Book Discussions

We often offer book discussions in support of our public events and also for our monthly Luann Dummer Center for Women Book Club.  Book discussions take place from noon-1:00 pm in OEC 103 (Luann Dummer Center for Women). The LDCW Book Club is free and open to the public. All are welcome!

This year, in honor of our March 2014 Women’s History Month speaker Haleh Esfandiari, we will focus on books relating to our theme "International Feminism and Diverse Women's Life Stories". We have included in our list some classic titles and some less well-known. We are focusing on novels with prominent female roles.

September 25, 2013

Three Strong Women
Written by Marie N D

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From Marie NDiaye, the first black woman to win the Prix Goncourt, a harrowing and beautiful novel of the travails of West African immigrants in France. The story of three women who say no: Norah, a French-born lawyer who finds herself in Senegal, summoned by her estranged father to save another victim of his paternity; Fanta, who leaves a contented life as a teacher in Dakar to follow her boyfriend back to France, where his depression and dislocation poison everything; and Khady, a penniless widow put out by her husband's family with nothing but the name of a distant cousin in France. As these three lives intertwine, each woman manages an astonishing feat of self-preservation against those who have made themselves the fastest-growing and most-reviled people in Europe. In Marie NDiaye's stunning narration we see the progress by which ordinary women discover unimagined reserves of strength.

October 30, 2013

Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen
Written by Mary Sharratt

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Skillfully interweaving historical fact with psychological insight and vivid imagination, Sharratt’s redemptive novel, Illuminations, brings to life one of the most extraordinary women of the Middle Ages: Hildegard von Bingen, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath.

 Illuminations, by Mary Sharrat,  tells the story of a young Hildegard von Bingen. Being offered to the Church at the age of eight, Hildegard was entombed in a small room where she was expected to live out her days in silent submission as the handmaiden of a renowned but very rigid young nun, Jutta von Sponheim. Hildegard found comfort and grace in studying books, growing herbs, and rejoicing in her own secret visions of the divine. When Jutta died some thirty years later, Hildegard began a new phase in life: speaking and writing about her illuminating visions. Riveting and utterly unforgettable, Illuminations is a deeply moving portrayal of a woman willing to risk everything for what she believed.

November 27, 2013 (International Women's Day)

In the Time of Butterflies, 1994
Written by Julia Alvarez

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It is November 25, 1960, and three beautiful sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The official state newspaper reports their deaths as accidental. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It doesn’t have to. Everybody knows of Las Mariposas—“The Butterflies.”


In this extraordinary novel, the voices of all four sisters—Minerva, Patria, María Teresa, and the survivor, Dedé—speak across the decades to tell their own stories, from hair ribbons and secret crushes to gunrunning and prison torture, and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo’s rule. Through the art and magic of Julia Alvarez’s imagination, the martyred Butterflies live again in this novel of courage and love, and the human cost of political oppression.

In lieu of the theme of this year, “International Feminism and Diverse Women’s Life Stories” we have decided to create a special project for the month of November. Julia’s book tells the impeccable story of the lives of Patria, Minerva, and María Mirabal. These women became icons of freedom and women’s rights when they were assassinated in the autumn of 1960 for their role in the underground movement against the brutal dictatorship of Dominican Republic’s Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s regime. The murders of the three women inspired many in the Dominican Republic to denounce the regime publicly and marked the beginning of the end for Trujillo’s reign. In 1999 the United Nations General Assembly designated the date of the Mirabal sisters’ deaths, November 25, as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

In light of this day, and in collaboration with Yarn Tamers, we have crocheted 100+ purple butterflies and turned them into pins to wear throughout the month of November in hopes to raise awareness of International Elimination of Violence against Women. We will be passing out butterflies to different departments and throughout campus during the month of October. We will also be accepting donations for these butterflies. The Luann Dummer Center for Women is matching the donations and we will then donate that entire sum to The Alexandra House, the battered women’s/domestic violence shelter, in Saint Paul.

