Women Faculty Book Club

ImageThe Women Faculty Book Club at FIU, like so many others, meets to affirm our membership in a community of book lovers. With each work we discuss, we deepen our shared experience, learn more about each other and ourselves, and honor the heritage of women’s creativity across eras and cultures.

For more information about joining the book club, please contact Joyce Peterson at petersoj@fiu.edu.

Please feel free to click on the "Our Books" tab on the left where you will find a comprehensive listing of our reading selections going back to 1991 along with links to our three published editions of the club's bookmarks. These publications encompass our chosen record of women’s writing from the last twenty-five years. We hope you find it a useful guide to leisure reading.

The FIU Women Faculty Book Club books and meetings for 2017-18 are as follows:

Summer to September 2018

An occasional column in the New York Times entitled “The Enthusiast” inspired our theme for summer reading. In The Enthusiast different writers offer their “enthusiasm” for a writer they consider underappreciated and who deserves a more extended readership. Some were long out-of-print and recently reissued as Virago or NYRB Classics. We have chosen 5, some from The Enthusiast and some we have added-all by 20th century British women.

Please read at least one from this list.

April 22, 2018

Our April book selection is Donna Leon's new mystery, The Temptation of Forgiveness (see below for more on the book).

In addition to following Commissario Guido Brunetti as he deals with crime and corruption, there is this added benefit of reading Leon: "Tagging along after this sleuth is a wonderful way to see Venice like a native" (Marilyn Stasio March 16, 2018 NYT review. )

March 2018

Our selection for March, in honor of Women's History Month, is Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by Caroline Fraser.

This new biography of the author of Little House on the Prairie and other books was selected by the New York Times as one of the 10 best books of 2017. Reviewer and western historian Patricia Nelson Limerick calls Prairie Fires "an essential text for getting a grip" on Wilder's literary enterprise and indicates that Wilder was a "major sculptor of American identify." In addition, she indicates, "Prairie Fires demonstrates a style of exploration and deliberation that offers a welcome point of orientation for all Americans dismayed by the embattled state of truth in these days of polarization." To view the New York Times review by Patricia Nelson Limerick, click here.

Those who read Prairie Fires may be interested in this long review by Claire Messud in the current issue of the New York Review of Books: Wilder and Wilder

February 2018

Our February book selection is Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. We will meet at the home of Judith Stiehm. When you arrive, you need to call Judith for entrance to the building.

Set in 1990s Ohio and about "class, race, family and the dangers of the status quo," the novel poses a mystery about who is setting fires around town. New York Times reviewer Eleanor Henderson states "the magic of this novel lies in its power to implicate all of its characters - and likely many of its readers - "in the "innocent delusion" expressed by one of the characters that "'no one sees race here.'"

Please mark your calendars and plan to join the discussion on Sunday, February 18 at 7 p.m. To read the review: Little Fires Everywhere

January 2018

The January book selection is The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. We will meet at the home of Judith Stiehm on January 14 at 7 p.m.

Critic Jennifer Senior describes The Essex Serpent as "a novel of almost insolent ambition - lush and fantastical, a wild Eden behind a garden gate. Set in the Victorian era, it's part ghost story and part natural history lesson, part romance and part feminist parable. It's wonderfully dense and serenely self-assured." To view the New York Times review, click here.

Before the meeting, Mary Jane Rochelson will be introducing a film for the Miami Jewish Film Festival. The event begins at 3:00 p.m. at Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest. The film, Tevye's Daughters is filmed in Ukraine, the location of the original stories, and is much closer to the originals than Fiddler on the Roof. The promos are upbeat, but in fact, the film captures the tragicomedy of the stories. It is a 2-hour film and should end around 5:30 p.m. giving everyone enough time to make it to Judith’s house.

To purchase tickets, click here.

December 2017

We chose Jennifer Egan's new novel Manhattan Beach for the December meeting of the Book Club. Egan provides a story of the intertwined fates of three characters primarily during the years of WWII. New York Times reviewer Amor Towles reports that the novel takes us to "the crooked culture of the New York piers," the "uppermost tier of New York society," and the "nascent and risk-laden world of commercial diving." Through it all we explore the "rapidly evolving role of young women in American society."

NOTE: In 1997 we read Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace and it is listed as one of our "favorites." A dramatized version is now streaming on Netflix.

November 2017

Meeting moved to December 3.

October 2017

The book for October is Claire Messud's new coming-of-age novel, The Burning Girl. Messud examines the friendship between two teenage girls and how that friendship dissolves.

Julia and Cassie have been friends since nursery school. They have shared everything, including their desire to escape the stifling limitations of their birthplace, the quiet town of Royston, Massachusetts. But as the two girls enter adolescence, their paths diverge and Cassie sets out on a journey that will put her life in danger and shatter her oldest friendship. The Burning Girl is a complex examination of the stories we tell ourselves about youth and friendship, and straddles, expertly, childhood’s imaginary worlds and painful adult reality―crafting a true, immediate portrait of female adolescence.

Claire Messud, one of our finest novelists, is as accomplished at weaving a compelling fictional world as she is at asking the big questions: To what extent can we know ourselves and others? What are the stories we create to comprehend our lives and relationships? Brilliantly mixing fable and coming-of-age tale, The Burning Girl gets to the heart of these matters in an absolutely irresistible way.

September 2017

The next book is The Kukotsky Enigma by Ludmila Ulitskaya. In 2001, novelist Ludmila Ulitskaya was the first woman to win Russia’s prestigious Booker Prize. The winning book was her fourth novel, which became a popular Russian TV serial in 2005 and has now finally appeared in English as The Kukotsky Enigma. Before she became a writer, Ulitskaya worked as a geneticist, and her scientific background inspired several aspects of this novel, reiterating her own questions about the boundaries between health and sickness, life and death.

To read more: "The Kukotsky Enigma: A sprawling philosophical epic with a Tolstoyan edge"

August 2017

The first meeting of the Book Club for the Fall Semester 2017 will be on Sunday, August 27 at 7:00 PM at the home of Judith Stiehm. Call Judith for entrance to the building (see August 2nd email from Joyce Peterson for more details). This message is an early warning to finish up on Summer reading. The scheduled date is a little earlier than our usual first meeting. See the links below for the short and long lists of summer historical fiction reading and remember that everyone is requested to read at least one from the short list.

Summer to September 2017

Here is the Short List of Historical Novels by Women Writers which includes links to book reviews.
Click the link for the Full List of Historical Novels - Sorted by Time Period.

The Book Club will read historical novels and everyone is encouraged to read at least one from the short list. Beyond that feel free to read any additional historical novels from the short or long list for discussion at our September meeting.