British director Irina Brown is in town to direct the reading, working with a cast drawn from the Twin Cities theater community and the Somali community.
The staged readings are free. They begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, and Saturday, Dec. 8, at the University's Stoll Thrust Theatre, Rarig Center, 330 21st Ave. S., Mpls.
David Enyeart, events manager of Common Good Books, told the crowd at Macalester College last night that when Andrew Solomon's publisher called him up and told him they were publishing a 900-page book about families with difficult or problematic children, and they were sending the author on tour, and could Enyeart drum up a crowd for such an event, Enyeart said, No problem.
And judging by the size of the crowd last night, it truly was no problem. "I love living in a town where people are interested in those types of things," Enyeart said, and the audience of about 400 people applauded. And they certainly were interested; when Solomon took the stage and began talking about the genesis of his new book ("Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity"), and his years of research and reportage, and the stories of the people he profiled, the room was utterly silent--riveted.
He did, of course, start with a tiny stumble. 'It's a pleasure to be here in Minneapolis, where I did a lot of research for this book," he began, and then broke off when he heard mumblings and rustlings from the audience. "St. Paul!" he finally understood them to say. "St. Paul!" And Solomon cringed.He apologized. The crowd laughed. "Suitably chastened, I go on," he said.
Solomon was an eloquent and fascinating speaker. His new book looks at families with children who are very different from the parents--families with children who are deaf, or autistic, or transgender, or have dwarfism or Down syndrome.
In families, he said, there is "vertical identity"--race, ethnicity, and other attributes that children have in common with their parents. And there is "horizontal identity"--identities, he said, that must be learned from a peer group rather than from parents. "Things that people often try to cure or change."
And it's sometimes difficult for parents to know what to cure--such as dyslexia, which Solomon had as a child--and what to leave alone, such as homosexuality.
In his book, Solomon includes stories across the spectrum--from parents who love and embrace their very different children, and from parents who have simply been unable to cope. The stories that he told last night, though, were almost all uplifting. He talked about a young man named Clinton who was born with such severe physical deformities and dwarfism that the doctors urged his parents to let him die. Instead, they found experts at Johns Hopkins University who performed 30 surgeries on Clinton, who grew to be a gentle man who went on to become the first in his family to graduate from college.
"Clinton always had such a light in him," Solomon quoted Clinton's mother as saying. "We were the first ones to see it."
"The people who are able to construct meaning in their child's lives are better parents and have a better life," he said.
But he acknowledged that some people have a harder time than others, and that some children are harder to deal with than others. I won't pretend that any of this is easy, Solomon said.
Questions after his speech were fervent--at least one woman spoke through tears. And the line for his book-signing was long.
Clearly, the Twin Cities area (as Solomon was careful to call it after his initial faux pas) is, as Enyeart suggested, a place where people are most definitely interested in those types of things.
Minneapolis writer Louise Erdrich has three books out this fall, and you'll have two chances to see her. A new version of her highly acclaimed 1998 novel, "The Antelope's Wife," is out this fall, not just revised but "radically revised," says her Website. It's out in paperback, and she'll be signing copies from 5-8 p.m. Sept. 5 at her bookstore, Birchbark Books, 2115 W. 21st St. in Minneapolis.
That same evening she'll be signing copies of her middle-school book, "Chickadee," the latest in the Birchbark House series.
Her newest novel, "The Round House," pubs Oct. 2. And that night she'll do a reading and signing at 7 p.m. at St. Paul's Episcoal Church, 1917 Logan Av., Minneapolis. All is free and open to the public.
Erdrich also is working on a graphic novel collaboration with her daughter, Aza Edrich, who has illustrated her mother's short story, "Nero," which ran in the New Yorker earlier this summer. You can see a preview of the graphic novel version on the Birchbark Books blog.
So E.L. James is coming to town, and I'm wondering what everyone will wear. High leather boots? Something grey? Or perhaps a bag over one's head, so as not to be recognized?
James, of course, is the author of the best-best-best selling "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy, novels about an innocent young virgin who falls for a handsome millionaire who enjoys bondage.
James, who lives in London, first self-published her work, but it was quickly acquired by Vintage Books and the books have sold more than 30 million copies in the United States since March of this year. It's also a best-seller in Australia and Great Britain, and it might be the first pornography to be sold openly at family-friendly places like Target and given by daughters as a Mothers' Day gift.
(It's important to note, however, that on James' website the books are not called pornography, but "adult romance.")
News reports say that James has recently signed an agreement to produce a line of clothing and underwear based on the book. Oh dear. Perhaps that is what one wears to a James reading.
James will be at Barnes & Noble Galleria at 7 p.m. on Sept. 20.
The second annual all-Minneapolis book club made its selection months ago: "Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past," by Diane Wilson. And now the festivities are beginning to fall into place, beginning with a big launch event at 7 p.m. on Sept. 24 at the Minneapolis Convention Center Auditorium, with Wilson in conversation with Garrison Keillor. Tickets are $10-$5, and you can get them through www.ticketworks.com or by calling 612-343-3390.
Other events surrounding the book (a blend of memoir and fiction, tracing Wilson's Dakota past through five generations) include events various public libraries, the University of Minnesota, and elsewhere. Check out the list at the One Minneapolis-One Read website here.
The "One Minneapolis, One Read" city-wide book club began last year with Michele Norris's memoir, "The Grace of Silence."
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