Marlon James in conversation: “All the people I believe in believe in books.”

‘Literature, they said, doesn’t just open your mind and your empathy to other ways of life (though they agreed that is important). It helps develop your brain, your concentration, your critical thinking skills,
And yet, Lucas said, she is frustrated by teachers who treat books as something dull and important that children must be forced to read. “It’s like spinach — like, ‘This is good for you,’” she said. “Books are fun.”’

I remember I was doing a workshop once and integrating music and film and all the stuff that I love as I do, including stories (short stories and books, and poetry in its many forms), and though the registration had been capped the numbers in the end proved to be more suggestion than fixed fact; but I adjusted. Many of the originals stayed – some admitting that they hadn’t come knowing what to expect but were glad that they had. One man stuck his head in at one point to ask if he could join because we looked like we were having so much fun. And, you know what, we were. I have to make it fun, because if they’re bored, I will be; and if I’m bored, they will be. Of course, that workshop was a teachers’ workshop about creating interest and excitement around the literary arts (creativity through the lens of the literary arts, really), excitement and practical tools that they could then take in to the classroom, so maybe my sell-muscles were on peak. But it brings me back to a point (and admittedly not fully-evolved point) I was making to a friend that maybe we should stop insisting that this and that and the other subject that we think should be (for me English, lit, history for someone else, something else) mandatory, and rather encourage it, make it so appealing that even the most reluctant student wants to stick his head in the room and ask, can I join?

Repeating Islands


A report by Laurie Hertzel for the Star-Tribune.

Bookstores, book publishers, book buzz, book critics, book prizes, bookish people, non-bookish people, the state of books in the world and the state of the world in general — all these things and more were scrutinized, filleted, examined and discussed Thursday night at the Guthrie Theater in a freewheeling hour-long conversation between two “ferocious and brilliant advocates for readers and writers.” So said Britt Udesen, executive director of the Loft Literary Center, who introduced the speakers — Marlon James and Lisa Lucas.

James, of course, is the Jamaica-born, Booker Prize-winning writer who teaches at Macalester College in St. Paul, and Lucas is the executive director of the National Book Foundation, the first African American to hold that role and most definitely a fierce advocate for all things book. (Follow her on Twitter, where she practically lives: @likaluca. Follow James on…

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