Jen: Have the events of 2020 affected your creativity? Either stifled or jumpstarted it?
Shannon: It's definitely been a weird year—for everyone.
In non-COVID-19 times, my kids would be at summer camps and childcare centers, and we would be doing dance and team sports and whatnot during the summer. I don't teach in the summer, so I typically use the time to work on my long-form writing projects (novels, etc.). But this year is different, with both kids home all the time. It's been much more of a challenge to get work done, for sure. But we decided to make a pod with my parents at their house in Ann Arbor this summer, so some time and space for my creative work is more possible now.
With the killing of George Floyd, Black artists have been working overtime to document this moment in our communities and beyond, to help folks process, and to hopefully present visions for a freer tomorrow. So, I have been working on some unexpected shorter pieces during this time, but it has been healing.
Jen: What’s been your favorite bookstore/author/reader response to the events of 2020?
Shannon: My neighborhood bookstore is Moon Palace Books in South Minneapolis, which my friends Angela and Jamie run. They are true community-minded, progressive folks, and were one of the first businesses in the hood to shut down due to COVID-19 concerns, before Governor Walz issued the Stay-At-Home Order. And during the protests against the police murder of George Floyd, I know they were in plenty of conversations with the police, whose precinct was right by their store, about not using their parking lot as a base of operations. Now they are donating, and encouraging community members to donate, food from the store's restaurant, the Geek Love Cafe, to folks staying at the encampment in Powderhorn Park.
Jen: What are you reading?
Shannon: I'm reading Ibram X. Kendi's How to Be an Anti-Racist, with the rest of the entire nation, it seems. I am moderating two community read sessions on it next month, so I thought I should probably know what I'm talking about.
And then, I'm also finally in the middle of Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere. I recently watched the mini-series on Hulu, which I thought was really well done. As a scholar and transracial adoptee myself, I write a lot about adoption and race, and this story features both prominently. I'm planning on writing a piece on issues of adoption and representation in the two versions (TV and text) with a friend who also does Critical Adoption Studies, and is an adoptee, too.
Jen: What books are you recommending?
Shannon: I just finished Carrie Mesrobian's historical novel The Whitsun Daughters, which I enjoyed immensely. It's the story of three young white women in contemporary rural Minnesota dealing with issues of pregnancy, abortion, family legacy...and the ghost of a 19th century Irish woman who visits their dreams. Dutton brings it out in August.
Kao Kalia Yang's new children's book, The Shared Room, is not to be missed either. The book deals with a Hmong family moving through their immense grief from the loss of their youngest through drowning, and is a masterful way to introduce children to loss. The Shared Room was published by University of Minnesota Press in June.
Jen: Do you plan to write about 2020 in future books?
Shannon: Everything we write is always about the present and the past, so I don't see how the events and emotional landscape of 2020 isn't already seeping into my writing even now, and will in the future, too.
Jen: Do you have a pet? If so, we’d love a picture of the two of you!