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Library Programs

Free, high-quality humanities programs to help libraries serve their communities.

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Nicole Rancourt
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Let’s Talk About It Full Series List

Cover of "Brick Lane"Across Cultures and Continents: Literature of the South Asian Experience

One legacy of India’s colonial past is fiction about the colonial experience, from the perspective of both the colonizer and the colonized. At the center of all the books in this series is an exploration of what the South Asian/Indian experience has been.

 

After FrostAfter Frost: Poetry in New England

Explore the variety and vitality of the region’s poetry, using Robert Frost as a touchstone. A specially created anthology begins with Frost’s work and includes thirty more recent poets representing a diversity of cultural points of view.

 

Benjamin Franklin book coverThe American Revolutionary Generation

Ever since the birth of the Republic in the American Revolution, each generation of Americans has sought to understand the generation that created their nation’s origins. Explore the fascinating people, events, and ideas behind the American Revolution.

 

Loneliness of the long distance runner book cover

The American Sporting Experience

How can sport serve as a metaphor for the American experience in shaping the individual, community, and the national identity? Explore sport through five books from this series.

 

 

The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry coverAmerican Traditions/American Innovations: American Poetry of the Second Half of the Twentieth Century

Contemporary American poetry as defined by J.D. McClatchy’s Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry is a diverse and powerful endeavor. This series offers an opportunity to explore the depth and range of contemporary American poetry.

 

Bless Me, Ultima book coverBecoming American: Struggles, Successes, Symbols

In a society marked by unremitting change, an ethnic identity—whether fully realized or not—is one constant each of us possesses. Through this series, we journey not only perhaps into our own ethnic pasts—Hispanic, black, Jewish, American Indian, or Chinese—but also into those of our countrymen, our brothers and sisters.

 

Frederick Douglass book coverThe Civil War: Biographies

These five works of biography and autobiography provide an in-depth, personal view of life during the Civil War era. The experiences of these Americans–women and men, slave and free, Northern and Souther, famous and unsung–illustrate the close connection between individual lives and the larger events we call “history.”

 

Beloved MorrisonThe Civil War: Fiction

Beginning with the best-selling novel that was said to be one of the causes of the conflict, this series of five novels brings the drama of the Civil War and its aftermath to life. It also reveals, through the insights of major authors, what the Civil War has meant to Americans over a span of 140 years.

 

Sherman Alexie book coverCrossing Over: Works by Contemporary American Indian Writers

In these works, American Indian writers blend western writing techniques with oral tradition to mediate between two cultures.

 

 

Defining WildernessDefining Wilderness: Defining Maine

This series examines the Maine wilderness, how various people have experienced it and written about it, and how those accounts have influenced Maine and shaped its identity. It raises questions about what constitutes wilderness, the relationship between humans and the natural environment, about conservation and ecology, and not least about our personal relationship to the wilderness.

 

Inspector Barlach Mysteries coverDetective Fiction in the 20th Century: A Notion of Evil

This series examines the enormous popularity of mystery/detective fiction and at the same time provides a highly entertaining platform to consider the nature of a specific literary genre. Most importantly, this series allows participants an opportunity to experience how literature grows out of, changes, and is changed by the cultural climate and historical moment from which it springs.

 

Lolita coverDestruction or Redemption: Images of Romantic Love

Romantic love is surely one of the most universal and one of the most puzzling features of the human condition. Sexual desire, the need for self-authentication, the urge somehow to complete oneself through another, all are fuel for the fires that sweep over nearly everyone at least once.

 

Edward Abbey coverEntering Nature: Contemporary Views of the Human Self in the Natural World

Contemporary writings that address in interesting and distinctive ways the affinities that unite and the distances that separate the human and the non-human.

 

Song of RIta Joe coverEthnic Americans in Maine: Making a Life, Shaping an Identity

In the popular imagination, New England is peopled by crusty Yankees and rich vacationers.  A closer look at history reveals a diverse mix of natives and immigrants from many backgrounds. The literature in this series reflects the experiences of Maine’s ethnic Americans as they have shaped an identity amid pressures to preserve cultural traditions and to achieve assimilation.

 

The spirit catches you and you fall down coverExploring Human Boundaries: Literary Perspectives on Health Care Providers and Their Patients

A disease or a sick person? Health care professionals do not always focus on what is most important to the patient and the patient’s family. These classic 20th-century accounts of illness, death, and dying dramatically illuminate these complex issues.

