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Jonathan Odell is the author of the acclaimed novel The View from Delphi (MacAdam Cage), which deals with the struggle for equality in pre-civil rights Mississippi, his home state. His new novel, The Healing (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday), explores the subversive role that story plays in the healing of an oppressed people.

Odell’s short stories and essays have appeared in Stories from the Blue Moon Café (MacAdam Cage, 2004), Men Like That (University of Chicago Press, 2001), Letters of the Twentieth Century (Dial Press, 1999), Breaking Silence (Xanthus Press, 1996), Speakeasy Literary Magazine, Savannah Literary Journal, Commonweal Magazine, and UTNE Reader. The View from Delphi was the Spring selection for “Talking Volumes,” the joint book club of Minnesota Public Radio, the Star Tribune and the Loft Literary Center.

Born in Mississippi, Odell grew up in the Jim Crow South and became involved in the civil rights movement in college. He holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology and has been active in human resource development for over 30 years. He has held the position of Vice President of Human Resources for a Minneapolis based corporation and later founded his own consulting company. In that field he published Work Skills for Teams and Courageous Conversations, a revolutionary approach to diversity training. These programs have grossed over a million dollars in sales to organizations such as General Mills, Prudential Insurance Company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Hewlett-Packard, and Avon. Odell also built a successful practice as a Leadership Coach to executives in Fortune 500 companies.

In 2003, along with Minneapolis civil rights leader and city councilperson Don Samuels, Odell founded the Institute for Authentic Dialogue to spark conversations across race. He appeared before thousands of business executives, clergy, community and government leaders, and educators, teaching the skills for authentic dialogue through sharing his own race story.

Last year Odell was given the opportunity to design and implement Heart Jumps!, a literary intervention for elementary and middle school children that uses story creation as a way to increase a child’s love for reading and writing, self-esteem, and classroom safety. The program will be piloted in two Twin Cities school districts this fall.

Minneapolis Star Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, and Minnesota Public Radio have all done feature stories on the work Odell is doing using story to bridge personal, racial, and cultural differences. He has appeared on radio and TV across the country and has been a regular commentator for Minnesota Public Radio.

With his partner, award-winning artist Jim Kuether, Odell is completing an illustrated children’s book, Just Call Me A Dinosaur.

Odell is presently putting the finishing touches on a volume of personal essays tentatively titled: Growing Up a Gay Fundamentalist Southern Baptist in Mississippi, or, God What Were You Thinking?

27 Comments

    • Scott MacGregor
    • Posted October 6, 2009 at 10:15 pm
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    Hi My Dear Friend….Susie gave me your web site….it’s great….Take Care…Scott

  1. This all sounds real interestin’!

    • Jon Odell
    • Posted October 21, 2009 at 3:01 pm
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    Thanks, Scott. It’s great to be in communication again. I bet with both have some great stories to share in catching up. A lot of things can happen in 40 years!

    • Jon Odell
    • Posted October 21, 2009 at 3:06 pm
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    Thanks, Trixie, that’s a high compliment coming from you. I’d like to link up to your website, at the risk of putting mine to shame. But I’m willing to take that risk if it means enlightening the masses to your sage pronouncements. I know I’ll never be quite the same, no matter how much I try.

    • Zachary Dehm
    • Posted February 28, 2010 at 3:24 am
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    I recently read your article in Commonweal Magazine entitled “Coming Home,” and am planning on using it in a paper I’m writing. I greatly enjoyed your article and just wanted to let you know that you present the issue of homosexuality and theology in a whole new light. As a homosexual and hopefully a budding theologian myself, your article was truly inspiring.

  2. Zachary, I’m proud that the article impressed you enough to reference in your paper. Let me know if there is any way I can be of further assistance. And if you are willing, I would love to read your paper. Good luck in your studies. I’m excited about the path you have taken as a gay Christian. We need your voice.

