struggle for independence, large and small.

MC.March.Stillwater.AuthorStillwater reveals the hardscrabble lives of pioneers, nuns, squaws, fur trappers, loggers, runaway slaves and freedmen, outlaws and people of conscience, all seeking a better, freer, more prosperous future. It is a novel about mothers, about siblings, about the ways in which we must take care of one another and let go of one another. And it’s brought to us in Nicole Helget’s winning, gorgeous prose.

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Born in 1976, Nicole Lea Helget grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota, a childhood and place she drew on in the writing of her memoir, The Summer of Ordinary Ways. She received her BA and an MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Based on the novel’s first chapter, NPR’s Scott Simon awarded The Turtle Catcher the Tamarack Prize from Minnesota Monthly.


Inappropriate Behavior-Midwest Connections

March 4, 2014

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From a fresh and highly original voice, a debut collection of stories that illuminates the state of America today with an inscrutable, eerily clarifying light.

“What is your ‘inappropriate behavior’ of choice? Debut author Murray Farish, in this hip collection of stories, exposes an America living on the edge-the edge of the law, the edge of grief, the edge of society. Portraying characters who appear as real as a next-door neighbor, each unique story will make you wonder just what is happening behind closed doors. Highly original and focused on the unusual, Inappropriate Behavior is an auspicious beginning for the talented new voice of Murray Farish.” — Nancy Simpson-Brice, Book Vault, Oskaloosa, Iowa

“Interesting and accomplished, this collection of stories explores the intersection of abhorrent behavior and the facade of ordinary life. Murray has mastered the short story and this collection is solid—not a weak one in the bunch.” —Sarah Bagby, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kansas

Inappropriate Behavior is a collection of lovely surprises: the tartly fresh, felicitous phrase, followed by the astonishing plot turn, and then by the lightning-streaked illumination of character. I think you will like this book.” —Ken Kalfus, author of Equilateral

In “Lubbock Is Not a Place of the Spirit,” a Texas Tech student recognizable as John Hinckley, Jr. writes hundreds of songs for Jodie Foster as he grows increasingly estranged from reality. The young couple in ‘The Thing About Norfolk,’ socially isolated after a cross-country move, aredismayed to find themselves unable to resist sexually deviant urges. And in the deeply touching title story, a husband’s layoff stretches a couple to their limit as they struggle to care for their emotionally unbalanced young son. Set in cities across America and spanning the last half-century, this collection draws a bead on our national identity, distilling ourobsessions,our hauntings, our universal predicament.

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Murray Farish‘s short stories have appeared in The Missouri Review, Epoch, Roanoke Review, and Black Warrior Review, among other publications. His work has been awarded the William Peden Prize, the Phoebe Fiction Prize, and the Donald Barthelme Memorial Fellowship Prize, among others. Farish lives with his wife and two sons in St. Louis, Missouri, where he teaches writing and literature at Webster University.Inappropriate Behavior is his debut.

Hear Murray Farish read an excerpt from Inappropriate Behavior here.

 


The Vanishing-Midwest Connections

February 27, 2014

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The latest gripping, supernatural novel from award-winning author Wendy Webb, following The Fate of Mercy Alban, featuring a reclusive horror novelist and a woman who has taken on a bit more than she bargained for when she becomes her caretaker. Another escapist bit of commercial fiction with a mysterious edge that remains popular with readers.

“A deliciously complex blend of psychological suspense and ghost story, THE VANISHING is pitch-perfect on every note, from its mansion setting in the pine-scented northern wilderness, to the secrets and specters lurking around every corner.” -Erin Hart, author of The Book of Killowen
“A brisk thriller tinged with gothic elements…. Careening through séances and ghostly encounters leaves the reader breathless.” -Kirkus Reviews

Recently widowed and rendered penniless by her Ponzi-scheming husband, Julia Bishop is eager to start anew. So when a stranger appears on her doorstep with a job offer, she finds herself accepting the mysterious yet unique position: caretaker to his mother, Amaris Sinclair, the famous and rather eccentric horror novelist whom Julia has always admired . . . and who the world believes is dead.

When she arrives at the Sinclairs’ enormous estate on Lake Superior, Julia begins to suspect that there may be sinister undercurrents to her “too-good-to-be-true” position. As Julia delves into the reasons of why Amaris chose to abandon her successful writing career and withdraw from the public eye, her search leads to unsettling connections to her own family tree, making her wonder why she really was invited to Havenwood in the first place, and what monstrous secrets are still held prisoner within its walls.

MC.February.TheVanishing.Author_Credit Steve BurmeisterMC.February.TheVanishing.Author_Credit Steve BurmeisterMC.February.TheVanishing.Author_Credit Steve Burmeisterwendy-webb-250Wendy Webb‘s first novel, The Tale of Halcyon Crane, was the 2011 winner of the Minnesota Book Award for genre fiction, and an IndieNext Pick from the Independent Booksellers’ Association, a Midwest Connections Pick from the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association and a Great Lakes, Great Reads Pick from the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. Her second novel, The Fate of Mercy Alban, was published in February 2013. Wendy is also the editor ofDuluth-Superior Magazine, celebrating the area she features in her gothic thrillers. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and her beloved Alaskan Malamutes.