 

Goodbye Tsugumi coverFamily and Self: Readings in Twentieth Century Japanese Fiction

In Japan, with its strong legacy of Confucian values and traditional emphasis of group over the individual, the family plays an exceptionally important role. This series explores five novels—two authored by women and three by men—each engaged with issues of both family and self in a changing Japan, but from widely differing perspectives.

 

Uncle Tom's ChildrenFear and Hope: Writing from the Great Depression of the 1930s

Fear, based on the insecurities and despair of an earlier era, leads a certain extra impetus to an examination of the Depression Decade in America. Yet many Americans will recount other emotions evoked by that period—a sense of commitment, a pride in place, and a tradition of sharing. One way we can recapture the spirit of the Great Depression is through the history and fiction of the era.

 

Poland Spring coverThe Gilded Age: A Tale of Today?

This series will examine one the most pivotal yet most neglected eras of United States history, one that began to define the parameters of the modern world in which we live. Americans turned their attention during the last quarter of the nineteenth century from political debates over the nature of the nation and moral considerations of civil rights to economic projects of physical expansion and material wealth.

 

Log of the skipper's wife coverGoing to Sea: A Variety of Voices

What is going to sea really like? People from all walks of life, although mostly male until the late 20th Century, have crossed over the interface between the land and the sea to accept the challenge of living in an environment alien to human bipeds. Their experience has often inspired them to see their lives differently, for the sea experience can offer lessons—often, lessons in humility, cooperation and compassion for our fellow beings.

 

Momaday titleGrowing Up Between Cultures

Issues of cultural, ethnic or national identity move to the foreground in this reading series that includes memoirs, a novel, and essays. The central characters in these books wrestle with questions about their own individual identity, questions complicated by their experiences growing up among multiple cultures.

 

Invisible New England: The Real New England?

The words “New England” often conjure up an image of neat houses and taciturn, frugal, and hardworking Yankees. The traditional view of New England and New Englanders includes much that is factual—aspects of it can be seen by anyone who lives or travels in the region today. But what this picture leaves out is perhaps even more revealing than what it includes.

 

Dust tracks on a road coverThe Journey Inward: Women’s Autobiography

The quest for identity often involves undertaking a journey, whether literally or figuratively. The five autobiographies in this series tell of both kinds of journeys. Many women’s life stories have been “lost.” Fortunately, with the growing interest since the 1960s in women’s literature and in the private, rather than public, history of oppressed groups, we have begun to recover and understand these lost lives.

 

James Joyce coverLiberating Imaginations: Readings in Modern Irish Fiction

From the growing pains of de-colonization and independence, through the insular conservatism of mid-century, to the recent roaring prosperity of the so-called Celtic Tiger, Irish writers have, as Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus describes, forged the “uncreated conscience” of Ireland.

 

 Truth and beauty coverMaking a Difference: How Love And Duty Change Lives

Scientists tell us that compassion and empathy are what make us human, are what distinguish us from all other animals. What happens, though, when we are called to act upon what we perceive as our duty, especially when such action entails considerable sacrifice?

 

 Making a Living, Making a Life: Work and Its Rewards in a Changing America

An examination of work-related issues: women in the work force, a changing workplace, employment as identity, the puritan work ethic and the American Dream.

 

March coverMaking Sense of the Civil War

This series is designed as a series of five conversations exploring different facets of the Civil War experience, informed by reading the words written or spoken by powerful voices from the past and present.

 

Lura Beam A Maine HamletThe Mirror of Maine: The Maine Community in Myth and Reality

These books explore community life in Maine. What defines community? What values have been associated with community life in Maine, and how many of these values still exist today? What are the confinements or darker realities that exist in Maine communities?

 

Jungle coverModern Times in Maine and America, 1890-1930

This series consists of four book that provide views of life during the enormous changes that took place in the early twentieth century. They paint an engaging picture of a changing world and give Maine audiences the chance to see the image of their state reflected in the nation’s consciousness.

 

Potshot by Gerry BoyleMysteries by Maine Authors

This series plunges into the gritty underbelly of Maine as seen through the eyes of its talented mystery authors. Are you hooked on mysteries and looking to explore the genre further? Are you new to mysteries and hoping some group discussion will open up a new world? These five books offer a healthy variety of perspectives on life in Maine and on the dark side of human nature.

