Veterans like Terri Wilcox understand the potential of another man or woman making the transition from military to civilian life.

Civilians employers who have hired her “needed someone who can  focus on getting the mission done, AND smile and say good morning. My military background has led me to this. The training. The level of trust.  All of the military bearing. All of that has prepared me to be a productive member of society. From military to civilian, it definitely is a transition.

"I would offer to those that are getting out: 'Take a deep breath. You can do it.'”

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Perhaps it’s the plainspoken tone and humor. Perhaps it’s the mentions of the mighty Mississippi. Or that the main character Cedar, who hovers on the border of adulthood, is a fugitive traveling on a kind of underground railroad for much of the book. She literally burrows beneath St. Paul in some passages. Whatever the reason, Erdrich brought Twain to mind. Future Home of the Living God could be read as a multicultural, feminist Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

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Some of “Refuge-e” reads like an over-earnest high school valedictory. But if the young autobiographer’s farewell to childhood falls short, it’s because he reaches so high.

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Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” is a bracing study of contrast at a time when America has a president who compared anti-racists to the white nationalists, neo-Nazis and KKK members who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia a year ago.

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The protagonist of Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” is anguished, alienated and traumatized by a brutality into which society thrust him, then refused to acknowledge. After a psychiatrist in Montrose, Colorado made the connection for me, I was able to hear the words of Ellison’s fictional character coming from the mouths of very real military veterans: “All things were indeed awash in my mind. I longed for home.”

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Denver artist Sarah Fukami grew up hearing relatives’ stories about being among some 120,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese living in the United States during World War II who were forced from their homes on the U.S. West Coast and elsewhere and held without charge or due process in barracks-like camps.

She knows many other camp survivors refused to talk about their experiences, out of shame or for fear of stoking resentment in their children and grandchildren. Fukami said her family shared their stories as a lesson that “sometimes bad things will happen to you, but you can persevere.

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