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Books That Shaped America

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Join us for Books That Shaped America—conversations for the American University and metro-D.C. communities about books that have helped shape American society, based on the list developed by the Library of Congress.

Attendees are encouraged—but not required—to have read the featured text. Admission is free for this series and no RSVP is required to attend.

The Books That Shaped America series is cosponsored by the American University Library and the Humanities Lab at American University.

2015-2016 Events

Revisiting Old Favorites!
From childhood classics, to books you studied in high school, and those you continue to reread in adulthood, we are exploring familiar works that resonate with everyone in this year's Books That Shaped America series. 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

September 29, 2015  
12:00-1:00 p.m.
Bender Library, Training & Events Rm. 115

Alan M. Kraut, University Professor of History, will discuss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, an early socially conscious novel that examines poverty, alcoholism, gender roles, loss of innocence and the struggle to live the American Dream in an inner city neighborhood of Irish American immigrants.  


Beloved

Beloved- A Special All American Weekend Event
October 17, 2015
2:00-3:00 p.m.
Bender Library, Mud Box Cafe, Lower Level

Department of Literature Associate Professor Keith Leonard will lead an engaging conversation about the Pulitzer Prize winning novel Beloved by Toni Morrison. Come and hear more about this haunting and multi-layered story, including the power of memory and forgetting when confronting traumas such as slavery, murder, madness, and brutality.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God
October 27, 2015
12:00-1:00 p.m.
Bender Library, Training & Events Rm. 115

Daniel Whitman, Assistant Professor of Foreign Policy at the Washington Semester Program, will discuss Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, a masterwork considered to have paved the way for younger black writers such as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. 

Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon
November 10, 2015  
3:00-4:00 p.m.  
Bender Library, Training & Events Rm. 115

Dr. Vivian Maria Vasquez, Professor of Education, will discuss a childhood favorite, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.

 

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X
February 23, 2016
12:00-1:00 p.m.
Bender Library, Training & Events Rm. 115

In celebration of Black History Month, Theresa Runstedtler, Associate Professor, Department of History, will discuss The Autobiography of Malcolm X, a classic American autobiography that expressed for many African-Americans what the mainstream civil rights movement did not: their anger and frustration with the intractability of racial injustice. 

 

The Snowy Day

The Snowy Day
April 5, 2016
12:00-1:00 p.m.
Bender Library, Training & Events Rm. 115

Alex Hodges, Curriculum Materials & Education Librarian, will discuss The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, the first full-color picture book with an African-American as the main character.  

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby
April 19, 2016
1:00-2:00 p.m.
Bender Library, Training & Events Rm. 115

Marianne Noble, Associate Professor, Department of Literature, will discuss The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Once ranked by AU's faculty, staff, and students as their favorite book, the novel explores the themes of class, wealth and social status, Fitzgerald takes a cynical look at the pursuit of wealth among a group of people for whom pleasure is the chief goal. 

Past Events

View all past Books That Shaped America presentations on our You Tube channel here

April 2015: Marianne Noble, Associate Professor, Department of Literature, College of Arts & Sciences led a discussion about Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Photos 

March 2015: Mary Clark, Interim Dean of Academic Affairs and Senior Vice Provost, Professor, Washington College of Law, discussed Family Limitation by Margaret Sanger. Photos

March 2015: Karl Kippola, Assistant Professor, Department of Performing Arts, College of Arts & Sciences, discussed The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O'Neill. Photos

February 2015: Keith Leonard, Associate Professor, Department of Literature, College of Arts & Sciences, discussed Beloved by Toni Morrison. Photos

January 2015: Richard Wilson, Professor, Director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic, Washington College of Law, led a discussion of Common Sense by Thomas Paine. Photos

November 2014: Erik Dussere, Associate Professor, Department of Literature, College of Arts & Sciences, discussed Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett. Photos

April 2014: Assistant Professor Nimai Mehta, School of Professional & Extended Studies, led a discussion of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

October 2014: Jonathan Tubman, Vice Provost for Research & Dean of Graduate Studies, discussed Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred Kinsey.

October 2014: Lewis Grossman, Professor, Washington College of Law, Affiliate Professor of History, reprised a discussion of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, first given in October 2013. 

October 2014: Timothy Staples, Assistant Director of Training and Leadership Development, Housing and Dining Programs, discussed A Street In Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks. 

September 2014: Michael Manson, Director, University Honors Program, discussed New Hampshire by Robert Frost. 

April 2014: Associate Dean Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, School of International Studies, led a discussion of Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, audio, slides, photos (audio and slides courtesy of Patrick Thaddeus Jackson) 

February 2014: Assistant Professor and Director of Creative Writing Kyle Dargan, Department of Literature, College of Arts & Sciences, led a discussion of The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.

January 2014: Dean Carola Weil, School of Professional & Extended Studies, led a discussion of The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois, photos

November 2013: University Librarian Nancy Davenport led a discussion of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury photos 

October 2013: Professor Lewis Grossman, Washington College of Law, led a discussion of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, photos 

September 2013: Department Chair Nathan Harshman, Department of Physics, College of Arts & Sciences, led a discussion of Experiments and Observations on Electricity by Benjamin Franklin, photos 

June 2013: Assistant Professor Thomas Merrill, Department of Government, School of Public Affairs, led a discussion of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass, photos

May 2013: Department Chair Pamela Nadell, Department of History, College of Arts & Sciences, led a discussion of How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis, photos

April 2013: Professor Cynthia Jones, Washington College of Law, led a discussion of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Books That Shaped America

The "Books That Shaped America" list was created by the Library of Congress. See the full list of texts or explore the interactive electronic exhibit created by the Library of Congress.

Engage with this series on social media using #AUBTSA

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Danea Freeman
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LibEvents@american.edu

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