Marketplace of the Marvelous-Midwest Connections

February 27, 2014

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An entertaining introduction to the quacks, snake-oil salesmen, and charlatans, who often had a point.

“A must-read for medical history buffs, whether mainstream or maverick.” -Publishers Weekly

“Astronomy was preceded by Astrology. Modern medical science was preceded by snake oil and homeopathy. Janik tells a compelling story, in graceful prose, of what happens when error, greed and fashion rule the marketplace of medical ideas. What Lewis Thomas called ‘The Youngest Science’-medicine based on cell and molecular biology-is young, indeed; and this fine book reminds us of how far we have come.” -Gerald Weissmann, MD, author of Epigenetics in the Age of Twitter

“Historian Janik chronicles the rise and fall and renewed popularity of alternative medicine.” -Booklist

Despite rampant scientific innovation in nineteenth-century America, traditional medicine still adhered to ancient healing methods such as induced vomiting and bleeding, blistering, and sweating patients. Facing such horrors, many patients ran with open arms to burgeoning practices promising new ways to cure their ills: Hydropaths promised cures using “healing tubs.” Franz Anton Mesmer applied magnets to a patient’s body, while Daniel David Palmer restored a man’s hearing by knocking on his vertebrae. Phrenologists emerged, claiming the topography of one’s skull could reveal the intricacies of one’s character. Bizarre as these methods may seem, many are the predecessors of today’s notions of health. We have the nineteenth-century practice of “medical gymnastics” to thank for today’s emphasis on daily exercise, and hydropathy’s various water cures gave us the notion of showers and the mantra of “eight glasses of water a day.” These early medical “deviants,” including women who had been barred from the patriarchy of “legitimate doctoring,” raised questions and posed challenges to established ideas, and though the fads faded and many were discredited by the scientific revolution, some ideas behind the quackery are staples in today’s health industry. Janik tells the colorful stories of these “quacks,” whose shams, foils, or genuine wish to heal helped shape and influence modern medicine.

MC.February.MarketplaceOfTheMarvellous.AuthorErika Janik is the producer, editor, and consulting historian of the Wisconsin Public Radio series Wisconsin Life. She is the author of four previous award-winning history books. Her work has appeared in Smithsonian,Mental Floss, and Midwest Living, among other publications. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

 


Locally Brewed-Midwest Connections

February 25, 2014

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Locally Brewed celebrates the Midwest’s craft brewing movement with profiles of 20 of the area’s brewmasters and their breweries. These are entertaining and inspiring stories of the individuals who have been essential in the exponential growth of this movement, as told through vivid interviews, beautiful photography, and dynamic artwork.

“Part cookbook, part storybook, it’s an irresistible collection of feel-good anecdotes, vivid photographs, and recipes from both chefs and farmers.” -Carly Boers, Chicago magazine

“An inspirational glimpse into one vibrant area of the local food movement.” -Kirkus Reviews

“Anyone who enjoys farming stories, cooking, animals, and locally grown food will treasure this book. It’s well done, interesting, and beautiful.” -Margo Dill, News-Gazette, Champaign, IL

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In just the past 20 years, beer has been transformed from a “low-class” drink to a pluralistic, populist drink with the same stylistic diversity and caring craftsmanship as wine. One of the strongest hotbeds of this cultural shift is in the Midwest, where independently owned craft brewers focus on the creative, artisanal elements of the beer-making process. Locally Brewed explores these trends and the fun, fascinating, and unique details of each brewery, including label art, hand-pull designs, and of course the brews themselves.

This is a book that can be enjoyed by the “beer geek” and the casual imbiber alike, as it emphasizes the people behind the beer as well as the beers they brew. Special sidebars and pullouts show what makes each brewery special, weaving together the story of the indie beer movement, relevant to both small-town Midwesterners and big-city beer lovers.

Anna H. Blessing researched, wrote, and photographed 14 editions of the eat.shop book series in addition to being a regular contributor to many other print and online publications, including Lucky, for which she was an editor for six years. She lives in Chicago.

 


Jane McDonnell Poetry Reading Thursday, January 23, 7:30 pm

January 21, 2014

Jane McDonnell will read from her new poetry collection A Bone in the Throat Thursday, January 23 at 7:30 pm.

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The settings of many of these poems are Ireland or India, two places that have strongly affected me. Others are set in places where my family has lived in the American South and where much of my early consciousness was formed. Many of the poems are about the natural world, especially about birds (as creatures of the spirit and as survivors from the last almost cataclysmic destruction of the earth) and about animals (especially the wolf) who have a sympathetic relationship with human beings. There are family poems and poems about my own old age and approach to death. These I have tried to make “blessing” poems, wishes for safe passage for me — and for others. Over and over I have found myself returning to ancient stories, Biblical or Classical, as foundational stories of our culture until very recently. I am continually surprised at what rich human events can be contained in this stories.

