Humanities Kansas: TALK About Literature in Kansas
By Linda Henderson, Adult and Teen Services Librarian
This fall, come spend a few Thursday evenings at the Manhattan Public Library to join in lively discussions of three timeless children’s classics! The Manhattan Library Association is partnering with Humanities Kansas to host three TALK About Literature in Kansas events. Humanities Kansas, formerly the Kansas Humanities Council, connects communities with history, traditions, and ideas to strengthen civic life. Last year it supported 610 events in 119 Kansas communities, reaching nearly one in six Kansans.
Do you remember your early childhood reading experiences? Curling up sideways in a chair, perching in a relative’s lap, or stretching out on the floor to become thoroughly engrossed in some unforgettable tale? Those stories entertained us; more than that, they educated us about friendship, human nature, adventure, and imagination. It’s worth revisiting those childhood tales from time to time as adults, reflecting on courage and faith, on growth and love, overcoming the insurmountable. These tales reflect our society’s hopes, our ideas of family, and the values and traditions we wish to pass forward.
The first book TALK will explore Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White. The gentle story of Wilbur the pig and his loyal friend, Charlotte the spider, unfolds in a rustic barnyard; there, the changing of the seasons reflects the pain and sweetness of growing up. The affection and humor of the story, brought forth by the memorably roguish Templeton the rat and the gently supportive Charlotte, can’t fail to evoke deep sentiment.
Nicholas Shump will lead discussion of Charlotte’s Web on September 20 at 7:00 PM in Manhattan Public Library’s Groesbeck Room. Shump currently teaches Humanities, History, and Political Science for the Barstow School and the Hybrid Learning Consortium in Kansas City, has taught Humanities and American Studies at KU, and has coordinated volunteers in Lawrence’s adult education program.
October’s selection is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis. Strong moral themes underpin the tale of four siblings stumbling through a wardrobe to discover a magical land called Narnia. Lucy, the youngest and first through the portal, brings back unbelievable tales of a snowy land and mystical creatures; her siblings each react differently, acting in both worthy and despicable ways. Even as bravery and wickedness collide, the narrative firmly evokes forgiveness and redemption.
William Brown will open the discussion of the first Narnia book on October 25 at 7:00 PM in the Groesbeck Room at Manhattan Public Library. Dr. Brown earned his Ph.D. in Literature and Religion at the University of Chicago and is professor emeritus of English and Humanities at Kansas Wesleyan University. He has participated in the TALK book discussions since the early 1980s.
The last presentation this fall delves into Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor. Cassie Logan, growing up in Depression-era Mississippi as a black girl, learns why the land matters so much to her family. The events of one turbulent year – night riders and burnings, public humiliation by a white girl, and public struggles for basic recognition – starkly highlight the experiences of American people struggling to survive a horribly intolerant and unsympathetic culture.
Dr. Michaeline Chance-Reay will lead discussion of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry on November 29 at 7:00 PM in the Manhattan Public Library’s Groesbeck Room. Michaeline has taught classes in Education and Women’s Studies at Kansas State University. Her research led to an exhibition at the Riley County Historical Museum and an accompanying book, Land Grant Ladies: Kansas State University Presidential Wives. Her current research focuses on the Harvey Girls, women who, as waitresses in the Harvey Houses along the Santa Fe Railroad, brought friendly, familiar service to rail travelers and workers from the 1880s to the 1960s and beyond.
Let these children’s classics return us, for just a moment, to those thrilling days of yesteryear; through them, let our history ride again. The TALK discussions are free and open to all. Additional copies of the discussion books will be available at the Reference Desk for check-out in August.