I have invited Michael Fedo to talk to my classes several times. He is in some ways an old-fashioned freelancer, following the story where the market will take him. He is, in some ways, an old fashioned humorist.
I have grown to love his writings. I teach Don’t Quit Your Day Job: The Adventures of a Midlist Author annually. I have taught excepts from Zenith City: Stories From Duluth. I have enjoyed many of his writings make me laugh, or teach me about history I didn’t know, like A Sawdust Heart: My Vaudeville Life in Medicine and Tent Shows by Henry Wood, as told to Michael Fedo.
And around 2000, about five years before I even imagined living in Duluth, as a graduate assistant on the St. Paul Campus of UMTC, I taught The Lynchings in Duluth. The events were too important, and the writing was too powerful.
Crammed among the donations for the CSS book sale was an earlier edition of that text, an edition whose name I cannot type here and whose cover I cannot reproduce.
I’ve been trying to write, with Jamie White-Farnham of UWS, a history of anti-racist activity in Duluth. Finding this text, for free, on the last day of the book sale was like finding the first domino on a string of dominos that goes on for forty years, it was the first attempt for a white author to tell this story to his white community.
I shared this book with a friend, who knows I love Fedo’s writing and who knows that I am writing about this topic. I was hoping they would be enthusiastic for me. They were horrified by the title, horrified by the cover.
I didn’t know what to say. Of course I shared it the way someone finding a treasure in an antique shop shares a treasure. But the treasure was a very visceral representation of one of the worst things imaginable to have happened in my community. Of course they were horrified. I should have been.
I’m still reeling.
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