 

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Unmentionables-Midwest Connections

January 21, 2014

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A powerful debut historical novel set in the Midwest in the early 1900s portrays an outspoken advocate for dress reform and women’s suffrage in the fictional small town of Emporia, IL.

“Engaging first work from a writer of evident ability.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Marian Elliot Adams’ … tale is contagiously enthusiastic.”– Publishers Weekly

“Laurie Loewenstein brings the reader into the past, to Chautauqua assemblies, World War I France, and Midwestern small-town life. But like all good historical fiction, Unmentionables uses the past as a way to illuminate large, pertinent questions—of race and gender, of love and death, of action and consequence. Meticulously researched and exquisitely written, Unmentionables is a memorable debut.” — Ann Hood, author of The Obituary Writer

Marian Elliott Adams, an outspoken advocate for sensible undergarments for women, sweeps onto the Chautauqua stage under a brown canvas tent on a sweltering August night in 1917, and shocks the gathered town of Emporia with her speech: How can women compete with men in the work place and in life if they are confined by their undergarments? During Marian’s stay in Emporia, Marian pushes prominent members of the community  to become greater, braver, and more dynamic than they ever imagined was possible. Marian is a powerful catalyst that forces nineteenth-century Emporia into the twentieth century; but while she agitates for enlightenment and justice, she has little time to consider her own motives and her extreme loneliness. Marian, in the end, must decide if she has the courage to face small-town life, and be known, or continue to be a stranger always passing through.

MC.January.Unmentionables.AuthorLaurie Loewenstein, a fifth-generation Midwesterner, grew up in the flatlands of western Ohio. She has master’s degrees in creative writing from Wilkes University and in history from Syracuse University. She now resides in Rochester, New York, where Susan B. Anthony lived and was arrested for voting in 1872.

 


Red Moon-Midwest Connections

January 16, 2014

                                                                                               

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Award -winning author Benjamin Percy presents an explosive and deeply layered literary thriller set in the American West.


“If George Orwell had imagined a future where the werewolf population had grown to the degree that they were colonized and drugged, this terrifying novel might be it.” –John Irving

“Extraordinary. . . . An ambitious, epic novel. . . . Holds a mirror up to contemporary America to reflect its fears and biases.” – Publishers Weekly

“The prose in this page-turner is purposefully cinematic. . . . Reading Red Moon involves a personal connection with a diverse set of characters, some of whom we may recognize. Percy seems to foster this connection, hoping we relate on a grand scale of humanity. He challenges readers to acknowledge a kinship with the enemy and to ‘make yourself heard. Howl.’” – The Missourian

Minnesota resident Benjamin Percy’s short story collection and first novel were published by Minnesota-based Graywolf Press.  He spent a year as the visiting writer in residence at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, and continues to work and write in the state.

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Benjamin Percy has won a Whiting Writers Award, a Plimpton Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is the author of the novel The Wilding and two short story collections,Refresh, Refresh and The Language of Elk (available as an ebook from Grand Central Publishing). He lives in Minnesota with his family.

 


The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo-Midwest Connections

January 14, 2014

Kent Nerburn blends history, humor, and heartbreak with a gripping mystery.  A perfect entry into the Native American world revealed in Nerburn’s previous award-winning books.MC.January.GirlWhoSangToTheBuffalo.Cover_-150x231

“Simply riveting. Kent Nerburn has the very rare ability to gently and compassionately teach in a respectful way. I love this book. And so does the rest of our staff.” – Susan White, manager of Birchbark Books

“A touching and enlightening pursuit of spirit.”– Chris Eyre, director of Smoke Signals

“With poignant prose and a compelling story, The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo demonstrates Kent Nerburn’s gift: not just to build bridges between the Native and non-Native world, but to transcend those differences with a narrative that speaks to the heart of the human experience.” – Anton Treuer, executive director of the Bemidji State University American Indian Resource Center

As with the novel Neither Wolf nor Dog, written 18 years ago, Nerburn visits the Dakota elder Dan and joins in the quest to understand the fate of Dan’s little sister, Yellow Bird, a girl with a mystical relationship to animals who disappeared into the Indian boarding school system. Delving beneath the myths, misconceptions, and stereotypes that make up so much of our understanding of Native life, Nerburn finds a world that “beats with a different and indomitable heartbeat.” Readers are swept up into a great story of the awe-inspiring communion of human, animal, and nature that underlies the many things we can learn from our land’s native people.

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Kent Nerburn is the author of thirteen books on spirituality and Native themes, including Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce (featured on the History Channel), Simple Truths, and The Wisdom of the Native Americans. He is a two-time Minnesota Book Award winner. He lives in northern Minnesota.


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