Bangor Community Seminar - 2009

Beyond the Comfort Zone

Facilitator: Margery Irvine (bio)
Location: Bangor Public Library, 145 Harlow Street, Bangor

January 13, 2009The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck
February 10, 2009Minaret: A Novel by Leila Aboulela
March 10, 2009Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones
April 14, 2009Away by Amy Bloom
May 12, 2009War’s End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-1996 by Joe Sacco
June 9, 2009A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

All meetings are on Tuesdays, 6:00-8:30 pm
[Snow Dates: The Tuesday following a Tuesday cancellation]


Robert Frost once said, “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” This year’s readings are designed to surprise, to rattle, to force us to re-conceive preconceptions. All of the books follow characters, both real and imaginary, who leave their own comfort zones and learn to survive in alien landscapes. My hope is that we find those alien landscapes both fascinating and illuminating.

January The News from Paraguay, by Lily Tuck. Based on fact, Tuck’s novel follows Irish courtesan Ella Lynch to Paraguay as the wife of the country’s dictator in the mid-1800’s.

February Minaret: A Novel, by Leila Aboulela. Protagonist Najwa, born in Khartoum, is forced to emigrate from Sudan to live in London. We accompany her to a new life, on a journey that is both geographical and spiritual.

March Mr. Pip, by Lloyd Jones. In the 1990’s, on the island of Bougainville, civil war erupts and all the white people leave. Except, that is, for Mr. Watts, a New Zealander married to a native woman. He volunteers to re-open the village school and begins to read aloud Great Expectations. The novel is, in part, a fable about the power of art.

April Away, by Amy Bloom. When Lillian Leyb’s family is killed in a pogrom, she leaves Russia for the United States. The novel, set in the early part of the 20th century, describes Lillian’s journey across the country and up to Alaska in search of her daughter, who she learns might be alive.

May War’s End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-1996, by Joe Sacco. Sacco’s medium is the graphic documentary. This book follows up on his Safe Area Garadze: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995, and is the story of his trip to the war zone and his interviews with Radovan Karadzic and with a “regular guy” who becomes a war hero.

June A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, by Marina Lewycka. Nadezhda and her family may live in England, she may well be a university lecturer, but in many ways their cultural landscape is that of Ukraine, where they came from. When her father determines to remarry a woman fifty years his junior, Nadezhda and her sister plot to prevent the marriage.

You can download the Word document of the syllabus.