In the main auditorium the audience waited for the school’s hottest event of the season: an intimate night with Minnesota’s favorite son, Shawn Otto. The night was full of extra-curricular surprises, including the presentation of flowers by William “Bill” Breen to the creator and previous main force behind the Minnesota Writer’s event, the retiring school librarian Bonnie Boese.
In 1988 Bonnie pioneered the Minnesota Writer’s event, and starred Michael Dennis Brown. The future of the event was uncertain at that point, but twenty-seven years later the event is still going as strong as ever. The event is now wielded by the campus’ English department, but Bonnie’s commitment and passion for her post will not be easily replaced. She was hired at the school in the Fall of 1987.
Shawn Otto’s work includes his newest novel Sins of Our Fathers, the screenplay to House of Sand and Fog, his 2011 book Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault On Science In America, his blog, and many articles in various science magazines. The event included a book reading, a session on Native American politics, a talk about American politics and science, and a question and answer segment.
Saying Otto is passionate about science would be putting it lightly. He told us of Thomas Jefferson’s passion for science. Otto claimed the U.S. was formed to be a science-centered federation: “Science needed a new type of government based on evidence.” He claimed during the 2008 presidential election they couldn’t pay to get candidates to debate politics. Hollywood hates science was a theme of the night.
Most of the remainder of the time was on his 2014 critically-acclaimed novel, Sins of Our Fathers. The novel is about struggles, power plays, and politics of a certain Native American peoples, and surrounding areas. Otto points out that “what we love vs. what is right” is the central theme of the book. Bonnie held the book in very high regards, and told me some struggles she witnessed firsthand. Bonnie had went to school for four years in South Dakota. During her time there she had met a single Native American woman. She was a little confused by the lack of Native Americans in Sioux Falls, but found out years later that, “Native Americans were being kept out of Sioux Falls.”
The hot-topic items of the night faded as the event came to a close. The night came to a surprisingly peaceful finish with a small social gathering outside the auditorium. The shared farewell to Bonnie and Shawn Otto was the perfect finish to a very intimate night.