As another Martin Luther King Jr. Day comes and goes, the country’s diversity boils on in a stew of controversy. While the government argues immigration policies, schools debate curriculum about ethnicity studies, and hashtags like #CrimingWhileWhite, #AliveWhileBlack, #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe fuel a public discussion about violence and racism.Other Americas, the Let’s Talk About It series at the Lewiston City Library, is designed to give readers a deeper look at American identity and the core beliefs that unite the nation. Hourlong programs taking place through March are led by community scholars and feature books selected to spark discussion and expand minds. Copies are available to check out at the library.
Louise Erdrich’s debut 1984 novel, “Love Medicine,” won the National Book Critics Circle Award. It tells the multigenerational story of two families — the Kashpaws and the Lamartines — who live on and around a Chippewa reservation in North Dakota. Through humor and poignancy Erdrich shows the struggle to balance American Indian traditions in a modern world. University of Idaho English professor and author Mary Clearman Blew will lead a discussion about the book at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 27 at the library.
For Mexican Americans, or Chicanos, as they came to call themselves, a defining historical moment was the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which in 1848 ended the war between Mexico and the U.S. and drew a new line between the countries where Mexico ceded almost half its territory. Mexican citizens became foreigners overnight. What was north Mexico is now the U.S. Southwest — Texas, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah. American poet and writer Sabine R. Ulibarrí (1919-2003) is considered one of the great voices of early Hispanic American literature. In “My Grandmother Smoked Cigars,” he shares stories of his childhood in mountainous Tierra Amarilla, N.M., where Spanish traditions and language lived on. Moscow author and KRFP 92.5 community radio personality Nancy Casey will lead a discussion about the book at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 10 at the library.
Often cited as one of the most important works of 20th century American literature, Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” is a love story featuring the fiercely independent heroine Janie Crawford, who evolves as a woman over the course of three marriages. In a life filled with poverty and trial, she refuses to live in bitterness or fear. Controversial when published, the book has stood the test of time to become a classic of African-American and women’s literature. University of Idaho English professor and Idaho’s first Writer in Residence, Ron McFarland, will discuss the book at 6:30 p.m. March 10 at the library.
Barbara Kingsolver’s 1988 debut novel, “The Bean Trees,” tells the story of the spirited Taylor Greer, who heads west leaving behind a childhood in poor rural Kentucky. On her journey she becomes an instant mother to a 3-year-old American Indian girl she names Turtle. When she arrives in Tucson, Ariz., she must come to terms with motherhood and the need to find community. Casey will lead a discussion about the book at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 24 at the library.