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Memories, mystery and museum histories

Three books from the University of Minnesota Press serve varied interests.

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"We are Meant to Rise" Carolyn Holbrook and David Mura (editors); published November 2021 by University of Minnesota Press

As we observed the two-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, that time in history is still something that shocks me. The subsequent protests and police response in Minneapolis feel like something out of a nightmare. As the sun shines and time marches on, I question whether the collective anger, grief and call to enact real change really happened. The feeling that we were moving toward positive social changes and people wanting that change seems to lessen like perfume disappearing from a room.

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"We are Meant to Rise"
contributed / University of Minnesota Press

Reading “We are Meant to Rise” cements in my mind: yes, these events really happened. Yes, people have been struggling for years with a reality I have never experienced. Yes, for a moment Minneapolis really was on fire for a collective cause and the world watched and caught fire with those in Minneapolis and in Minnesota. Many of us watched from what seemed to be a not-so-distant window. Some events happened here in our own backyards. So many of us experienced something in Minnesota, in our nation and around the globe.

“We are Meant to Rise” is a collection of stories from minority authors, poets and writers who grew up and/or live in Minneapolis. Much of this work was written during that time when neighborhoods and our hearts burned.

These words are sacred parts of each author, shared with the world as a generous gift to those willing to accept it. These stories, poetry and prose are pieces of the writers given freely. The reward for the reader is a connection and a deeper understanding of our neighbors and our friends. When one just takes in the words being shared without judgment and without opinion on that experience, it is something beautiful and amazing to be experienced.

These words contain sadness and injustice but they contain a truth more powerful than that sadness because within this truth contains hope. Hope that one day when we point out the injustices and the wrongs, when we recognize them, we can fix them. We can heal the hurts, stop them from reoccurring and move forward.

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This collection moved me to tears at times and to a deeper understanding that we all have different experiences and those experiences are no less valid than anyone else’s.

By sharing these stories, these writers have helped me breathe a sigh of relief that I hope is a collective one with all the readers of this book. A sigh that says, “Okay, this is what we are facing. This is the root we have to dig up. This is the hurt that we can bandage and heal. We can fix this.”

Carolyn Holbrook is the founder and director of More than a Single Story. Her collection of essays "Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify" was the winner of the Minnesota Book Award. She teaches creative writing at Hamline University, Loft Literary Center and many community venues.

David Mura has written multiple books including the memoir "Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei," which won the Oakland PEN Josephine Miles Book Award and was a New York Times Notable Book.

"We are Meant to Rise" is available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and University of Minnesota Press (upress.umn.edu). It is also available at the Rochester Public Library.

"Rafferty's Last Case" by Larry Millett; published April 2022 by University of Minnesota Press

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"Rafferty's Last Case"
contributed / University of Minnesota Press

“Rafferty’s Last Case” is Millett’s ninth mystery novel featuring Sherlock Holmes and St. Paul detective Shadwell Rafferty. Holmes is a fun character who has been penned by many authors and reimagined by storytellers in numerous media. Millett’s Holmes is pure and befitting of the genre’s true fashion. Rafferty, Millett’s creation, is a clever detective and well-rounded character in his own right.

“Rafferty’s Last Case” can be read alone without the reader previously reading Millett’s other Rafferty mysteries as he includes enough background on all the characters to paint a clear picture of them. Even without reading any preceding novels, I was drawn in as the prologue opens with Rafferty’s death. Millett’s descriptions of him drew me in right away to follow the plot and seek justice for his demise.

With his background in historic architecture, Millett pulls in not only the excitement and entertainment of the Sherlock Holmes/murder mystery genre, but weaves it seamlessly into the 1920s St. Paul setting.

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This is a fun read for the history enthusiast, the murder mystery connoisseur or the Holmes fan.

Larry Millett worked for many years as a reporter and architecture critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He has written nine novels featuring Sherlock Holmes and Shadwell Rafferty and almost a dozen books on architecture. He is a winner of the Minnesota Book Award.

"Rafferty's Last Case" is available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and University of Minnesota Press (upress.umn.edu). It is also available at the Rochester Public Library.

"A Natural Curiosity: The Story of the Bell Museum" by Lansing Shepard, Don Luce, Barbara Coffin and Gwen Schagrin, published April 2022 by University of Minnesota Press

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"A Natural Curiosity: The Story of the Bell Museum"
contributed / University of Minnesota Press

The Bell Museum now stands on the University of Minnesota Campus but that building is just the most recent house for what began more than a century ago.

From a mandate by the state to create a natural history museum in 1872, just 14 years after Minnesota's statehood, to the fifth building, "A Natural Curiosity" covers the nearly 150-year story. Broken down into decades and eras, this book is filled with photos and details about those who influenced the museum's evolution and carried its mission throughout the years. The scope of knowledge and dedication that so many people provided the museum is very evident in this book.

A thorough look at Minnesota's natural history's history, "A Natural Curiosity" is filled with so much for the natural historian or Minnesota enthusiast.

Lansing Shepard is a writer specializing in conservation, environmental policy and natural history. He is the author and coauthor of several published works and written for the Bell Museum's IMPRINT publication. He also coauthored the television documentary "Minnesota: A History of the Land."

Don Luce is the Bell Museum Curator of Exhibits and for more than 40 years has curated most of the temporary exhibitions. He has initiated numerous programs and been key to the many of the museum's program and exhibit expansions.

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Barbara Coffin has had many roles in promoting conservation and understanding of Minnesota's natural world, serving as the former head of media productions and adult programs at the museum. She is the executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning television documentary "Minnesota: A History of the Land."

Gwen Schagrin has worked in exhibits research, design, and production at the museum since 1992. She has served as special exhibitions assistant curator for Audubon and the Art of Birds and coauthored its exhibition guidebook.

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"A Natural Curiosity" is available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and University of Minnesota Press (upress.umn.edu). It is also available at the Rochester Public Library.

Book Nook is a feature that highlights books from Minnesota authors. Got a recommendation? Email us at life@postbulletin.com with the subject line "Book Nook."

Related Topics: BOOKS
Opinion by Kelsey Hawley
Kelsey Hawley is a Jill-of-all-trades and as newsroom clerk, supports many facets of the office. She grew up in Rochester, where she continues to make her home with her two daughters, a few fish, a snail and a hamster. Readers can reach Kelsey at 507-285-7734 or khawley@postbulletin.com.
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