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Taking a break for now

We’ve enjoyed coming together over the past year to discuss some great reads with our fellow Deacs! From Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs to Eric G. Wilson’s Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck, the topics and conversation have always proved interesting. We are also thankful that we’ve had a team of knowledgeable librarians from ZSR Library to serve as our discussion guides.

The Alumni Office and ZSR Library were able to collaborate on quite a bit of alumni programming in 2012. From classes on everything from social media to eBooks, and of course, DeacsRead, it’s been an enjoyable partnership. We look forward to offering additional programming for our alumni in conjunction with ZSR throughout 2013. We’ve decided to take a break from DeacsRead for the time being in order to focus on developing that programming.

We invite you to revisit past discussions and suggest future books in the meantime. If you are particularly interested in DeacsRead, please let us know.


Multiple characters in “The Casual Vacancy” seem envious of others’ lives and what they represent: Gavin of Barry, Andrew of Fats, Sukhvinder of her siblings, Krystal of Nana Cath. What illusions were they living under, and how were they born out?

This post and attendant comments will wrap-up our conversation about J.K. Rowling’s first non-HP, adult novel. Thanks for great discussion!

Avoidable chain reaction?

Barry Fairbrother’s death set off a chain reaction of events in Pagford. How much, if any, of the resulting events do you suppose would have happened if Barry had not died?

Character perspective

Throughout “The Casual Vacancy,” Rowling shifts perspective among her core characters, often in mid-chapter and at times with very little forewarning. Several reviewers and readers have commented that they believe Rowling’s writing to be strongest when writing from the teenagers’ points of view. Do you agree? Which character’s perspective did you enjoy the most? Who do you wish we’d heard from more often?

We aren’t at Hogwarts anymore…

Welcome to the November DeacsRead discussion of The Casual Vacancy! As any Potterhead already knows, J.K. Rowling’s first post-Harry Potter novel is a departure from both YA and fantasy. In her move to adult literature, Rowling introduces us to the inhabitants of Pagford, a small town in the West Country of England, that has been rocked by the sudden death of a member of the town’s council. If you have already begun reading, you know that as the town reacts to his death and scrambles to fill an open council seat, we most definitely aren’t at Hogwarts anymore.

Before we launch into the discussion of The Casual Vacancy, I am curious to know your thoughts about Rowling’s move into adult literature. Are you surprised, disappointed, heartened? Do you think these are necessary shifts in audience and genre, given the unprecedented success of Harry Potter, or simply an attempt to prove her career as a literary author, no longer secured by the liberties granted storytellers writing of a made-up world? Do you harbor hopes that one day she may return to the world of wizards, or do you wish the Harry Potter series to stand as is? I look forward to reading your thoughts, and to sharing my own!

Special DeacsRead Halloween Post

In September, DeacRead focused on Wake Forest University English professor, Eric Wilson, and his new book, “Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck“. Check out this media advisory where Professor Wilson discusses our natural fascination with the macabre.

Wrapping Up Our Discussion of “The Warmth of Other Suns”

This is a book I was sorry to finish. When I reached the end, I wanted more stories of Ida Mae Gladney, George Starling, and Robert Foster. I want to begin to bring the discussion to a close with a quote from the author’s introduction:

“The actions of the people in this book were both universal and distinctly American. Their migration was a response to an economic and social structure not of their making. They did what humans have done for centuries when life became untenable — what the pilgrims did under the tyranny of British rule, what the Scotch-Irish did in Oklahoma when the land turned to dust, what the Irish did when there was nothing to eat, what the European Jews did during the spread of Nazism, what the landless in Russia, Italy, China, and elsewhere did when something better across the ocean called to them. What binds these stories together was the back-against-the-wall, reluctant yet hopeful search for something better, any place but where they were. They did what human beings looking for freedom, throughout history, have often done.

They left.”

Through reading and discussing this book, I learned more about a the history of this country and a few things about myself. Please share with us your own parting thoughts about this book, and the tough topics it addresses.

Join us next week as Molly Keener begins the discussion of JK Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy”.

Up Next, “The Casual Vacancy”

We still have another week of discussion on “The Warmth of Other Suns”, but I’ve recently started next month’s book, “The Casual Vacancy” by JK Rowling, and wanted to encourage everyone to join Scholarly Communication Librarian, Molly Keener, for the discussion next month. I’ve found “The Casual Vacancy” hard to put down. Rowlings description of small town politics, class warfare, and lost youth are captivating! Check out this review from The Huffington Post to learn more about the book.

Author, Isabel Wilkerson, at Reynolda House

On Sunday, October 21st, I had the pleasure of hearing author, Isabel Wilkerson, discuss “The Warmth of Other Suns” at Reynolda House. She discussed the influence this book has had on readers, black and white, who were unaware of the depth of violence under Jim Crow and how young people today (thankfully) cannot fathom the world of Jim Crow. She told how the parents of artist, Romare Bearden, moved from Charlotte to New York, after the toddler, Bearden, who was light-skinned, with curly blond hair, was nearly taken by a white mob from his darker-skinned father.(1)In closing her talk, she read the Richard Wright quote that was the source for the title of this book.

“I was leaving the South
to fling myself into the unknown . . .
I was taking a part of the South
to transplant in alien soil,
to see if it could grow differently,
if it could drink of new and cool rains,
bend in strange winds,
respond to the warmth of other suns
and, perhaps, to bloom”
― Richard Wright

Then she said she had another thought to add to that quote. She said “and those other suns were in them all along.” She discussed how the book was about freedom, and the lengths people will go to in order to be free. She talked of how the children of the participants of the Great Migration, herself included, often feeling like “southerners, once removed”.

It was an excellent program and an amazing opportunity to learn more about the creation of this monumental book.

We’ve talked about those who migrated, but what about those who stayed, those who continued to suffer under Jim Crow and those who gave up their lives in staying, and what about the children and grand children of this migration who now choose to return to the south? Wilkerson referred to this as the “reverse migration.” Let’s discuss those who stayed and those who came back.

Education as a theme in “The Warmth of Other Suns”

In “The Warmth of Other Suns”, Wilkerson introduces us to three characters, Ida Mae Gladney, George Swanson Starling, and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster. Robert Joseph Pershing Foster is a military-trained physician who finds that as an African American, he is not allowed to practice medicine in Monroe, Louisiana and George Swanson Starling is unable finish college when his father refuses to help him pay his tuition because he sees his son’s education as a waste. As a result George is forced to find work in the citrus groves. Robert is not allowed to use his education and George is not allowed to get an education. Education creates opportunities for people, but African Americans in the South were not permitted those opportunities for much of the 20th century. As Wake Forest commemorates the 50th anniversary of integration with the Faces of Courage celebration, honoring the legacy and important actions of all those – past and present — contributing to the diverse and vibrant campus community, let’s discuss the theme of education in “The Warmth of Other Suns”.