Jacob Realizes That He Has Wasted His Undergraduate Years: A Summer Tale

by Jacob Millay

I, like most avid readers, have a bit of a problem. I tend to overextend myself when it comes to reading plans.

For instance, last summer, I was working forty hours a week, but I figured that I could also get some heavy duty reading done. So… for the three months that I was home… I bought twenty-two books.

Now, maybe someone who is completely dedicated to reading and digesting novels could have conquered that stack which lay dormant in the corner of my room, but I was also faithful in seeing every new summer blockbuster, listening to every Death Cab for Cutie album on repeat, and catching up on the Telltale Games. Oh, and having some semblance of a social life.

However, I was able to find one strange gem in the stack. I found it in the “Buy two, get a third free” pile at Barnes and Nobles. Normally I shop at the quirky, eclectic, local bookstore on the corner as all good English majors do, but this one time I stumbled into the large corporate repository and saw the deal. I wanted two Stephen King books that were also in this section, so I was able to get a random book for free. I thought about it for approximately two seconds and grabbed The Opposite of Loneliness. I wish that I had a grand story about how I felt drawn to the book, but in reality I think I grabbed it simply because there was a pretty girl on the cover. That is just biology at work, baby.

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It took me awhile to actually read this book, but when I did, I was surprised by its story. The Opposite of Loneliness is by Marina Keagan, a student at Yale University. Five days before she was going to graduate, she died in a car accident. This book is a collection of her works that she wrote at school, and it was published posthumously.

Most of the stories and essays focus on youth and relationship, two messages that hit especially close to home for us college-age folk. She comes close to summing up the idea of relationship in her essay, “The Opposite of Loneliness”:  “It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table” (rest of essay found here). Keagan gets at what we at Whitworth love to sum up as “community” when we try to calculate the meaning of our time here. But we really fail with that word.

The book is wonderful and I am very glad that I randomly picked it up, but that is not really the point. It goes beyond that. I felt very touched by these essays and short stories that were contained in this book. And it wasn’t simply the content of the stories. It was the fact that this author was not really that different from me. We were close to the same age and I am now in a similar position of graduating college and moving on to other endeavors. The sense of kinship I felt with this author was unnerving and especially heartbreaking due to her untimely death.

Rather than just being sad though, I came to a realization. Some of the work included in this collection that touched me so were probably written for classes. And that made me think of all the things that I have written for classes during my time here. I thought about the essays on Shakespeare written for Doug that I really gave up on at 2 A.M. I thought about the poetry assignment in Nicole’s Creative Writing class that I turned in after my first draft because I was pretty busy that week. I thought about how I copied twelve copies of postcards and turned them into a literary journal for Thom because I was terrified of having to use a computer to design a book.

I really did not put myself one hundred percent into very many assignments, and that made me incredibly sad. We always think of the future and how at some point we will get some “real” writing done. We will finally start that novel that will change the world. Or we will start that poetry project that will be so avant-garde that no one will like it, but they will respect it. But right now, on this campus, we have the opportunity to pour ourselves into our writings almost every day. We could knock that essay on Beowulf out of the park. Or that short answer essay on the final about Yeats could have some absolute truth contained within it.

If we try to thoroughly create with all of our writing who knows whom we might be influencing?

Jacob Millay (’16)  is an English Education major at Whitworth University. He is a master of consuming, whether that is the newest David Fincher film, the newest Death Cab for Cutie album, or his mother’s spaghetti. He wishes he had any plans for after graduation or for next weekend, but, alas, he has none.

2015 Faculty Summer Reading Lists

Have you recovered from finals yet? Need some new reading material? Here are a few suggestions from our lovely English department faculty. Happy reading!

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Laura Bloxham: I’m not just recommending these two books.  I’m telling you these books are stunning.  Your life will be better for having read them.  Both books are by authors currently living in the northwest, Anthony Doerr in Boise and Daniel James Brown just outside Seattle.

