Brown Bag Discussion Book Club
this group meets in Pella, Iowa
The book selections for June 2011 through April 26, 2012 are:
June 30, 2011
The best-selling, stunning, and life-affirming memoir about surviving a willfully impoverished, eccentric, and severely misguided family. Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an “excitement addict.” Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever. Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town — and the family — Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents’ betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.
July 28, 2011
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792), written by the eighteenth-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft responds to those educational and political theorists of the eighteenth century who did not believe women should have an education. She argues that women ought to have an education commensurate with their position in society, claiming that women are essential to the nation because they educate its children and because they could be “companions” to their husbands, rather than mere wives. Instead of viewing women as ornaments to society or property to be traded in marriage, Wollstonecraft maintains that they are human beings deserving of the same fundamental rights as men.
August 25th 2011
A novel about Pearl S. Buck, who grew up in China and became the first American woman writer to win the Nobel Prize. Pearl first appears as a bright, inquisitive girl who conceals her blond, curly hair beneath a black knit cap to be less conspicuous in the Chinese town of Chin-kiang, where she lives with her courageous American missionary parents. We get to know Pearl through her best friend, Willow—impoverished, smart, plucky, and Chinese—as they share mischievous and harrowing adventures, a disastrous mutual love for the famous poet Hsu Chih-mo, and a string of tragedies yoked to the paradoxes and horrors of the Boxer Rebellion, China’s civil war, and Mao’s catastrophic rule. Exiled and heartbroken, Pearl achieves world renown by writing about China, while journalist Willow is brutally punished for remaining loyal to her “imperialist” friend. Ardently detailed, dramatic, and encompassing, Min’s fresh and penetrating interpretation of Pearl S. Buck’s extraordinary life delivers profound psychological, spiritual, and historical insights within an unforgettable cross-cultural story of a quest for veracity, compassion, and justice.
September 29, 2011
A compelling fictional portrait of one of the most maligned and misunderstood First Ladies in American history. Born into a prominent Lexington family, pretty and passionate Mary Todd always had difficulty controlling her legendary temper. Plagued by headaches and spells even as a child, she suffered–according to the inadequate medical lexicon of the day–from female problems and a nervous disposition. Defying both her family and convention, the independent-minded Mary married a debt-ridden bumpkin with dubious long-term prospects. Even marriage to the undisputed love of her life did not bring her enduring happiness or contentment. Although she and Lincoln enjoyed an egalitarian partnership, she continued to be haunted by voices and visions that often led to fits of hysteria. Her delicate mental health was made even more precarious by the tragic and untimely deaths of three of her four sons and by her husband’s assassination. Brought up on charges of lunacy by her son Robert in 1875, she fights for her own emancipation as she revisits pivotal episodes in her storied past. As the action stretches back and forth through time, an intelligent woman struggles to come to terms with depression and addiction in a society ill-equipped to cope with mental illness of any sort.