The Group meets on the second Saturday of the month during November through April from 10:00 am – noon.

Most of our selections are contemporary novels, complemented with a few classics and non-fiction. We enjoy broadening our awareness by reading books set in various parts of the world. Both members and friends of 1st UUPB are welcome to these discussions. Come for one or for all.

 

“Read so as to know the world.”

 

2017– 2018 Readings & Schedule

Family— the Ties that Bind, and Sometimes Unravel

Program                                                                                     Publication
Date             Title & Author                                    Length        Date

Nov. 11  Salvage the Bones  by Jesmyn Ward   288 pages   Aug. 30, 2011
Dec. 9  Moonglow  by Michael Chabon       430 pages   Nov. 22, 2016
Jan. 13  Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi       320 pages   June. 7, 2016
Feb. 10  The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri   340 pages   Sep. 24 2013
Mar. 10  Pride and Prejudice  by Jane Austen   226 pages   Jan. 28, 1813
Apr. 14  Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett       368 pages   May 3, 2016

 

Salvage the BonesJesmyn Ward

This novel explores the plight of a working-class African-American family in Mississippi in 2005 as they prepare for Hurricane Katrina, and follows them through the aftermath of that storm.  2011 recipient of the National Book Award for Fiction

Why?  Well, it is hurricane season.  And once again, extreme rains have caused serious flooding this summer  for New Orleans and its residents. What’s happening is consistent with a warming climate. As these changes occur throughout the world, the greatest impact often comes to people with the fewest resources.

 

MoonglowMichael Chabon

This book chronicles the narrator’s discussions with his family, particularly his mother and dying grandfather. A multi-generational saga of a Jewish family’s secrets, lies, and loves— an autobiography wrapped in a novel disguised as a memoir, with some of these memories set in Florida.  The narrator functions as a proxy for the author, Chabon.     2016 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction finalist, plus lots of other awards.  In 2000 Chabon won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

Why?  Chabon is a highly praised contemporary author and Pulitzer winner, and, since this sounds like a great family story, I thought it was time we checked into his work. This story covers much of our lifetime. Also, one of my former students who now is an Indiana high school English teacher herself highly recommended Chabon and Moonglow on Facebook, and this teacher loves learning from her students.

 

Homegoing Yaa Gyasi

Each chapter in the novel, which covers around 500 years, follows a different descendant of an  African Asante woman named Maame, starting with her two daughters, separated by circumstance: Effia marries James Collins, the British governor in charge of Cape Coast Castle, while her half-sister Esi is held captive in the dungeons below, awaiting shipment to the American colonies. Subsequent chapters follow their children and following generations.  Nominations: Goodreads Choice Awards Best Historical Fiction, PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction.

Why?  A new voice in the literary world, Gyasi shows consequences of the slave trade both in Ghana and the US by following a single family.   Remember Roots?

 

The LowlandJhumpa Lahiri

Lahiri’s sweeping novel traces the lives of two brothers born in Calcutta, India — close enough to almost be twins – and their family from Indian independence to the present day.  One brother stays in India, the other migrates to the U.S.    Nominations: Booker Prize, National Book Award for Fiction, Goodreads Choice Awards Best Fiction.  In 2000 Jhumpa Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Interpreter of Maladies.

Why?  Seventy years ago this year, the Indian Independence Act 1947, an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, partitioned British India into the two new independent dominions of India and Pakistan. Today India, second only to China in world population, is a country that deserves our attention.  Also, like in Homegoing, this story traces two branches of a single family, one in India, the other in the US.  Thanks to Terri Harrow for recommending this one.

 

Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen 

This romantic comedy of English landed gentry in 1800s tells the story of Mr and Mrs Bennet’s five unmarried daughters after the rich and eligible Mr Bingley and his status-conscious friend, Mr Darcy, have moved into their neighborhood.

Why?  Celebrating the 200 anniversary of Jane Austen’s death in 1817 is as good an excuse as any to revisit this novel that deals with so many elements of a family and society, and continues to be loved and read to this day— even though it wasn’t nominated for any awards!  You’ve read it before?  I assure you that it gets better every time you read it. Of course it deals with white male privilege.  And besides, we need some levity to balance these other serious works.

 

Imagine Me GoneAdam Haslett

This concerns a couple, American Margaret and British John, who marry despite John’s crippling depression.  With different chapters narrated by the couple and their three children, it spans half a century from 1960 to present, two continents, and five WASP-y voices.  Nominations: 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.  In 2003 Adam Haslett’s You Are Not a Stranger Here was a Pulitzer finalist.

Why?  I hope I’m not making a mistake here. This novel deals with the effects of mental illness on individuals and their families.  Many readers and critics highly praised its excellent writing, but cautioned that it could be emotionally hard to read.  However, exploring the impact of mental illness while reading a good book seems like something that would be worthwhile for us to do together.