toni mcnaron's garden

Toni McNaron has been talking about and writing books and stories for many decades. As a child, she often chose to read a good book rather than going to the local ice cream shop with neighborhood friends. After trying to be a physics and math major in college, she admitted that it was her literature class and teacher who really inspired and satisfied her intellectual curiosity. As a college professor for thirty-seven years, Toni worked with young people to help them feel the power of beautiful language and the centrality of reading about people whose actions and cultures stretched students’ perspectives and awakened empathy even for characters who overt actions might offend or frighten them.

Her own writing has ranged widely:  editing a pioneering collection of stories by women who survived incest; two memoirs of growing up in an unreconstructed South and, more recently, of wrestling with God until she has forged a comfortable faith for herself as a lesbian-feminist; editing essays about famous sister pairs in literature; editing and writing articles about Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, writing in code, pedagogical concerns, and attraction based on sameness rather than opposition.

Since 2001, Toni has been able to refashion how she wants to spend her time, finding in retirement creative ways to “teach” good books to curious adults even as she has turned her considerable yard into a series of wonderful gardens that sustain her, lots of local birds, and the occasional welcomed bunny rabbit. In these times so full of race-based inequities, Toni has decided to use her considerable teaching skills to introduce mostly white and older readers to books by and about black life now and into the inglorious past. This is her way to resist as she enters more seriously into consideration of mortality.

Read more about Toni


Garden Artist

My mother was an artist but she died before I was old enough to recognize that.  A primary location for her to practice her art was her garden.   She and Daddy had bought a bigger house and the vacant lot attached, so Mamie (what most people called my mother) decided... read more


Because I usually can’t get myself organized to go see movies in theaters, I’m often late to see important films.  So it has been with “GET OUT,” the important 2017 film directed by Jordan Peele.  I just watched it on DVD in the quiet of my own... read more

What If the Dog Really Did Eat the Homework?

When I began teaching at the University of Minnesota, I was in my late 20s and my students were often in their early 20s or late teens.  As one way of establishing myself as their “professor,” I set up strict deadlines for handing in papers.  Of course a... read more