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Archive for September, 2012

Meet Molly Huber, MNopedia Editor and Project Manager

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Molly HuberMNopediaMolly Huber is the new editor and project manager of MNopedia, the Minnesota Encyclopedia. Publicly launched just over a year ago, MNopedia is a resource for vetted, verified, and valuable information on all things Minnesota. It is free and available online at

Earlier this month, MNopedia began a year-long partnership with MinnPost. Each Tuesday a new curated MNopedia article will run on MinnPost in a new, designated section.

Molly joined the MNopedia team two years ago to create and develop content for the site, building upon her love for and expertise in Minnesota history. She is a native Minnesotan and grew up in Minneapolis, where she graduated from the magnet program at South High. After getting a B.A. in history from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and an M.A. in public history from the University of South Carolina, Molly returned to the Twin Cities and entered the museum field. After a short stint in the conservation department of the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS), she joined the Africa, Oceania and the Americas department at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA), becoming assistant curator. While at the MIA she was co-curator of the international Sacred Symbols: Four Thousand Years of Native American Art exhibition with then director Evan Maurer and organized other exhibitions such as Time and Tide: The Changing Art of the Asmat of New Guinea and The Art of the Necklace. Molly authored two exhibition catalogues and a number of other publications including scholarly essays, magazine articles, and academic reviews. She also copy edits and designs Pacific Arts, a journal devoted to the arts and artists of the Pacific Islands published by the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul for an international audience.

Molly is married with two wonderful and busy young sons who take up much of her time, but when she has a few spare minutes she loves to read, practice yoga, ride her bicycle, and knit. She also knows how to spin her own yarn and belly dance. Molly is thrilled to be a part of the MHS Press and to be leading MNopedia as it grows and realizes its full potential.

Living Here, Loving Minnesota with Kim Ode

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

phpyDC97BAn occasional series highlighting local authors and their favorite ways to spend a Minnesota weekend.

Kim Ode has spent most of 2012 talking about her latest cookbook, Rhubarb Renaissance, and is trying to decide what food to tackle next. She remains a member of the St. Paul Bread Club and also plays trombone with the Calhoun-Isles Community Band. Kim  Ode

What is a typical weekend for you?

“Typical” changes with the season, given that in summer, we’re on our sailboat on Lake Superior whenever possible. Otherwise, I’m happiest tucked in at home, putzing in the garden or organizing shelves–unexpectedly satisfying! Wherever I am, cooking for friends often is involved, usually with a recipe I’ve never tried. I like to pull people out onto the culinary tightrope with me!

What are some of your favorite local Friday night activities?

After a week at the Star Tribune, I rarely want to leave the house. I’m a locabore, I guess, but a happy one. If I’ve planned to bake in my brick oven on Saturday, then Friday nights are for mixing bread dough so it gets that long overnight rise to develop the best flavor.

What/where do you eat on weekends? What’s a typical Sunday breakfast for you?

I’m happiest when I’m cooking for myself and others, but Tosca in Linden Hills is a small gem with great squash ravioli. Mill Valley Kitchen in St. Louis Park manages to be sumptuous and healthy. I love Travail Kitchen and Amusements in Robbinsdale but know enough not to fight the weekend crowds.

Sunday breakfasts is plural. My husband gets two eggs over easy, toast, and bacon every week because that’s what he lives for, emphasis on Once A Week. While I will reserve some bacon for myself, I love to eat leftovers for breakfast–last night’s potstickers or pizza or mashed potatoes. And sourdough toast–with mayonnaise and garden tomatoes in the summer or with mustard and baked beans in the winter.

What is your weekend reading like?

After the newspaper (duh), I’ll riffle through cookbooks or magazines during the day. For whatever reason, I read best at night, mostly nonfiction, although the Strib’s books editor, Laurie Hertzel, always has good fiction writers in mind. I just finished reading chef Marcus Samuelsson’s memoir, Yes, Chef, and it’s terrific. My biggest challenge is holding off on rereading Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series. I have read the twenty books three times and have vowed to let at least five years pass before diving in again.

What is your top Minnesota getaway?

Has to be Lake Superior, anywhere on that spectacular body of water. Grand Marais’ great hug of a harbor is a top destination.