4A93A6BE-8DFD-4C84-983C-BBAD3A1A379DDoerr’s book, All the Light We Cannot See, recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize, is set primarily in occupied France during World War II.  But this book is not a book about war.  It is a book about resiliency.  Two inordinately strong children tell their stories, Marie-Laure, a blind French girl living in Paris, and Werner, an orphan in Germany who earns his way into the Hitler Youth.  There is a third narrator who enters the story later and gives urgency to the plot, as well as presenting a mystery of sorts. The highlight of the book is the people we love and the details of their lives.  All that is presented in short narratives and gorgeous prose.  The novel grows from pieces into one story.
D1DBAD68-DB46-4657-B1FA-052E571B4018Daniel Brown’s The Boys in the Boat is non-fiction, narrative history.  It is similar to
Doerr’s novel in that it is a person’s story primarily, one of the boys in the boat at the University of Washington who wins a spot rowing at Hitler’s 1936 Olympics.  The central figure lives in Spokane and in Sequim, before moving to Seattle.  It is his early life, his struggles with abandonment and poverty, that makes him our cherished center of the story.  All of the boys in the boat have circumstances that provide back stories and qualities necessary for great collective achievement.
But you just have to trust me.  These books belong on the top of your reading list this summer.

 

 

poetry_rankine_citizen_fThom Caraway:Citizen: an American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf, 2014). This book won the 2014 National Book Critic’s Circle awards for both poetry and criticism. One book has never been nominated in both categories, much less won, so I am very interested in reading it. In a long series of prose poems, cultural critiques, and artworks, the book explores issues of racial identity in America.

30ywarMy Thirty-Year’s War, by Margaret Anderson (Knopf, 1930). Anderson was the founder and editor of The Little Review, one of the most influential and important little magazines of the Modernist period. Anderson published, in serial format, James Joyce’s Ulysses, and was tried for obscenity as a result. The magazine was always on the brink of financial collapse, but she published everyone we still consider important (including Mina Loy, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, and many others). With Harriet Monroe, Anderson is one of the most important poetry editors of the 20th century. This is her autobiography.41MBJ0BJq+L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

The Blue Buick: New and Selected Poems, by B.H. Fairchild (Norton, 2014). I’ll read anything written by Fairchild. He’s one of the best living American poets, and will be visiting Whitworth in the fall of 2015.

Well, that’s a start!

 

 

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Amowi Phillips: 

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna
Ordinary Light by Tracy K. Smith
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

 

 

 

Casey Andrews: I’ve been spending a year reading about peace and war, which I realize is not everyone’s ideal for the beach, but here are a few suggestions regardless.

Parade's EndFord Madox Ford’s Parade’s End tetralogy. One of the great modernist monster-pieces, but with an engaging plot and characters to pull you through the dense, impressionistic passages.

And, if you don’t feel like hundreds of pages worth of Ford’s prose, there is the excellent mini-series starring Benedict Cumberbatch, with a screenplay by Tom Stoppard. According to Stoppard, this film—more than any he has worked on—feels like one of his own original plays.

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Rose Macaulay’s The World My Wilderness. A young girl named Barbary returns to London in 1946 after serving the French Resistance. She wanders the rubble, living in the bombsites and trying to make sense of a war that was supposed to bring peace but instead leaves devastation. Macaulay was a supremely popular comic novelist, but this is my pick for her finest work of serious fiction.

the-love-charm-of-bombsLara Feigel, The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War. This “group biography” traces in marvelous detail and great storytelling a set of five writers as they experienced the London Blitz and its aftermath—among them Rose Macaulay, Graham Greene, and Rebecca West.

1303921Helen Zenna Smith, Not So Quiet… The romance novelist Evadne Price got a contract to capitalize on the success of Erich Maria Remarque’s antiwar novel All Quiet on the Western Front. Writing as Helen Smith and basing her novel on true stories, she chose to write a book even more brutal than Remarque’s about the realities of war from the perspective of volunteer ambulance drivers and nurses. There are plot twists and turns and enough hard-edged, tough talking female characters to make Orange is the New Black jealous.

 

 

downloadDoug Sugano:

The Housekeeper and the Professor, Yoko Ogawa.

 

 

 

41FD2KGPX9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Laurie Lamon:

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (Just won the Pulitzer….it’s gorgeous!), and  The Collected Poems of Czeslaw Milosz !

