Monday Evening Book Club January Selection

Image result for handmaid's taleThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet in Forsyth Hall on January 8 at 7 pm. This month we’re discussing The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

About the book…

In this multi-award-winning, bestselling novel, Margaret Atwood has created a stunning Orwellian vision of the near future. This is the story of Offred, one of the unfortunate “Handmaids” under the new social order who have only one purpose: to breed. In Gilead, where women are prohibited from holding jobs, reading, and forming friendships, Offred’s persistent memories of life in the “time before” and her will to survive are acts of rebellion. Provocative, startling, prophetic, and with Margaret Atwood’s devastating irony, wit, and acute perceptive powers in full force, The Handmaid’s Tale is at once a mordant satire and a dire warning.

Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize; The Year of the Flood; and MaddAddam. She is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award, and lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson. (Publisher)

What critics said about The Handmaid’s Tale back in the 1980’s

Haunted by The Handmaid’s Tale – an article about the book by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood: The prophet of dystopia (New Yorker)

Emma Watson interviews Margaret Atwood about The Handmaid’s Tale

Make Margaret Atwood Fiction Again (Boston Review)

Seniors Book Club January Selection

The Seniors Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, January 10 in Forsyth Hall to discuss The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

About the book

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them. (Publisher)

About the author

Eowyn (A-o-win) LeMay Ivey was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters. Her mother named her after a character from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Eowyn works at the independent bookstore Fireside Books where she plays matchmaker between readers and books. The Snow Child, her debut novel, appeared in 2012; her second, To the Bright Edge of the World, was published in 2016. Her short fiction appears in the anthology Cold Flashes, University of Alaska Press 2010, and the North Pacific Rim literary journal Cirque.

Prior to her career as a bookseller and novelist, Eowyn worked for nearly a decade as an award-winning reporter at the Frontiersman newspaper. Her weekly articles about her outdoor adventures earned her the Best Non-Daily Columnist award from the Alaska Press Club. Her articles and photographs have been published in the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Magazine, and other publications.

Eowyn earned her BA in journalism and creative writing through Western Washington University’s honors program and studied creative nonfiction in University of Alaska Anchorage’s graduate program. She is a contributor to the blog 49Writers and a founding member of Alaska’s first statewide writing center.

The Snow Child is informed by Eowyn’s life in Alaska. Her husband is a fishery biologist with the state of Alaska. While they both work outside of the home, they are also raising their daughters in the rural, largely subsistence lifestyle in which they were both raised.

As a family, they harvest salmon and wild berries, keep a vegetable garden, turkeys and chickens, and they hunt caribou, moose, and bear for meat. Because they don’t have a well and live outside any public water system, they haul water each week for their holding tank and gather rainwater for their animals and garden. Their primary source of home heat is a woodstove, and they harvest and cut their own wood.

These activities are important to Eowyn’s day-to-day life as well as the rhythm of her year. (from LitLovers)

Myths and Legends: The Snow Maiden

Homesteading in Alaska

A conversation with Eowyn Ivey

NPR book review

Book review in The Guardian

Book review in The Globe and Mail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Evening Book Club November Selection

Our Souls at nightThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet in the Training Room on November 13 at 7 pm. This month we’re discussing Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf.

About the book …

A spare yet eloquent, bittersweet yet inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together to wrestle with the events of their lives and their hopes for the imminent future.

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters.
Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with.
Their brave adventures—their pleasures and their difficulties—are hugely involving and truly resonant, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer’s enduring contribution to American literature. (From the publisher.)

About the author …

Alan Kent Haruf was an American novelist and author of six novels, all set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado.

Life
Haruf was born in Pueblo, Colorado, the son of a Methodist minister. He graduated with a BA from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1965, where he would later teach, and earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1973.
Before becoming a writer, Haruf worked in a variety of places, including a chicken farm in Colorado, a construction site in Wyoming, a rehabilitation hospital in Denver, a hospital in Phoenix, a presidential library in Iowa, an alternative high school in Wisconsin, as an English teacher with the Peace Corps in Turkey, and colleges in Nebraska and Illinois.
He lived with his wife, Cathy, in Salida, Colorado until his death in 2014. He had three daughters from his first marriage.

