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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Carnival Lights Named a Finalist in 2022 Minnesota Book Awards

Courtesy of Christine Stark

Chris Stark’s latest novel, Carnival Lights, has been named a finalist in the 2022 Minnesota Book Awards. Stark is a Native (Anishinaabe and Cherokee) award-winning writer, researcher, visual artist and international speaker. Her second novel, Carnival Lights is about two Ojibwe teen girls who leave their Northern Minnesota reservation for Minneapolis in August 1969.

Blending fiction and fact, Carnival Lights ranges from reverie to nightmare and back again in a lyrical yet unflinching story of an Ojibwe family's struggle to hold onto their land, their culture and each other. Set in a summer of hippie Vietnam War protests and the moon landing, it also provides a narrative history of Minnesota. The novel spans settler’s arrival in the 1800s, the creation of the reservation system and decades of cultural suppression, connecting everything from lumber barons’ mansions to Nazi V-2 rockets to smugglers’ tunnels.

With its debut following national news headlines surrounding the abuses of Native boarding schools and an increasing awareness of the missing and murdered indigenous women crisis, Carnival Lights is not only a timely novel, but also a timeless account of the obstacles facing Indigenous communities.

“This novel illustrates the history of abuse of Native people and highlights the impacts of generational trauma. Broken treaties created vulnerabilities that left Native women and youth exposed to and at risk of being victims of sex trafficking,” says Stark. “Carnival Lights is a story about intergenerational Indigenous love. It’s a book for a country in need of deep healing.”

Finalists for this year’s awards were selected by 27 judges from around the state. Judges include writers, teachers, librarians, booksellers and others from the literary community in Minnesota. Award winners will be announced at the 2022 Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony on April 26 at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts. 

Book Cost: $24.95. For more information and to purchase, visit or

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Read the full September 2023 Magazine