William Swanson on Black White Blue: The Assassination of Patrolman Sackett

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Black White Blue William Swanson
Black White Blue: The Assassination of Patrolman Sackett
revisits a tumultuous period of Minnesota history, tracking the consequences of a St. Paul police officer’s murder forty years forward into the here and now. Twin Cities-based journalist William Swanson, previously the author of Dial M: The Murder of Carol Thompson, about the 1963 slaying of a St. Paul wife and mother, recently answered questions about his new book.

What drew your interest to the Sackett case?

The conversation of a group of retired St. Paul police officers I met in the summer of 2008, when I was speaking about Dial M to an East Side book club. I had followed the Sackett case from the beginning, but had not given it much thought as a possible book topic until I heard the old cops discussing it. For them, James Sackett’s assassination, in May 1970, was a defining moment in their long lives and eventful careers. And the more I learned about it, the more the case seemed a defining moment in many people’s lives, maybe even the life of the community.

You’ve remarked that you’re drawn as an author to “dark subjects”––such as murder.

Blame my gloomy Swedish background, where the watchword was, “Every silver lining has a dark cloud.” Seriously, I think crime offers writers an irresistible entree into the lives of ordinary people––some extraordinary people as well––who find themselves, willy nilly, in extreme situations. The most interesting component of a riveting crime story is rarely the crime itself, but what occurred before and after, even long after. Patrolman Sackett’s assassination fascinated me for many reasons, but first and foremost was the effect it had even several decades later on the lives of his family and friends, the brotherhood of St. Paul officers, and the city at large.

You were twenty-five when Sackett was murdered. How do you personally recall those times?

As a college student and Army draftee, I would have described the period as wild––both exhilarating and ominous––and incredibly interesting. Beginning in 1963 and for roughly the next decade we experienced a half-dozen major assassinations and assassination attempts, the most devastating race riots in U.S. history, the Indochina war and a massive antiwar resistance, the civil rights revolution and women’s liberation, the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground, Charles Manson, Kent State, and Chappaquiddick––all that plus “sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll”! In Germany, where I was stationed, we hunkered down among frequent bombings, shootings, and other radical “political action,” often targeted at us. Race relations at military bases such as ours were tense and frequently violent. In retrospect, given what was going on around the world circa 1970, one of the more unexpected aspects of the Sackett story is how surprised St. Paul’s police were that people were trying to kill them.

At the end of Black White Blue, you remind your audience that you’re speaking as a white man and that there’s a significant gulf between black and white perspectives on matters of crime and punishment.

I’m sure that African American readers will be able to discern the author’s color without having to glance at his jacket photo or peek at the Afterword. For white readers, I felt a reminder of that perspective gap was appropriate because most white Americans, including myself, have taken for granted that our law enforcement establishment and legal system, for all their faults, are mostly fair and equitable. I believe the system got it right in the Sackett case, but I thought I should acknowledge the fact that a lot of black people were skeptical, to say the least––and, given their history, with no small reason. That said, I had no qualms as a white civilian Minneapolitan writing about blacks and cops in St. Paul. If we only wrote about our own kind, place, and experience our bookshelves would be pretty thin and uninteresting.

What’s the best part about writing a book?

Writing the book. Poring over the transcripts and files, finding and interviewing sources, then creating an organizational architecture and writing the damn thing. It’s a tiring process that can swallow years of your life, but I love the work only slightly less than I love my grandkids. What comes after the writing, the production hassles and the need to help sell the result––well, not so much.

Care to say anything about your next book?

Only that I’ve just begun the research, it involves a very well-known crime, and most of the action takes place on the west side of the Mississippi River.

Meet William Swanson this Friday at 7 pm at Common Good Books as he talks about Black White Blue. Click on the title for more event info.

Living Here, Loving Minnesota with Chris Monroe

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Living Here, Loving MinnesotaAn occasional series highlighting local authors and their favorite ways to spend a Minnesota weekend.

Painter and cartoonist Chris Monroe draws the weekly comic strip Violet Days and is the illustrator of the MHS Press book, Big Little Brother, written by Kevin Kling, and the author and illustrator of Monkey with a Tool Belt and Sneaky Sheep, among other books for children. Her exhibit, Chris Monroe: New Work, is showing at the George Morrison Gallery, Duluth Art Institute, through Sept. 30.

Chris Monroe at home in Duluth with her yogurt and her giant backyard rock.

1. What is a typical weekend for you?

I’m always happiest when it is the weekend, I am at home in Duluth, and I have no actual plans.

