June book discussion groups at local library

Decorah Public Library staff will host five book discussions in June.

The book groups are open to the public and newcomers are encouraged to attend. Anyone interested should call the library at 382-3717 to learn more or to reserve a book. Zoom links are available on the Library’s website or e-mail ktorresdal@decorahlibrary.org to be added to any of the five groups’ email distribution lists. Funds for multiple copy sets were provided by Friends of Decorah Public Library.  

The Happy Hour Book Group meets via Zoom Wednesday, June 14, at 5:15 p.m. to discuss Alexis Schaitkin’s “Elsewhere.” Vera grows up in a small town, removed and isolated, pressed up against the mountains, cloud-covered and damp year-round. This town, fiercely protective, brutal and unforgiving in its adherence to tradition, faces a singular affliction: some mothers vanish, disappearing into the clouds. It is the exquisite pain and intrinsic beauty of their lives; it sets them apart from people elsewhere and gives them meaning. Vera, a young girl when her own mother went, is on the cusp of adulthood herself. As her peers begin to marry and become mothers, they speculate about who might be the first to go, each wondering about her own fate.  

The History Book Group will meet on the 2nd floor of the library Thursday, June 15 at 3 p.m. to discuss Heather Cox Richardson’s “How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America.” While the North prevailed in the Civil War, Heather Cox Richardson argues that democracy’s blood-soaked victory was ephemeral. The system that had sustained the defeated South moved westward and there established a foothold. Settlers from the East had for decades been pushing into the West, where the seizure of Mexican lands at the end of the Mexican-American War and treatment of Native Americans cemented racial hierarchies. The South and West equally depended on extractive industries-cotton in the former and mining, cattle, and oil in the latter-giving rise a new birth of white male oligarchy, despite the guarantees provided by the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. 

 The Friday Book Group will meet via Zoom on Friday, June 16 at 2 p.m. to discuss Geraldine Brooks’ “Horse.” Kentucky, 1850. An enslaved groom named Jarret and a bay foal forge a bond of understanding that will carry the horse to record-setting victories across the South. New York City, 1954. Martha Jackson, a gallery owner celebrated for taking risks on edgy contemporary painters, becomes obsessed with a nineteenth-century equestrian oil painting of mysterious provenance. Washington, DC, 2019. Jess, a Smithsonian scientist, and Theo, a Nigerian-American art historian, find themselves unexpectedly connected through their shared interest in the horse—one studying the stallion’s bones for clues to his power and endurance, the other uncovering the lost history of the unsung Black horsemen who were critical to his racing success. 

The Speculative Fiction Book Group will meet via Zoom Wednesday, June 28 at 5:15 p.m. to discuss China Mieville’s “Embassytown.” In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak. Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. When distant politics deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties—to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak.  

 Following the Speculative Fiction Book Group, the Speculative Short Fiction Group will meet at 6:15 p.m. via the same Zoom link to discuss stories 4-6 from Ken Liu’s “The Paper Menagerie”: “Good Hunting,” “The Literomancer,” and “Simulacrum.”  

 For more information, contact Tricia Crary (Friday Book Group) or Kristin Torresdal (Happy Hour, History, and Speculative Fiction Book Groups) at 563-382-3717.  

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