 

Vic Bobb: Reading in the Summer.  It’s the thing we’re born for.  Reading is what Summer is for.  Summer is the definition of Readingin the Unfallen State.  This is a delicious subject.  (Especially if you eat bacon while you’re Reading in the Summer.)

BB0493_3I’m going to open the summer with the bizarre magnificence of Faulkner’s Snopes Trilogy.  The Hamlet.  The Town.  The Mansion.  This triplet work (published in 1940, 1957, 1959) has some slack moments, but is immense and wonderful (and very funny) and faulknerian…and its capacity to immerse the reader in the character of Mink is astonishing and implausible (and, to some writer / readers, awe-inspiring).  I commend my beginning-of-summer choice to your attention.

111201However, if you’ve never managed to click with Faulkner, you can skip the Snopeses and go directly to some contemporary English writers: sample one each from Penelope Lively [The Photograph, or City of the Mind, or Moon Tiger…virtually any Lively novel, in fact, except Heat Wave, which I insist is a forgery, with a lame ending that could not have come from so wonderful a writer as P. Lively]; and Pat Barker [Double Vision, Ghost Road, or Union Street]; and Graham Swift [Last Orders or The Sweet-Shop Owner]; and Penelope Fitzgerald [The Book Shop or Offshore]; and John Berger [To the Wedding]; and Joanne Harris [Five Quarters of the Orange]; and Julian Barnes [Metroland or Staring at the Sun]; and Ian McEwan [assuming you’ve already read Atonement and Saturday, try On Chesil Beach or Amsterdam]; and Anita Brookner [Hotel du Lac or A Friend From England]; and Nick Hornby [How to Be Good, A Long Way Down; or the stunning creative nonfiction / memoir Fever Pitch {don’t worry: you Shakespeare_Wrote_for_Money_loresdon’t have to know or care a thing about soccer for this book’s writing to blow you away}; or the offbeat goofiness of The Polysyllabic Spree, Housekeeping vs the Dirt, Shakespeare Wrote for Money, and More Baths Less Talking]; and Barbara Pym [An Unsuitable Attachment]; and Kazuo Ishiguro [The Remains of the Day or Never Let Me Go]; and PD James [The Black Tower, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, or The Children of Men]; and Martin Amis [Koba the Dread, or Night Train; plus any of his books of essays].  Yes, there are some good and celebrated writers missing from that list, but by now you’ve gotten to July, and it’s time to widen your scope, and take in some literature in translation.

But that’s a list for another time….

Dr. Laura Bloxham’s Tales of Summer 2014 Reading

Those of you who know me know that I recommend reading a fair amount of beach trash during the summer.  I’ve been doing that, mostly in the mystery category.

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This summer I’ve also read two books worthy of writing about.  Both have kick-ass female characters.  The first is by L.M. Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables books.  I didn’t read these books until I was an adult.  This summer I ran across a reference to some of her other books, the Emily series.  And then a friend recommended The Blue Castle, supposedly the only Montgomery book written for an adult audience.  The main character is a woman a bit like Anne Elliot in Jane Austen’s Persuasion.  She is past her prime for the marriage market.  She has family members who dominate and take advantage of her.  She is useful in a mousy sort of way.  There’s a huge turn of events that lead to a spunky character who takes charge of her own life.  The ending is less than satisfying, but all in all, a good summer read.

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The second book, Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wondersis set in 17th century England during a plague year.  While the plague itself is horrifying, the fascinating parts of the book are the religious struggles of the community and the emergence of two female characters.  The religious struggles made me note the book of Job in the margins quite often.  The two women remind me of the Bechdel test for feminist movies, which has two women characters who talk about something other than a man. These two women talk about herbs, healing, their friendship, and even work a lead mine, which belongs to a young orphan girl.  That scene alone is about as kick-ass as it gets.  If you read this one, you’ll also want to read Brooks’ Caleb’s Crossing, set in 17th century New England, and also featuring a kick-ass woman.

Laura Bloxham was born in Seattle and raised in the Seattle Public Library.  She loves baseball and reading mysteries.  She will be teaching Holocaust Literature this fall.

EL Faculty Summer Reading Picks, Part II

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As summer inches closer, here are Professor Vic Bobb’s  and Professor LuElla D’Amico’s summer reading recommendations. Enjoy!

