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Carnival Lights

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Author: Chris Stark

Minnesota Book Awards 2022 -- Finalist in Novel & Short Story

Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards (NEMBA) 2022 -- Winner in Fiction

"Fluid in time and place, Carnival Lights flows between one past and another, offering a heartbreaking portrait of multigenerational trauma in the lives of one Ojibwe family. This tapestry of stories is beautifully woven and gut-wrenching in its effect. Read it, and it may change you forever." -- William Kent Krueger, New York Times Bestselling author

Blending fiction and fact, Carnival Lights ranges from reverie to nightmare and back again in a lyrical yet unflinching story of an Ojibwe family's struggle to hold onto their land, their culture, and each other. Carnival Lights is a timely book for a country in need of deep healing.

In August 1969, two teenage Ojibwe cousins, Sher and Kris, leave their northern Minnesota reservation for the lights of Minneapolis. The girls arrive in the city with only $12, their grandfather's WWII pack, two stainless steel cups, some face makeup, gum, and a lighter. But it's the ancestral connections they are also carrying - to the land and trees, to their family and culture, to love and loss - that shape their journey most. As they search for work, they cross paths with a gay Jewish boy, homeless white and Indian women, and men on the prowl for runaways. Making their way to the Minnesota State Fair, the Indian girls try to escape a fate set in motion centuries earlier...

Set in a summer of hippie Vietnam War protests and the moon landing, Carnival Lights also spans settler arrival in the 1800s, the creation of the reservation system, and decades of cultural suppression, connecting everything from lumber barons' mansions to Nazi V-2 rockets to smuggler's tunnels in creating a narrative history of Minnesota.

"Chris Stark's newest novel explores the evolution of violence experienced by Native women. Simultaneously graphic and gentle, Carnival Lights takes the reader on a daunting journey through generations of trauma, crafting characters that are both vulnerable and resilient." -- Sarah Deer, (Mvskoke), Distinguished Professor, University of Kansas, MacArthur Genius Award Recipient

"Carnival Lights is a heartbreaking wonder of gorgeous prose and urgent story. It propels the reader at a breathless pace as history crashes down on the readers as much as it does on the book's vivid characters. The author's brilliant heart restores their dignity and via the realm of imagination, brings them home." -- Mona Susan Power, author of The Grass Dancer, a PEN/Hemingway Winner

"Carnival Lights is a heavy book, discussing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, sexual assault, sex trafficking and incest, boarding schools, Nazis in the US, as well as the history of native people in this country since it was colonized by Europeans (or English, as the elders call them). I think it should be taught in high schools." -- Esty Dinur, journalist and host of A Public Affair, Fridays on WORT-FM, Wisconsin

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From Modern History Press

Publisher: Modern History Press
Published: 06/15/2021
Pages: 268
Binding Type: Paperback
Weight: 0.84lbs
Size: 9.21h x 6.14w x 0.56d
ISBN: 9781615995776

About the Author
Stark, Chris: - Chris Stark (Anishinaabe & Cherokee) is an award-winning writer, researcher, visual artist, and national and international speaker. Her first novel, Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation, was a Lambda Literary Finalist. Her essays, poems, academic writing, and creative non-fiction have appeared in numerous publications, including The Palgrave International Handbook on Trafficking; University of Pennsylvania Law Review; Dignity Journal; The WIP; Florida Review; The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prize-Winning Essays; When We Became Weavers: Queer Female Poets on the Midwest Experience; Hawk and Handsaw: The Journal of Creative Sustainability; and many others. Her poem, Momma's Song, was recorded by Fred Ho and the Afro Asian Music Ensemble as a double manga CD. She is also a co-editor of Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography; and a co-author of the ground-breaking research Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota. Primary research she conducted with Native women survivors of prostitution and trafficking on the ships in Duluth, Minnesota is included in her article Strategies to Restore Justice for Sex Trafficked Native Women. She is also co-author and co-researcher of Evidence of Survivor, Agency, and Researcher Collaboration: An Example of an Emerging Model of Survivor Wellbeing. Stark's writing has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize. In 2012, she was named a Changemaker by the Women's Press and she was a Loft Series Mentor Finalist. In 2019, she received the International Social Justice Citizen Award from the International Leadership Institute. She has appeared in numerous media, including NPR, MPR, PBS, Justice Talking, and Robin Morgan's radio show. She has spoken at law schools, conferences, rallies, and at the United Nations (four times). She has taught writing and humanity courses at universities and community colleges for twenty years and she was the Two-Spirit program director at Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center. Currently, she facilitates art and writing groups at Breaking Free in St. Paul, consults with a variety of local and national organizations, and teaches writing and literature at Central Lakes Community College in Brainerd, Minnesota. She is a member of the Minnesota Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women's Taskforce. She has an MFA in Writing and a Master's in Social Work. For more information, visit:

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