Site Content

Join the Discussion!

Other Migrations

One question from the Reading Group Guide on Wilkerson’s site asks, “In what ways was the Great Migration of southern blacks similar to other historical migrations? In what important ways was it unique?.” This made me think about other smaller migrations we see in this country, for example, the migration of young gay people from rural communities to urban city centers. Let’s discuss other historical migrations and they are similar or different to the Great Migration of southern blacks to the North and West.

“The Warmth of Other Suns”

Welcome to our discussion of Isabel Wilkerson’s, “The Warmth of Other Suns”. Wilkerson’s epic book tells the story of The Great Migration, which lasted from 1915 to 1970, involved six million people and was one of the largest internal migrations in U.S. history. By blending the stories of three families that leave to escape the Jim Crow South, with the historical events of that time, Wilkerson creates a compelling work that Toni Morrison called ”profound, necessary, and a delight to read.” This work is based on interviews with 1,200 people who participated in the Migration as well as census data from that time period.

This National Book Critics Circle Award Winner and New York Times Top 10 Best Book of the Year was chosen as the “On The Same Page” community read project by the Winston Salem, Forsyth County Public Library. Those bookclub participants in the area may wish to participate in some of the “On The Same Page” events, including a discussion of the book at Wake Forest University on Tuesday, October 16th from 7-9pm in the ZSR Library, classroom 476.

I would like to begin our online discussion of this important work with one of the questions provided from the author’s website. “In many ways The Warmth of Other Suns seeks to tell a new story—about the Great Migration of southern blacks to the north—and to set the record straight about the true significance of that migration. What are the most surprising revelations in the book? What misconceptions does Wilkerson dispel?”

Wrapping Up

As we wrap up this month’s discussion, I want to invite all of you to the ZSR Library Lecture Series on Monday, October 1, 2012, to hear Dr. Eric G. Wilson’s remarks on the dark fantasies and morbid curiosities that are at the heart of Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck. The lecture will occur from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. in the ZSR Library Auditorium.  Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing. Please join us!

Finally, I want to pose a final question: if you could ask one question of Dr. Wilson, what would it be? (If you’re unable to attend the lecture, we’d be happy to take your questions to the lecture on Monday.)

Oh, the Horror!

Dr. Wilson speculates that our attraction to violence and morbidity stems from our need to “express pity and fear in an artificial setting” which enables us to “drain these emotions from out systems and subsequently feel purified, relieved, [and] refreshed” (49).  This idea of achieving catharsis through purgation is not recent speculation; it is an Aristotelian concept.  Dr. Wilson writes:

An aesthetic experience of the macabre – in pictures, books, films, maybe even video games – is useful, therapeutic. The child loves violent fantasies as she would a wizened mentor, a skilled guide. We, as adults, can learn from this: the morbid builds morale.

Do you find watching or reading horror to be cathartic?  If so, what’s your favorite book or film?  Do you remember the first horror/slasher film you saw, either at the theater or at home? If you have children, do you let them watch scary movies or read scary stories?

Reactions to Tragedies

Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck begins with a description of a sunny September day, a day which we remember as one of the most tragic in American history. Dr. Eric Wilson recalls what he was reading, planning to eat for lunch, and where he was when he learned of the events of 9/11. Fast forward four years to another American tragedy: Hurricane Katrina batters New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, killing thousands and causing billions of dollars in damages. Do you remember where you were during those, or similar events? Did you, like Dr. Wilson, find yourself glued to the media coverage? Instead of monitoring the coverage, did you wait for a summary of events? Or, did you abstain from watching, reading, or listening to the coverage? As we approach the 11th anniversary of 9/11, and as Hurricane Isaac followed a similar path to Katrina through the Gulf, are you following the coverage? Or are you refraining?

Getting ready for Fall 2012!

We’re excited to kick off DeacsRead this Fall! Feel free to get a head start reading any of our Fall picks:

  • September: Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck by Eric Wilson
  • October: The Warmth of other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
  • November: Readers’ Choice
  • See the Book List for more information about each of these books, as well as related events. From author Eric G. Wilson’s library lecture to author Isabel Wilkerson’s talk at Reynolda House, there will be a number of opportunities this Fall to discuss all things literary with like-minded Deacs!

    Wrapping Up DeacsRead (Until September!)

    April is the final month for DeacsRead 2011-2012. Many thanks to everyone who participated!

    For those looking for some summer reading options, check out these recommendations from Betsy Chapman (’92, MA ’94), Director of Parent Programs and author of the Parents’ Page.

    And finally, here is the reading list for Fall 2012:

    1. September: Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck by Eric Wilson
    2. October: The Warmth of other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, (Forsyth County Public Library “On the Same Page” book for Fall 2012)
    3. November: “Readers’ Choice”

    Also, there will be a Homecoming Back to the Classroom session on E-readers, and an Alumni Book Club reception at Homecoming on Friday, Sept. 21.

    We hope you will join us for both these events!

    Thanks again for your participation in DeacsRead. Have a great summer and join us again in September!
    Happy Reading!

    Favorite One?

    As we get to the end of the Disappearing Spoon the question is whether you had or now have a favorite element? The elements each with their own properties and the periodic table as a way of organizing them are perfect for collectors of whatever (stamps, coins, etc.).  I’m not sure I have a single favorite but I certainly have some I really like.

    As an organic chemist, I really like carbon and all its versatility but its next door neighbor, nitrogen, has provided me with all the interest needed for me professionally. Nitrogen gas surrounds all the time here on earth and nitrogen participates in almost of all life’s processes. If you’ve bought eggs from Angela and I, you may or may not know that they come from Enno Farms (that is Enno as in NO as in nitric oxide). This nitrogen containing compound has been very good to us research wise and allowed us to pursue other types of life chemistry on a macro scale.

    It’s hard not to like some of the common everyday metals like iron and I spent a good deal of time as a post-doctoral working on osmium compounds. The chemistry department’s intramural softball team is the isotopes and their jerseys sport different element symbols and atomic numbers.

    Have you found a favorite element or elements (for whatever reason) reading the Disappearing Spoon?

    The Elements

    Chapters 4 and 5 both really made me think a lot about chemistry and chemical elements. Chapter 4 sort of gives the big picture of how elements form and how hydrogen and helium (the smallest two) are the most abundant in the universe, but that trend doesn’t follow and how astrophysics/chemistry dictate the chemistry we have here on Earth. Then chapter 5 gets right down to how people and civilizations use chemistry to their advantage and how different elements rise and fall in importance depending on economic and political pressures. The stories about the Colorado molybdenum mines and were pretty humorous (maybe a Mel Brooks movie is in there) but show how one element temporarily skews what society thinks is important (read the end of that chapter on the niobium and tantalum). I’ve always found the Fritz Haber story interesting. I guess reading the Disappearing Spoon has really made me aware of how important chemicals/chemistry is to modern economics in terms of energy, health, defense and agriculture and how those all become topics for political and international discussion.

    One of my favorite scientists

    I attended a lecture given by Roald Hoffman, Nobel  Laureate in Chemistry, last month at WFU. In his lecture, Dr. Hoffman displayed the beauty that exists in science and how science can intertwine with the arts.  He is not only a scientist but also a poet and playwright after having survived the Nazi occupation, which has been an inspiration to me.  Although I was a science major, I also studied modern dance, choreography, and music history in college.  Which scientist has inspired you?  Who is your favorite scientist?