Carolyn Wilhelm reviews Carnival Lights

Title: Carnival Lights
By: Chris Stark
Publisher: Modern History Press
Author Website: https://www.christinestark.com/
ISBN-10: 1615995781
ISBN-13: 978-1615995783
Price: Hardcover $37.95, Paperback $24.95, Kindle $6.95
Page Count: 268
Formats (HC, PB, Kindle)
 
With good reason, two teens run away from a reservation and get jobs at the Minnesota State Fair. Although the book has a linear story within the pages, it also has a spiraling story going back generations explaining how families pass down their problems. Society also hands down its ills, of course.

“The grief of her people lived within her and was a way of knowing, with or without her conscious understanding.”
Stark, Chris. Carnival Lights (p. 221). Modern History Press. Kindle Edition.

What a read! Oh, my. This book hit me especially hard being a resident of northern Minnesota as well as Minneapolis. I walked exactly where the girls walked, went to the fair, and understand 1969 – the setting of the book. I was about their age in 1969. Of course, I was aware of the poverty in the Native American reservations. However, we attended Pow Wows and visited some people, so that I was unaware of the danger to women and children. I have been to Duluth dozens of times and cannot again pass through there looking at the ships with ignorance. We lived in Grand Marais on Lake Superior and I knew there was trafficking, but thought it was all at the border for some reason. 

10 Discussion Questions for Carnival Lights

 
1. How does Stark set up the first chapters so we are convinced Sher and Kris had no choice but to run away? What are several of the convincing reasons provided? 
 
2. Did you expect the girls would get to the fair rather quickly and experience problems there? What surprised you about the book with generational stories interwoven with the experience of the girls’ bus trip and arrival in Minneapolis?
 
3. Why did the girls spend several days in downtown Minneapolis? Who did Sher call, thinking they might find help? How did they get food? The Vietnam war protest added drama as well as helped explain the times. How was Kris always going ahead and doing things while Sher wanted to hold back?
 
4. How do they meet Tricia? Why does she say the following:

“Get this,” the woman said, “a couple of farm girls showing me the city.”
Stark, Chris. Carnival Lights (p. 118). Modern History Press. Kindle Edition.

5. Why do they decide or were told to leave several of the places they briefly stayed? What was the one place they wanted to stay? Why?

6. When in Minneapolis, Stark again sets up the reasons why the girls do not try to find help. Why would they not reach out to a social worker? Why do you think the church where they sat on the steps asked them to leave, probably knowing they were in trouble? 

7. How does the author explain most of Sher’s family acceptance and knowledge of her as contrasted with what her mother thought:

“Sher’s mother had admonished Sher for her broad shoulders, her narrow hips, and wearing her brother’s hand-me-downs, as if these oddities sprang from Sher alone, and did not come from the loins of her parents, from her family, from the Creator.”
Stark, Chris. Carnival Lights (p. 195). Modern History Press. Kindle Edition.

8. Were you expecting Sher and Kris would meet different people and find different problems than they did? How were the things that happened to them in Minneapolis worse or better than what you thought? 

9. Why do you think they didn’t go home but remembered the good people and things that happened? Their memories helped them cope. Could they have gone home? 

10. The foreshadowing of the ending strongly suggested something terrible would happen. Did you expect what happened or not? How did close calls to people who seemed to think about helping them add to the plot’s tension? How was the ending both happy and sad? 

Why do you think Stark wrote this book? What was the overall message? 

Carolyn Wilhelm, Reviewer
BS Elementary Education, MS Gifted Education, MA K-12 Curriculum and Instruction
Wise Owl Factory LLC

Carnival Lights [PB]

SKU 978-1-61599-577-6
$21.95
A Novel
In stock
1
Product Details
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 the trees, to their family and culture, to love and to loss — that shapes 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 war protests and the moon landing, Carnival Lights also spans settler arrival, the creation of the reservation system, and decades of cultural suppression, connecting everything from lumber baron's mansions to Nazi V-2 rockets to smuggler's tunnels in stories of Minnesota.

"Chris Stark is a masterful storyteller, and Carnival Lights is an unforgettable novel. Fluid in time and place, flowing 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. Carnival Lights is an important book about the treachery and tragedy that so many Native Americans in this country have experienced, particularly women. Read it, and it may change you forever."
-- William Kent Krueger, New York Times Best Selling Author

"By weaving narratives back and forth through space and time, Chris Stark's newest novel explores the evolution of violence experienced by Native women and girls at the hands of non-Native men – dating back centuries. 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

"Chris does a masterful job of showing the deeply contrasting views of colonizers and indigenous people and the often devastating outcome of those differences. While not always easy to read, it will capture your imagination and encourage you to learn more and to hopefully, drive your commitment to make the future a brighter one for all."
-- Dr. Priscilla Day, Professor at UMN Duluth Social Work Department, Anishinaabe Tribal Member

“Chris Stark’s lyrical prose liberates her often-nightmarish tale of everyday sordidness to create an elegy for the Ojibwe of the past and an advocate for current and future generations, especially young Native American women. It is a voice to be reckoned with. Once read, Carnival Lights’ message will not be silenced.”
— Tyler R. Tichelaar, award-winning author of Kawbawgam: The Chief, The Legend, The Man

CHRIS STARK's first novel, Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation, was a Lambda Literary Finalist. She has also won awards for her non-fiction and memoir writing and her visual art. She is a co-author of Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota and has published non-fiction and academic articles, and poetry. Chris is a member of the Minnesota Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Taskforce. She is Anishinaabe and Cherokee.

Learn more at www.ChristineStark.com

Save this product for later

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.