38 Snelling Ave S, St. Paul, MN 55105 • 651-225-8989
the ncb newsletter
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Howdy, readers! I hope everyone's doing alright in spite of winter doldrums. I myself feel I've only been 75% awake at most since January. But I did just finish an amazing book, and I'll tell you all about it below!

This week we have four of the past few years' biggest hits coming to paperback, my (lengthy) review of an incredible and hard-hitting sci-fi novel, the story of a Minnesota girl gone radical, five (FIVE!) local poets with upcoming readings, and some fun facts about bones...

All that and more, in this edition of the NCB Newsletter!
Event Spotlight: Rachael Hanel, Tuesday, March 21st
Next Chapter Booksellers is thrilled to host is Minnesota State University associate professor of creative nonfiction and journalism Rachael Hanel to discuss her new book Not the Camilla We Knew, which investigates the mystery of how an ordinary Minnesota girl came to be, briefly, one of the most wanted domestic terrorists in the United States.
Behind every act of terrorism there is someone’s child. Take Camilla Hall, a pastor’s daughter from small-town Minnesota who joined the ranks of the notorious Symbionese Liberation Army before dying in a shootout with LAPD in 1974. Through in-depth research and extensive interviews, Hanel pieces together Camilla’s transformation from a gentle, artistic young woman, working for change within the system, into a gun-wielding criminal involved in the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. During this time of mounting unrest, Camilla Hall’s story is of urgent interest for what it reveals about the forces of radicalization. 

Join us a week from tomorrow (Tuesday, March 21st) at 6pm for this reading and signing! Optionally, you can RSVP on Facebook here and reserve your copy of the book on our website here.
News In Photos
Jean put together a nice Women's History Month display for us -- check it out right by the front door next time you come in.
2023 calendars are now 50% off, so if you've been holding out, this is the time!
It's not too late to get organized.
We've got some classy (and delightfully snarky) new cards from Chez Gagne. These are letterpress printed, with unique wire clips (which can be detached and reused -- as, say, bookmarks, for instance). Find these on the spinners by the register!
Tuesday, we hosted V.V. Ganeshenanthan (above) discussing her new book Brotherless Night with Aamina Ahmad, Zeke Caligiuri, and Lesley Nneka Arimah. Signed copies of Brotherless Night are available here until we run out! (Thank you Caroline Casey for the photo!)
New Books

Old Babes in the Wood — Margaret Atwood

One of the great visionaries of the modern canon returns with fifteen stories exploring the full warp and weft of experience. The two sisters of the title story grapple with loss and memory on a perfect summer evening; “Impatient Griselda” explores alienation with a fresh twist on a folkloric classic; and “My Evil Mother” is told by the daughter of a purported witch. At the heart of the collection are seven stories that follow a married couple across the decades. Returning to short fiction for the first time since 2014, Atwood showcases both her creativity and her humanity in these remarkable tales which by turns delight, illuminate, and quietly devastate.

Poverty, By America — Matthew Desmond

In this landmark book, acclaimed sociologist Matthew Desmond draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor. Those of us who are financially secure exploit the poor, driving down their wages while forcing them to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. Elegantly written and fiercely argued, this compassionate book gives us new ways of thinking about a morally urgent problem. Desmond builds a startlingly original and ambitious case for ending poverty. He calls on us all to become poverty abolitionists, engaged in a politics of collective belonging to usher in a new age of shared prosperity and, at last, true freedom.

Chain-Gang All-Stars Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Being a bookseller means reading books, loads of books, before their release dates. It's gauche to complain about getting books for free, but looking at galleys often feels like flipping channels or scrolling through Netflix. I gave up partway through a couple galleys this year, and regretted finishing a few others; nothing was gripping me and I began to worry I was burned out on reading. But it's all worth it when you get to something that you can tell is going to be a part of the cultural conversation for months if not years, and you get the honor of introducing a couple people to it. And that's this book.