Professor Vic Bobb: Lazy Days…and Energetic Page Turning

So what are you going to read this summer?  There are a lot of books out there.  Not all of them feature characters with skin that sparkles in the sunlight.  In fact, most of them don’t.  And all of the best and most worthy among them…um…don’t.

Reading during the summer being a sacramental act, I’m suggesting books in accord with the sacrament of marriage.  What to read?  Here are Vic’s suggestions for the Marriage of True Minds:

Something Old:  I know, I know; some of you think that “Old” would refer to some character’s third year at Hogwarts.  I’m thinking of an older old.  Howsabout Tristram Shandy, published in chunks during the 1760s and, as far as I know, taught not even once at Whitworth in the past 28 years.  A person who wanted to proclaim Tristram Shandy the funniest book ever published was in a defensible position for more than a century and a half…but with the publication of Right-ho, Jeeves, in 1934, the question of the most truly pantswettingly funny book of all time was abruptly and finally settled, and partisans of the Reverend Mister Laurence Sterne were pleased to acknowledge that, because of P.G. Wodehouse, their idol was forever to be known as the second funniest writer in the history of the English language.  (Peace, Terry Pratchett fans…)

Your alternative (or additional) “something old” for this or any other summer: something by Dickens that you haven’t read recently.  And if you don’t have any Dickens in your past, go ahead and dive right in to Bleak House, simply one of the greatest novels ever written.  Read some Dickens; you’ll be glad you did.

Something New: How new is “new”?  Howsabout “this century”?  Penelope Lively’s The Photograph (2003) is a very fine (and sad) novel (and if it’s your introduction to Lively, next you can read all her novels except Heat Wave, which is thoroughly unworthy of her enormous talents); Ian McEwan started the century [2001-2007] with a pretty swell triad (Atonement, Saturday, On Chesil Beach); Pat Barker’s Another World is cheating because it’s 1998, but she’s worth reading in whatever century; Never Let Me Go continues the excellence that Kazuo Ishiguro began back in the 20th; and from this side of the Atlantic—not for the fainthearted—is Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men, about which I said in my reading journal, “Wow.  For action-suspense, McCarthy can make Mickey Spillane look like Jane Austen, and The Terminator look like a Teletubbies episode.  And Bell’s reflections on the state of our culture…gulp.”  Be warned.

Something Borrowed:  (These books needed an intermediary, someone to borrow the original language and transform it into eloquent English.)

Michel Quint, In Our Strange Gardens  (France, French, translated by Barbara Bray)

Cristina Peri Rossi, The Museum of Useless Efforts  (Uruguay / Spain, Spanish, translated by Tobias Hecht)

Slavenka Drakulić, The Balkan Express (Croatia, language-is-part-of-the-question, translated by Maja Soljan)

Victor Pelevin, The Yellow Arrow  (Russia, Russian, translated by Andrew Bromfield)

Pär Lagerkvist, Barabbas  (Sweden, Swedish, translated by Alan Blair)

Something Blue  Not blue as in the sitcom star’s stand-up routine that you’re really sorry you took your grandmother to for her birthday; not blue as in blue states, blue laws, blue-sky regulations, or blueberry pie, but blue as in These Are The Books Vic Listed Under “Blue” in order to round out the rather pointless and clunky theme of this list….

Florence King, Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady  (Actually, this one is pretty blue as to language; herewith a Serious Vulgarity Alert.  But a very funny, and touching, memoir.)

Fanny Flagg, Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man  A sheerly delightful book.

Ron Hansen, Atticus  The final sentence.  Now you have to read the whole book again.

Bob Dylan, Chronicles (Volume One)  Only for people who are already favorably inclined toward Bob Dylan.  For those folks…a) you’ve never read anything like this in your life; b) maybe this is something like what it’s like to be inside Bob Dylan’s head; c) you won’t put it down, and you’ll wish it were twice as long as it is.

Philip Larkin, Selected Letters 1941-1985.  Hilarious, heartbreaking, insightful, utterly fascinating.  The correspondence with Kingsley Amis is, itself, worth whatever the book costs.  In fact, once you’re a quarter of the way into this collection, get Betterworld.com to send you the immense volume of Amis’s correspondence: that book is also an enormous pleasure to read.

