By Lise Erdrich
Coffee House Press, $15
Lise Erdrich’s first collection of short stories portrays life in the small towns and on the reservations of Minnesota and North Dakota. Her poetic prose details the tension between contemporary life and Native American culture and tradition in stories such as “Tribe Unknown (Fleur-de-Lis),” where a granddaughter unaware of her ancestry views a museum artifact made by a grandmother she never knew existed. Night Train has its share of coming-of-age tales—a well-worn topic in literature—but with her distinctive voice and knack for storytelling, Erdrich delivers a collection that is anything but trite.
The Lyncher in Me
By Warren Read
MHS PRESS, $25
In the wee hours of the morning on June 14, 1920, a mob of more than 10,000 brutally beat and hanged three young black circus workers falsely accused of raping a white teenage girl—in Duluth. More than 80 years later, Seattle schoolteacher Warren Read cannot escape the pain from that fateful day. The great-grandson of the man responsible for inciting the riot, Read tells a beautifully haunting tale of his journey to confront both personal demons— his family’s and his own. Though at times uneven, the work more than compensates by tapping the essence of what it is to be human.
Even If It Kills Me
Motion City Soundtrack
So this is what the kids are listening to these days, and not just in Minnesota. The third outing from this Twin Cities pop-punk band has rocketed them to the big time. And not just MTV big, but Japanese booking-agent big (yes, now they can say they’re huge in Japan). The snappy, bass-heavy beats on this disk will easily get teens on their feet, but the crossover appeal is also undeniable. “Let’s save birds from Prince William Sound and skateboard through the mall,” croons the band on “It Had to be You.” Awww. Who isn’t moved by that? Channel your inner 16-year-old and enjoy.
Doomtree RecordsTo say Doomtree is up-and-coming is a little like saying U2 is, well, kind of popular. Duh. On its latest release, the Minneapolis hip-hop collective shows why it’s ascendant, featuring its entire crew for the first time. It’s essentially a mix CD, a compilation of leftovers from other work. It’s also, technically, an “unofficial” release, but there is certainly nothing unofficial about the album’s uniform talent and polished rhythms. Of particular note are the clear, strong voice of Dessa and the lively, incisive rhymes of rising rapper P.O.S. See if you can resist shaking a tail feather to “Savion Glover” and “Veteran.”
Paganini and PaganismIn the family of Minnesota Orchestra conductor Osmo Vänskä, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But the flavor and form might surprise you. Vänskä’s son Olli, who lives in Helsinki, is a member of Turisas, a hot Finnish folk-metal band with a new album, The Varangian Way, and plans to tour the United States this spring. Wielding an electric violin and wearing face paint, the 26-year-old jams with musicians that describe themselves as “war mongers” and perform amid a sea of swords and battle-axes. Check them out when the band invades St. Paul, on May 2, as part of its Paganfest 2008 tour.