2. What are some of your favorite local Friday night activities?

Fridays, if I go out, I might go to the Zinema for a movie. They sell beer and wine there so I don’t have to smuggle beer into the theater in my purse like I typically do. I also might go to Bergey’s, a neighborhood pub with karaoke on Fridays. One guy sings “Coward of the County” every Friday. I think he’s figured out that I think it is funny, and I’m pretty sure he avoids looking at me when he’s done. I always clap, but I have a lot of questions about the plot of that song.

3. What/where do you eat on weekends? What’s a typical Sunday breakfast for you?

Saturdays are like a free day. Sometimes I go to estate sales or the farmers’ market with my mom. After that I get groceries, wine, and supplies to hang out and cook and drink. I talked to a friend one weekend at the co-op and she said she could not wait to get the food home so she could start drinking. I loved her for that. I sit out on my deck, weather permitting, and gaze blankly at the lake and sky, or read from my stack of library books.

I usually cook my own breakfast on the weekend. I like to have nitrate-free breakfast meat, but my friend Meghann says there is no such thing. That is sad. I need to research this. I also love plain Seven Stars Farm yogurt with some sort of berries or bananas. I eat that every day, but weekends get the full breakfast treatment. I like to involve some cheese, onions, and potatoes.

I like having breakfast at the Sun Shine Cafe in West Duluth. Sadly they are closed on Sundays, which is when I always want to go there. I also like the Duluth Grill. They have free-range eggs and a lot of sustainable or organic food items on the menu. For me though, it is just too busy on weekends and I can’t take the line of people by the door. It’s like they are sadly mooning about up there in line, staring at everyone in a booth and willing them to eat quickly and free up a table. Probably all in my mind, but I feel like a lout reading the free papers and eating slowly. I’m happy they are busy though. It’s a great restaurant.

Somebody could open another breakfast joint around here with organic food and really make a lot of money I bet.

4. What is your weekend reading like?

I just finished The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang. A sweet and beautiful book by a Minnesota author.

5. What is your top Minnesota getaway?

My top Minnesota getaway is probably the Twin Cities. I like going the reverse way of all the traffic on I-35 on the weekends. I love to go there and eat good food, go shopping, visit friends and family, hear some good music. But I feel sorry for everyone heading south on Sunday, having to go back to work in the city or suburbs. It is a good feeling to head north against the flow of nonstop city-bound traffic. I feel like I’ve done something right in life. I love the moment when you come over the hill and see Duluth and Lake Superior stretched out below. It feels so great to be home.

Anton Treuer on C-SPAN’s “After Words” this Saturday

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask Anton TreuerTune in to C-SPAN Book TV’s “After Words” this Saturday, September 15, at 10 pm to watch Anton Treuer, author of Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask in conversation with Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians.

For more air dates and times, click on the “After Words” link, above.

Minnesota Is a Dakota Place

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Mni Sota Makoce“Minnesota is a Dakota place. The Dakota people named it and left their marks in the landscape and in its history. Yet the relationship of the Dakota people to their traditional lands in Minnesota is little understood by Minnesotans today. Many history books describe the Dakota as a fierce, warlike people who lived in Minnesota prior to the arrival of whites, then disappeared. Others tell the story of the 1862 Dakota–U.S. War as though those events were the only ones of significance in Dakota history.

“Among the Dakota people, the importance of this place to their history and identity is well known. It is part of the oral tradition and knowledge of the people. In the written record of European encounters with Dakota people that go back three hundred years, explorers and missionaries described the Dakota, this region, and places in it, though perhaps sometimes in incomplete and garbled form. Even from these sources, the enduring eloquence of Dakota people about their connection to the land can be heard.”

These words from Gwen Westerman and Bruce White open their new book, Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota.

Much of the focus on the Dakota people in Minnesota rests on the tragic events of the 1862 U.S.–Dakota War and the resulting exile that sent the majority of the Dakota to prisons and reservations beyond the state’s boundaries. But the true depth of the devastation of removal cannot be understood without a closer examination of the history of the Dakota people and their deep cultural connection to the land that is Minnesota. Drawing on oral history interviews, archival work, and painstaking comparisons of Dakota, French, and English sources, Mni Sota Makoce tells the detailed history of the Dakota people in their traditional homelands for eons prior to exile and continuing to this day.

To learn more about Dakota history and culture, please join us at the launch event for the book next Thursday, September 13, at 7 p.m., hosted by Birchbark Books at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis.

For more information about the book and author events, please click on the title, above.