Please look out for our purple butterflies or contact the Women’s Center at womenscntr@stthomas.edu if you would like to reserve yours today!

 

January 29, 2014

Between Two Worlds
Written by Roxana Saberi

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On the morning of January 31, 2009, Roxana Saberi, a brilliant and fearless Iranian-American journalist working in Iran, was dragged from her home by four men and secretly arrested. The intelligence agents who captured her accused her of espionage - a charge she denied. For eleven days, Saberi was cut off from the outside world, forbidden even a phone call. For weeks, neither her family, friends, nor colleagues had any knowledge of her whereabouts. After a sham trial that made headlines around the world, the 32-year-old reporter was sentenced to eight years in Iran's notorious Evin prison. But following broad-based international pressure, she was released on appeal on May 11, 2009. Now, Saberi breaks her silence to share the full story of her ordeal. In this compelling and inspirational true story, she writes movingly of her imprisonment, her trial, her ultimate release, and the faith that helped her through it. Her recollections are interwoven with stories of her fellow prisoners - many of whom were women, student and labor activists, researchers, and academics - many of whom were jailed for their pursuit of human rights, including freedom of speech and religious belief. "Between Two Worlds" is also a deeply revealing account of this complex nation and the six years Saberi lived there. A citizen of both the United States and Iran, Saberi sheds new light on the Iranian regime's inner political workings and the restrictions to basic freedoms that have intensified since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's victory in 2005. The recent uprisings in Iran - and the astonishing outbreak of support for Iranian citizens from across the globe - mark a critical turning point as the nation hangs on the precipice between democracy and dictatorship. From her nuanced perspective, Saberi offers a rich, dramatic, and illuminating portrait of the country as it undergoes a striking transformation.

February 26, 2014

My Prison, my Home
Written by Haleh Esfandiari (March Women's History Month Speaker)

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A stunning arrest was the culmination of a chain of events set into motion in the early-morning hours of December 31, 2006—a day that began like any other but presaged the end of Esfandiari's regular visits to her elderly mother in Iran, and her return to the United States. Esfandiari became the victim of the far-fetched belief on the part of Iran's Intelligence Ministry that she, a scholar with the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C., was part of an American conspiracy for "regime change" in Iran. In haunting prose and vivid detail, Esfandiari recounts how the Intelligence Ministry subsequently ordered a search of her mother's apartment; put her through hours, then weeks, of interrogation; tapped her phone calls, forcing her to speak in code to her husband and mother; and finally detained her at the notorious Evin Prison, where she would spend 105 days in solitary confinement.
Through her ordeal, Esfandiari came face-to-face with the state of affairs between Iran and the United States—and witnessed firsthand how fear and paranoia could create a government that would take her captive. Weaving her personal story of capture and release with her extensive knowledge of Iran, My Prison, My Home is at once a mesmerizing story of survival and a clear-eyed portrait of Iran today and how it came to be.

March 19, 2014

Cairo: My City, Our Revolution
Written by Ahdaf Soueif

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Over the past few months I have delivered lectures, presentations and interviews on the Egyptian Revolution. I have had overflowing houses everywhere, been stopped by old ladies in the street and had my hand shaken by numerous taxi drivers and shopkeepers. And all because I'm Egyptian and the glitter of Tahrir is upon me.  They wanted me to talk to them, to tell them stories about it, to tell them how, on the 28th of January when we took the Square and The People torched the headquarters of the hated ruling National Democratic Party, The (same) People formed a human chain to protect the Antiquities Museum and demanded an official handover to the military; to tell them how, on Wednesday, February 2nd, as The People defended themselves against the invading thug militias and fought pitched battles at the entrance to the Square in the shadow of the Antiquities Museum, The (same) People at the centre of the square debated political structures and laughed at stand-up comics and distributed sandwiches and water; to tell them of the chants and the poetry and the songs, of how we danced and waved at the F16s that our President flew over us. People everywhere want to make this Revolution their own, and we in Egypt want to share it. Ahdaf Soueif - novelist, commentator, activist - navigates her history of Cairo and her journey through the Revolution that's redrawing its future. Through a map of stories drawn from private history and public record Soueif charts a story of the Revolution that is both intimately hers and publicly Egyptian. Ahdaf Soueif was born and brought up in Cairo. When the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 erupted on January 25th, she, along with thousands of others, called Tahrir Square home for eighteen days. She reported for the world's media and did - like everyone else - whatever she could.

