A Good Time for the Truth
Race in Minnesota
Edited by Sun Yung Shin
Minnesota Historical Society Press (April 2016)
Essays that challenge, discomfort, disorient, galvanize, and inspire all of us to evolve now, for our shared future.
In this provocative book, sixteen of Minnesota’s best writers provide a range of perspectives on what it is like to live as a person of color in Minnesota. They give readers a splendid gift: the gift of touching another human being’s inner reality, behind masks and veils and politeness. They bring us generously into experiences that we must understand if we are to come together in real relationships.
Minnesota communities struggle with some of the nation’s worst racial disparities. As its authors confront and consider the realities that lie beneath the numbers, this book provides an important tool to those who want to be part of closing those gaps.
With contributions by:
Taiyon J. Coleman
Heid E. Erdrich
David Lawrence Grant
Robert Farid Karimi
Sherry Quan Lee
Kao Kalia Yang
Sun Yung Shin 신 선 영 is the author of a book of prose Unbearable Splendor, two books of poetry Rough, and Savage and Skirt Full of Black, editor of What We Hunger For: Refugee and Immigrant Stories about Food and Family, a co-editor of Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption, and author of children's book Cooper's Lesson. She has an MA in Teaching from University of St. Thomas and an MFA in Creative Writing from Naropa University. She has training in restorative justice, conflict resolution, racial justice talking circle facilitation, and various somatic healing modalities. Born in South Korea, she lives in Minneapolis where she teaches, lectures, facilitates workshops, and co-directs Poetry Asylum.
Reviews and news
"I strongly recommend this book to anyone or any institution that genuinely is trying to grapple with and respond to the highly problematic race relations in America. . . . There are some really hard truths in the narratives, but as the title implies, it is ‘A good time for the truth’. I recommend this book as an honest read on the current pulse of race relations issues and deeply sad, yet honest, truths about the realities of what many racialized people experience in America. . . . Let us use this book for improving our relations with one another and building a society that ensures a more peaceful future for generations to come."
—Manu Sharma in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education
In the media:
KARE 11's "That's So Minnesota" Podcast
White Bear Press
MPR with Shannon Gibney
KUMD Radio with Taiyon Coleman
KFAI with Sun Yung Shin and David Lawrence Grant
Club Book Podcast, Episode 38. with Sun Yung Shin and David Mura
Twin Cities Daily Planet
Twin Cities Geek
Hazel & Wren
Selected for the "One Book | One Minnesota" statewide book club, Summer 2020
“Sun Yung Shin has brought together a collection of passionate literary warriors whose fierceness is equaled and at times surpassed only by their love of community, and of us, the people for whom they speak. The unburdening that takes place here is specific and yet representative. Either way it is heavy. Deep. You will not be able to read this book without changing. Minnesota will never be the same.”
—Alexs Pate, author and president, Innocent Technologies, LLC
“This is the northern voice on race—multiple perspectives and divergent experiences, but a common call for change on one of the most pressing issues of our time. Brave and poignant, full of true grit and wisdom, A Good Time for the Truth is a compelling challenge to us all.”
—Anton Treuer, author of Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians but Were Afraid to Ask
“A Good Time for the Truth evokes every emotion, from sudden bursts of laughter to soul-wrenching sadness at what could and should have been. The writers show how America has failed to deliver on its promise, while they simultaneously paint a vision of our capacity to thrive when the color of our skin is no longer the gatekeeper into the garden of American Dreams.”
—Sia Her, executive director, Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans
“These essays fuel our imaginations, encourage us to reflect on our values, and challenge our biases. The authors’ lived experiences strike a deep chord, resonating with current events and sounding a clarion call to advancing racial justice!”
—Luz Maria Frias, attorney and race equity strategist
“What is a true Minnesotan? In the land still defined by Lake Wobegon, the Vikings, Snoopy, and Mary Tyler Moore, the ideas of who we are have still not caught up to the realities, not by a long shot. This book helps to narrow that gap.”
—Wing Young Huie, author of Frogtown and The University Avenue Project
Suggested resources from the Minnesota Historical Society Gale Research Library on Race Relations and Minnesota's Black Community
Reading guide and excerpts
Reading Guide for A Good Time for the Truth (PDF)
Excerpt from "Fear of a Black Mother" by Shannon Gibney
Excerpt from "People Like Us" by David Lawrence Grant
The contributors have given us a splendid gift, the gift of touching another human being’s inner reality, behind masks and veils and politeness. They are bringing us generously into their experiences, experiences that shape Minnesota, experiences we must understand if we are to come together in real relationships across sometimes very difficult borders. We can read their stories and leave each one with a deeper, more complex understanding of how race and culture are lived in Minnesota—and better prepared for the conversations and changes ahead.