Chain-Gang All-Stars is science fiction with nonfiction footnotes. It principally follows one team (or 'Chain') in the titular blood-sport-reality-television hybrid. The tone is an exercise in opposites: hyperbolic then restrained, acerbic then idealistic, brutal and tender, satirical yet dead serious. Most of the Chain's gladiators, including the wonderfully-realized leading couple, are guilty of murder or worse. Yet Adjei-Brenyah and many of his characters believe (or try to believe) that people are not defined by their worst actions. The author extends this even to those who stage and watch the death-game: they float on constructions of bad faith and double standard, every bit as layered as the enablers of real-world atrocity.
...despite its long trek through darkness this is a book dedicated to love, pure love, in a way that repeatedly brought me to tears.
It's so emotionally and viscerally gripping that you might recoil, feeling that you, the reader, are among the audience sitting ringside at the BattleGround. But you're different, because you know these characters' inner lives -- aren't you? And this is its brilliance: exploring that fuzzy ground between humanizing and dehumanizing, where entertainment media and depictions of the imprisoned both frequently arrive. The Chain-Gang's incarcerated warriors, the Links, exist in this grey area, caught between the need to play up their assumed personae to score sponsorships, and the desire to be recognized and remembered as their authentic selves, or to convey the plight of their hell to the viewers at home. These viewers, in turn, see them as superhuman heroes, or as criminals unworthy of human rights, or both. When a Link perishes, they are given a eulogy in the book's footnotes, joining the other names there -- the names of real activists killed by police or prisoners killed by guards, which grace the bottoms of the pages like roadside memorials.

This is to say that, as with the best dystopias, Chain-Gang All-Stars doesn't warn us away from a terrible future so much as hold a mirror to a terrible present. I can't imagine reading this and not coming away a prison abolitionist. And despite its long trek through darkness this is a book dedicated to love, pure love, in a way that repeatedly brought me to tears. Like much (maybe most) of the great art ever made, it tells us that love is the only salve for a broken world -- but this is the light at the very bottom of a box packed full of horrors. The enthralling, appalling action scenes, heartbreaking character arcs, Foucauldian punishments, and Debordian spectacles all blur together into a slurry of desperate feeling, and it feels like now.

New In Paperback
As always, our newsletter can't fit everything, so check out the other new arrivals and recent bestsellers on our website!
Upcoming Events
An Evening of Poetry:
Sharon Chmielarz, Elizabeth Weir, and Tracy Youngblom

Tomorrow: Tuesday, March 14 at 6:00pm

Join us at 6pm on Tuesday, March 14 for an evening of delightful poetry! We'll have three acclaimed local poets:
  • Sharon Chmielarz was born and raised in Mobridge, South Dakota, but has spent her adult life in Minnesota. Her book The Other Mozart, a biography in poetry, was made into an opera, while her collection Visibility: Ten Miles was a finalist for the 2015 Midwest Book Awards.
  • Elizabeth Weir grew up and in England and worked as an RN in South Africa before coming to live in Minnesota with her family. As the writer for Skyway News, she reviewed Twin Cities theatre productions for some 14 years. She served as Mayor of the City of Medina, retiring in 2014. ​For Weir, the best poems are windows, where the mind is conscious of the pane but sees a world beyond.
  • Tracy Youngblom is the author of two chapbooks, Driving to Heaven and One Bird a Day, and one full-length collection, Growing Big. She lives in Minneapolis and teaches English at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.
Ellie Roscher and Heidi Barr: Conversation & Signing

Wednesday, March 15 at 6:00pm

Heidi Barr is a writer and wellness coach with over fifteen years of experience in health promotion. Her work is founded on a commitment to cultivating ways of being that are life-giving and sustainable for people, communities, and the planet. She is also editor of "The Mindful Kitchen," a wellness column in The Wayfarer Magazine. She lives with her family in Minnesota. Collisions of Earth and Sky is an invitation to live in a way that is attuned to nature. It is a journey of self-inquiry for digging into our origins and roots, figuring out what it means to be a good community member--both to other humans and to nonhumans--and integrating those truths so we can add to the healing of the world.

