Fireside Reading Series & Podcast

Fireside Reading SeriesSix Weeks of Readings by the Fire

Wednesdays, January 18-February 22, 7 p.m.
Hamline Midway Library, 
1558 W. Minnehaha Ave.

With cookies in one hand and coffee in the other, cozy up to the fire for six weeks of free readings. Now in its 23rd season, the Fireside Reading Series is one of The Friends’ oldest and most popular events. The series annually highlights the work of some of Minnesota’s finest writers who have published a new work in the previous year.

Please note: a wood-burning fire accompanies the program.



January 18: Mary Casanova, Ice-Out

Ice-Out returns to the frigid and often brutal Prohibition-era borderland of Casanova’s beloved novel Frozen, and to the characters who made it a favorite among readers of all ages. Owen Jensen, nineteen and suddenly responsible for keeping his mother and five brothers alive, finds himself walking on thin ice – literally and figuratively – on Rainy Lake, in the northern reaches of Minnesota. Smitten with Frozen’s Sadie Rose, Owen is struggling to make something of himself at a time when no one seems to hold the moral high ground. Bootlegging is rife, corruption is rampant, and lumber barons run roughshod over the people and the land. As hard as things seem when his father dies, stranding his impoverished family, they get considerably tougher—and more complicated—when Owen gets caught up in the suspicious deaths of a sheriff and deputy on the border.

Mary Casanova is author of more than thirty books for young readers, ranging from picture books to novels. Her work has earned the American Library Association Notable Award, Parents’ Choice Gold Award, Booklist Editors’ Choice, as well as two Minnesota Book Awards, among other accolades.
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January 25: Lara Mimosa Montes, Chris Santiago, Sun Yung Shin

These gifted poets explore language, meaning, and identity in new and compelling ways with their new work. 


Lara Mimosa Montes, The Somnambulist

At once a writer’s memoir, coming-of-age story, family history, and true crime drama, Montes startling and powerful work weaves together multiple stories in fragments to create a compelling picture of a life becoming.

Lara Mimosa Montes is a writer based in New York and Minneapolis. Her work has appeared in Fence, BOMB, Poor Claudia, The Third Rail, Powder Keg, and elsewhere. Lara holds a Ph.D. in English from The Graduate Center, City University of New York. She also teaches poetry at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and works as a contributing editor at Triple Canopy. Her first book, The Somnambulist, was recently published by Horse Less Press. She was born in the Bronx.


Chris Santiago, Tula

Prismatic, startling, rich with meaning yet sparely composed, Chris Santiago’s debut collection of poems begins with one word and transforms it, in a dazzling sleight of hand, into a multivalent symbol for the immigrant experience. Tula: Santiago reveals to readers a distant land devastated by war. Tula: its music beckons in rhythms, time signatures, and lullabies. Tula: can the poem, he seems to ask, build an imaginative bridge back to a family lost to geography, history, and a forgotten language?

Inspired by the experiences of the second-generation immigrant who does not fully acquire the language of his parents, Tula paints the portrait of a mythic homeland that is part ghostly underworld, part unknowable paradise.

Chris Santiago was awarded the 2016 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry for his manuscript Tula. His poems, short stories, and criticism have appeared in FIELDPleiades, the Asian American Literary Review, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from Kundiman and the Mellon Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies, and nominations for Best New Poets and others. Born and raised in the Twin Cities, he received his PhD in the literature and creative writing program at the University of Southern California and is an assistant professor in the English department at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

Unbearable SplendorSun Yung Shin, Unbearable Splendor

Who is guest, and who is host? Adoption, Antigone, zombies, clones, and minotaurs—all building blocks, forming and reforming our ideas.

In addition to Unbearable Splendor, Sun Yung Shin is the author of poetry collections Rough, and Savage and Skirt Full of Black, which won an Asian American Literary Award. She coedited the anthology Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption, and is the author of Cooper’s Lesson, a bilingual Korean/English illustrated book for children. She’s received grants and fellowships from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Bush Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, and elsewhere. She lives in Minneapolis and teaches at the Perpich Center for the Arts.

