Mary Ann Key Book Club

A collaboration with columnist Myron Medcalf, the Mary Ann Key Book Club uses reading as a catalyst for conversation as we attempt to better understand past and current injustices – including systemic racism, other forms of discrimination, and bias that affects marginalized communities.

Current selection

Parable of the Sower

by Octavia E. Butler

About the book

When global climate change and economic crises lead to social chaos in the early 2020s, California becomes full of dangers, from pervasive water shortage to masses of vagabonds who will do anything to live to see another day. In a society where any vulnerability is a risk, fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina suffers from hyperempathy, a debilitating sensitivity to others’ emotions.

Precocious and clear-eyed, Lauren must make her voice heard in order to protect her loved ones from the imminent disasters her small community stubbornly ignores. But what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: the birth of a new faith . . . and a startling vision of human destiny.

Octavia E. Butler was a renowned African American author who received a MacArthur “Genius” Grant and PEN West Lifetime Achievement Award for her body of work. She was the author of several award-winning novels including “Parable of the Sower” (1993), which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and “Parable of the Talents” (1995) winner of the Nebula Award for the best science fiction novel published that year. She passed away on February 24, 2006. Her work is now taught in over 200 colleges and universities nationwide.


Mary Ann Key Book Club – A Community Discussion of "Parable of the Sower"

Thursday, November 3, 7-8:30 p.m.
Minneapolis Central Library, Pohlad Hall

Join columnist Myron Medcalf and Shannon Gibney in a conversation with community leaders JaNaé Bates and Maya Washington. Panelists will discuss “Parable of the Sower” by Octavia E. Butler, how themes of racism, wealth inequality and hope are reflected in our community, and how individuals and society can dismantle racism and make real change for a better future. 

Seating in Pohlad Hall limited to first 235 attendees.

Collaborator: Star Tribune. Sponsor: Friends of the Hennepin County Library.

Mary Ann Key Book Club – A Literary Exploration of “Parable of the Sower”

Thursday, October 6, 7-8:30 p.m.

Join columnist Myron Medcalf and Dr. Tarshia Stanley in a discussion of “Parable of the Sower” by Octavia E. Butler, renowned African American author and MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient who passed away in 2006. Medcalf and Dr. Stanley, President of the Octavia E. Butler Society, will discuss the elements of Butler’s writing, how she uses speculative fiction to highlight inequities and opportunities for positive change, and her literary and cultural impact and influence. 

Registration required:

Collaborator: Star Tribune. Sponsor: Friends of the Hennepin County Library.


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About the book club

The book club was inspired by a Star Tribune column written by Myron Medcalf – the great-great-great-grandson of Mary Ann Key.

“I’m honored to partner with Hennepin County Library to launch the Mary Ann Key Book Club, named after the matriarch of my family, who was a slave in Georgia in the 1850s. Purchased for $1,000 at the age of 14, Mary Ann Key persevered. Her body was in bondage, but slavery never stole the freedom of her heart, mind and soul. This book club is about focusing on the truths of the past, our challenges in the present and the possibilities of the future…” – Myron Medcalf

This program is supported by Friends of the Hennepin County Library. Their generous financial support is helping to provide greater access to print and eBook copies of the featured books.