 

The farming of bones coverOpening Windows: Women’s Stories from Five Cultures

Five writers. Five women from different cultures. Five very different stories. In this series we  will allow each story to be our guide in an exploration—in most instances our first—of the historical, cultural, and literary contexts of which it speaks and from which it grew. This series is an exploration of storytelling traditions in novels by women from Japan, India, Africa, and the Caribbean.

 

As we are now book coverThe Passage of Time, The Meaning of Change: Perspectives by Five Writers From Maine

Do change and the passage of time always lead to a rosy future? While the American Dream portrays change as “a new beginning” and history as inevitable progress, this selection of Maine writers regards the passage of time more skeptically.

 

Persepolis book coverPoints of View

Understanding and examining Islamic culture through memoirs and fictional works can bring a new awareness of our shared values and difficulties, as well as our shared successes. The most recognized narratives of the Islamic world often come to Westerners in the daily news. But the “news” gives us scant details about how people live their lives in Islamabad, Fez, Cairo, or Tehran.

 

Refreshing the Whodunit Let's Talk About ItRefreshing the Whodunit: Moving Beyond Christie and Doyle

This series provides new and experienced mystery and detective fans with an opportunity for in depth conversation about how this genre has incorporated the contemporary world’s globalism; dilemmas of race, gender, ethnicity and class; religious conflict; historical revision; and others.

 

the-fire-this-time-9781501126345_hrRace and Justice in America

This series explores the complex, and often uneasy, relationship between black Americans and the American justice system. The books for Race and Justice in America provide historical analyses of selected events, court rulings, and public policies that help to explain the black American struggle for citizenship, civil rights, and equal treatment under the laws.

 

Rebirth of a Nation Let's Talk About ITRebirth of a Nation: Nationalism and the Civil War

How did America first begin to define itself and develop into a nation-state? By 1861 ideas about what America was and what it meant to be an American—the essence of nationality—had become elevated to the plain of irreconcilable principles. Civil war was the result.

 

Havana Red coverSo Near & So Far: An Exploration of Cuban Literature

Cuba is intriguing, it’s mysterious, it’s rich in cultural tradition, it’s just 90 miles off the tip of Florida, and…. it’s forbidden. The five books of the series explore the history, romance, political turmoil, spirit and cultural riches of Cuba. The writing is lyrical, compelling, and poetic.

 

The Duke of Deception coverTelling the Truth: The Subject of Autobiography

In this series, a variety of twentieth-century autobiographies lead us to consider how we define “truth” and who is capable of telling it. These five books share different perspectives on telling our own stories.

 

 

Between-the-World-and-Me-0-290x370

Violence and Belonging: The 14th Amendment and American Literature

In examining the legacies of the Fourteenth Amendment for the nation’s literary history, this reading and discussion series looks at books that address issues of diversity, identity, and inequality in exploring how, for many Americans, the promise of citizenship falls short of their reality.

 

Raisin in the sun coverThe Way We Were, The Way We Are: Seasons in the Contemporary American Family

Family life encompasses enduring seasons that form a cycle: growing up, breaking away or breaking down, making choices, looking back, surviving. Such categories may have little to do with age, economic status, or geographical location. But their commonality in American life, as reflected in these books, will challenge readers to define the meaning of “family” today and, in so doing, to discover something of themselves.

 

Gone with the wind coverWhat America Reads: Myth Making in Popular Fiction

Attempting to form generalizations about so broad a topic as best-selling fiction is tricky business. At one time or another in the last 90 years, American readers have made best-sellers of every conceivable kind of novel, from the trivial to the esoteric, from the erotic to the pious. What do best-sellers reveal about our national psyche?

 

To kill a mockingbirdWhere Am I? The Individual & the Community

The viewpoints of people on the inside and the outside of communities depicted in these writings — whether in a small Maine town, a prison, Dublin, Newfoundland, Nigeria, or plague-stricken England — can contribute to our understanding of what is fundamental to our nature as human beings.

 

A New England Town book coverYankees and Strangers: the New England Town from 1636-1992

An examination of the New England town in popular myth and the reality. The novels and memoir that make up this series take us into this more complicated and richer reality, and offer parts of the story that are often missing from the narrative of the New England.