Don’t forget sunblock.

I now pronounce you Reader and Book.

Professor LuElla D’Amico: First, of course I have to suggest one of my favorite nineteenth-century women writers, E.D.E.N. Southworth.  If you haven’t read the “gothic comedy,” The Hidden Hand, you should–and do so as soon as possible.  Bandits, thieves, madwomen, and lots of cross-dressing…what could be more fun?  And if you find you like Southworth, you should also check out Love’s Labour Lost, the book by her that I most recently read.  In fact, Love’s Labour Won, the sequel, is already on my personal summer reading list.  Warning:  Southworth like most nineteenth-century authors specializes in long, long books, but they’re quick and juicy reads, perfect for rainy Spokane summer days especially.

In terms of newer fiction, which I suppose you must delve into every once in a while, I suggest Paulo Coehlo’s Veronika Decides to Die.  It’s one of those books that made me remember why I love what I love (and perhaps will remind you why you love what you love as well).  Quite simply, Coehlo helps readers appreciate what I like to think of as the ever present, but often obscured, music of life.  And speaking of the music of life and remembering how to enjoy summer days fully, Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being is another perfect summer reading pick.  This book is especially good if you’re planning on traveling and need a good read for the plane or long car ride.  I promise it’ll make your trip all the better.  Happy break!

Image from here.

EL Faculty Picks for Summer Reading

Piles-of-books-in-a-private-college-library_www.LuxuryWallpapers.net_

What better way to stockpile for summer than the Westminster Annual Book Sale? Be on the lookout for these reading recommendations tomorrow at the book sale, 11:30-1:00. Due to weather concerns, books will be in Lied Art Center, not the garden. Don’t worry, hot dogs and Laura’s List will still be available.

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Professor Casey Andrews: Not everyone’s idea of a beach read is to cozy up on a blanket with a World War I novel, but even skeptics will be taken with Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of George Sherston. Unlike other classics in the wave of Great War books that emerged in the late 1920s and early 1930s (e.g., Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, Barbusse’s Under Fire, or Graves’ Good-bye to All That), Sassoon’s work stands out as a comic masterpiece. His presentation of foolishness in the English upper-crust reads like an even more sardonic E. M. Forster, and his depiction of trench life full of buffoonish officers and absurd situations anticipates the later antics of Thomas Pynchon and Joseph Heller. On top of all this, Sassoon’s book is a wonderful experiment in genre, being an “autobiographical novel,” a “fictional memoir,” or even an “exaggerated history.” That one of the greatest pieces of anti-war writing can be so experimental and witty has been a delightful discovery in my current research.

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Professor Laura Bloxham: Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland. Okay, let’s get the accolades out there: National Book Award Finalist. Shortlisted for the Man Booker 2013 Prize. Oh, and by the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning collection Interpreter of Maladies.   But to my mind it is just plain good reading. Engrossing. An epic story moving back and forth between Calcutta and Rhode Island. Highlighting two brothers and one woman. Their history. Politics and yearning for knowledge, self-fulfillment, but also finding an ethical basis for choices they make. Living with the consequences over a lifetime. I’ve already written “epic.” Epic, indeed.

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Professor Laurie Lamon: For poetry, The Chameleon Couch by Yusef Komunyakaa and The Great Enigma by Tomas Transtromer. For novels, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk and The Gold Finch by Donna Tartt, which just won the Pulizter for fiction. It’s astonishing.

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Professor Nicole Sheets: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters. How can I consider myself a Spokanite if I haven’t read a Jess Walter book? I began with Beautiful Ruins and found myself, against all pedagogical wisdom, staying up too late on a couple of school nights just to finish it. In Beautiful Ruins, it’s hard not to fall for Pasquale, whose capacity to dream far exceeds the economic potential of his remote, bedraggled, seaside hotel. When a beautiful movie actress arrives without warning, her distress sets into motion events that unfold across decades and continents. This novel is many things: a Hollywood romp, a commentary on modern courtship, a testament to the trials of the artistic temperament, a satire of self-help and memoir, and at its core, a love story.

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Professor Leonard Oakland: A wise person said, “When a new book comes out, read an old one.”

