Friendship in Literature: Reading and Discussing

Winter 2003

Casual or intense, our friendships hold the power to enrich and sustain us. In them we discover, express, and measure ourselves; through them we grow. Finding a friendship that delights and strengthens us is not always easy though, for we may fear the vulnerability required. Yet these relationships remain complex as they carry us between solitude and connection. In this series we will explore varied experiences and kinds of friendship through reading four novels and one journal. Do you want to explore the theme of friendship in five works of modern literature? If you want the stimulation of being exposed to the minds of five provocative and entertaining writers on this theme, please join us for this “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” reading and discussion series. Some of our country’s finest contemporary writers await your first encounter or a renewed one after the passage of years. Perhaps you might even find associations with people that have been important to you in your own life.

Oklahoma City University invites participants to make this theme come “alive” in the readings of this five-part series. At each session, a Humanities scholar will make a 30-40 minute presentation on the readings. Small group discussion will follow with experienced discussion leaders. At the end, everyone will come together for a brief wrap-up. Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to preregister and borrow the reading selections and theme brochure by calling Harbour Winn at 521-5472, emailing him at or dropping by OCU’s Walker Center 171 (southwest corner of the building at NW 25th and Florida).

The series will be held in Walker Center, Room 151, on the Oklahoma City University campus from 7:00 to 9:00 PM on Tuesdays, beginning January 14 and continuing on alternate Tuesdays through February 25. The final session will then be one week later on March 4th. “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma,” a cooperative project of the Oklahoma Library Association and the Oklahoma Humanities Council, provides books, theme materials, and services for this series. Funding for this series is provided by a grant from the Oklahoma Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


1/14/2003 Katherine Paterson’s Jacob Have I Loved

Among the most acclaimed authors of young adult fiction, Paterson won the 1981 Newbery Medal for this novel that launches our series. The exploration of a young person’s struggle toward self-acceptance amidst the awkward and self-conscious period of adolescence can be excruciatingly painful. Feeling overshadowed by her talented and attractive twin sister, Louise strives to value herself and be open to other relationships.

1/28/2003 Chaim Potok’s The Chosen

Celebrated novelist Potok won a National Book Award for this first novel and unforgettable bestseller, the odyssey from boyhood to manhood of two boys and their fathers. The difficulty and efficacy of discovering a friendship that both delights and strengthens is not easy, and Potok dramatizes this tension while also focusing on the demands of the secular world and religious faith. Set in Brooklyn during the final years of World War II and the subsequent Zionist movement to found the state of Israel, the novel also offers us a frame of reference for the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.

2/11/2003 Alice Walker’s The Color Purple

In this acclaimed Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Walker explores the power of embracing another person in varied kinds of relationships. With the epistolary form, Walker explores history on both a specific racial level as well as the universal. Celie’s letters to God as well as those between Nettie and her reveal the workings of love and freedom. The restorative power of friendship has rarely been more memorably rendered.

2/25/2003 Russel Hoban’s Turtle Diary

In a fable worthy of Vonnegut and other cult writers, Hoban creates a most distinct tale of two ordinary people in London who are involved in what appears as a casual relationship. In their shared hope for the freedom of sea turtles, the two main characters converge through alternating chapters from their diaries. Filled with witty detail and magical fantasy, Turtle Diary should prove to be an inventive read.

3/4/2003 May Starton’s Recovering: A Journal

In her journals, Sarton has fashioned a distinctive literary form, one that records both the luminous richness of the sensory world around her as well as an unblinking look at her inner world. This process of how we think about our friendships and the events of our lives both in solitude and in community provides an enriching conclusion to our theme.