Works
All of Haruf’s novels take place in the fictional town of Holt, in eastern Colorado, a town based on Yuma, Colorado, one of Haruf’s residences in the early 1980s. His first novel, The Tie That Binds(1984), received a Whiting Award and a special Hemingway Foundation/PEN citation. Where You Once Belonged followed in 1990. A number of his short stories have appeared in literary magazines.

Plainsong was published in 1999 and became a U.S. bestseller. The New York Times‘ Verlyn Klinkenborg called it “a novel so foursquare, so delicate and lovely, that it has the power to exalt the reader.” Plainsong won the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award and the Maria Thomas Award in Fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction.

Eventide, a sequel to Plainsong, was published in 2004. Library Journal described the writing as “honest storytelling that is compelling and rings true.” Jonathan Miles saw it as a “repeat performance” and “too goodhearted.”

On November 30, 2014, at the age of 71, Kent Haruf died at his home in Salida, Colorado, of interstitial lung disease.

Our Souls at Night, his final work, was published posthumously in 2015 and received wide praise. Ron Charles of the Washington Postcalled it “a tender, carefully polished work that it seems like a blessing we had no right to expect.”

Recognition
1986 – Whiting Award for fiction
1999 – Finalist for the 1999 National Book Award for Plainsong
2005 – Colorado Book Award for Eventide
2005 – Finalist for the Book Sense Award for Eventide
2009 – Dos Passos Prize for Literature
2012 – Wallace Stegner Award
2014 – Folio Prize shortlist for Benediction

Kent Haruf : the complete final interview

A Wall Street Journal interview about the book (video)

Our Souls at Night discussion questions

A NY Times book review

A Guardian book review

A Los Angeles Times obituary

A UK Telegraph obituary

A Q&A with the book’s editor

Our Souls at Night movie

 

Seniors Book Club November Selection

Hillbilly ElegyThe Seniors Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, November 8 in the “Aquarium” Room to discuss the memoir Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.

About the book…

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans.

The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside.

J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country. (From the publisher.)

About the author…

An author interview

Discussion questions

Video interviews

A New York Times book review

A salon.com book review

A New Republic book review

A New Yorker commentary

Poverty in the United States (Wikipedia)

Historical background about the Appalachian region

On J.D. Vance moving back to Ohio

J.D. Vance initiative “Our Ohio Renewal”

Monday Evening Book Club October Selection

The Monday Evening Book Club will meet in the Training Room on October 1Do Not Say We Have Nothing6 at 7 pm. This month we’re discussing Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien.

About the book

In Canada in 1991, ten-year-old Marie and her mother invite a guest into their home: a young woman called Ai-Ming, who has fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests.

Ai-Ming tells Marie the story of her family in Revolutionary China – from the crowded teahouses in the first days of Chairman Mao’s ascent to the Shanghai Conservatory in the 1960s and the events leading to the Beijing demonstrations of 1989.  It is a story of revolutionary idealism, music, and silence, in which three musicians – the shy and brilliant composer Sparrow, the violin prodigy Zhuli, and the enigmatic pianist Kai – struggle during China’s relentless Cultural Revolution to remain loyal to one another and to the music they have devoted their lives to.  Forced to re-imagine their artistic and private selves, their fates reverberate through the years, with deep and lasting consequences for Ai-Ming – and for Marie.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing was the winner of the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and longlisted for the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. (Publisher)

About Madeleine Thien (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

The Cultural Revolution: All you need to know about China’s political convulsion (The Guardian) 

It was the worst of times: China is still in denial about its “spiritual holocaust” (The Economist)

The Great Leap Forward (Chinese posters)

Tiananmen Square, then and now (The Atlantic)

Do Not Say We Have Nothing (family tree and images on Tumblr)

Madeleine Thien: ‘In China you learn a lot from what people don’t tell you’ (The Guardian) 

Madeleine Thien on the writing process behind her prize-winning novel (Banff Centre)

Quill and Quire book review

New York Times book review