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The Annie YearFebruary 1: Stephanie Wilbur Ash, The Annie Year

Tall, trusted Tandy Caide, CPA, is a long-time patron of the arts in her town, which is why you will find her sitting in the front row of the high school’s annual musical production. This year is an Annie year—and it would be no different than other years were it not for the high school’s hiring of a new vocational agriculture (Vo-Ag) teacher. With his beguiling ponytail and decorative beaded belt, Kenny catches Tandy’s eye immediately. Ignoring the fact of her slovenly husband—who takes most of his meals in their hot tub—Tandy decides to entertain Kenny’s advances.

Stephanie Ash is a former editor at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. She lives in Minneapolis and Mankato, Minnesota, and is originally from rural Iowa. This is her first novel.

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Thrill Me

February 8: Benjamin Percy, Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction

In his first book of nonfiction, Benjamin Percy challenges the notion that literary and genre fiction are somehow mutually exclusive. The title essay is an ode to the kinds of books that make many first love fiction: science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, horror, from J. R. R. Tolkien to Anne Rice, Ursula K. Le Guin to Stephen King. Percy’s own academic experience banished many of these writers in the name of what is “literary” and what is “genre.” Then he discovered Michael Chabon, Aimee Bender, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, and others who employ techniques of genre fiction while remaining literary writers. In fifteen essays on the craft of fiction, Percy looks to disparate sources such as Jaws, Blood Meridian, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to discover how contemporary writers engage issues of plot, suspense, momentum, and the speculative, as well as character, setting, and dialogue. An urgent and entertaining missive on craft, Thrill Me brims with Percy’s distinctive blend of anecdotes, advice, and close reading, all in the service of one dictum: Thrill the reader.

Benjamin Percy is the author of three novels, most recently The Dead Lands, as well as two books of short stories. His honors include an NEA Fellowship, the Whiting Writers’ Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and the Plimpton Prize.

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We're in America Now

February 15: Fred Amram, We’re In America Now: A Survivor’s Stories

These compelling stories form a riveting memoir that begins with the author’s birth during the rise of Hitler in 1930s Germany. He and his surviving family escape to Holland and sail to America where they encounter many challenges as immigrants in a new world. This country truly becomes a land of opportunity where one can build a new life and become more than a “Holocaust survivor.” Midwest Book Review states “We’re In America Now: A Survivor’s Stories is an unforgettable memoir, not only of isolation and genocide during the Holocaust of World War II, but also of hope and commitment to social justice.”

Fred Amram is a retired University of Minnesota professor of communication and creativity. He spent his early years in Hanover, Germany, where he experienced the Holocaust from its inception in 1933. In addition to We’re In America Now, his articles and essays have been published in American Jewish World, Whistling Shade, and more

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Sherlock Holmes and the Eisendorf Enigma

February 22: Larry Millett, Sherlock Holmes and the Eisendorf Enigma

Dogged by depression, doubt, and—as a trip to the Mayo Clinic has revealed—emphysema, 66-year-old Sherlock Holmes is preparing to return to England when he receives a shock: a note slipped under his hotel room door, from a vicious murderer he’d nearly captured in Munich in 1892. The murderer, known as the Monster of Munich, announces that he has relocated to Eisendorf, a tiny village near the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. If Holmes is not what he once was, the same can be said for Eisendorf: once a thriving community founded by German idealists but now a dying town with only forty residents—two of whom have, indeed, died recently under highly mysterious circumstances. Replete with all the gothic richness of Millett’s earlier Holmes novels, Sherlock Holmes and the Eisendorf Enigma links events in 1892 Germany with those in small-town Minnesota in 1920 in a double mystery that tests the aging detective’s mettle—and the reader’s nerve—as never before.

Larry Millett is the author of twenty books, including seven mystery novels—mostly set in Minnesota—featuring Sherlock Holmes and St. Paul detective Shadwell Rafferty. A longtime reporter and architecture critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Millett is also the author of numerous books on architecture, most recently Minnesota Modern: Architecture and Life at Midcentury, winner of a 2016 Minnesota Book Award.

