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Laurie Hertzel is senior editor for books at the Star Tribune, where she has worked since 1996.

Author Marlon James critiques Minnesota racism with viral Facebook post

Star Tribune photo by Renee Jones Schneider

Star Tribune photo by Renee Jones Schneider

With more than 1,000 likes (and various other emoticons) and nearly 200 shares, a thoughtful and sobering Facebook post by Twin Cities writer Marlon James is going viral. James writes eloquently in the wake of the Jeronimo Yanez trial about what it is like to be black in Minnesota.

"I go out of my way to avoid police, because I don’t know how to physically act around them," James writes. "Do I hold my hands in the air and get shot, Do I kneel and get shot? Do I reach for my ID and get shot? Do I say I’m an English teacher and get shot? Do I tell them everything I am about to do, and get shot? Do I assume than seven of them will still feel threatened by one of me, and get shot? Do I simply stand and be big black guy and get shot? Do I fold my arms and squeeze myself into smaller and get shot? Do I be a smartass and get shot? Do I leave my iPhone on a clip of me on Seth Meyers, so I can play it and say, see, that’s me. I’m one of the approved black guys. And still get shot?"

James, who grew up in Jamaica, won the Man Booker Prize in 2015 for "A Brief History of Seven Killings." He teaches at Macalester College in St. Paul.

Tracy K. Smith is the new U.S. poet laureate

Tracy K. Smith. Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

Tracy K. Smith. Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

Tracy K. Smith, the Pulitzer Prize winning poet who publishes with Graywolf Press of Minneapolis, has been named the Poet Laureate of the United States. Her 2017-2018 term will begin in September; she succeeds Juan Felipe Herrera.

Smith won the Pulitzer Prize for "Life on Mars," the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for "The Body's Question," and the James Laughlin Award for "Duende." She has also published a memoir, "Ordinary Light," a finalist for the National Book Award in 2015.

Her fourth collection, "Wade in the Water," will be published by Graywolf in 2018.

"Tracy K. Smith is the poet that we need as Poet Laureate right now," Graywolf executive editor Jeff Shotts said in a press release. "She shows us an America that is infinite and that is made of a boundless music." Shotts called her selection as poet laureate "inspiring," adding, "Her presence in the laureateship will be beautiful and enlivening."

Smith teaches at Princeton University and has been a Stegner Fellow. Previous poets laureate include Rita Dove, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Natasha Trethewey, Robert Pinsky and Billy Collins.

The poet laureate has few obligatory duties but opens and closes the literary season for the Library of Congress and seeks to raise the American public's awareness and appreciation of poetry.

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