Barbara Jensen

Publication Date



[Excerpt] "So I said to him, 'What part of Fridley are you from? I mean where in Anoka did you grow up?'" My eyes popped wide in shock. Those were the northwest suburbs of the Twin Cities we had just driven through, where much of my extended family still lived, including the uncles, aunties, and cousins that I felt so grateful for that difficult day. Fridley is where Dave Jensen lived, Uncle Gene's son, whose excellent band played at our wedding dance. Uncle Donnie and Auntie Carol and my deceased godmother, Mary Jensen Larson, lived in Anoka.

The guy behind me went on, "What trailer park in Spring hake Park are you from? What part of Columbia Heights"

"Yeah," another guy joined him as our waitress came, "What rock in New Brightondid you crawl out from under?" New Brighton was my childhood mailing address. I skated at the roller rink in Spring Lake Park; I got my first job there in a bakery at fourteen. I sputtered through my order while these two guys behind me riffed on, besting each other's epithets, to a table of people laughing. Every one of their epithets were the places where my father and much of his family (and, later, my cousins and their families) had proudly bought homes and farms and settled down with skilled working class jobs. The shock and irony of hearing their blatant classism when I had just been out there left me speechless. Suddenly my head was spinning with rage. It made me crazy to juxtapose the tenderness and triumph of the day—and my own complicated cultural history—with this casual and complete contempt for the places my family called home.


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