Ellie Roscher is hosts the Unlikely Conversations podcast and teaches writing and yoga at The Loft Literary Center, the Minnesota Writing Project, and Up Yoga. She lives in Minneapolis with her spouse and sons. The Embodied Path tells more than twenty body stories to do the essential work of resistance and repair at the individual and communal level, including the story of a woman who sees her hijab as an extension of her body, a quadriplegic woman who became a lawyer to advocate for herself, and a transgender man who underwent a transition after birthing two children. It also includes profoundly simple, beautiful stories of broken bones, motherhood, sickness, and healing toward wholeness.
Sci-Fi Fantasy Club: Amatka

Friday, March 31 at 5:00pm

There's no final frontier for the Sci-Fi Fantasy Club! Join us the last Friday of every month as we uncover and rediscover forgotten classics, titles that blur genres, small press stunners, and all the books you missed because they don't have Brandon Sanderson's marketing budget. Our second meeting has been pushed back to March 31st due to the snowstorm last month. We'll be discussing Amatka, a surreal debut novel set in a world shaped by language, in the tradition of Atwood and Le Guin. In it, Vanja is sent to the austere, wintry colony of Amatka to collect intelligence for her employer. Intending to stay just a short while, Vanja falls in love with her housemate, Nina, and prolongs her visit. But everyone in Amatka keeps secrets, and Vanja and Nina's world -- a world holding back chaos through labels and names -- is about to collide with the ineffable. Amatka is a beguiling novel about freedom, love, and artistic creation by a captivating new voice.
Literary Bridges

Sunday, April 2 at 2:00pm

“This month is National Poetry Month,” says Stan Kusunoki, co-host/curator of the Literary Bridges Reading Series. “And no better way to celebrate than with a roster of fabulous writers—this will be a classic Literary Bridges reading!” The roster includes Diane Jarvenpa (Shy Lands), Dralandra Larkins, Lora Robinson (An Essential Melancholy), John Medeiros (Self, Divided), and Michael Moos (The Idea of the Garden).
Mary Moore Easter and Janna Knittel

Tuesday, April 4 at 6:00pm

Mary Moore Easter is the author of three other books of poetry. She is also an independent dancer/choreographer and Founder and Director of Carleton College’s dance program. She holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence and an M.A. in Music for Dancers from Goddard. In The Way She Wants to Get There: Telling on Myself, Easter traces her development as a dancer between 1968 and 1979, a pivotal era in both Black/white relations and women’s rights. Interludes take us back to Easter’s upbringing in Petersburg, Virginia, in a talented family of musicians and educators, and the recollections of her elder family members take us back to the era of slavery and abduction. Dance enthusiasts will enjoy her descriptions of managing and creating dances for modern dance troupes.

Janna Knittel hails from the Pacific Northwest and has lived in Minnesota since 2004. Janna has taught literature and writing classes at colleges and universities in Oregon, Kansas, and Minnesota. The poems in her new collection Real Work describe family life on the farm, celebrate natural environments, process childhood emotions with the help of decades of living, and quietly assuage the wounds suffered due to personal crisis and loss. A wooden box on a desk, a father's hands, the lives of rabbits and bees, a rare visit to church--these are a few of the subjects illuminated in these finely crafted pieces .A lyric gravity infuses these stark yet lovely poems. The real work required on the farm has been transformed repeatedly into acts of literary precision and emotional honesty.
Joe Milan Jr. — The All-American

Saturday, April 8 at 6:00pm

Seventeen-year-old Bucky Yi knows nothing about his birth country of South Korea or his bio-dad’s disappearance; he can’t even pronounce his Korean name correctly. His sights are set on one goal: to become a college football player. So when the U.S. government deports him to South Korea, he’s forced to navigate an entirely foreign version of his life. At an expat bar in Seoul, in the bleak barracks of his Korean military, on a remote island where an erratic sergeant fights a shadow-war, and in the remote town where he seeks out his drunken, indebted biological father, Bucky must determine who he is to himself, who he is to others, and what kind of man he wants to become. Joe Milan Jr. was the 2019-20 David T.K. Wong Creative Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia and a Black Mountain Institute Ph.D. Fellow at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. His work has appeared in wonderful places like The Rumpus, F(r)iction, The Kyoto Journal, and others. He teaches Creative Writing at Waldorf University in Iowa. 
Manga Club: Solanin

