The Shingle Creek Sagas Novels: Complete Story of A Neighborhood Rebellion
Shingle Creek Sagas is a series of novels set in the neighborhood by that name in North Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. It is bounded by 53rd Avenue, Brooklyn Boulevard, 49th Avenue, and Humboldt Avenue North.
Shingle Creek, surrounded by parkland, flows through the area on its way to the Mississippi River.
The neighborhood is completely made up of single-family homes, with the exception of two schools, and the industrial “park,” railroad tracks, and rail yard just south of 49th Avenue. There are no stores and only one church.
Although the neighborhood is real, the characters and events in the book are pure fiction. But while everything is the product of the author’s imagination, these compelling, heart-warming stories, are grounded in reality.
Yale was the Recreation Director at Shingle Creek Park from 1972 to 1974. The neighborhood was, in the 1970s, a blue collar, working class area. Most of the residents were white folks of Scandinavian descent, with a few people coming from Italian, Polish, English, and French backgrounds.
A small area around Irving and James Avenues had an Afro-American population that settled there in the early part of the Twentieth Century, when the Shingle Creek neighborhood was still farmland.
Most of the homes in the neighborhood were built in the early 1950s for returning World War II GIs. The rooms were small and the homes cheaply made, many on concrete slabs without basements.
So far there are three novels planned for the series, covering the period from 1970 to 1975, but more titles are possible. Each novel is told from the point-of-view of a different person.
The first book, Becoming JiJi, is narrated by teenager Jill Frisk. It starts with a depressed neighborhood where nothing much happens. But Park Director Joe Stern turns that world upside down by helping Jill found a teen council. And that council empowers a core group of teens who learn how to set up and run park programs.
The teen council, in turn, energizes the adults. As the teens expand their horizons, Shingle Creek residents of all ages find themselves wanting more and reaching higher.
Joe discovers Jill has a world-class singing voice, and with his encouragement, she quickly becomes a successful star on the national level. And Jill’s success becomes a critical part of the second novel, The Real Paul Makinen?
Both Joe and Jill have moved out of the community. But 19-year-old Paul Makinen and 16-year-old Karen Ahlberg, two of the original teen council members, have become the Park Directors, and the teen council continues its work.
Karen and her friends start an oral history project that records the memories of elderly Scandinavian-Americans across Minnesota and they become well-known throughout the state.
But when six area boys are killed in ‘Nam in one week, people start seething with fury. Soon after, Paul and Karen are suddenly fired, replaced with an older “professional” Recreation Director who immediately alienates everyone.
The neighborhood explodes with anger. People refuse to pay property taxes, block main roads and the freight railroad, sit in at the mayor’s office, and formulate a list of demands, from re-hiring Paul and Karen to disbanding the draft board, changing zoning laws to allow community-owned businesses, and raising the minimum wage.
Because Jill and Karen are well known and loved, the press pays attention when they support the Shingle Creek rebels. Pressure builds, and the powers-that-be cave in to the neighborhood’s demands.
The third novel, Shirley, Victorious, is narrated by Jill’s mother, who had been a victim of domestic violence for years.
After Jill moves her mother and sister to a safe place, Shirley makes a startling recovery, becomes an executive in an accounting firm, and fulfills her life-long dream of going to college.
Shirley plays a key role in the rebellion. Then she helps make sure the new community-owned small businesses are set up on a sound financial basis. A practical woman, rather than a mere fantasizer, she has an ongoing role in turning the community’s dreams into reality.
The results are stunning. People in the Shingle Creek neighborhood become more prosperous, happier, and healthier. And Shirley, after years of beatings and abuse, is able to overcome her fear of intimacy and find true love, at last.
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