Read one of the Big Books:
Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina
Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov
James Joyce’s Ulysses
George Eliot’s Middlemarch

Newer Books:
Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland
Penelope Lively’s The Photograph
P.D. James’s Devices and Desires

Not so New:
Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth
William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom 
J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey
Rainer Rilke’s poetry

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Professor Doug Sugano: I like post-apocalyptic fiction as a genre, and my latest favorite trilogy is Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam group.  But that’s not my recommendation, although I do recommend reading Atwood’s.  Chang-Rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea is a novel that fits into that post-apocalyptic genre, but not necessarily for the reasons that you’d think.  Yes, it’s in the future, but that future U.S. (Is it the U.S.?  In what way is it the U.S.?  Who is running the country?  What is there of the country beyond the planned communities?  Is this a post-racial U.S.?)  isn’t what most of us have imagined.  Rather, what appears to be the U.S. is a rigidly stratified, loose castellation of “cities” that are defined only by economic status and productivity—i.e., cities are known largely by what they produce.  And this future U.S. seems to be populated by newer Chinese immigrants.  Hence, the protagonist, Fan, is a resident of B-Mor (Baltimore), is known for her diving exploits (since B-Mor produces mostly seafood for the rest of the country).  The plot meanders about Fan and her quest to find her missing boyfriend, who has mysteriously disappeared out in the “counties,” where there is no government, no services, and few vestiges of civilization.  On her odyssey, Fan dives through many layers of the country’s social strata laid bare.  In a sense, she discovers the perverse social products of each stratum.  It seems that Lee is depicting what happens (or will happen) to all of us when corporations run everything—as if we are that far from that point, even now.

Sneak Peek (#2) into Laura’s List

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Here is another taste of what is to come from Laura’s List. This book honoring Laura Bloxham’s 35 years of Summer Reading Lists will be released Friday, May 9 at the Westminster annual Book Sale which will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the garden between Westminster and Lied.

To donate books to the sale, contact Annie Stillar at astillar@whitworth.edu or (509) 777-3253 and arrange a pick-up.

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The Stones of Mourning Creek
by Diane Les Becquets (2012)

I fell in love with The Stones of Mourning Creek my freshman year of high school. It’s one of those books I could read over and over again and get some new meaning from each time I read it. The element of mystery forced my fingers to turn each page the first time I read it.

I can’t remember if the writing was even “good” and I can barely recall the storyline. But I do remember the feeling I got from reading the book –a kind of aching in my chest and throat, like I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t.

Despite the title, this book is not just a young adult romance novel, a genre that perpetually lived on my bookshelf at the time. Rather, it follows the story of a young Caucasian girl who finds herself battling a racist society when she befriends an African American girl in 1960 Alabama. The novel portrays unlikely friendships, complicated familial relationships, death, racism, and heartbreak.

Ivy Beck is a sophomore at Whitworth who is studying English and French, and has taken to writing creative nonfiction.

Sneak Peek into Laura’s List

Books

Laura’s List is coming soon! It will be released Friday, May 9 at the annual Westminster Book Sale. Laura’s List is a compilation of reflections and reviews on books recommended from over 35 years of Laura Bloxham’s Summer Reading Lists.

Here is a sample of what is to come:

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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
by Laura Hillenbrand (2010)

After completing a Holocaust Literature class with Laura Bloxham, I continued the journey to discover the truths revealed by suffering through the biography of Louis Zamperini.

At its core, the biography is a journey to discover freedom. Zamperini’s captors are numerous: the Axis Powers, the ocean, sharks, hunger, fatigue, and Japanese Sergeant Watanabe. The most formidable enemy, however, is the invisible force that continues to enslave him after the war’s end—namely hatred.

To conquer hatred, Zamperini is tasked with the arduous challenge of forgiveness. He is initially consumed with thoughts of revenge, but when told of his former tormentor’s suicide, he is overwhelmed by compassion. “At that moment, something shifted sweetly inside him. It was forgiveness, beautiful and effortless and complete. For Louie Zamperini, the war was over”(379).

The path to forgiveness allows Zamperini to reflect on the miracles God wrought to keep him alive throughout the war. Years later, the greatest miracle of Zamperini’s life is when God intervenes, not in the realm of nature, but in the realm of the human heart.

