Skip to main content

Tag: book discussions

Smarty Pants Book Club: “I Am Malala”
Guest Blog Post by Leah Ujda


In my pre-Design Concepts work life, I was a
librarian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. One of my favorite
experiences there was serving multiple years on the book selection
committee for Go Big Read, the campus-wide common book program.
Sponsored
by the Office of the Chancellor in partnership with the Center for First-Year Experience, and many other units of the university,
the goal of Go Big Read is to “engage members of the campus community
and beyond in a shared, academically focused reading experience.” This
fall, our very own Smarty Pants Book Club joined thousands of others in
the Madison community in reading “I Am Malala” by Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.

“I
Am Malala” is the true story of a girl in Pakistan who, along with her
father, is a vocal advocate for girls’ right to an education in spite of
the restrictions imposed by the Taliban. Malala’s father is a school
owner who encouraged her to speak out, write and attend school from an
early age. As a young student her story caught the attention of Western
journalists and media. Malala’s (then anonymous) blog detailing daily
life under the Taliban was picked up by the BBC when she was 11 years
old and she was profiled in the New York Times in 2009. She became quite
well known both internationally and in her home in the Swat Valley in
Pakistan, and her outspoken views gained the attention of the Taliban.
In October 2012, Malala was shot at point blank range by masked Taliban
soldiers while riding the bus home from school.

One of the things
we talked a lot about at book club was Malala’s perception of herself
and her life – as Chad put it, “until she was shot in the head she
didn’t think she was particularly incendiary or special.” To the members
of our book club – educated, employed, comfortable Americans – Malala
and the people in her village often seemed to be dealing with life close
to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy. Their basic safety and security
was not a given. Regardless of the dangerous environment she and her
family lived in, Malala wrote about love, respect, independence and
betterment.

By reading the same book and coming together to talk about it, we take an individual activity and make it social.

Related
to this idea of perception, we talked a bit about Malala’s idealism and
optimism. At the risk of being cynical and jaded, we wondered how much
of her story and the presentation of it was coached. Christina Lamb, an
award-winning British journalist, co-wrote the book with Malala and book
club members agreed that it was very obvious that this story was being
presented to a Western audience. Ultimately, our discussion wound around
to the conclusion that it really didn’t matter how coached, edited or
polished the story may have been. Stories like Malala’s pull people out
of blindness and illustrate the powerful and destructive nature of
ignorance.

There were moments in the book that revealed how broken
the political system of Pakistan under the Taliban really is. For
example, after she was shot Malala was transported to a hospital in
England for treatment and it took two weeks for Malala’s family to gain
the necessary paperwork to join her there. Corin noted that a system
that prioritizes political favors and self-interest over the family of a
critically wounded 15-year-old girl has stepped completely outside of
human empathy. But this is not a “Pakistan thing” or even a “Taliban
thing.” It is a human thing. Corruption can thrive anywhere with right
set of circumstances, timing and luck.

We wrapped up our
discussion with some reflection on common reading programs such as Go
Big Read and the experience of participating in a book club. By reading
the same book and coming together to talk about it, we take an
individual activity and make it social. Corin participated in a
campus-wide common book program during her freshman year at Virginia
Tech, and both Roshelle and I previously took part in the Chicago Public
Library’s “One City, One Book” initiative. Even our little office book
club provides a forum for shared experiences that foster connections
among people and push us to pick up books we might not have otherwise
selected. All of us agreed that having a shared experience at the same
time is rare and precious. “I Am Malala” filled the Smarty Pants Book
Club with feelings of gratitude and connection just in time for the
holiday season… and it made us feel a lot smarter while we watch
“Homeland.”

Leah Ujda
Research Specialist
Design Concepts

Madison Public Library Community Book Groups Continue Into the Fall

Each year Madison Public Library’s nine locations participate in Go Big Read by hosting community book discussions. MPL’s book discussions are typically long standing groups with a core group of regular attendees who welcome newcomers ready to listen, discuss and share the floor in exploration of the book and author. The list of remaining discussions is below.

Here are some reactions from librarians that have already hosted discussions this year.
Each quote is from a different librarian and book discussion group:

We attempted to understand the birth of the Taliban after the Soviet
troop withdrawal in 1989– their rise from religious to militant– and
why they had initial world support, including that of the Reagan and
Clinton administrations. It was interesting to learn the the Clinton’s
administration’s flirtation with the Taliban did not last long, as
Madeleine Albright, incensed by the Taliban’s treatment of women, halted it when she became Secretary of State.

