Three Book Discussions Explore “A Woman’s Place”

by Cassie Wefald

Three Book Discussions Explore “A Woman’s Place.”

By Linda Henderson, Learning and Information Services Librarian

Image result for their eyes were watching god

Mark your spring calendars!  Join us at Manhattan Public Library for three afternoon BookTalk discussions.  The theme is A Woman’s Place.  What is a woman’s place, and who makes that decision?

The discussion of women’s roles in society has advanced rapidly in the last two hundred years, and the books in this series each reflect a different period’s perspective on that dialogue.  Each author explores how women have developed personal strength of character, while dealing with their society’s and their loved ones’ perceptions of who and what they ought to be.  The stories they tell dramatically reveal the constant tensions between mothers and daughters, wives and husbands, careers and family. Humanities Kansas’s Talk About Literature in Kansas book discussions draw on our diverse literatures to help us see more clearly who we are as people.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, an American classic by Zora Neal Hurston, is the luminous and haunting novel about Janie Crawford, a black woman of the 1930s’ South.  Her journey from free-spirited girl to independent woman of substance has inspired readers and authors ever since.  The story is a tribute to a black woman who made herself heard despite the strictures of the times. 

Michaeline Chance-Reay will lead the discussion on Thursday, March 28, at 2:00 p.m.  Dr. Reay taught courses in Women’s Studies and Education at Kansas State University, and holds a Ph.D. in Humanities Education and an MSW in Social Work from Ohio State University.  Her research resulted in a 1998 exhibition at the Riley County Historical Museum, with an accompanying book: Land Grant Ladies: Kansas State University Presidential Wives.  Her current research deals with the Harvey Girls, the independent young women who served as waitresses along the Santa Fe Railroad in the 1880s. 

The Joy Luck Club, a remarkably imaginative and moving book by Amy Tan, continues to speak to many women, mothers, and growing daughters about the persistent tensions and enduring bonds between generations and cultures.  The mothers, all Chinese immigrants, tell about grueling hardships, as well as the tyranny of family pride and the fear of losing “face.”  The daughters, in turn, must try to reconcile their personalities, shaped by American surroundings, with the discordant expectations of their mothers. 

Anne Hawkins will lead the discussion of The Joy Luck Club on Thursday, April 25, at 2:00 p.m.  Hawkins teaches American History at Washburn University, as well as U.S. and world history to homeschooled children across northeastern Kansas.  She received her M.A. in History from the University of Kansas.  She has published numerous historical articles and scripts, and also performs as pioneering women, like abolitionist Mary Jane Ritchie of Topeka and author Louisa May Alcott.  She has led discussions for the Kansas Humanities Council since 2012.

A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather, centers on Marian Forrester and her husband Captain Daniel Forrester.  Mostly told from the perspective of Niel Herbert, a young admirer of Marian, it recounts their lives in the small western town of Sweet Water on the Transcontinental Railroad.  As he describes the decline of both Marian and the old West in which they reside, a tale of the shift from pioneering spirit to corporate exploitation emerges.  Exploring themes of social class and modernization, A Lost Lady is considered to be a major influence on the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald. 

The discussion of A Lost Lady will be led by Margy Stewart at Manhattan Public Library, May 23, 2019, at 2:00 p.m.  Dr. Stewart previously taught English at Washburn University, and is co-founder of the Prairie Heritage Institute, a non-profit corporation devoted to preservation of the tallgrass prairie and the culture of the Flint Hills.  She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Wisconsin, and has published numerous essays on many topics, including Flint Hills history, prairie ecology, writing education, American literature, and the birds of Kansas.

All three books are now available to check out at the 2nd floor Reference Desk at Manhattan Public Library.  Take a look, and join us for these lively afternoon discussions, sponsored by Humanities Kansas and the Manhattan Library Association.