The 20th season of Talking Volumes will bring a famed Minnesota novelist back home to discuss his first book in more than 10 years — a memoir, not a novel.
This year’s lineup is weighted toward nonfiction: two memoirs, a poetry collection, a deep dive into religious history, a witty cultural critique and just one novel.
Everything begins, though, with that novel. Alice Hoffman, bestselling author of “The Dovekeepers” and “The Marriage of Opposites,” will discuss her latest book, “The World That We Knew,” Sept. 25 at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. Set during World War II, it’s the story of a young girl whose mother sends her away from Berlin to escape the Nazis. She gets help from a rabbi, his daughter and a magical golem.
Talking Volumes, a partnership between the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio, branches out to Minneapolis this fall with two events at the Parkway Theater. Poet Saeed Jones will be there Oct. 9 to talk about his new memoir, “How We Fight for Our Lives,” about growing up black and gay in the American South. His first collection of poetry, “Prelude to Bruise,” published in 2014 by Coffee House Press of Minneapolis, was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Award.
Minnesota-born writer Tim O’Brien, author of the acclaimed Vietnam War novels “The Things They Carried” and the National Book Award-winning “Going After Cacciato,” will be at the Parkway Oct. 16. His new book, “Dad’s Maybe Book,” is a memoir, inspired by becoming a father late in life. Feeling moved to write down his life for his young sons, O’Brien has laced the book with flashbacks of his youth in Worthington, Minn., and service in Vietnam. The work is permeated with a deep awareness of mortality.
British author Karen Armstrong, who was part of Talking Volumes in 2014, returns to the Fitzgerald Nov. 7 to discuss her new book, “The Lost Art of Scripture: Rescuing the Sacred Texts.” Sacred books such as the Bible, the Torah and the Qur’an have, in modern times, been interpreted narrowly and sometimes literally, Armstrong posits, which leads to deep misunderstandings of faith and belief.
New York Times columnist Lindy West will be at the Fitz Nov. 14 with “The Witches Are Coming,” a funny and insightful book of cultural criticism that looks at the age of Trump, the #MeToo movement, and other manifestations of pop culture. We did not get here in a vacuum, West points out, and she examines films, TV shows and the internet to trace the roots of today’s America — and how it is changing.
The season concludes Nov. 21 at the Fitzgerald with Tracy K. Smith, former U.S. poet laureate and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her collection, “Life on Mars,” published by Minneapolis’ Graywolf Press. Smith will discuss her 2018 collection “Wade in the Water” — also published by Graywolf — which, as the Star Tribune noted in a review, “presents a clear-eyed portrait of the present, reconsiders the past and offers love as an ethical response to injustice.”
Hosted by MPR’s Kerri Miller, all shows are at 7 p.m. and include musical guests, real-time open captioning and signed books for sale. Talking Volumes has hosted more than 100 celebrated writers over the years, including Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Joan Didion, Robert Bly and Colson Whitehead.