    • Linda Harvey
    • Posted May 24, 2010 at 4:56 am
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    This may be a delayed reaction, but I just read a reprint of your “Coming Home” article in Utne Magazine. I also share your experience with the concept of holding two contradicting thoughts. I am a christian who was raised in the church ahd heavily involved in many areas of ministry including serving as an elder for 6 years. I have run away from that “family” but still firmly hold a belief in God. Although I am not gay, I feel much frustration with the animosity Christians hold towards the gay community. After experiencing a number of emotional tragedys I gave up on believing God was good. I was a caregiver for a disabled man and had to take him to a weekly church service, my first time back at church in about 3 years. Those were healing and refreshing times for me, often leaving me in tears but genuinely experiencing the loving presence of God. The minister was gay. and the church even had a float entry in the annual gay pride parade…. I would like to hear how some fundamentalist Christians can explain God using a gay minister to reach a lost and hurting child such as myself.

  3. Hey John, what a great writer! Gary Mazzone at Borders told me to give you a call–if you don’t mind emailing me, that would be great. Best of luck to you!

    • Noel Holston
    • Posted September 19, 2011 at 6:14 pm
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    Greetings from another Laurel native, (former) Minneapolis resident and writer. Would love to compare notes some time. I assume you can see my email address. I also emailed your publicist at Random House and asked him to forward a msg to you.

    • Jon Odell
    • Posted September 24, 2011 at 8:49 pm
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    Hello Noel! Yes, we talked years ago. I’d love to reconnect. I’ll contact you at the email in your comment.

    • Kelli Conlow
    • Posted October 4, 2011 at 1:35 pm
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    Hi, Jon! I’m excited to climb into your newest book, and to give it away as a gift to my friends. It’s been quite a while since the crew from C. corporation got together, hasn’t it? Congratulations in your successes in your many efforts~

    • Jon Odell
    • Posted October 9, 2011 at 10:41 pm
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    Hello, Kelli. It’s good to see you here! Yes, as Doug W. used to say, a lot of water has passed under the dam! Thanks for checking in and I hope you enjoy the book!

    • joyce corley falkenstein
    • Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:30 pm
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    Hi Jon, My book club just read “The View from Delphi” I found the book through Viki Bynum “Renegade South”. I’m looking for questions to use at our meeting.

    My mothers maiden name was Ishee, she was born in Laurel Mississippi. Pre Civil war generations. Did you know any Ishees when you were growing up in that town?. I’ve found many of my moms family in Victoria Bynum’s book “Free State of Jones”.

    • David Ingram
    • Posted March 3, 2012 at 1:50 pm
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    Dear Jonathan
    I just went t bed at 4 am as I could not, or would not, stop reading your book.I live in NYC and am from TN and work here as a stylist to 10 American socialites. I wrote a massive email to them and all my friends this morning and they have all ordered the book. I have emailed Jonathan Karp about your book and also someone else I cannot mention here. I would LOVE to write you a more inclusive email…would that be possible? I am a 45 year old gay man and was blown away by your ability to get the “voice” so right in this book. Not since Wally Lamb have I seen such an immersion. PLEASE let me know if i may contact you as I have so much to say. I am happy to supply you with references of my character.
    Thanks for such a remarkable read. I will not soon forget and I also needed this.
    Fondly,
    David Ingram

    • Jon Odell
    • Posted March 4, 2012 at 8:15 pm
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    David, what a dear letter. I just read it to my mother so you know I was proud to get it! I’m in Mississippi beginning the Southern Tour (my own March Across Georgia). I’d love to correspond. I’ll send my email and phone number via you aol email address. My partner is a watercolorist and we will be in NY the week of April 20 to see the NWA exhibit, which selected one of his paintings. We are planning getting married while we are there. Perhaps you could come to the exhibition.

    Jon

    • Steve Mark
    • Posted March 10, 2012 at 5:23 pm
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    Jon, I wanted to commend you on a fabulous talk to my HON 322 kids last Tuesday night. That is the most engaged they have been all year. I especially liked how you were frank from the position of the white male, and that you conveyed some thoughts we have all had growing up. You added a good sense of humor, interweaving self-deprecation with brutal honesty to the level I saw most of the black students laughing mightily. Thank you for taking time to visit my class, and I hope some day to have another opportunity to just sit and chat with you. I am looking forward to reading your books, and I wish I had the resources to provide all of my students with copies. Take care and I’m going to watch for the next installment in your literary journey.

    • Jon Odell
    • Posted March 12, 2012 at 3:33 pm
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    Dr. Mark, (Steve!), The honor was mine. I really had a ball with them, and on another level it was an opportunity to “come home” after a long exile! Thanks for being so gracious and welcoming.

