Jim

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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Refugee

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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Contrast

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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Unseen

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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Camp

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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Luxury

I’m impressed with the optimism that people in Montrose, the small-town setting of my new book, have brought to problem-solving. They make pessimism look like a luxury.

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