Throughout my library career I advocated for the Minnesota Center for the Book and the Minnesota Book Awards. I’ve booktalked Book Award nominated titles and represented Greater Minnesota on the Book Award Advisory Committee, as well as attended receptions at the Library of Congress to celebrate the work of Centers for the Book around the United States.
So I was excited to learn about a new book club – One Book / One Minnesota. Launched in the spring of 2020 as Minnesota went into Covid quarantine and libraries closed their doors to walk-in patrons, One Book encouraged Minnesotans to read together. The three titles selected thus far feature award winning Minnesota authors:
- Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
- A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota edited by Sun Yung Shin
- A Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich.
A blending of reading good books by Minnesota authors and retirement life came together last night as I led an online book discussion of A Good Time for the Truth. This anthology contains 16 extremely well written chapters, each by a different Minnesota author, each a Person of Color living and working in our state. Artfully edited by Sun Yung Shin. The first lines of her introduction reads:
“You hold in your hand a book of visions. Memories. True stories. Shock. Grief. Dreams. Activism. Recognition. A call for us to listen and learn about one another’s real lives in Minnesota.“
While the setting and many of the references are Minnesota specific, the stories are real whether they occur in Minneapolis or Minocqua, Rochester or Rockford or any city, USA. Stories which reveal how those who look like me – white, middle-aged, educated, financially comfortable, that is to say privileged – take for granted our place in this white patriarchy. Or, conversely as Sun Yung Shin states:
“Most people of color in the United States have to think about race every day, multiple times a day. We are constantly negotiating our bodies, our selves, our identities, in a racialized society.“
These stories are so well written and revealing that I could only read one at a time before setting down the book and taking time and space to reflect, sometimes to cry, about the injustices and inequities to which I was blind. This same sentiment was expressed by several participating in our church’s Common Read book discussion.
We are living the great American democratic experiment. But for it to be truly successful, all the voices need to be heard. Those Indigenous People with whom our government has repeatedly broken trust. Those whose ancestors were brought here against their will chained in the holds of slave ships. Those who came to this “land of opportunity” for a myriad of reasons and every day enrich the whole of our existence but whose contributions are minimized because they are different. I encourage you to pick up a copy of A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota. Read with an open heart the beauty of the language on the page and hear the stories of fellow Americans. After, give me a call or an email or a text so we can chat as we grow and learn together.
P.S. If you want to hear some of the authors in their own voices, check out this One Book / One Minnesota YouTube video with Sun Young Shin and six of the anthology’s authors.