Saturday, April 8 at 5:00pm

Come to NCB at 5pm on the second Saturday of every month to talk manga with other weebs! Hosted by our resident manga experts Emily and Graham (yours truly), the Manga Club provides free Japanese snacks, a 10% discount on ALL manga in the store, and most importantly, a forum to discuss a new title every month. For our April meeting, we'll be discussing one of my favorite manga of the past few years: Sazan & Comet Girl by Yuriko Akase. This one has something for everyone: whimsy, action, romance, and likable characters in a fun setting -- plus, rendered in glorious full watercolor. It feels like the 80s anime film you never saw.
From Our Shelves
Staff Pick Spotlight:
Lightning Rods Helen DeWitt

A sendup of sexism, corporate doublespeak, and inspirational business books, Lightning Rods was written in the late 90s, but didn't reach the printing press until 2011. DeWitt skewers everyone -- horny dudes, dumbass CEOs, and girlbosses -- in search of a pure satirical vision. Possibly the funniest and most messed-up book I've read.
Fact of the Week:

Throughout the Industrial Revolution, England's population exploded so quickly that traditional farming techniques -- fertilizing crops with livestock manure -- were no longer feasible. In time, England resorted to using human corpses, principally the bones, which were ground to bits in purpose-built mills. Rather than raiding its own cemeteries, the country acquired these abroad. Casualties of war were frequently appropriated in this way; for instance, many of the 50,000+ who died at Waterloo, Englishmen included. A former soldier wrote in an 1822 Morning Post piece: "The good farmers of Yorkshire are in great measure indebted to the bones of their children for their daily bread."

Learn more about phosphorus in
The Devil's Element, by Dan Egan
Featured Excerpt:

Nate Calls Me Soft

if we were better at being honest
maybe it wouldn't take a bottle
of something strong to make us talk
straight. straight edge we used
to be driving around in the at old
Toyota Tercel from open mic to open mic.
if i confess that the memory alone
makes the corner of my eye itch,
would you call me soft? Nate says yes.
Bee says duh. Adam says you were
the softest. My therapist says, let's talk
about your parents. My brothers
say, if all you're gonna do is talk,
then pass the blunt. Mexican Jesús
says nothing. Mercury is in reggaetón:
do the stars only talk to women? tonight,
the stars are hidden by the brash lights
of the city & i want to say m friends
can see my softness through all the jokes
i crack, but maybe i don't need the stars
to be tender. maybe the next time i see you,
i'll slap the dap, pull you in close,
& tell you under the ordinary streetlights
how much love you.

& that you still ain't shit.

-José Olivarez (translated by David Ruano), collected in Promises of Gold
Next Chapter Reader Poll
Thanks to everyone who responded to last week's poll! Our question was:

For those who've tried them, what's your favorite flavor among our new chocolates?
  1. Salty Dog (dark chocolate and sea salt) - 44% (11 votes)
  2. Prairie Dog (milk chocolate, sea salt, toffee, and almonds) - 24% (6)
  3. Dark Chocolate - 24% (6)
  4. Milk Chocolate - 8% (2)
  5. Super Red (dark chocolate, cherries, strawberries, and raspberries) - 0% (0)

This more or less confirms what our sales show. And this is good to know, because I think we'll have to cut down on the variety of chocolates in the long run. They're taking up about half the counter by the register right now, and we need that space for books about cats! So we'll likely end up just carrying the best-selling products. I'm all for the Salty Dog. Eating one makes you feel bougie, and saying its name makes you feel like a weathered old sailor.

Now for this week's poll! This is one is short-answer, so reply to this email with your response. And the question is:

What's the most memorable inscription you've ever received (or given) in a book?
We Are Open!

Three ways to shop with Next Chapter Booksellers:

1. Come in the store and browse. Talk to a bookseller or peruse the shelves, as you prefer. Although the mask mandate is no longer in effect, we appreciate it if you choose to wear a mask. 

2. Order online or over the phone (at 651-225-8989) for in-store pickup. We'll let you know when your books are ready, then you can swing by and pick them up at your leisure.

3. Get your books delivered to your home. We can mail your books (no charge for orders over $50) or hand-deliver them (to addresses in St. Paul only, and again for orders over $50).

We're here 10am to 5pm Monday through Saturday and noon to 5pm on Sunday.
Thanks for reading
all the way to the end.

As always, we've got lots more great books in the store. Come on in and ask us for a recommendation -- or tell us what you're reading right now!

See you in the stacks!

Graham (and all of us at Next Chapter Booksellers)