Join us for the Winter/Spring Let’s Talk About It series: “Working to Survive, Surviving to Work”
Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma (LTAIO) offers more than your average book club. Oklahoma Humanities sponsors this statewide reading program to bring readers together to discuss books on a theme, with the assistance of Humanities scholars as facilitators. At each session, a Humanities scholar makes a 30-45 minute presentation on the book in the context of the theme. Small group discussions follow the presentation so everyone can talk about the book and enjoy a variety of community perspectives.
Free copies of the books are available to borrow on a first-come/first-served basis. You are also welcome to attend sessions with your own copies of the books or borrow only the titles you need.
Books will be available for check-out starting Jan. 2, but you may reserve a set by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
About This Theme:
The books in this series offer a variety of perspectives concerning individuals and their work. A combination of realistic fiction and nonfiction, from various historical and cultural contexts, offers discussion groups an opportunity to consider not only the economic and societal value of work, but more importantly, why we work to begin with.
What is the relationship between work and The American Dream? What happens when work is problematized? When there isn’t enough work to go around? What values determine our actions when issues of race and class interfere with those competing for honest work? What happens when the American Dream threatens to be an empty promise? The books in this study focus on the way work mixes with the quest for human dignity, the psychology of honest work and the existential meaning of individual life itself.
To read the full essay introducing this series and the books, click HERE.
The Books and Presenters
ALL SESSIONS TAKE PLACE AT 6:30 PM on the OCU campus,
Petree College/Walker Center Room 151
NW 26th & N. Florida
Parking available in the lots to the north of the building
Jan. 28 The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
The images and themes in this 1906 classic are deeply immersed into the American social consciousness. Sinclair exposed the exploitation of immigrant workers in American cities, which led to the establishment of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 (becoming the Food and Drug Administration in 1930). The real political response generated by the book is founded in the story of a Lithuanian immigrant, Jurgis Rudkus, trying to support his family in Chicago. Sinclair’s stark portrayal of their bleak existence sets the tone for this study of the nexus of work and survival.
presented by Dr. Lloyd Musselman, Prof. Emeritus of History, OCU
Feb. 11 Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich |
In her undercover journalism, Ehrenreich investigates life for the working poor in three American locales through an experiment in surviving financially through working various entry-level and unskilled jobs herself. A staggering number of Americans hold these kinds of jobs, nearly 8 million holding two simultaneously just to make ends meet. How do our fellow citizens survive in this context? What is the future of a culture that allows itself to be pieced together by millions of citizens working regularly only to fall further below the poverty line?
presented by Dr. Nathan Shank, Asst. Prof. of English, Ok Christian U.
Feb. 28 The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
Written from the perspective of African-American domestic workers in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960s, this powerful novel puts readers inside the homes of both the white bosses and the humble dwellings of the African-American workforce. In the context of the Civil Rights movement, punctuated by the murder of Medgar Evers, an unlikely team of a white lady and suspicious maids secretly write their stories. The Help illustrates the system of domestic work, focusing on the individual lives of maids and commemorating their work ethics and the courage their daily life demands. presented by Dr. Ben Bates, Prof. Emeritus of English, Langston U.
March 10 Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street, by Herman Melville
In this classic story, Wall Street, the American symbol and reality of world economic supremacy provides the backdrop for the unusual interaction between an isolated scrivener, a copyist in a law firm, and his well-intentioned employer. Published two years after Moby-Dick (1851), Melville reveals another side of obsession. A scrivener whose haunting line “I would prefer not to” all but dismantles the psychology and the efficiency of the workplace. How does the grandest economic system in human history affect an individual, and vice-versa?
presented by Dr. Harbour Winn, Prof. Emeritus of English, OCU
The Cliff Walk: A Job Lost and a Life Found, by Don J. Snyder
In his poignant memoir, Snyder confesses that he has a dream job, though he wants more. His intellect, education and hard work put him in a place of privilege, professor at a prestigious university. Then he loses it all and survives the emotional fall-out because of his wife’s faithful attention to daily life. In his downward spiral, Snyder eventually is forced to admit the hard facts of his existence. Ironically he is saved by a fortuitous return to blue collar work, something from which he has been running for much of his life. This book raises questions concerning what Americans really want. How are identity and work connected? What is truly valuable? What is expendable?
presented by Dr. Sunu Kodumthara, Assoc. Prof. of History, SWOSU