Many found it a difficult read with the political overtones, the
anti-Americanism, the detailed historical religious perspective, the
terminology, and the American unfamiliarity with Pakistan specifically,
and Islam in general.  Some felt that the book would have held more
credibility if it hadn’t looked like Malala’s story was being
manipulated by adults with an agenda to sell books while Malala was
still in the headlines.  One attendee suggested that, ‘although he had
great respect for Malala, the book was obvious propaganda.

We discussed the amazing phenomenon of Malala herself and her wisdom
beyond her actual years, everyday life and family dynamics in Pakistan,
all things education, including who has the say over what goes into
children’s textbooks, whether or not kids here take education for
granted, etc., religion, religious extremism, the role of the U.S. in
the Middle East, how the people always get caught between their
government and the militants and often our government as well, and how
well that works out for everybody. I think people enjoyed the book and
Malala’s voice and loved Malala.

Many in our group were pleased this was a Go Big Read pick because UW
students would read it– and look beyond their borders and/or discover a
perspective on ‘the news’ that is more personal. The group also
appreciated reading more about the Taliban- both the history, the day to
day changes in Malala’s life because of them, and her courage in
standing up to them.

Quite a bit of time was spent thinking about/discussing the issue of
the co-author– how not knowing what Lamb’s role was or who wrote what
was distracting to the reader and opened up the possibility that this
book was not Malala’s story or beliefs totally. The group was very
interested to hear of the negative reaction to the book (and not Malala)
in Pakistan.

*Discussions continue at our libraries and Book Discussion Kits are
available for private book groups (see below):

Wednesday, October 22, 6:30-8:00pm at Meadowridge Library, 5740 Raymond
Rd., Madison, WI, 53711, 288-6160

Thursday, October 23, 1:00-2:00pm at Sequoya Library, 4340 Tokay Blvd.,
Madison, WI, 53711, 266-6385

Wednesday, November 5, 6:00-7:30pm at Monroe Street Library, 1705 Monroe
St., Madison, WI, 53711, 266-6390

Thursday, November 6, 6:30-7:45pm at Lakeview Library, 2845 N. Sherman
Ave., Madison, WI, 53704, 246-4547

Thursday, November 13, 12:00-1:00pm at Lakeview Library, 2845 N. Sherman
Ave., Madison, WI, 53704, 246-4547

Tuesday, November 25, 7:00-8:00pm at Pinney Library, 204 Cottage Grove
Rd., Madison, WI, 53716, 224-7100

*Click here to borrow Book Discussion Kits from MPL

Madison Public Library has bought over 100 copies of I am Malala to lend
to private book groups. Kits are lent on a first come, first served
basis– no holds or reserves allowed. While all kit copies are out as of
this blog post, experience shows we’ll have many copies to lend again in
the late fall- typically mid-November. To borrow a kit you’ll need a
valid library card from one of the libraries in the South Central
Library System (which includes Madison Public Library.) Call 266-6300
for more information. You may borrow as many copies as your group needs
and choose your due date (within reason!) The discussion guide included
with the kit contains reviews, additional background information on
Christina Lamb and Malala Yousafzai and discussion questions.

Written by: Liz Amundson, Madison Public Library Reference Librarian

Guest Post: How to Read a Book

A Tale for the Time Being invites us to read in a slightly
different way than many of us are used to. 
Not only does the book alternate between two narrators, but when we read
Nao’s diary, we’re reading it as annotated by Ruth, whose chapters are told from in the third-person voice.  It took me a while to realize that the
footnotes in Nao’s diary are written as though they were written by the
character Ruth, not the author Ruth.

If you’re interested in other approaches to reading, you may want to listen to
the November 24, 2013, edition of the public radio show To the Best of Our Knowledge.  The Nov 24 show is all about “How to Read a Book.” Hearing Billy Collins’ read his poem “Reader,” immediately made me think
of Tale.  There’s also an interview with an author who
wrote a novel which features another novel written in the margins of the book,
among other thought-provoking segments.

