Monday, May 3, 7:00pm
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Home by Marilynne Robinson
Hailed as "incandescent," "magnificent," and "a literary miracle" (Entertainment Weekly), hundreds of thousands of readers were enthralled by Marilynne Robinson's Gilead. Now Robinson returns with a brilliantly imagined retelling of the prodigal son parable, set at the same moment and in the same Iowa town as Gilead.
The Reverend Boughton's hell-raising son, Jack, has come home after twenty years away. Artful and devious in his youth, now an alcoholic carrying two decades worth of secrets, he is perpetually at odds with his traditionalist father, though he remains his most beloved child. As Jack tries to make peace with his father, he begins to forge an intense bond with his sister Glory, herself returning home with a broken heart and turbulent past.
Home is a luminous and healing book about families, family secrets, and faith from one of America's most beloved and acclaimed authors.
Marilynne Robinson is the recipient of a 2012 National Humanities Medal, awarded by President Barack Obama, for "her grace and intelligence in writing." She is the author of Gilead, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award; Home, winner of the Orange Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; and Lila, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her first novel, Housekeeping, won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. Robinson's nonfiction books include The Givenness of Things, When I Was a Child I Read Books, Absence of Mind, The Death of Adam, and Mother Country. She lives in Iowa City, Iowa.
Join us on Zoom for another great event in the Nature of Writing series with the author of Crow Planet and Mozart's Starling!
In Rooted, cutting-edge science supports a truth that poets, artists, mystics, and earth-based cultures across the world have proclaimed over millennia: life on this planet is radically interconnected. Our bodies, thoughts, minds, and spirits are affected by the whole of nature, and they affect this whole in return. In this time of crisis, how can we best live upon our imperiled, beloved earth?Award-winning writer Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s highly personal new book is a brilliant invitation to live with the earth in both simple and profound ways—from walking barefoot in the woods and reimagining our relationship with animals and trees, to examining the very language we use to describe and think about nature. She invokes rootedness as a way of being in concert with the wilderness—and wildness—that sustains humans and all of life.
In the tradition of Rachel Carson, Elizabeth Kolbert, and Mary Oliver, Haupt writes with urgency and grace, reminding us that at the crossroads of science, nature, and spirit we find true hope. Each chapter provides tools for bringing our unique gifts to the fore and transforming our sense of belonging within the magic and wonder of the natural world. Deepen your connection to the natural world with this inspiring meditation, "a path to the place where science and spirit meet" (Robin Wall Kimmerer).
Monday, May 10, 7:00pm
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The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro De' Medici by Catherine Fletcher
Born to a dark-skinned maid and Lorenzo II de' Medici, the illegitimate Alessandro was groomed for power. In 1532, at the age of nineteen, backed by the Holy Roman Emperor--his future father-in-law--and the Pope, he became Duke of Florence, facing down family rivals and oligarchs and inheriting the grandest dynasty of the Italian Renaissance. Catherine Fletcher's The Black Prince of Florence is the first complete account of the real-life counterpart to Machiavelli's Prince.
After ruling for a turbulent six years, Alessandro was murdered in 1537 during a late-night tryst arranged by a scheming cousin. As Fletcher puts it, he was assassinated twice: "first with a sword, then with a pen." Following his death, Alessandro's reign was dismissed by his enemies--of which every Medici prince had many, and Alessandro more than his share--and his death painted as tyrannicide. It was in the years and centuries that followed that his racial origin became a focus, first by those seeking to emphasize his "savagery" and thus to justify his murder, and later to argue his case as the first ruler of color in the Western world. In 1931, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, founder of the famous collection of African history in Harlem, wrote an article about Alessandro in the magazine The Crisis, then edited by W.E.B. Du Bois, calling him the "Negro Medici."
Defined by intrigue, opulence, sexual conquest, and an endless struggle to retain power, Alessandro's life and afterlife reveal how racial identity has played out over the centuries, and to what degree it remains in the eye of the beholder. In this captivating biography of an intriguing and forgotten figure, Fletcher does full justice to his remarkable story, unraveling centuries-old mysteries, exposing forgeries, and bringing to life the epic personalities--artists, popes, queens, and pimps--of one of the most colorful periods in history.
