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

Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Peace Prize winner and dissident, released from Chinese prison

Liu Xiaobo

Chinese poet and dissident Liu Xiaobo, who was imprisoned by the Chinese government in 2009, has been released to a hospital. Reports are that he is suffering from late-stage cancer. His wife remains under house arrest.

Liu Xiaobo is a political activist who has fought for more than 25 years for a more democratic and open China. He has been imprisoned repeatedly for dissident activity. On Christmas Day 2009, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and was represented by an empty chair at the ceremony, as he was by then in prison. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has issued a statement saying that it has received the news of his release with a mixture of "relief and deep worry." 

"The Committee strongly regrets that it took serious illness before Chinese authorities were willing to release him from jail," the statement says in part. "Liu Xiaobo has fought a relentless struggle in favour of democracy and human rights in China and has already paid a heavy price for his involvement.  He was, essentially, convicted for exercising his freedom of speech and should never have been sentenced to jail in the first place."

"June Fourth Elegies," Liu Xiaobo's first collection to be published in English, was published in 2011 by Graywolf Press of Minneapolis. His translator, Jeffrey Yang, said in an interview with the Star Tribune in 2010 that the collection is divided into 20 sections each relating to the June 4, 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square. 

"The way the book is structured, the poems were written kind of at the same time every year, when Tiananmen happened," Yang said. "Each one is a kind of recollection of a certain aspect of June 4. They're very elegiac. The original title of the book in Chinese is literally something like 'Remembering Six Four.'"

Said Graywolf publisher Fiona McCrae on Monday, "We are devastated by the news of Liu Xiaobo’s diagnosis, which seems particularly cruel given all he has suffered already. We had hoped he would win freedom in very different circumstances.”

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.

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