Beth Harper
Reference Librarian, Memorial Library

Documentary Film Screening of ‘Bully’ at Madison Public Library- Central Library- Wednesday 10/23 at 6:30

I just watched Bully tonight. It is a most powerful movie.  It puts on
screen what Nao, in A Tale for the Time Being, experienced in her
school.  The film follows a few children as they endure abuse by their
classmates on the bus, in the halls and on the playgrounds of their
schools.  It portrays the pain and shame, and the hopelessness they feel
as their teachers, school leaders and even parents fail to protect
them. It shows the pain of the parents who try to help their children
and fight to get stubborn administrations to move towards protecting
them.  And it shows the torment of parents of children who despaired and
took their lives.  
While the film did not touch on the cyber-bullying Nao was subjected to,
it was able to portray the pain these children feel and make clear how
suicide feels like the only option.  

The
film fortunately ends on a positive note. In honor of one of the
children who committed suicide, one father teaches himself about the
internet, gets on Facebook and joins a movement to stop bullying. 
Called Stand For The Silent, the group encourages children to befriend a
bullied child, and offers education and tools to children and schools
to help the bullied.

If you are interested in seeing Bully and hearing the reactions of others, come to the Central Library, 201 W. Mifflin St. on Wednesday, October 23 at 6:30 pm. 
After we view the film, a supportive, thoughtful discussion will be
moderated by Susan Simon of WISC-TV3 News Team (WISC-TV3 has been
sponsoring a Time for Kids Buddy project to encourage kids to be a
buddy, not a bully). Amy Bellmore, PhD, UW Associate Professor of
Educational Psychology and Dr. Joanna Bisgrove, Family Medicine Physician from DeanCare will join us for the discussion. 
 If you can’t make it Wednesday, there will be a final screening of the film will be on Saturday, November 2 at 1 pm at the Meadowridge Library, 5740 Raymond Rd.  http://www.madisonpubliclibrary.org/new/bully-film-screenings-discussions

Blog post written by:
Lisa M., Librarian atMadison Public Library- Central

*Poster for Bully.

UW-Madison Faculty to Offer Expert Perspectives on “A Tale for the Time Being”

Faculty from the English Department and the Asian American Studies Program will offer perspectives on A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki.  Speakers include: Timothy Yu,
Associate Professor of English and Asian American Studies and Director,
Asian American Studies Program; Leslie Bow, Professor of English and
Asian American Studies; Morris Young, Professor of English; and Jan
Miyasaki, Lecturer in Asian American Studies. 

The event is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be provided after the panel.   Please note that a photo ID is required to enter Memorial Library.  
A Tale for the Time Being: A Panel Discussion
Tuesday, October 22nd, 5:30 pm-7 pm
Memorial Library Commons, Room 460 Memorial Library
Contact: gobigread@library.wisc.edu 608-262-4308
This event is sponsored by the Asian American Studies Program, the English Department, the Center for the Humanities, Go Big Read, and Memorial Library.

Sarah McDaniel
Go Big Read

“Bully” Screenings at Madison Public Library

Poster for Bully.

Much of A Tale for the Time Being is concerned with the cruel treatment of Nao at the hands of her classmates. While these scenes are uncomfortable and frequently disturbing to read, the reality is that over 13 million American kids will be bullied this year. The documentary Bully (formerly The Bully Project) takes a hard look at bullies and their victims.

Join Madison Public Library for free screenings of Bully, followed by facilitated discussions about bullying. Screenings are being held at several branches throughout October and November, and do not require pre-registration. For dates and locations, check out the MPL event page or our own Go Big Read event calendar.
Bully is rated PG-13 for intense thematic material, disturbing content, and some strong language, all involving kids.

Go Big Read book discussions

Have you already finished A Tale for the Time Being? Are you disappointed that there’s more than a month to go until our author event on October 28? Have no fear!

Madison Public Library is partnering with Go Big Read to host book discussions throughout the community. All discussions are free and open to the public, with no pre-registration required; all you have to do is show up (and probably read the book first)! No matter where you live in Madison, odds are a library near you has a discussion coming up sometime soon.

This month alone, you could head south along Park Street to check out the discussion at Goodman Branch this Saturday. Or take the opportunity to hang out in the gorgeous new Central Library (side note, who’s going to Stacked! tonight?) on September 25 by participating in their evening discussion. And Meadowridge Branch is holding a discussion next Saturday.

October and November are chock full of MPL/GBR book discussions, too, as well as other events (Kanji-writing workshop, anyone?). If you want to check out your library’s discussion group or find one that fits in your schedule, visit our Events page.

