Summer Reading Issue
Last year we took the advice of the Star Tribune’s never shy but soon to be retiring Steve Brandt who urged delay of the summer reading issue so our avid followers could enjoy more active pursuits during a glorious August 2015. Looks like we are facing the same dilemma but this season the show will go on!
When we sent out the bat signal for your summer reading “hacks” (as the kids say) we must have gotten at least half a dozen recommendations for “A Man Called Ove.” Patricia Deinhart-Bauknight puts it this way:
I have two books to share. My favorite books this summer were “A Man Called Ove” and “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.” Swedish author Fredrik Backman has a unique blend of sorrow, glee, loneliness and love that entertained me (maybe that’s just my Swedish DNA) in a fresh way.
Brian Rice, Louis DeMars and Arvonne Fraser were eager to spread word regarding respected political practitioner, author and commentator Norman Sherman’s memoir: “From Nowhere to Somewhere: My Political Journey.” Sherman describes his rough and tumble life beginning with his boyhood, the son of Jewish immigrants, in North Minneapolis. Across his career Sherman was advisor to some of Minnesota’s most famous and effective political leaders including Karl Rolvaag, Orville Freeman, Jim Rice and Donald Fraser. (Now talk about strange bedfellows.) Perhaps the apex of his career was Sherman’s tenure as Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary. The book is loaded with insights and anecdotes including behind the scenes with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Pope Paul VI. We published too late to spread word of Mr. Sherman’s visit to Open Book (August 22) but given the passion behind the recommendations we will vouch for a great read.
Out of his man shack and onto his computer sprang Tom O’Rourke, executive director of the Hartley Nature Center up Duluth way.
These last two recommendations hit awfully close to home because that’s where they came from. Joan F. Oyaas, thirty-plus year admin vet of the Dorsey Law Firm, is loudly singing the praises of two highly-regarded memoirs: “Between the World and Me” and “The Grace of Silence.”
I know that you mostly make these reviews up [Ed. Note: Guilty, mostly] and I certainly don’t want mention or credit [Ed. Second Note: Too late], but I have read two wonderful and moving books that I think your Online cronies would find compelling. In past newsletters you have talked about the divide in this community—the angry on one hillside and the fearful on the other. In the valleys where they collide there is injustice and no healing. If we as a nation are to even begin the honest and no-doubt disturbing conversations that must occur before we can start healing, then we have to open our minds to the scars of history and ongoing human failings. Ta-Nehisi Coates takes on an honest reckoning of this fraught history in a letter to his adolescent son hoping that somehow he will find a way to be freed from the burden. Coates shares the profound experiences that shaped his life from Howard University to Paris to the living rooms of his own childhood. Coates’ command of both language and emotion shines a bright light on the past, tells the harsh truth about our present and offers hope for a way forward.
If you just read the dust jacket you might think that “The Grace of Silence” is the parallel journey of an African American woman to Coates’ male in “Between the World.” While accurate on one level Michele Norris’ personal story is a perfect companion, looking at the same themes but through dramatically different lenses. Norris, the well known co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered, grew up in Minneapolis. The references to people, places and things in my own life contributed to my enjoyment to be certain but it was her motivation to write the book that was most fascinating. During President Obama’s first election Ms. Norris wanted to explore the hidden conversation about race among the amorphous American public but her work soon turned to her own family. She discovered disturbing mile markers on her parents’ pasts and realized the hidden conversations began with her own family. The Norris family chose to keep those stories in a box with hopes that their children would soar and not be weighed by the woes of history.
Coming to grips with both those woes of her family’s past and the rewards of achievement, Ms. Norris provides readers with insights on how our conversations on race most proceed. I hope your Online readers find these memoirs as inspiring as I did.