Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by MN Author Kao Kalia Yang

I had a wonderful conversation today with MN author Kao Kalia Yang about the book that has been read by so many people, and has been chosen by the Grand Rapids Area Library as the "Rapids Reads" book. Kalia will be speaking about her book in Grand Rapids on Thursday March 17 at 7pm.

In our conversation we talked about language, both English and Hmong, and the art of storytelling. Kalia had this to say:
"My uncle asked me do you know what a storyteller is? And I told him yes, they are writers but in spoken words. He told me no, in order to be good you have to understand. That a story is a like a stop sign on the road of life. Its purpose is to make you pause, look both sides and check the trajectory of the horizon before you continue. I've always had a profound understanding that stories were the gift of life. It was what one person had to give to another and so I grew up surrounded by stories - in both Hmong and English."
She went on to tell me how different English and Hmong are to her:

"The English language never feels quite right. It is eternally breathless. It is always as if I am doing CPR to the language. But in Hmong, it flows beautifully in voice. The way I sound in Hmong, I believe, is the way I read on the pages in English. I think I write like a native. Very fearlessly. I write much better than I can speak because for so long I didn't speak. For 20 years of my life I was a selective mute. I prefer that (writing) medium any time any day. If we could do this interview in email or live chat it would be so ideal for me. Because I don't like the way I sound in English, even today...even right now.

When I speak in Hmong it feels like a song on my lips in English I feel so raspy and breathless. Hmong is a tonal language and every breath that I breathe in the world carries meaning. In English I have to trap the air in my lungs and units of meaning to make sounds to the bigger world. "
Hope you get a chance to hear our interview tonight (2/23) at 6pm or Sunday 2/27 at 9am. Or check the archived interviews.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Erin Hart & False Mermaid this week

I read a lot of books. That's what you might call an understatement. And I don't always remember the books I've read. That too is an understatement.

The other day someone asked me what some of my favorite books of 2010 were and I was stumped. Of course it was the end of the day on the last day of our Spring fundraiser. I'm hoping that had something to do with it.

But some books stay in my mind. Years ago I was a judge for the MN Book Awards in the genre fiction. Turns out that basically means mysteries. Though it was a lot of books to read in a short time, it tuned me in to some MN authors I had never read - like William Kent Krueger and Erin Hart. In the years since I read Erin Hart's "Lake of Sorrows" I've actually thought about the main character, Nora Gavin. And wondered if I'd ever get to hear from her again. (Yes, I wonder things about characters in books in my spare time. So sue me!)

So, as luck would have it, and by luck I mean the MN Arts & Cultural Heritage amendment - Erin Hart and her husband (Irish musician) Paddy O'Brien are doing a tour of the Kitchigami library system. For her new book. About Nora Gavin!

This one is called "False Mermaid" and the title is a connection of all the story lines in the book. A quick synopsis:
Nora Gavin remains haunted by a cold case that nearly cost her sanity five years ago: her sister Tríona's brutal murder. After failing to bring the killer to justice, Nora fled to Ireland, throwing herself into her work and taking the first tentative steps in a new relationship with Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire. She's driven home by unwelcome news: Tríona's husband—and the prime suspect in her murder—is about to remarry. Nora is determined to succeed this time, even if it means confronting unsettling secrets. As she digs ever closer to the truth, the killer zeroes in on Tríona's young daughter, Elizabeth.
For information on the Kitchigami Regional Library tour that begins this Thursday February 24th at the Brainerd Public library at 5pm see here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Christina Meldrum and Melicious tonight on Realgoodwords!!

It's the WE THE PEOPLE 91.7KAXE Spring Fundraiser and we're celebrating the community of Northern Community Radio. That means listeners, readers,or roller derby teams who make up the wide variety of people who support and believe in independent radio for northern Minnesota.

I'm super psyched right now - not just because I'm sitting at my desk in a derby skirt and leopard print tights with my rollerskates on. But because the night ahead is going to be great.

I'm talking to 2 authors on Realgoodwords tonight: Christina Meldrum and Melicious.

Christina Meldrum is an award winning novelist whose latest book is called "Amaryllis in Blueberry". It's the story told from the point of view of an entire family. Not only that, but the novel begins at the ending when the mother, Seena, is on trial for the murder of her husband. "Amaryllis in Blueberry" has been described as being in the tradition of novels like "The Secret Life of Bees" and "The Poisonwood Bible".

At 6:30 some of my teammates from the Iron Range Maidens will be joining me to talk to Melissa "Melicious" Joulwan about her memoir "Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track.". Melicious is a roller girl from Austin, Texas that was instrumental in the resurgence of roller derby. It's hot in northern Minnesota with the Bemidji team Babe City Rollers, the Duluth teams Harbor City Roller Dames and Duluth Derby Divas as well as my very own team, the Iron Range Maidens. Tune in for Melicious!

My teammates will be here to talk with Melicious and answering phones throughout the night On the River. Pledge for community radio! We're independent and we're on wheels! The only reason we get to bring you great programs like Realgoodwords is because you support it with your membership. 800-662-5799/218-326-1234 or pledge online,

Copies of "Amaryllis in Blueberry" and "Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track" are available as a thank you gift for your membership of $60/year or above. Just let us know you'd like one when you call and pledge!!!

P.S. check out Doug MacRostie's documentary on the women of roller derby here.!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

History and The Brain in bestselling novels

This week two bestselling authors join me on Realgoodwords.

Jed Rubenfeld
is a Yale law professor whose first novel was an international bestseller. His new one is out called "The Death Instinct" and it's set around the terror attack on Wall Street on Sept. 16th of 1920. There are some amazing parallels to now - not just to the 9/11 attacks but to the economy and how the government dealt with the attack....

I'm also excited to talk with Lisa Genova again. I read her new novel, Left Neglected, a month ago or so, and still haven't been able to get it out of my mind. It's the story of Sarah Nickerson who is in a car accident that leaves her with brain damage that is termed left neglect.

“Genova is a master of getting into the heads of her characters, relating from the inside out what it's like to suffer from a debilitating disease. How she does it we don't know, but she does, and brilliantly.”

--Craig Wilson, USA Today

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mark Allister and Tyler Blanski on dating

Two Minnesota authors join me this week. Two men talking and writing about subjects they don't always address: DATING.

Mark Allister is a St. Olaf professor who will be at the Grand Rapids Area Library tomorrow (February 3rd at 7pm) talking about his book "Dated: A Middle-Aged Guy's Online Search for Love". Mark, after a 25 year marriage and raising 2 kids, finds himself on the internet, trying to figure out how to date, all over again.

Tyler Blanski is a Minneapolis house painter who is a writer and painter. His book is called "Mud & Poetry - Love, Sex and the Sacred". Tyler grew up a Christian - in a world where dating was not exactly allowed. As he grew up and began to connect with his own desire to connect with others, he began to explore both faith and sexuality. Blanski says that humans are both mud and poetry - living out of both biological and emotional needs... base desires and soaring aspirations. Phyllis Tickle said, "If only Saint Augustine had grown up blogging, he too could have written this book. Either way though, I'm pretty sure the good Augustine would resonate with Tyler Blanski's twenty-first century confessions."

I was struck by both of these men - talking about subjects that aren't openly discussed. Both were thoughtful and sincere in their quest to find connection in the world.