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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Patrick Pascale

The Great Dinkytown Bookstore Tour

In July 2016, we stayed in the dorms at the University of Minnesota for a journalism conference.

It's a beautiful campus in Minneapolis nestled along the Mississippi River.

While I didn't experience the notorious Minnesota winter, it was interesting to see that the campus buildings are connected via underground tunnels, so students can go to class without having to trudge through the snow. As such, the bookstore is located entirely underground.

I didn't think to take any photos inside the bookstore, but it's huge, and they had plenty of general interest books alongside the textbooks. I bought a copy of John McMillian's Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press an the Rise of Alternative Media in America, which is so fascinating to read in the internet age. I also realized later that this book features prominently in a photo I took of Lamplight Books in Seattle's Pike Place Market.

Wandering the surrounding area, I started to feel pretty comfortable as someone drawn to literature and writing.

How often do you see tea houses just beckoning you to sit and write your novel?

Before long, I stumbled upon Daybreak Bookshop, a "Global Bookshop & Gathering Space."

It is clearly the kind of place where people meet up to discuss books and ideas.

It's awesome that they include books on a monthly theme. When I was there, it was "USA History: Not the Master Narrative." Classics like Alex Haley's Roots stand out here, and Octavia E. Butler's Kindred, which I discussed in my DYSTOPIA post.

Daybreak Bookshop is all about opening your mind and considering different perspectives. Per Wikipedia, "Research suggests that north-south positions on maps have psychological consequences. In general, north is associated with richer people, more expensive real estate, and higher altitude, while south is associated with poorer people, cheaper prices, and lower altitude (the "north-south bias"). When participants were presented with south-up oriented maps, this north-south bias disappeared"

"Daybreak Bookshop is a project of Rabata, an international 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to promoting positive cultural change through individual empowerment, the spiritual upbringing of women by women, and the revival of the female voice in scholarship. Today Rabata offers educational programming and a safe haven of personal growth for an expanding network of diverse women; Daybreak is currently the active headquarters for the organization."

According to their mission, "Daybreak Press Global Bookshop & Gathering Space creates a platform for education, activism, and positive community experiences in Minnesota." It's definitely a cool place where you'll have a positive experience, so be sure to stop by or plan to attend one of their events if you're in the area.

If you continue your travels across the other side of campus, you'll find yourself in the heart of historic Dinkytown, with it's enigmatic etymology.

On this particular morning, we were in search of breakfast. All of the "must see" lists will point you in the direction of "Al's Breakfast," but do those lists emphasize that it is the narrowest restaurant in Minneapolis, a mere ten feet long, crammed into an alleyway? The place is tiny, the line stretched around the block, and we were hungry, so we went for expediency.

And I've gotta say, Tony's Diner did not disappoint at all. The food was absolutely delicious.

I mean, look at that! I had to throw down my notebook mid-sentence and dig in. But what's this? A table of college kids moved out of the way and I had a clear view out the front window:

Does that say BOOKHOUSE on the other side of that tiny tree??

Oh yes it does!

And if you want to see what me taking that photo looked like:

Yes, we'd stumbled upon the Book House, and we were in for a treat.

So many books! So many sections! So many paths to wander through only to find more rooms of books!

"We have always resembled a sort of open archive. The flow of books and collections has been like a moving bridge between generations." - KRISTEN EIDE-TOLLEFSON, owner of Book House

Part of this legendary locale is that Bob Dylan lived in the apartment across the street.

Solid advice.

I became personally entranced by the selection of classic copies of The Evergreen Review. I love seeing short stories and poems in their original literary journal homes alongside art, photography, commentary, and advertisements that give you more of a feel of the period they were published in.

If I see a unique book of interest connected to the place I'm in, I am tempted to get it. That was the case with Samuel E. Wallace's Skid Row as a Way of Life. Having learned of that term's origin in Seattle, I was drawn in by this sociologist disguising himself as a hobo and entering the underground world of society's poorest people trying to get by in 1960's Minneapolis slums.

"The Book House offers an old-fashioned book store experience, with it the increasingly rare opportunity to browse a large stock, hang out, read, write, invite friends to meet and talk with fellow book-lovers." Wow, multiple places inviting us to sit and write in them!

Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, thought and speculation at a standstill.

So Book House is amazing. A can't miss bookstore, for sure.

After a long day of browsing, perusing, and searching, we stopped down the street at Espresso Royale to have a nice cup of coffee while sitting and reading our new books.

And we could browse even more books, as they apparently had an agreement with the Book House to keep some books at the cafe too!

Unfortunately, since I took this trip, I learned that Espresso Royale closed down in what was described as a "corporatized death spiral" for the area. "I’m a little bit bummed ... it kind of just seems like the end of an era," Nicolas Sable, former assistant manager said. "There’s definitely going to be a sense of culture that’s going to be lost in Dinkytown."

It might be better to plan your trip to Dinkytown sooner rather than later.


Don't miss my appearance in "Interviews from the Void" with Arthur Macabe, where we chat about pens, notebooks, the writing process, literature, and traveling.

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