This was a fun, quick read that I found to be a fascinating idea, a thought-provoking smorgasbord of fiction. A wide stable of authors from a variety...moreThis was a fun, quick read that I found to be a fascinating idea, a thought-provoking smorgasbord of fiction. A wide stable of authors from a variety of genres took up the challenge to write a concise, self contained story in under 25 words, "hinting" at things going on behind the carefully chosen, spare narratives. I read the book on recommendation from a "flash fiction" class I took at the Loft, and I feel that such pared down writing is quite a challenging writing excercise and it was very interesting to see how such authors as Joyce Carol Oates, Nick Mamatas, and , among many others, responded. The stories themselves are organized by topic, including Life and Death, Love and Hate, and everything else, though many of the stories seem to hint at seedy, or even disturbing, secrets; murder, betrayal, and sorrow are behind many of them, though a few took a more light-hearted, or comical bent. In any case, this anthology is definitely worth checking out, especially for those looking for "flash fiction" taken to the next level! (less)
The Kensington runestone is a unique artifact, in my opinion, the center of a debate that apparently only continues to grow with time. Whether the sto...moreThe Kensington runestone is a unique artifact, in my opinion, the center of a debate that apparently only continues to grow with time. Whether the stone itself is a record of a medieval expedition to the center of the North American continent or simply a wonderfully realized example of Scandinavian immigrant ingenuity and humor, it has become an important aspect of Minnesota history. Many books have recently been published in attempts to prove the stone's "genuineness" while mainstream historians and archaeologists remain unconvinced, but many Minnesotans seem to regard the stone as an beloved roadside attraction catering to local pride in "Viking" heritage, regardless of its actual origin. While I conclude, like historian Theodore Blegen in this readable history of the Kensington Runestone, that the stone is "probably" a nineteenth century creation it remains, to me, emblematic of Minnesota culture.
In "Kensington Rune Stone: New Light on an Old Riddle," Blegen (a.k.a. "Mr. Minnesota History") writes probably the most readable and accessible overview of the runestone story, including its "discovery" and introduction into the popular culture of the region. In spite of being now forty years old, much of what Blegen discusses in his book are still very relevant to a balanced historical viewpoint on the stone today. The stone, whether "real" or a "hoax" entered into a world that was hungry for its existence, with Scandinavian immigrants looking for an icon to draw them into the landscape of their new American homeland and the mythology of the stone, courtesy of Norwegian American Hjalmar Holand, fit this notion very well. Blegen's writing concisely argues his points and chronicles the development of the stone from debunked hoax to revered regional relic over the course of the twentieth century, one that continues to evolve as new "legends" and "facts" are added every decade. Blegen's account, however, still forms a base for the best, most nuanced understanding of the runestone that I have round in my studies, and should be required reading for anyone interested in studying the Kensington Runestone, no matter their own personal views. (less)
Pablo Mitchell’s Coyote Nation is a very interesting work that tackles a wide variety of issues that surrounded life in turn of the century New Mexico...morePablo Mitchell’s Coyote Nation is a very interesting work that tackles a wide variety of issues that surrounded life in turn of the century New Mexico through the lens of how people viewed the human body. With Anglo-American newcomers arriving in the region, uncomfortable encounters ensued as they tried to integrate into or dominate the Hispano and Native American populations who lived there. Mitchell explores the creation of a racial order different then other areas of the country, but also falling into similar ideas of sexuality and modernization as elsewhere in America. In addition, he deals with the often-neglected status of New Mexico as falling into the conception of a colonial state. Most interestingly, Mitchell frames these diverse ideas in Coyote Nation under an argument that human bodies and “body comportment” is key to many of these themes. He addresses complexities of how various groups saw sex, clothing, public conduct, and disease to illustrate how these ideas of the proper, “natural” human body were fundamental to racialization of different groups in New Mexico.
Mitchell manages to pull together the diverse, widely ranging themes that he brings into Coyote Nation making it a very informative look into the formation of race and sex roles in a particularly racially complex area and time of the United States. Due to its strong themes and unusual subject matters, Coyote Nation should prove interesting to any student or scholar of immigration, ethnicity, gender studies, race, or imperialism in America or Latin America and may provide a variety of research ideas as well.(less)
In "I Go to America", Joy Lintelman has written a very readable and interesting account of Swedish women immigration to Minnesota, using a very effect...moreIn "I Go to America", Joy Lintelman has written a very readable and interesting account of Swedish women immigration to Minnesota, using a very effective backdrop of the diary of Mina Anderson, who later in her life recorded her thoughts on her life as a Swedish immigrant in the late nineteenth century. Anderson’s account allows Lintelman a wonderful launching point to explore the meanings of immigration for Swedish women in detail, and Scandinavian groups in general in turn of the century Minnesota. "I Go to America" should provide much information on the place of single Swedish women in the immigration patterns of the period and among both other Scandinavian immigrants and American society as a whole. Lintelman, in using Anderson’s diary and the writings of other single Swedish women who made the journey from Sweden to America in the period between the 1880s and the 1920s, a group that made up a high percentage of immigrants from Sweden at the time, challenges many prevailing attitudes towards this group. Exemplified by writings such as novelist Vilhelm Moberg, whose literary creation Kristina is a melancholy figure who obediently followed her husband to Minnesota while forever regretting the loss of her beloved Sweden, this view took Swedish and other Scandinavian women as often following more proactive men to America and remaining always in longing for their lost homelands. Using letters and diaries such as Anderson’s, Lintelman argues that this view is incorrect and that the high percentage of single Swedish women made the transatlantic journey as much for economic reasons as their male counterparts and regretted the immigration just as little. In the end, this his a highly evocative and interesting resource on Scandinavian American gender roles around the turn of the century both in their homelands and the Upper Midwest, and would be very useful for anyone interested in the subject. (less)
This is an extremely exhaustive account of the creation of Norwegian American culture in the United States, nearly overwhelming in the sheer amount of...moreThis is an extremely exhaustive account of the creation of Norwegian American culture in the United States, nearly overwhelming in the sheer amount of information Lovoll crams into the book. It is a difficult prospect to study and map the similarities of 3,869,395 people spread across the entire country, but this book manages to do so. While generalizing in some things, the book manages to present a coherent illustration of a quite interesting modern ethnic group.
Growing up Norwegian Lutheran in Minnesota, many of the themes Lovoll discusses, from the Lutheran religion to the still mostly rural character of the group is familiar to me but I also found many things that explained these influences to me. I was also impressed that Lovoll discussed both the positives and negatives of Norwegian American culture, including its ethnocentric character (holding themselves better than other ethnic groups) and even its ambivalent relationship to modern Norway. In all, this book is highly informative for anyone interested in learning more about how the slightly contradictory Norwegian American culture evolved. It is readable, but still a mainly academic work, chock full of interviews, statistics, and surveys that back up Lovoll's arguments. (less)