The longing for freedom burns perhaps more passionately than any other human desire. We are enslaved by fears of abandonment and death, uncertainty and failure. These fears stem from pride that drives our hatred of anything interfering with our own wellbeing. In relinquishing the pride, however, hatred dissolves away and freedom is ours.

Amber Johnson is a 2012 Whitworth graduate who is currently in her first year of medical school at Creighton University School of Medicine. She is thankful to Laura for giving her the ability to fully enjoy and skillfully analyze literature through the three classes she took with her at Whitworth, as well through the guidance she received from her as an advisor.

Nancy Drew And Lifetime Reading

nancy drew lilac inn

by Jessica Weber (’14)

The first full book that was read to me was Charlotte’s Web. Every night before bed my mother would promise another chapter, and together we would revisit our favorite animation film in its original form. I remember the final chapter distinctly, not for its contents, but because the days of listening to my mother read aloud were over. I had decided I was skilled enough to read on my own, and soon thereafter I started A Horse Called Wonder, the first of many from the Thoroughbred book series. I followed the character of Claire through her personal struggles and riding successes. Eventually my girlish obsession with horses faded, and I moved on to Nancy Drew books.

I cannot remember exactly how I came across my first copy of the books, but I do remember reading The Secret of the Old Clock and being entranced. As I opened each new book of the series, I was confident in Nancy’s ability to somehow escape the danger she found herself in and solve the mystery by the final pages.

After reading every Nancy Drew book in my small private school I begged my mother to take me to the Pasco Public Library. This did not take much convincing. She chauffeured me to the young-adult books and left me there while she went to the Danielle Steele section. I generally despised being left alone in public places, but I did not mind when she left me there. As I sat on the floor searching for new mysteries to solve, I realized how many more books were out there to be read. I paused and inhaled their musty book smell. I reveled in their symmetrical spines on which Carolyn Keene’s name resided, and gazed into their brilliant yellow covers. Led by the colorful photographs, I settled on The Clue in the Jewel Box.

At first it was difficult for me to choose only one book, but my mother reminded me that I could always come back. And I did. About once a month, my mother would take me down Sylvester Street and up 12th. We’d use the crosswalk from the Memorial Public Pool to the library, enter through the familiar doors, and walk directly to the back where Carolyn Keene’s collection lived. I’d scan the spines for mysteries unsolved and reminisce about the mysteries I’d already figured out.

During my first visit to Santa Barbara, California I was carrying The Mystery at Lilac Inn through the airports and on the planes to and from my aunt’s house. I received smiles from older women who noticed what I was reading, and warm comments from a woman who scanned my boarding ticket. It seemed as though everywhere I went, women much older than I seemed to understand the magic that rested between the book’s pages. On our final flight home from Salt Lake to Pasco, a man stopped me and asked me what I was reading. Without a word, I turned the cover of The Mystery at Lilac Inn to his view. He laughed and asked me why I was reading such an old book. I replied with an “I don’t know” and walked away. I did not understand how some people didn’tt feel the same way as I did about reading.

Jessica Weber is a senior who fits the tea-drinking, book-loving English major stereotype. She even goes as far to dabble in other adventurous activities such as gardening, knitting, and cat-loving. Jessica is the editor of the forthcoming Laura’s List and plans to pursue a career in publishing.


Nancy Drew cover is from here.
 

Deadline Approaching For Laura’s List: Submit Today!

triangular_room_bookshelves

Did you think the Whitworth English blog had forgotten you? No way. We’ve got plenty of great stuff in store for 2014.

Good news: Laura’s List is still accepting submissions!

In celebration of over 35 years of Laura Bloxham’s Summer Reading List, Whitworth University’s Department of English invites contributions for a single-volume publication titled Laura’s List, forthcoming April 2014.

Submissions should be brief (100-250 words), and they should explore significant reading experiences with titles from Laura’s lists or from your own selections. To contribute, email submissions to lauraslist14@gmail.com.

Deadline is Wednesday, January 15.

For questions, contact Jessica Weber, Editor [jweber14@my.whitworth.edu], or Pamela Corpron Parker, Chair, Department of English [pamelaparker@whitworth.edu].

Bookshelf image is from here.