Blog, Bookish Life

MPR is Talking Race in 2021


This content is being sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio, but all opinions, ideas, and shenanigans are mine.

Talking Volumes is a literary collaboration between the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio that brings high-profile authors to the Twin Cities for a live interview, later broadcast on MPR, accompanied by in-depth stories about the writers in the Star Tribune. This looks different in 2021, and this year all interviews are virtual which gives people like me (not located in Minneapolis, because I enjoy warm weather) an opportunity to join. Another change this year is that with the 2020 Race Uprisings coming up on their anniversary, they’ve decided to shine a light on race with both their 2021 book selections and author interviews.

I am a Latina woman who has lived her life navigating the experience of being a woman of color in a system that doesn’t always value my existence (see: This is America). I like hundreds of thousands of others, even millions of others, joined the protests after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police Department. I angrily wept for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, wondering how anyone could do this to another human being and worried every day about my Black brothers and sisters living in Miami; and felt ashamed for thanking the universe that my daughters are white passing. This is my truth.

I take issue with the idea that there is a growing racial divide in America. Any casual scholar of American history can tell you that this racial divide has existed as long as the country has existed and the sorting of “us vs. them” is almost an evolutionary birthright. What we really should be talking about is that the racial divide is no longer hiding behind closed doors and the bright light of bystander videos, social media conversations, and pandemic isolation is showing America what it really is. So now we are looking outside of ourselves to artists, and writers, to those who create and make sense of our world and hope that they can give us a more consumable way to understand events, enter MPR’s feature of authors and books which discuss the racial divide in the United States.

Tuesday, March 9th

Author Reginald Dwayne Betts will discuss his book Felon Poems.

Felon tells the story of one man in fierce, dazzling poems ― canvassing his wide range of emotions and experiences through homelessness, underemployment, love, drug abuse, domestic violence, fatherhood, and grace ― and, in doing so, creates a travelogue for an imagined life. Reginald Dwayne Betts confronts the funk of post-incarceration existence and examines prison not as a static space, but as a force that enacts pressure throughout a person’s life. Challenging the complexities of language, Betts animates what it means to be a “felon”.

Tuesday, March 16th

N. Scott Momaday will discuss his book Earth Keeper: Reflections on the American Land

In this moving and lyrical book, which includes original artwork by the author, Momaday offers an homage and a warning. He reminds us that the Earth is a sacred place of wonder and beauty; a source of strength and healing that must be protected before it’s too late. As he so eloquently yet simply expresses, we must all be keepers of the Earth.

Tuesday, March 23rd

Chang-rae Lee will discuss his book My Year Abroad

Rich with commentary on Western attitudes, Eastern stereotypes, capitalism, global trade, mental health, parenthood, mentorship, and more, My Year Abroad is also an exploration of the surprising effects of cultural immersion — on a young American in Asia, on a Chinese man in America, and on an unlikely couple hiding out in the suburbs. Tinged at once with humor and darkness, electric with its accumulating surprises and suspense, My Year Abroad is a novel that only Chang-rae Lee could have written, and one that will be read and discussed for years to come.

Tuesday, March 30th

The month wraps up with FBC Fave Naima Coster on March 30th to, notably the only woman involved in this project. You can listen to Renee’s interview with her about her previous novel Halsey Street here. This time they’ll be talking about her sophomore novel What’s Mine and Your – currently part of our Women’s History Month flash sale! Purchase here before March 6.

What’s Mine and Yours is an expansive, vibrant novel that moves between the years, from the foothills of North Carolina to Atlanta, Los Angeles and Paris. It explores the unique organism that is every family: what breaks them apart and how they come back together. A North Carolina community rises in outrage as a county initiative draws students from the largely Black east side of town into predominantly white high schools on the west. For two students, Gee and Noelle, the integration sets off a chain of events that will bond their families together in unexpected ways over the span of the next twenty years. And their mothers — each determined to see her child inherit a better life — will make choices that will haunt them for decades to come.

Natalia Santana is a compliance professional by day, and an activist, student and parent...also by day. Interested in the intersection of activism and education, her joy in life is taking complicated concepts and distilling them into easy to understand Twitter rants. Favorite genres: science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction books.

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