Catherine Fletcher is a historian of Renaissance and early modern Europe. Her first book, The Divorce of Henry VIII, brought to life the Papal court at the time of the Tudors. She consulted on the Golden-Globe-winning TV miniseries Wolf Hall and regularly broadcasts for BBC radio. She is Associate Professor in History and Heritage at Swansea University and has held research fellowships in London, Florence, and Rome.
Join the renowned Dr. Jane Goodall and New York Times bestselling author Peter Wohlleben for an uplifting conversation about the natural world, in celebration of Wohlleben’s new book the Heartbeat of Trees.
The New York Times bestselling author of The Hidden Life of Trees returns to his and his readers’ favorite subject—trees—in this powerful, timely new book. Drawing on new scientific discoveries, The Heartbeat of Trees reveals the profound interactions humans can have with nature, exploring the language of the forest, the consciousness of plants, and the eroding boundary between flora and fauna. Wohlleben shares how to see, feel, smell, hear, and even taste your journey into the woods. Above all, he reveals a wondrous cosmos where humans are a part of nature, and where conservation is not just about saving trees—it’s about saving ourselves, too.
Sunday, May 16, 2:00pm *Note: We are meeting one week later than usual to avoid meeting on Mother's Day.
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The Magical Language of Others: A Memoir by E. J. Koh
A tale of deep bonds to family, place, language—of hard-won selfhood told by a singular, incandescent voice.
The Magical Language of Others is a powerful and aching love story in letters, from mother to daughter. After living in America for over a decade, Eun Ji Koh’s parents return to South Korea for work, leaving fifteen-year-old Eun Ji and her brother behind in California. Overnight, Eun Ji finds herself abandoned and adrift in a world made strange by her mother’s absence. Her mother writes letters, in Korean, over the years seeking forgiveness and love—letters Eun Ji cannot fully understand until she finds them years later hidden in a box.
As Eun Ji translates the letters, she looks to history—her grandmother Jun’s years as a lovesick wife in Daejeon, the horrors her grandmother Kumiko witnessed during the Jeju Island Massacre—and to poetry, as well as her own lived experience to answer questions inside all of us. Where do the stories of our mothers and grandmothers end and ours begin? How do we find words—in Korean, Japanese, English, or any language—to articulate the profound ways that distance can shape love? Eun Ji Koh fearlessly grapples with forgiveness, reconciliation, legacy, and intergenerational trauma, arriving at insights that are essential reading for anyone who has ever had to balance love, longing, heartbreak, and joy.
The Magical Language of Others weaves a profound tale of hard-won selfhood and our deep bonds to family, place, and language, introducing—in Eun Ji Koh—a singular, incandescent voice.
E. J. Koh is the author of poetry collection A Lesser Love, winner of the Pleiades Editors Prize (Louisiana State U. Press, 2017). Her poems, translations, and stories have appeared in Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, World Literature Today, among others. She is the recipient of The MacDowell Colony and Kundiman fellowships, 2017 ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship, and is Runner-Up for the 2018 Prairie Schooner Summer Nonfiction Prize.
Wednesday, May 19, 7pm
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Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley
Nearly twenty years after Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf—and fifty years after the translation that continues to torment high-school students around the world—there is a radical new verse translation of the epic poem by Maria Dahvana Headley, which brings to light elements that have never before been translated into English, recontextualizing the binary narrative of monsters and heroes into a tale in which the two categories often entwine, justice is rarely served, and dragons live among us.
A man seeks to prove himself as a hero. A monster seeks silence in his territory. A warrior seeks to avenge her murdered son. A dragon ends it all. The familiar elements of the epic poem are seen with a novelist’s eye toward gender, genre, and history—Beowulf has always been a tale of entitlement and encroachment, powerful men seeking to become more powerful, and one woman seeking justice for her child, but this version brings new context to an old story. While crafting her contemporary adaptation of Beowulf, Headley unearthed significant shifts lost over centuries of translation.
Maria Dahvana Headley is a #1 New York Times-bestselling author and editor. Her novels include Magonia, Aerie, and Queen of Kings, and she has also written a memoir, The Year of Yes. With Kat Howard, she is the author of The End of the Sentence, and with Neil Gaiman, she is co-editor of Unnatural Creatures. Her short stories have been shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, and her work has been supported by the MacDowell Colony and by Arte Studio Ginestrelle, where the first draft of The Mere Wife was written. She was raised with a wolf and a pack of sled dogs in the high desert of rural Idaho, and now lives in Brooklyn.