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Book about 1916 Minn. iron ore strike wins 2018 Hognander award

ST. PAUL—Gary Kaunonen is winner of the 2018 Hognander Minnesota History Award for his book "Flames of Discontent: The 1916 Minnesota Iron Ore Strike." The award was announced Thursday, March 8, by Friends of the St. Paul Public Library.

This biennial award, supported by the Hognander Family Foundation, recognizes and celebrates the most outstanding scholarly work on Minnesota history published in the previous two years. It is presented as part of the 30th annual Minnesota Book Awards, sponsored this year by Education Minnesota. Kaunonen will be honored at the April 21 awards ceremony at the InterContinental Hotel St. Paul Riverfront.

On June 2, 1916, 40 mostly immigrant mine workers in Aurora, Minn., walked off the job, a labor disturbance that would mushroom into one of the most contentious battles between organized labor and management in the early 1900s. Drawing on previously untapped accounts from immigrant newspapers, company letters, personal journals and oral histories, Kaunonen gives voice to the strike's organizers and working-class participants.

Judges were enthusiastic about the way "Flames of Discontent" (University of Minnesota Press) describes in great detail the events leading up to the strike and the way the author brings the lives of working-class Finnish immigrants into sharp relief, documenting the circumstances behind the emergence of leftist politics and union organization in their ranks.

"Kaunonen's study of the Finnish miners in the Mesabi and Vermillion Iron Ranges and their relationship to the Industrial Workers of the World makes a major contribution to the labor history of the United States," one judge said.

Kaunonen is an independent historian of labor and immigration and a documentary filmmaker based in International Falls, Minn. He is the author of "Finns in Michigan," and the award-winning books "Challenge Accepted: A Finnish Immigrant Response to Industrial America in Michigan's Copper Country" and, with co-author Aaron Goings, "Community in Conflict: A Working History of the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike and the Italian Hall Tragedy." His documentary "Northern Minnesota's Labor Wars" examines the 1916 and 1917 strikes in that region and their significance to World War I-era political deportations and repression.

The Minnesota Book Awards ceremony will present winning authors in nine categories, as well as recognition of the Book Artist of the Year and winner of the Kay Sexton Award.

A reception begins at 6:30 p.m. with the ceremony at 8 p.m. Tickets, which start at $40, can be purchased at thefriends.org/mnba or by calling 651-222-3242.

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