Wednesday Nite @ the Lab

If you’ve gotten to see “Fallout” at Ebling Library–or even if you haven’t!–here’s your chance to find out how the exhibit was put together! Join Ebling Library for Wednesday Nite @ the Lab on Wednesday, February 20th from 7:00-8:15 in Room 1111, 425 Henry Mall.

Curator Micaela Sullivan-Fowler

“Fallout” is an examination of subjects such as the early use of x-rays
in diagnosis & treatment, occupational hazards of working with
radiation, the military use of x-rays, the history of tanning, a UW
connection with Marie Curie, bomb shelters in the 1960’s, the bombing of
Hiroshima & concerns with nuclear accidents like Three-Mile Island,
UW’s Departments of Medical Physics & Radiology, shoe fitting
fluoroscopes and the like.

Micaela Sullivan-Fowler has been the curator and history of health
sciences librarian at Ebling Library for the past 14 years. She acts as
the liaison to the Department of Medical History & Bioethics within
the School of Medicine and Public Health. She works with graduate and
undergraduate students, helping them navigate the print and electronic
worlds when using primary material for their research papers. In designing exhibits, Micaela’s
primary goals are to highlight books in Ebling’s collections, and to
create thematic pathways between the subjects in the individual cases.
While the current exhibit on the history of radioactivity, x-rays and
radium has had glowing reviews, it was perhaps the most difficult to
tell in such a limited space. The discovery of so many interesting
stories is what Micaela loves to share…

Upcoming book discussions

The Radioactive author event might have come and gone, but you haven’t missed your chance to hear (and participate in!) a fantastic discussion of the book!  Go Big Read and the Madison Public Library have partnered to bring you a whole slew of Radioactive events over the next couple of weeks.

Starting on Tuesday in Stoughton, various branches of the Madison Public Library across the city will be hosting their own book discussions, some of which will be led by students at the UW’s very own School of Library and Information Studies.  The Stoughton event is on Tuesday, November 13th, at 7:00pm.  On Thursday the 15th, the Monroe Street branch opens its doors at 6:00pm, and on Saturday, November 17th, you can head over to the Goodman South branch at 1:30pm.

If art and design is more your thing, you should make your way to the Meadowridge branch of MPL on Wednesday, November 14th at 6:30pm.  The library is hosting a discussion on “the aesthetics of Radioactive,” which is sure to be fascinating.

You can find more information about these and other upcoming events on the Go Big Read event calendar, as well as the Campus Events Calendar and the Madison Public Library’s own Go Big Read page.

Brooke Williams, GBR graduate student

Lauren Redniss takes the stage on Monday!

With this year’s Go Big Read author event coming up fast, now is a great time to take a look at some recent Radioactive news items that have come across my desk.

Lauren Redniss seems to have been pretty active around Madison over the past week or so (especially for someone who’s not even in town yet!): she’s spoken with the Badger Herald and 77 Square, and even the university’s news page is talking about her.  If you’re looking for a sneak preview of her Monday lecture, look no further

And, of course, I’m going to set out the details of Monday night for you right now.  If you follow us on Twitter (@GoBigRead) or have liked us on Facebook, you’re probably going to be bombarded with this info over the next few days–and it’s in the campus calendar and a few local calendars, as well.  But isn’t it nice to have it all laid out in one place?  So here you go:

Date: Monday, October 17
Time: 7pm
Place: Varsity Hall, on the second floor of Union South (1308 W. Dayton Street)
Who: Lauren Redniss, author of Radioactive, the Go Big Read book selected for the 2012-2013 academic year
Why should I go?: Because it will be amazing! Radioactive is a fascinating book: a blend of art, science, biography, history and romance, with an incredibly unique and very beautiful aesthetic. Wouldn’t it be cool to find out how all those things came together?
Other things to know: The event is free and open to the public; you don’t need to get a ticket or reserve a seat.

If you can’t make it to the event in person, well, we’ll miss you!  But you don’t have to miss a minute: we’re live streaming the whole thing, starting about 15 minutes before the talk actually begins.  To get in on that, just go to our home page and look for the link that says “Live stream of the event” (it’s under “Features” on the right side of the page).

If you have any further questions about the event, feel free to email us: gobigread@library.wisc.edu.  You can also find us on Twitter or Facebook with the links above.  Otherwise, we’ll see you on Monday!

Brooke, GBR graduate student