About The Author
Genny Zak Kieley, Minneapolis Historian
I grew up in Northeast Minneapolis and had lots of Jobs—Sifo Toy, Fanny Farmer, picture framing and accounts payable. I waitressed at many of the local spots including Bridgeman’s and Country Kitchen. I discovered writing in later life. In my mid 30s after the kids were grown in 1987 I took a writing class and found out I loved writing. I met my teacher & mentor, Maureen LaJoy and took classes with her for 10 years.
I quit my job at the frame shop in 1993 and told my co-workers, “I am going to write a book.” They said “Sure you are.” I wrote about NE Minneapolis where I grew up and modeled my book after Bring Warm Clothes--a combination of letters, vignettes and tons of photos of people in their everyday lives. I created my own format with many different topics—all about Northeast Minneapolis. My style is to take a whole bunch of different subjects and put them all in one book. People said I couldn’t do it, I did it anyway. It took about 5 years to write.
My first book Heart and Hard Work published in 1997 was once Barnes & Noble #4 in the whole country for Non-fiction. We sold out at my first book signing, which was at Kramarczyk’s Meat Market on Dec. 18, 1997.
This event was listed in the Star/Tribune along with an interview with Chuck Haga. I didn’t know it but the last Saturday before Xmas is the biggest meat buying day of the year. People were in the meat buying line and thought they were in the book line. The grandma came from the back room and said, “My bread won’t rise!” My husband cut his finger and couldn’t find a band-aid. He had to call reinforcements. I was signing long Polish names while my brother in law who is a salesman, went down the line showing pictures, and sold more books. It was extremely chaotic but memorable.
People I'd forgotten about appeared as if out of a time warp. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Remquist showed up—she was proud that one of her students wrote a book about NE. My husband and I have had many joys and good laughs over all that's gone on.
People invited me into their homes—One lady knitted me a scarf and gave me a brick from my old school, one family invited me for a Polish dinner. One lady gave me a door knob from her house, one guy requested that he be buried with my book. There were lots of funny calls when my husband suddenly became my secretary. I’ll never forget the lady that said, “Your book is too big to fit in the bathtub.” Andy Zurbey serenaded me on a concertina. Lou Snyder from Nye’s Polonaise Room sang and played showtunes at a NE book event.
And guys calling and saying they used to date me-One guy was 85 yrs old. Even a guy that dumped me was bragging about me writing a book. One guys last request was to have my book put in the casket with him.
In the beginning it was hard for me to get information about Northeast. There wasn’t much in the history books or in the libraries. Then when the book came out people loved it so much, they started sending me stuff.
What was I to do with all this info that I couldn’t get for the first book. A
second book was created and we called it Pride and Tradition: More Memories of
Northeast. We packed it full of photos, newspaper clippings, and people’s own
memories, including all of the things that people loved about Northeast. Later a
third book was made. Roots and Ties: A Northeast Scrapbook. This included some
of the missing pieces that were not included in the first two books. The parochial
schools, and the houses on the hill that were east of Central Avenue.