Talking Volumes

Talking Volumes 2020 season guide

Talking Volumes 2020

Minnesota Public Radio and the Star Tribune are proud to announce the 21st season of Talking Volumes. Talking Volumes is hosted by award-winning MPR News journalist Kerri Miller.

This season, we’re going virtual! All events will be held via webinar and will include a live panel discussion hosted by the Star Tribune.

Featuring stunning new talent and familiar vibrant voices, writing in genres spanning from fiction to nature writing, and enjoyable from the comfort of your own couch, the 21st season of Talking Volumes is one you won’t want to miss.

Talking Volumes announcement Claudia Rankine
Minnesota Public Radio

Sept. 22: Claudia Rankine, author of ‘Just Us: An American Conversation’

Join MPR News journalist Kerri Miller in discussion with acclaimed writer Claudia Rankine about her essay collection, “Just Us: An American Conversation.”

Watch the conversation here.

From the publisher:

From poet, playwright, bestselling author, MacArthur Fellow, and Yale professor Claudia Rankine, “Just Us” is an investigation into what might happen if we rejected politesse and stuffy rules of etiquette in favor of risky, meaningful human connection. The encounters here are Rankine’s effort to collapse the false comforts of liminal and private spaces—the theater, the dinner party, the voting booth. Giving space to the voices and rebuttals of others, these conversations touch on topics as rangy as the political currency of blondness, the 2016 election, and inevitable fissures between longtime friends. Sometimes tender and frequently uncomfortable, these fragments and confrontations contain all the humor, suffering, embarrassment, and joy inherent to human coexistence.

Zeitgeisty and historical, “Just Us” draws on the work of James Baldwin and Emily Dickinson; outlines the construction of whiteness in America; considers Beyoncé, Donald Trump, the Obamas, and Big Little Lies; contains incisive poetry and artistic analysis; and incorporates Facebook posts, tweets, peer-reviewed studies, a transcript of a police training seminar, and letters and emails. In doing so, the book constructs a vital context around the conversations at its center. In its nuance, “Just Us” is an antidote to prescriptivist narratives and surface-level discussions about race and diversity. Refreshingly, the work is animated less by its author’s theories than her curiosity. Asking more often than she answers, Rankine asserts and reconsiders, admits to missteps, muses and wonders in all directions. “I don’t know,” she writes. “I’m simply exploring and not insisting.”

Talking Volumes announcement Helen Macdonald
Minnesota Public Radio

Sept. 30: Helen Macdonald, author of ‘Vesper Flights’

Join MPR News journalist Kerri Miller in discussion with one of our most important nature writers, Helen Macdonald about her newest book, “Vesper Flights.”

Watch the conversation here.

From the publisher:

From The New York Times bestselling author of “H is for Hawk” and winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for nonfiction, comes a transcendent collection of essays about the natural world. “Vesper Flights” is a captivating and foundational book about observation, fascination, time, memory, love and loss and how we make sense of the world around us.

Helen Macdonald’s bestselling debut “H is for Hawk” brought the astonishing story of her relationship with goshawk Mabel to global critical acclaim and announced Macdonald as one of this century’s most important and insightful nature writers. In “Vesper Flights,” Macdonald brings together a collection of her best-loved essays, along with new pieces on topics ranging from nostalgia for a vanishing countryside to the tribulations of farming ostriches to her own private vespers while trying to fall asleep.

Meditating on notions of captivity and freedom, immigration and flight, Helen invites us into her most intimate experiences: observing massive migrations of songbirds from the top of the Empire State Building, watching tens of thousands of cranes in Hungary, seeking the last golden orioles in Suffolk’s poplar forests. She writes with heart-tugging clarity about wild boar, swifts, mushroom hunting, migraines, the strangeness of birds’ nests, and the unexpected guidance and comfort we find when watching wildlife.

Talking Volumes announcement Sarah M. Broom
Minnesota Public Radio

Oct. 6: Sarah M. Broome, author of 'The Yellow House’

Join MPR News journalist Kerri Miller in discussion with author Sarah M. Broome about her National Book Award-winning debut memoir, “The Yellow House.”

Watch the conversation here.

From the publisher:

Winner of the 2019 National Book Award in Nonfiction Named one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, “The Yellow House” is a brilliant, haunting and unforgettable memoir from a stunning new talent about the inexorable pull of home and family, set in a shotgun house in New Orleans East.

In 1961, Sarah M. Broom’s mother Ivory Mae bought a shotgun house in the then-promising neighborhood of New Orleans East and built her world inside of it. It was the height of the Space Race and the neighborhood was home to a major NASA plant—the postwar optimism seemed assured. Widowed, Ivory Mae remarried Sarah’s father Simon Broom; their combined family would eventually number twelve children. But after Simon died, six months after Sarah’s birth, the Yellow House would become Ivory Mae’s thirteenth and most unruly child.

A book of great ambition, Sarah M. Broom’s “The Yellow House” tells a hundred years of her family and their relationship to home in a neglected area of one of America’s most mythologized cities. This is the story of a mother’s struggle against a house’s entropy, and that of a prodigal daughter who left home only to reckon with the pull that home exerts, even after the Yellow House was wiped off the map after Hurricane Katrina. “The Yellow House” expands the map of New Orleans to include the stories of its lesser known natives, guided deftly by one of its native daughters, to demonstrate how enduring drives of clan, pride, and familial love resist and defy erasure. Located in the gap between the “Big Easy” of tourist guides and the New Orleans in which Broom was raised, “The Yellow House” is a brilliant memoir of place, class, race, the seeping rot of inequality, and the internalized shame that often follows. It is a transformative, deeply moving story from an unparalleled new voice of startling clarity, authority, and power.

Talking Volumes announcement Isabel Wilkerson
Minnesota Public Radio

Oct. 13: Isabel Wilkerson, author of 'Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents'

Join MPR News journalist Kerri Miller’s talk with Pulitzer Prize-winner Isabel Wilkerson on her new narrative “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent.”

Watch the conversation here.

From the publisher:

Pulitzer Prize-winner Isabel Wilkerson, the acclaimed bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns, reveals how America has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings and divisions, in her deeply researched and immersive new narrative “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent” “Like other old houses, America has an unseen skeleton, a caste system as central to its operation as the studs and joists we cannot see in the physical building we call home,” she writes, explaining how the errors and elements of the past are still active and revealing themselves in the urgent problems of today.

Drawing parallels between the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson outlines a revolutionary framework for understanding how caste plays out across civilizations, both historically and today. Backed by years of research, she identifies eight ideological pillars that underlie all caste systems. Using riveting stories from the lives of Martin Luther King Jr., baseball's Satchel Paige, an ordinary single father and his toddler son, and many others, Wilkerson shows how the insidious undertow of caste is experienced by each of us every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their debasement of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.

Beautifully written and wholly original, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a re-examination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives in America today.

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