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Continuing last year’s efforts, The Friends will offer the entire season as a free podcast, available on the website (links below) and on iTunes.

Past Events

Fireside 2016 thumbnailsFaith Sullivan – Jan. 20, 2016
Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse

Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse celebrates the strength and resourcefulness of independent women, the importance of community, and the transformative power of reading. Listen to the podcast >>

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Rick Shefchik – Jan. 27, 2016
Everybody’s Heard About the Bird: The True Story of 1960s Rock ‘n’ Roll in Minnesota

This behind-the-scenes, up-close-and-personal account relates how a handful of Minnesota rock bands erupted out of a small Midwest market and made it big. Listen to the podcast >>

Beth Dooley - thumbnailBeth Dooley – Feb. 3, 2016
In Winter’s Kitchen: Growing Roots and Breaking Bread in the Northern Heartland

Through In Winter’s Kitchen, Dooley shares her journey of coming to know and be an integral part of the Heartland food community. From the husband and wife who run one of the largest organic farms in the region to Native Americans harvesting wild rice, and from award-winning cheesemakers to Hmong immigrant farmers growing the best sweet potatoes in the country. Listen to the podcast >>

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Erika Lee – Feb. 10, 2016
The Making of Asian America: A History

In the past fifty years, Asian Americans have helped change the face of America and are now the fastest growing group in the United States. But as award-winning historian Erika Lee reminds us, Asian Americans also have deep roots in the country. The Making of Asian America tells the little-known history of Asian Americans and their role in American life, from the arrival of the first Asians in the Americas to the present-day. Listen to the podcast >>

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Anton Treuer – Feb. 17, 2016
Warrior Nation: A History of the Red Lake Ojibwe

Ojibwe historian and linguist Anton Treuer presents his latest work, Warrior Nation: A History of the Red Lake Ojibwe, a fascinating history which offers not only a chronicle of the Red Lake Nation but also a compelling perspective on a difficult piece of U.S. history. Listen to the podcast >>

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Catherine Madison – Feb. 24, 2016
The War Came Home with Him

The War Came Home with Him, tells the stories of two survivors of one man’s war: a father who withstood a prison camp’s unspeakable inhumanity and a daughter who withstood the residual cruelty that came home with him. Listen to the podcast >>



Marlon James – Jan 21, 2015

Novelist Marlon James kicks off the series with a reading from his new book, A Brief History of Seven Killings, which won the 2015 Man Booker Prize. Listen to the podcast >>

Swanson-StolenWilliam Swanson – Jan 28, 2015

Stolen from the Garden William Swanson joins the series to discuss his new book, Stolen from the Garden, the thrilling true crime story of the 1972 abduction of Virginia Piper, one of the largest kidnap-for-ransom cases in the history of the FBI. Listen to the podcast >>



Ping-and-LefesteyWang Ping and Jim Lenfestey – Feb 4, 2015

Ten Thousand Waves and The Cave Wang Ping and James Lenfestey return to the Fireside Series for an exploration of China through poetry and prose. Listen to the podcast >>


Lorna-LandvikLorna Landvik – Feb 11, 2015

Best to Laugh Writer and comedian Lorna Landvik joins the series to read from her new novel, Best to Laugh, which follows her latest irresistible character, Candy Pekkala, from Minnesota to Hollywood as she pursues her dream of becoming a comedian. Listen to the podcast >>


EskensAllen Eskens – Feb 18, 2015

 The Life We Bury Author Allen Eskens adds some literary chills to the series when he reads from his twisting and evocative mystery The Life We Bury, called a “masterful debut” in a starred review by Publisher’s Weekly. Listen to the podcast >>



Linda-LeGardeLinda LeGarde Grover – Feb 25, 2015

The Road Back to Sweetgrass Linda LeGarde Grover closes the series by sharing her powerful debut novel of love, hardship, and family bonds: The Road Back to Sweetgrass. Listen to the podcast >>