Sun Yung Shin
Although the Fear of a Black Mother may never disappear from our culture, I need to find a way to resist it while not letting it over-determine how I engage with my child. Some days, I find that nothing is harder.
“Fear of a Black Mother”
I thought that Minnesota was far enough north, and it was the home to my music man, Prince, so, of course, it definitely could not be as racist as Alabama. Right?
So why do I stay here? I stay because I love the people of color here, I love the artists of color here.
. . . Beyond that, because of the smaller size of the communities here, there seem to be more reasons for and impetus toward coalitions, working together, seeing our common interests, understanding that if we fight together—rather than battle each other—we’ll be stronger, more effective, more likely to be heard.
“A Surrealist History of One Asian American in Minnesota”
You are two kinds of Not White and a female, so lots of colleges want to add you to their lecture halls. Their scholarship forms, eager to know which box you fit into, ask Choose One, and you are deflated when you see that one of the first options is Black, Non-Hispanic.
“With an ‘e’”
Before America I was not Black. I was not adrift in a sea of White that I constantly had to come to terms with, against which my very humanity is measured—by Whites, Blacks, the world, and even myself. You see, Black exists only because America is White.
“Trouble in Mind: To Be Black Is Blue in America”
I saw this rainbow of kids, and instead of being encouraged, I got scared in a different way for each one of them. I couldn’t shake the panicked feeling that I wanted to be there to put my arms around them and shield them all—but I couldn’t. No one could.
What if I had asked him to give me a reason why I should take the black out of my voice. "There may be a reason," Nikki Giovanni said. I’m guessing he would have stammered a bit and then replied that the company he was representing wanted a traditional voice (need I state the obvious: that "traditional" translates as white?)
And me? I am invisible. I’m part of the invisible tribe.
Erase a people and eventually the erasers will forget them and think the world they stole from the invisible group was theirs for the taking. Once you can own land, you can own people. Once you make Indigenous people fade out of the story, what’s left is a whiter white. A wash so opaque Black looks white. Red goes blank. Impossible.
Heid E. Erdrich
“Red, White and Blank”
To be a Korean adoptee in Minnesota is to be both hypervisible and invisible at the same time. It means that people can tell you they don’t see you as a Korean as if that is a compliment.
“The Good Kind of Immigrants”
In reality, if you live in Minnesota and you are a person of color, you have to deal with “oppressive whiteness” quite often—in social parameters, social media, work settings, academia, and the weather.
“Fighting the Oppressive Whiteness”
Race has become increasingly complicated since I married a white man and entered a white family. I see on a much more intimate level how the system works and where it gains its power—love. People protect those they love. The problem in an interracial marriage is that the people we love shift.
Kao Kalia Yang
“Dark Trees in the Landscape of Love”
it’s been 18 years since this journey began, a long way
from the days of fear and
loathing, and although her life might seem charmed to
outsiders, she knows that her
Trans brothers and sisters are struggling out there so,
she tells their story
“The Price We Pay”
Still stuck in a black and white paradigm
that sees race as a tug of war of two extremes,
where other cultures are not allowed to play
and mixed race isn’t even invited to the party.
I step up to be a part of the diversity feast,
but I am not invited to the table,
still stuck in the kiddy corner of the cultural discussion.
Robert Farid Karimi
“Songlines for Future Culturewalkers”
I live in a discomfort zone. I can’t separate the fact that culturally I grew up white, having little to no knowledge of Black or Asian cultures. Who am I to say, when a white friend says, “but God loves everyone,” that his naïve and simple understanding isn’t any more profound than my reply, “but it’s complicated”?
Sherry Quan Lee
“Discomfort Zone: Minnesota Born and Raised”
When we hear a white person say, “Oh, but I don’t even see color,” the subtext we really hear tells us, loud and clear, that what they don’t see is us: that our identity, our perspective, our whole history is insignificant, not worthy of attention.
David Lawrence Grant
“People Like Us”
When we care for our Mother, when we raise healthy children, when we garden, returning to these old ways will help us transcend the trauma of the past, as well as that of the present, and provide healing for our ancestors.
“Seeds for Seven Generations”
- 224 pages
- 6 x 9 inches
- ISBN: 978-1-68134-002-9