April 30, 2014

A Tale for the Time Being
Written by Ruth Ozeki

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In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine.
  

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.
  

Full of Ozeki’s signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.

May 28, 2014

We Need New Names
Written by NoViolet Bulawayo

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Darling is only 10 years old, and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world. In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends steal guavas, try to get the baby out of young Chipo's belly, and grasp at memories of Before. Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen, before the school closed, before the fathers left for dangerous jobs abroad.
But Darling has a chance to escape: she has an aunt in America. She travels to this new land in search of America's famous abundance only to find that her options as an immigrant are perilously few. NoViolet Bulawayo's debut calls to mind the great storytellers of displacement and arrival who have come before her--from Zadie Smith to Monica Ali to J.M. Coetzee--while she tells a vivid, raw story all her own.

June 25, 2014

My Beloved World
Written by Sonya Sotomyor

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The first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor has become an instant American icon. Now, with a candor and intimacy never undertaken by a sitting Justice, she recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a journey that offers an inspiring testament to her own extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself.


Here is the story of a precarious childhood, with an alcoholic father (who would die when she was nine) and a devoted but overburdened mother, and of the refuge a little girl took from the turmoil at home with her passionately spirited paternal grandmother. But it was when she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes that the precocious Sonia recognized she must ultimately depend on herself.  She would learn to give herself the insulin shots she needed to survive and soon imagined a path to a different life. With only television characters for her professional role models, and little understanding of what was involved, she determined to become a lawyer, a dream that would sustain her on an unlikely course, from valedictorian of her high school class to the highest honors at Princeton, Yale Law School, the New York County District Attorney’s office, private practice, and appointment to the Federal District Court before the age of forty. Along the way we see how she was shaped by her invaluable mentors, a failed marriage, and the modern version of extended family she has created from cherished friends and their children. Through her still-astonished eyes, America’s infinite possibilities are envisioned anew in this warm and honest book, destined to become a classic of self-invention and self-discovery.

July 30, 2014

Are You My Mother?
Written by Alison Bechdel

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From the best-selling author of Fun Home, Time magazine’s No. 1 Book of the Year, a brilliantly told graphic memoir of Alison Bechdel becoming the artist her mother wanted to be.

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home was a pop culture and literary phenomenon. Now, a second thrilling tale of filial sleuthery, this time about her mother: voracious reader, music lover, passionate amateur actor. Also a woman, unhappily married to a closeted gay man, whose artistic aspirations simmered under the surface of Bechdel's childhood . . . and who stopped touching or kissing her daughter good night, forever, when she was seven. Poignantly, hilariously, Bechdel embarks on a quest for answers concerning the mother-daughter gulf. It's a richly layered search that leads readers from the fascinating life and work of the iconic twentieth-century psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, to one explosively illuminating Dr. Seuss illustration, to Bechdel’s own (serially monogamous) adult love life. And, finally, back to Mother—to a truce, fragile and real-time, that will move and astonish all adult children of gifted mothers.

August 27, 2014

Forever Ours: Real Stories of Immortality and Living from a Forensic Pathologist
Written by Janis Amatuzio, M.D.

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This book is a love letter to the world from those who have shared their stories of love, compassion and understanding following the death of a loved one. Their collective wisdom is life affirming, gently comforting, and a reminder to live full-out and love with all our hearts