Learning in traditional ways from Native children’s literature

n Ojibwe tradition, as well as in all other Native cultures that I know of, womanhood from birth until the return to the spirit world is a sacred state, honored and respected. Countless generations of storytelling, combined with observation and experience, are the foundation of Ojibwe teaching and learning. For girls, this has been intertwined with preparation for the passages of the female life; the words themselves, ikwe for woman and kwesens (“small woman”) for girl, indicate a meaningful seamlessness in the cosmology of tribal womanhood. The position of Ojibwe woman is equal in status and power to that of Ojibwe men; this concept is so basic to our worldview that it is rarely even stated. Many Native women feel that our cultural role, including our gifts and resulting obligations, is beyond the constructs of majority American feminism, that “indigenous feminism” as defined by majority feminists is not empowering and inclusive so much as simply missing the point. We are Native women; our culture honors womanhood. The students in the American Indian Women course that I teach, both Native and non-Native, have sometimes struggled to understand (and to reconcile with some preconceived stereotypes) the manifestations of female power and position in cultures unfamiliar to them. As their teacher – a storyteller and an older Ojibwe woman – I thought that they might find it helpful to apply their own experience and knowledge to their questions by stepping back to their childhood days through an examination of Native children’s literature. Diverse though our experiences may be, we were all children once, and I believe that reading children’s literature helps us to see and learn through the lens of that commonality. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Beyond awareness: Mental Illness Empathy Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s a good time to look back on what two great writers have said about their experiences with mental illness. These accounts remind us that even though we’ve made great progress with diagnosis and treatment, we are a long way from fully understanding the darkest corners of the human psyche.Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of William Styron’s groundbreaking national bestseller, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness. Styron, best known for The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie’s Choice, has been haled by many as the first writer to truly capture the “full terror of depression’s psychic landscape.” Darkness Visible illuminated the torment of depression and the taboos of suicide, but whether it increased awareness and decreased stigmatization as much as was hoped and predicted is hard to say. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Book arts community comes together for launch, reading

Cave Paper and The American Craft Council will sponsor a poetry reading by Stuart Kestenbaum when he visits the Twin Cities in October. A reading and book signing will take place on Saturday, October 5 from 7:00 to 8:00 pm, at the American Craft Council Library, located at 1224 Marshall Ave in Minneapolis. An author’s reception will begin at 6:30 pm. The event is free and open to the public.The event will celebrate the release of Kestenbaum’s latest book, A Deep Blue Amen, which was published by Amanda Degener, co-proprietor of Cave Paper. It is letterpress-printed calligraphy scribed by Jan Owen on indigo-dyed handmade flax paper made by Degener. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | 2014 St Paul Almanac Exhibition & Book Release

September 5 through September 29, 2013Open during AZ Gallery hours: Thursday & Friday 5:00-8:00, Saturday & Sunday 9:00-3:00And Open at The Black Dog Cafe during the Cafe business hoursAZ Gallery, Black Dog Café and Wine Bar and Clouds in Water Zen Center308 Prince Street, St. Paul, MN 55101. Located in the Northern Warehouse  http://theazgallery.org/2013/09/2014-st-paul-almanac-exhibition-book-release/ Buy 2014 Saint Paul Almanac (8th edition)  – http://saintpaulalmanac.org/online-store/ 
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Roosevelt Library: Mission-style beauty reopens in South Minneapolis

UPDATED 6/4/2013 • On Saturday, June 1, the scene at the newly reopened Roosevelt Library in South Minneapolis was a happy one. Neighbors, local dignitaries, and Hennepin County Library staff were on hand to celebrate the 15 month long renovation of this beloved neighborhood landmark.As soon as the ribbon cutting ceremony ended around 10 a.m., the door to the library was opened and people streamed in, anxious for a look at the redone interior. Many families with young children were in attendance and they immediately headed to the inviting, kid-sized bins of picture books, expressing delight at what they found. “The library is great,” said a father of two young readers. “It’s beautiful. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Cookbooks at Magers and Quinn

Who has the best cookbook collection in town?While I love going to the downtown Minneapolis library to look for old gems that I haven’t heard of because they aren’t displayed on bookstore window fronts, I do still love perusing what the folks at Magers and Quinn have sourced. About a year ago, I came upon Grandma and Grandpa Cook at Magers and Quinn. This is a cookbook that compiles stories from grandparents in Hong Kong, what they like to eat and a recipe. There are sentimental stories of childhood treats as well as stories of strife…a grandma who recounted her story of how she was sold as a child and somehow made it to Hong Kong is featured in this book…sharing a recipe.I love the photos of these grandparents, dressed in their style, so similar to what my own late grandparents wore when I saw them during my trips to Hong Kong. There is a grandma with the patterned long sleeved buttoned down shirt and matching pants that only women in their late 60’s wear (well, in the 1980s…I guess they’d be 80 now). There is the grandpa with his white shirt tucked into his trousers with a dark belt and sneakers. Continue Reading