Virginia is hot as blazes in July so why not take a literal, or at least literary, journey to a cooler place? You don’t have to leave to get the benefits of travel; pick up a book about someplace chill and let your mind take you there. Lake Superior is darn cold, you betcha y’all, and that’s where I just came from. I love to read novels set in the places to which I’m traveling so in anticipation of this vacation destination, Minneapolis and the Apostle Islands, of course I had to stock up on fiction featuring those distant places. The upper Midwest and Canada are great settings for fiction no matter where you’re headed–it gets super cold which can be scary (if you’re me), there are wolves, bears, and sundry carnivores aplenty, plus the mosquitoes are as big as Volkswagens. Also, the accent and all references to hotdish are totally charming.
History of Wolves would have been perfect for the trip if I hadn’t already read it, and I had no trouble finding authors who call Minnesota home (Louise Erdrich, Marlon James, and Lesley Nneka Arimah, Sinclair Lewis and even Garrison Keillor just to name a few). I wanted something I hadn’t heard of yet so I went in search of local reviews and came across a City Pages article covering the 15 best books set in Minnesota. I picked a couple:
The Long Shining Waters by Danielle Sosin
Winner of the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, this is the story of 3 women occupying the same space around Lake Superior at three different points in time: An Ojibwe woman in 1622, a Norwegian immigrant in 1902, and a bar owner in 2000. The story is as much about the landscape and environment and how that shapes the lives of those living there, as it is about the women themselves.
Boarded Windows by Dylan Hicks is partly set in Uptown Minneapolis among apartments and record stores. The narrator navigates a strained relationship with his oddball musician father and the book is full of music and pop culture references. It even comes with a free download of Minneapolis musician Dylan Hicks’ album. Bonus!
It wouldn’t be a literary vacay without a stop at 1 (or 10) local bookstores. A Minneapolis must-see is the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. They have cool exhibits, great classes and programs on all things book, ink and paper, a zine library, another library, a bookstore, and goshdarnit just about any combination of thought and text you could hope for. It’s a very cool space (see photos below) and you can get coffee and wine, so I filled out a change of address form because I live there now. Make at least one more stop to check out Louise Erdrich’s awesome indie bookstore, Birchbark Books and Native Arts.