MN Reads

Mary Casanova knew that there was talent and artistry - and mental illness - in her gene pool.

So in her third Rainy Lake historical novel, she spent some time at the St. Peter State Hospital Museum, creating a character who was not only a talented painter - she'd been committed to an insane asylum by her family, a widespread practice at the time that pioneering journalist Nellie Bly wrote about first hand in 1887.

Clare Cooley has lived through sexual assault, the suicide of a family member and the drug addiction of another.

But all the way back to a troubled childhood, she learned that imagination and creativity were the keys to a way out.

Cooley prides herself on trying to find the good in difficult situations, and perhaps the most obvious example is using the pandemic lockdown as an opportunity to write a book about overcoming tough times through creative expression.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson's Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies is a book that was written first for Ojibwe speakers - not even those fluent in the language but, like her, who are learning.

And she had specific hopes for her Anishinabe readers as well: that it would affirm their experiences , provide comfort, and that they would feel better for having read it.

Historian Brenda Child has been on a mission since she read Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto (1969) by Vine Deloria Jr.

Nellie Frances was another woman like a lot of women in Minnesota.

Quiet and self-effacing, but active in her community and her church, it's not surprising that the story of a Black woman on the front lines of women's suffrage and civil rights issue hasn't been told until now.

Nellie Francis: Fighting for Racial Justice and Women’s Equality in Minnesota by William D. Green is published by the University of Minnesota Press.

Then-22 year old Natalie Warren and her friend Ann Raiho took a 2,000-mile journey by paddle from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay in 2011.

But ten years later, the biggest challenge Natalie says she faced might surprise you.

Craft beer exploded on the scene a few years back and Duluth proudly claimed it's place front and center.

Even if we weren't facing a winter indoors, staring at (or climbing) the same four walls, we'd probably appreciate Patrice Johnson's new Land of 10,000 Plates, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. 

Chances are the two or three wolves who wandered over the ice from Minnesota or Canada to Isle Royale 60-some years ago were just looking for something to eat.

It's not likely they knew they and the moose that would make up their primary diet would become the subjects of decades of research.  And chances are they didn't realize that by becoming the lone predator on an island with essentially one prey species, they were creating the perfect "laboratory."

While Indigenous children in Minnesota learn plenty of English language, most don't have a lot of chances to learn the languages of the people who were here first.

Mindy Greiling thought she knew quite a bit about mental illness.

After all, she'd minored in psychology both as an undergrad and in grad school.

But that was before the voices in her then-21 year old son's head told him he needed to kill her.

The longtime member of Minnesota's House of Representatives founded and chaired the Mental Health Caucus, a bipartisan committee formed from the Minnesota House and the Minnesota Senate, and after her retirement from the legislature in 2012, continues to advocate for mental health parity and Medicare for all.

A common trope in fiction pits siblings against one another in some form; maybe they're vying for the attention of a parent, maybe they're both in a similar job and struggling for success or control of a company ...

But alas, the story of Lin Enger and his brother, novelist Leif Enger, is nowhere near that dramatic.

Bea Ojakangas' mother always said you could never go wrong ordering soup.

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