    • Felicia
    • Posted March 31, 2012 at 5:59 am
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    Picked up The Healing at my local library not knowing what to expect & could hardly put it down. Very moving. Can’t wait to p/u your 1st book. Thank you!

    • Jon Odell
    • Posted April 2, 2012 at 5:22 pm
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    I’m so glad you enjoyed THe Healing and hope you find The View from Delphi also worth the read.

    • Joan
    • Posted April 5, 2012 at 11:18 pm
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    Jon Odell your writing leaves me in awe. I’m several pages away from completing “Delphi” and I’m actually rationing myself to delay its ending. The tension and feelings you created were palpable, your characters wonderful and descriptions made me recall John Steinbeck’s amazing descriptions in the Joad’s dustbowl. Thank you for this exceptional novel. I will be reading The Healing next and looking forward to it. Thank you for a special reading experience. Joan Mansbach

    • Jon Odell
    • Posted April 7, 2012 at 5:51 pm
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    Joan, I very much appreciate your taking the time to check in with me about Delphi. One of the nicest thing about THE HEALING being marketed by a major publisher, is that folks are having another chance to discover my first novel. Please be so kind as to let me know your thoughts about THE HEALING when you get to it! Thanks, Jon.

    • Pru Selden
    • Posted April 8, 2012 at 5:04 pm
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    Jon,
    I am not sure if you remember me. I hired you to do some work at Park Nicollet many, many years ago when I was Director of Training. We had lunch also many, many years ago. Saw the article in the paper about your new book-congtrats! Would love to reconnect with you.
    -Pru

    • Jon Odell
    • Posted April 10, 2012 at 12:18 am
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    Pru!! Yes, I do remember you! It was a couple of lifetimes ago! I’ll email you with my contact info. Good to hear from you.

    • Kathleen
    • Posted April 17, 2012 at 9:13 pm
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    Thank you for writing this compelling novel! I felt the dust and heat on the plantation. I could hear the steps creak on Polly’s hospital porch. The weaving of Granada’s story in with Polly and Violet kept me turning the page. Several years ago I read Cane River and loved it. The Healing is moved me in a similar way. Your ability to capture a slave healer’s soul continues to amaze me days after finishing the novel. Congratulations on a fabulous read. I hope that many people will read your novel. It is a winner in my book, and I am telling everyone they HAVE to read The Healing!

    • Jon Odell
    • Posted April 17, 2012 at 9:46 pm
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    Kathleen, thank you so much for your kind and generous comments. This means much to an author, to know that someone I have never met, has been affected by my words. Thank you! And I’m honored that you would recommend my writing to your friends!

    • Mary Sayler
    • Posted July 23, 2012 at 10:54 pm
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    I just finished your amazing book “The Healing” and it touched me deeply. The many ways in which Polly healed is so like nursing- touching, listening and caring. And I love the way she shared her gift, or rather helped Granada realize her gift. I have been a nurse for 29 years and have helped mentor many nurses along the way. Last year I started teaching student nurses. Polly has made me think deeply about the way I affect those I teach and how to bring out their gift of healing. I am going to recommend your book to my colleagues and students as a “must read!”

    I am so sad to have missed your talk at North Memorial Med Center last May. I am a nurse there and had a conflict on the day you visited. Would there ever be a way to obtain a signed copy of your book? It would be one I would always treasure!

    Looking forward to reading your first book soon!

    • Jon Odell
    • Posted August 1, 2012 at 8:22 pm
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    Hello Mary! I’m so sorry for the delay in getting back to you. For some reason I didn’t receive the email alert. Your comments mean the world to me, coming from a health professional as yourself. And what you said about mentoring and Polly touched my heart.

    I’ve got a couple of readings/signings coming up in August. You are welcome to bring your book and I’ll be happy to sign, and more thrilled to meet you in person. I’ll send an email with the links to future events. If the dates don’t work, you can perhaps give your book to Karla McGray, a chaplain there at NM Hospital and she can get it to me to sign. Either way, I hope our paths cross one day. Thanks for taking the time to connect.

    Jon


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By The Healing, Indeed « Sallysmart's Blog on 21 Mar 2012 at 3:42 am

    [...] years ago I read The View from Delphi by Jonathan Odell, an author who grew up in Mississippi and eventually found his home in Minneapolis, something we [...]

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