Memoirist & Nonfiction Writer
Educator & Storyteller
Travels from: Minneapolis, MN

“I am astounded by her generosity of spirit in this book and in her work with those of us fortunate enough to cross her path.”- Zeke Caligiuri, author of This Is Where I Am

Carolyn Holbrook is a writer, educator, and longtime advocate for the healing power of the arts. Her memoir in essays, Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify (U of M Press, 2020) won the 2021 Minnesota Book Award for memoir and nonfiction, and was an honoree for the 2021 Society of Midland Authors Literary Award in Biography & Memoir. She is a co-author of MN civil rights icon, Dr. Josie R. Johnson’s memoir, Hope In the Struggle (U of M Press 2019). She is co-editor with David Mura of an anthology, We Are Meant to Rise: Voices for Justice from Minneapolis to the World (U of M Press).

Her personal essays have been published widely, most recently in A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota (MNHS Press 2016) and Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota (MNHS Press 2015). Her work is supported by the MN State Arts Board and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. She was awarded a 50 over 50 award from AARP/Pollen Midwest and won the Minnesota Book Awards Kay Sexton Award in 2010 . She teaches at the Loft Literary Center and other community venues, and at Hamline University, where she won the Exemplary Teacher award in 2014. She is the Artistic Director of More Than a Single Story, which she founded in 2015.

Carolyn's Featured Titles

We Are Meant to Rise: Voices for Justice from Minneapolis to the World

Univ Of Minnesota Press |

A brilliant and rich gathering of voices on the American experience of this past year and beyond, from Indigenous writers and writers of color from Minnesota
In this significant collection, Indigenous writers and writers of color bear witness to one of the most unsettling years in the history of the United States. Essays and poems vividly reflect and comment on the traumas we endured in 2020, beginning with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, deepened by the blatant murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and the uprisings that immersed our city into the epicenter of passionate, worldwide demands for justice. In inspired and incisive writing these contributors speak unvarnished truths not only to the original and pernicious racism threaded through the American experience but also to the deeply personal, in essays about family, loss, food culture, economic security, and mental health. Their call and response is united here to rise and be heard.

We Are Meant to Rise lifts up the astonishing variety of BIPOC writers in Minnesota. From authors with international reputations to newly emerging voices, it features people from many cultures, including Indigenous Dakota and Anishinaabe, African American, Hmong, Somali, Afghani, Lebanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Puerto Rican, Colombian, Mexican, transracial adoptees, mixed race, and LGBTQ+ perspectives. Most of the contributors have participated in More Than a Single Story, a popular and insightful conversation series in Minneapolis that features Indigenous and people of color speaking on what most concerns their communities.

We Are Meant to Rise meets the events of the day, the year, the centuries before, again and again, with powerful testament to the intrinsic and unique value of the human voice.

Contributors: Suleiman Adan, Mary Moore Easter, Louise Erdrich, Anika Fajardo, Safy-Hallan Farah, Said Farah, Sherrie Fernandez-Williams, Pamela R. Fletcher Bush, Shannon Gibney, Kathryn Haddad, Tish Jones, Ezekiel Joubert III, Douglas Kearney, Ed Bok Lee, Ricardo Levins Morales, Arleta Little, Resmaa Menakem, Tess Montgomery, Ahmad Qais Munhazim, Melissa Olson, Alexs Pate, Bao Phi, Mona Susan Power, Samantha Sencer-Mura, Said Shaiye, Erin Sharkey, Sun Yung Shin, Michael Torres, Diane Wilson, Kao Kalia Yang, and Kevin Yang.

Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify

Univ Of Minnesota Press |

Once a pregnant sixteen-year-old incarcerated in the Minnesota juvenile justice system, now a celebrated writer, arts activist, and teacher, Carolyn Holbrook has heeded the call to tell the story of her life. In a memoir woven of moments of reckoning, she summons stories born of silence, stories held inside, untold stories stifled by pain or prejudice or ignorance.

Earth Angels

Spout Press |

Literary Nonfiction. African & African American Studies. Women’s Studies. Carolyn Holbrook’s EARTH ANGELS discovers, in the intimate spaces of daily life, contact points with visionary experience. As a mother, artist, daughter, sister, teacher, and an African-American elder, Holbrook’s nonfiction unites worlds seen and unseen, domestic, intellectual, and supernatural, and weaves each narrative moment to its roots. EARTH ANGELS shows us that whenever two people meet they have a spiritual encounter in a historical context, and that this moment is both fraught and rich, reverberating through families and time. We need Carolyn Holbrook to remind us of this richness, and to demonstrate the complexity of its gifts. EARTH ANGELS is revelatory to the way mundane moments of an individual life act as a nexus for history and for the spirit world, the family, institutions and the imagination.

Hope in the Struggle: A Memoir

Univ Of Minnesota Press |

Why do you continue to work on issues of justice? young Black people ask Josie Johnson today, then, perhaps in the same breath, How do you maintain hope? This book, a lifetime in the making, is Josie’s answer. A memoir about shouldering the cause of social justice during the darkest hours and brightest moments for civil rights in America—and, specifically, in Minnesota—Hope in the Struggle shines light on the difference one person can make. For Josie Johnson, this has meant making a difference as a Black woman in one of the nation’s whitest states.

Josie’s story begins in a tight-knit community in Texas, where the unfairness of the segregated South, so antithetical to the values she learned at home, sharpened a sense of justice that guides her to this day. From the age of fourteen, when she went door to door with her father in Houston to campaign against the Poll Tax, to the moment in 2008 when, as a delegate at the Democratic National Convention, she cast her vote for Barack Obama for president, she has been at the forefront of the politics of civil rights. Her memoir offers a close-up picture of what that struggle has entailed, whether working as a community organizer for the Minneapolis Urban League or lobbying for fair housing and employment laws, investigating civil rights abuses or co-chairing the Minnesota delegation to the March on Washington, becoming the first African American to serve on the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents or creating the university’s Office of the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs with a focus on minority affairs and diversity. An intimate view of civil rights history in the making, Hope in the Struggle is a uniquely inspiring life story for these current dark and divisive times, a testament to how one determined soul can make the world a better place.


Creating Authentic Dialogue Between Communities on Race and Inclusiveness


Writing Through Trauma to Manifest Transformative Change


The Importance of Being Real With Your Students - Being willing to change your lesson plan if the one you are using isn't working


Embracing the Muse: The Intuitive Side of Creative Writing


Turning Life into Fiction


Finding the Story Your Really Want to Tell

Carolyn Holbrook’s Upcoming Events

More Than a Single Story Project

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Minnesota Book Award
Minnesota Women’s Press Award Winner
AARP/Pollen Midwest 50 over 50 Award

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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