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7 New Books From MN Authors to Pair With Your Summer Activities

Going to a show? Celebrating July 4? Fretting over the heat death of the planet? These books are perfect for the occasion.

Courtesy of the publishers

If there’s one season when you shouldn’t leave Minnesota, it’s summer. We have block parties, multiple Pride celebrations, outdoor concerts, untamed wilderness, and wild weather. For a fully immersive Minnesota summer experience, here’s a list of locally sourced literature to complement your summer activities and events. 

Pride Month 

Patrick Nathan, The Future Was Color: A Novel 

Set in the 1950s, The Future Was Color (June 4, Counterpoint Press, 224 pages), centers on George Curtis, a Hungarian émigré who tries out a boho identity in New York City before reinventing himself as a closeted Hollywood hack. George writes screenplays about fictional horrors while living through real ones: fascism, nuclear threats, McCarthyism, antisemitism, and homophobia. A brilliant, wall-breaking flash forward to the future, plus a satisfying but not smutty amount of debauchery, make Nathan’s novel a perfect read for Pride month (and the Los Angeles Review of Books Summer 2024 Book Club pick). 

Independence Day

Taiyon J. Coleman, Traveling Without Moving: Essays from a Black Woman Trying to Survive in America

Traveling Without Moving: Essays from a Black Woman Trying to Survive in America (June 4, University of Minnesota Press, 160 pages) is the must-read of the year, according to me. Taiyon J. Coleman writes precisely constructed essays about growing up disadvantaged on Chicago’s South Side, and her recursive path to achieving the American Dream as promised to the first generation of African-Americans to come of age after the Civil Rights Act. Coleman earns degrees upon degrees, gets married, and buys a home. But, while she holds up her end of the education-as-path-to-economic-stability bargain, she’s let down by a fragile social contract that covers the steel scaffold of structural racism like a flimsy fabric sample. I cannot get over the struggles Coleman faced in this century—in graduate-level writing program classrooms, healthcare settings, and real estate transactions. There’s no better time than the July 4th holiday weekend to engage with Coleman’s compassionate and humorous reflections on being a Black academic working in Minnesota, a state with some of the largest racial disparities in the United States.

Severe Weather Warnings

Ashley Shelby, Honeymoons In Temporary Locations 

“Muri,” the first story in Ashley Shelby’s short fiction collection (June 2024, University of Minnesota Press, 152 pages), takes place in a maybe not-so-far-off future where biologists, desperate to save bears, create artificial environmental fixes like Styrofoam ice floes. When geo-engineering doesn’t work, they try to transplant polar bears from a liquid Arctic to Antarctica. In a speculative twist, the bears speak English with “a slight but very strange accent” and know instinctively how to go extinct with dignity. Honeymoons In Temporary Locations is a compelling, fast-paced literary close friend of True Detective: Night Country, and it’s just the book to stash in a windowless basement room to reread while listening to percussive bleeps from the National Weather Service. 

Camping

Victoria Blanco, Out of the Sierra: A Story of Rarámuri Resistance 

Victoria Blanco’s narrative nonfiction account of one Indigenous Rarámuri family’s migration story (June 11, Coffeehouse Press, 336 pages) is a riveting cultural exchange in book form, in the tradition of Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down and Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's Random Family. Using participatory research methods, Blanco zooms in on the Gutierrez family as they adjust to life in an ansentamiento, or government-funded settlement, when climate change ruins their traditional subsistence agriculture way of life in the Sierra Madre Occidental, a mountain range in Chihuahua, Mexico. You don’t have to be in the wilderness to appreciate Blanco’s reportage and storytelling. But removing yourself from carbon spewing vehicles, air conditioning, and processed foods will put you in a good mindset to fully empathize with the plight of the Rarámuri people. 

National Night Out (August 6)

Appetite for Change, Appetite for Change: Soulful Recipes from a North Minneapolis Kitchen

The founders of Appetite for Change, an organization that began after the 2011 north Minneapolis tornado, created a cookbook with Beth Dooley, co-author of other Minnesota favorites like The Sioux Chef and The Birchwood Cafe Cookbook. Appetite for Change: Soulful Recipes from a North Minneapolis Kitchen (July 9, University of Minnesota Press, 224 pages) includes recipes alongside stories about nurturing a community through good food, actions, and organizing. These recipes are perfect for community-building potluck occasions like National Night Out. Impress and treat your block neighbors with Purple Rain Salad, a superfood masterpiece of red and purple vegetables and fruits; potato salad made with red wine vinegar, mustard, and olive oil instead of cholesterol-heavy mayonnaise; or nachos made with jackfruit instead of meat, or vegan red beans and rice. Heart-healthy and delicious.

Summer Concerts and Music Festivals

Deeper Blues: The Life, Songs, and Salvation of Cornbread Harris by Andrea Swensson

Andrea Swensson's first book, Got To Be Something Here, chronicled the history of the Minneapolis Sound. Now she's back with another look at Minnesota music in her biography of 97-year-old Minneapolis musician Cornbread Harris (August 13, University of Minnesota Press, 200 pages). Swensson first met Harris in 2017 during a studio performance and interview at MPR’s The Current. She worked with Harris for two years, interviewing him, attending his concerts, and even facilitating a reunion with him and his long-estranged son, the producer James Harris III, better known as Jimmy Jam. Read this before attending, or between sets, at any one of the Twin Cities’ outdoor music performances that close out the season in August. 

Heat Dome

Robert Schneider, Café Cool 

I realize this list is a little heavy on the climate doom, so when the tropical humidity inevitably descends on Minnesota and you want to think about anything but our planet’s demise, I recommend Café Cool (January 4, The Images Publishing Group, 256 pages), the third in a series of coffee table books about coffee shop design and architecture. Author Robert Schneider described to Racket how he sifts through design-minded websites and magazines to virtually scout locations that meet his modern, minimalist preferences: “I look for a space that tells a story, that possesses some standard design principles, such as balance, proportion, and perspective. Certainly everything should come together as a unified whole.” Schneider’s focus on sleek, open coffee bars makes for a hardcover art book reprieve from oppressive dew points. Turn the glossy pages and take in the gorgeous photographs of coffee shops around the world while meditating on far-off destinations and fall. Soon enough, it will be pumpkin spice, cozy sweater, and cool café season. 

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