“Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” returns for Spring 2016 with “Play Ball”

Play Ball

“Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” Series at Oklahoma City University, Spring 2016

America’s sense of baseball has been called “an enduring public trust”—and the richness, breadth, and depth of literature written about the sport reflect just that. From its inception, this absolutely American sport has fueled our American dreams. LeAnne Howe’s novel slides into and out of two principal worlds—the Indian Territory baseball leagues of pre-statehood Oklahoma and an Ada nursing home in the late 1960s. In W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, the basis for the famed 1989 film Field of Dreams, a long-deceased Shoeless Jackson appears in an Iowa cornfield to play ball with other spirit players. In Bang the Drum Slowly, Mark Harris develops the friendship between Henry Wiggin, a pitcher and the narrator of the story, and Bruce Pearson, a somewhat limited catcher. In his non-fiction book The Boys of Summer, Roger Kahn conjures Ebbets Field and the Brooklyn Dodger world of Jackie Robinson and other greats during America’s efforts to awaken to racial prejudice. In her memoir, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s turf captures post-WWII life in Brooklyn, a world of the small corner grocery and neighborhoods so close that they operated more like family institutions. These three novels, a work of non-fiction, and a memoir are framed by the game of baseball; through the common territory of the diamond on which these human dramas are played, they accomplish a great deal more in chronicling American dreamers and showing us how to live our lives authentically. Are you interested in exploring and discussing five good reads that dramatize problematic historical issues and personal relationships through the game of sports? Do you want to rediscover the joys of experiencing our humanity and national identities through a national form of play? If any of these questions interest you, opportunity awaits. If you want to be active in this exploration, please join us for this “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” reading and discussion program. Books are available for those who converge with us actively and are present throughout the series so we can better understand who we are as a nation.

Oklahoma City University invites participants to make these books come alive in the readings of this five-part series. At each session, a Humanities scholar will make a 35-45 minute presentation on the book in the context of the theme. 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 by attending the sessions is encouraged to pre-register and borrow the reading selections by calling Harbour Winn at 208-5472, emailing him at hwinn@okcu.edu, or dropping by the Dulaney-Browne Library, Room 211 or 207. (Note the offices are located in the five-story building southwest of Walker Center.) Information also at the Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film & Literature’s website: www.okcu.edu/film-lit/

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 12 and continuing on alternate Tuesdays through March 8. Books, services, and other materials for this series of programs are provided by Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma, a project of the Oklahoma Humanities Council with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

READINGS AND DATES: Winter 2016

January 12, 2016 Milko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story, by LeAnne Howe

For the Choctaws the timeless game of baseball is exactly that—a game without the constraints of time, a game that connects and enables intertribal diplomacy. Lena Coulter, a journalist, returns to Oklahoma to restore her grandmother’s home but soon searches for her family history and her sense of self as a Choctaw. Interwoven with both fiction and historical fact, the world of dreams intersects with and informs what we call history. Dr. Karen Youmans

January 26, 2016 Shoeless Joe, by W. P. Kinsella

Kinsella incorporates the 1919 Black Sox Scandal with the ghost of Shoeless Jackson returning to an Iowa cornfield to play ball with other long-dead historical figures. Along the way, the protagonist kidnaps author J.D. Salinger and builds a ballpark on his land in response to magical messages: “If you build it, they will come.” Robert Roensch, MFA

February 9, 2016 Bang the Drum Slowly, by Mark Harris

The novel celebrates the relationship between two players in baseball and in life as it captures the roughness, tenderness, and black humor of the lives of pros. It is an understated meditation on life, friendship, love, loyalty, and mortality—qualities which make any challenge in life bearable. Dr. Harbour Winn

February 23, 2016 The Boys of Summer, by Roger Khan Kahn

presents the Brooklyn Dodgers from their glory days to past their prime: the breaking of the color line, player vets marred and matured by WW II, blue-collar families where hard work keyed survival, people driven to succeed sometimes almost mystically, graying men past their prime with some suffering bad health or the death of loved ones. Kahn: “A book about time and what time does to all of us.” Dr. Paul Lehman

March 8, 2016 Wait Till Next Year, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

In her memoir about her girlhood as an avid Brooklyn Dodger fan with her father, famed historian Goodwin also describes events taking place in her hometown and across the nation: the polio scare, the Army-McCarthy hearings, the quiet mood of the 1950s, and her life as a devoted Catholic. Dr. Lloyd Musselman