Thursday, January 31, 2008

3 professors, movie and the play

Three of our special events have been held, with our kickoff, the scenes from the play, presented by the Ensemble Theatre of Houston. Was well attended, food from the book was served, fried chicken and refreshments.

The movie was shown at the Rosenberg Library, in the Randall Room, to a full crowd and popcorn was served to complete the full movie viewing effect.

3 professors was wunderbar! See Heber's write up in the Daily News:

Rediscovering a real human pleasure

By Heber Taylor

The discussion at Rosenberg Library on Tuesday night about “A Lesson Before Dying” reminded me of why I love living in Galveston.Galvestonians are known for arguing about politics. But their arguments about books might be even more interesting.Every year, Galveston County Reads chooses a book and conducts a series of public discussions. On Tuesday, three college professors — John Gorman, Stephen Curley and Michael Berberich — led a discussion of Ernest J. Gaines’ novel.I was astonished by all the things I’d missed in the book that other readers pointed out. It wasn’t just the English professors who helped me. I’m still thinking through some comments from a cardiologist who retired from the University of Texas Medical Branch and from a young man not long out of high school.One of the points of the book is that we all want to develop fully as human beings before we have to face death.So what does it mean to be fully human? The characters in this book disagree.My neighbors on the island helped me rediscover a real human pleasure, though. It’s a pleasure to read and exchange insights into the work of some our important artists.If you haven’t dropped in on one of the discussions, you really ought to check the calendar.

The evening ended with an interesting comment, comparing the death penalty to lynching... and furthur discussion will be entertained at our next event:

Family Dynamics of Black Male Incarceration at Old Central


Panel discussion with Yoni Benson, Linda Ferguson, Leah Fanuiel, Robert Caraway, Charlie Baldwin, and James Dennis. Facilitated by Jason Glenn. Central Cultural Center Library, 2627 Ave. M, Galveston. Sponsorship and refreshments provided by the UTMB Office of Diversity and International Affairs. 6 – 8 pm

Monday, January 7, 2008

1st Discussion at Mosquito Cafe~

Thanks to Steve Rennick for graciously hosting our first discussion at the Mosquito. He had homemade cookies, coffee and mint iced tea.

We had a good crowd led by Fanny DeGesero. On the heels of the two articles in the Daily
News, we had some engaging conversation on the criminal justice system and justice in America today, versus when Gaines recalls Louisianna in 1948, which was 13 years after he moved to California. Had to leave just when it was getting interesting... turning a blind eye to violence war, and wholesale slaughter of chickens at Krogers! Basically, conversation moved to chicken, the sanitized version we see in stores towards the war in Afganistan and Iraq!

Fanny gave us some interesting biographical insight to the novel and the author, how Gaines moved away and came back to Louisianna and had the matriarch influences in his life, as the two main characters do.

Next discussion: Tuesday, Jan. 8th, TOMORROW!

St. Patrick Catholic Church, 1010 35th St., Galveston. 7 pm. 1/08/08

Play tickets are going fast.... do pick them up at the Rosenberg Library. As of 7:09 pm, Monday, there are 60 or so left!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Play tickets for LBDying

Tickets will be available from the Circulation Desk, at the Rosenberg Library on Saturday, January 5, 2008.

2 tickets per person, please.

There are approximately 190 seats available at The Strand Theatre.

Please arrive before 2:00 to ensure that you are seated. This ticket does not guarantee your seat. Others on the waiting list will be given any seats that are not occupied by 1:55 pm.

1/13/2008 “A Lesson Before Dying” - scene from the play and dialogue. Strand Street Theatre, 2317 Ships Mechanics Row, Galveston. 2 pm. Sunday. Phone: 409-763-4591

Presented by Ensemble Theatre of Houston.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A lesson in reading between the lines

A lesson in reading between the lines
By Dale Taylor
The Daily News
Published December 28, 2007

Editor’s note: Every year, Galveston County Reads chooses a book and puts on a series of public discussions. This year’s selection is Ernest J. Gaines’ novel “A Lesson Before Dying,” which won a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1993.

Ernest J. Gaines’ 1993 novel “A Lesson Before Dying” provides fertile ground for discussion as its Jim Crow setting places the reader in the middle of several controversial questions — among them the illegitimacy of race, the death penalty and the inadequacy of U.S. prison systems.The story features two central characters, Grant Wiggins, a teacher who has been charged with reforming a criminal, and Jefferson, the young man who is at the center of the story’s plot because of his unwitting part in a robbery and murder.Wiggins reluctantly accepts an emotional appeal from his aunt and her friend who press him into reforming Jefferson. At his trial, Jefferson is referred to as a “hog” for his involvement in the murder of a store owner. The story revolves primarily around Wiggins’ anger at having been asked to accomplish a task that he is doubtful can be achieved and his eventual acquiescence and visits to Jefferson in jail.Wiggins represents the broader educational and prison systems in this country that also are charged with reforming and acculturating people who have committed crimes. The story’s humanizing of Jefferson from an object to a human is a convincing argument for reforming the American justice system. However, the story also references important social structures.

There are several methods for examining this story; two key phrases seem appropriate as a tool for examining the internal workings — “discourse” and “hegemony.” “Discourse” refers to those words that are used by specialists in their work.The word “discourse” in a literary context focuses on a particular aspect of the society as it relates to the literature. As such, the word “hegemony” is important as well.“Hegemony,” coined by Antonio Gramsci, in philosophy and literature refers to those ways in which society orders itself with some people playing upper, middle or lower class roles on the social and economic ladder. Several key ideas emerge from the novel as we consider the discourse of race — language that defines who is black, white, multi-racial, etc. The story is set in a late 1940s Louisiana community that is galvanized by Jefferson’s trial. Through Wiggins’ internal dialogue, the reader learns how the society of his time is structured.Gaines, through his character Wiggins, makes it clear that whites are considered upper class in the community, and blacks are considered lower class. Certainly there is nothing exceptional in this portrait as the same kinds of social structure appear in novels by Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe and other writers.A middle class in the story — unionized mulattoes or multi-racial characters — plays no special role except as the target of the narrator’s frustration. Even this is not exceptional in that American authors use multi-racial characters to mark and test boundaries. White and black groups are polarized in their respective positions as they vie for power and dignity. The novel ends on a hopeful note as Gaines suggests in Wiggins’ relationship with Paul, a white deputy at the jail, that white youth will see the humanity in blacks.One might read this story as an allegory for the social movement that begins in the late 1940s and ’50s, when young whites and blacks protested invalid hegemonic assignment of human value, or one could see it as a suggestion that Americans have much work left to do.The story makes this point clearly — communities have a responsibility for the care of all of their members, despite a sordid past and an invalid means of ranking members of the “human” race.

Here is a question that might be pondered for this text: To what extent do stories such as this one reinforce existing hegemonies or give us an opportunity to challenge them?

Dale M. Taylor has a doctorate in literature and teaches at Galveston College.