Participate in the Pulitzer Dialogues

Read 5 Pulitzer Titles in 5 Months!

To commemorate the centennial of the Pulitzer Prizes, six libraries from across New Mexico are partnering with the New Mexico Humanities C...

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Plague of Doves Recap

The first Pulitzer Challenge discussion on Saturday was a wonderful experience for us here at South Broadway Library. The dialogue was lively and people were engaged and enthusiastic. The discussion mostly centered on themes in the Plague of Doves: religion, doves, racism, guilt, the Land, small towns, Native American customs, and storytelling—just for starters. I feel like we just barely scratched the surface on some of the topics that were brought up; we certainly could have talked about the book for another hour! Not everyone liked the book and some had a difficult time with certain parts of it, but I think we all came to appreciate, or at least have a better understanding of, what Louise Erdrich was trying to accomplish with the novel.

One of my favorite parts of our discussion was digging into Dr. Cordelia Lochren’s character a bit and why she did the things she did. The notion of her family’s murderer walking around all those years with no one the wiser is unsettling. There are still some unresolved mysteries in this book. I would love to hear some thoughts from people who attended. What was your favorite/most significant part?
Stay tuned for the video coverage of the discussion!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Beloved by Toni Morrison-September 08, 2016

Let's complete our Pulitzer Prize Challenge with a Bang.  Join us at Clovis-Carver Public Library on September 08, 2016 at 6:30 to discuss Beloved.

The Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao Discussion Highlights

1. Questions arose about usage of foul language and how language added authenticity to the voice of the narrator.

2. Participants discussed what the criteria for a title to win a Pulitzer Prize.

3. The Fuku is mentioned throughout the novel and participants discussed the ramifications in Oscar's and his family's lives.

4. Many of the participants enjoyed learning of some of the history of Santo Domingo.

5. Participant also discussed the references to literature and what some classified as "nerd" culture.

6. Oscar's personality is multi-layered and causes him to become an outcast among his fellow Dominicans, but in the end Junior describes his death in a way that seems heroic.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Pulitzer Prize Books at Donnelly Library

The Pulitzer Prizes 2016 Reading Challenge is to read five Pulitzer Fiction winners or finalists in five months, but no one says you have to stop there. If you want to read more, come by Donnelly Library and check out our Pulitzer Fiction book display on the first floor.

Want to keep track of how many Pultizer Fiction winners you have read? You can print your own Pulitzer100 bookmark checklist by visiting

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Questions for Donnelly Library's Discussion of Beloved

Donnelly Library’s Pulitzer Prize Challenge reading group has its first meeting in a little under two weeks on Thursday, September 1. Below are a few questions to think about for the upcoming discussion.

Take a look at the questions and post your own questions or discussion points for this novel in the comments below.

  1. How does Toni Morrison connect the idea of slavery and the idea of haunting? Is America haunted?
  2. The novel is a narrative about trauma and recovery. What does it mean to recover from trauma? How does Sethe recover?
  3. This novel is about the relationships between mothers and daughters. What kinds of relationships do the characters have? How do they change over the course of the novel?
  4. Is the ghost real?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Shorter Short Stories of John Cheever

Last Tuesday, Octavia Fellin Library in Gallup, New Mexico had its Pulitzer Discussion Group on "The Stories of John Cheever" and while there was some considerable disagreement about the content of the book, there was definitely one unifying belief between our readers: This book is too long.  And I can't really dispute that.  700 pages of short stories is a lot for the casual reader.  It's a lot for the advanced reader!

So after our discussion, I decided to "shorten" the collection a tad.  Largely based on the favorites (or occasional least favorites) of our readers, I've put together a list of 15 Must Read Short Stories from "The Stories of John Cheever."  If you are looking for a great book for your book club or discussion group, but this collection seems too daunting, try this, more manageable, selection...
  1. Goodbye, My Brother
  2. The Enormous Radio
  3. O City of Broken Dreams
  4. Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor
  5. The Sorrows of Gin
  6. The Day the Pig Fell into the Well
  7. The Five-Forty-Eight
  8. The Duchess
  9. The Lowboy
  10. The Death of Justina
  11. Clementina
  12. The Brigadier and the Golf Widow
  13. An Educated American Woman
  14. The Swimmer
  15. The Fourth Alarm
The real benefit of trimming down the book is in the primary complaints I heard about the book from our readers: "It's too long," "All the stories started to blend together," and "I started to forget some of the stories."  These are the kind of statements that I dread hearing, and I know that our readers would have gotten more from less.  

To really appreciate Cheever, or any short story author, one needs to take their time and enjoy each story individually, like eating a nice desert.  I loved "The Stories of John Cheever," and I really wanted others to share that love.  But it got to be too much for our readers, like eating way too much of a nice desert.  It became hard to really enjoy the flavor.  A shorter list like the one above would be easier and more pleasant to digest for anyone interested in reading Cheever for their discussion group or book club.

Bon Appétit!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Women and Power in Oscar Wao

In the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz discusses at great length the forms of power expressed through his masculine characters from the dictator Trujillo and his petty, corrupt officials to the gallivanting Yunior. What does power look like for the women, who are every bit as much protagonists?
"Beli, who'd been waiting for something exactly like her body her whole life, was sent over the moon by what she now knew. By the undeniable concreteness of her desirability which was, in its own way, Power. [...]. Hypatía Belicia Cabral finally had power and a true sense of self. Started pinching her shoulders back, wearing the tightest clothes she had. Dios mío, La Inca said every time the girl headed out."

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Horror and Humor in The Plague of Doves

It's not long now until our first book discussion and we've got a good number of people registered. This novel is so rich it's hard to decide what to focus on. One thing that got my attention right off is the way Louise Erdrich uses dichotomies in The Plague of Doves to create conflict. There are the obvious ones, of course, like indigenous vs. white culture and Christianity vs. the Chippewa religion, but I’m intrigued by the contradictions of the sacred vs. the profane and humor mixed with horror that arise, especially in Mooshum’s stories; in particular, the use of humor before the lynching. I’m looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts on these ideas, and more!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Donnelly Library, Las Vegas, NM News Story About the Pulitzer Challenge

English Prof Leads Pulitzer Prize Reading Group

Las Vegas, N.M – An upcoming reading group at Highlands University will explore five Pulitzer Prize works of fiction that focus on the American experience.
The Pulitzer reading and discussion group begins Sept. 1 and will be led by Highlands University English professor and American literature scholar Brandon Kempner.
“All these novels and collections of short stories show how diverse and complex the American experience truly is, with the authors incorporating a variety of writing styles and perspectives,” Kempner said. “Our goal is to read great literature and have a good time discussing it.”
Kempner said the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is the oldest and most prestigious American literary award.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

More Discussion - Plague of Doves

Hello everyone!  I will be sending a group email to everyone who has signed up so far.  One of the instructions will be for you to find this blog and make a post.  We have people still signing up and taking the challenge.

Today I would like you to think of Mooshum and his role as storyteller and historian about the events that take place throughout the book.  How believable are his stories? What is your first impression of him as you meet him on page 6 and learn of his fear of outhouses and the reason why. Evelina Harp describes him as, "our favorite indoor entertainment, next to the television."  Do his stories serve to humor, to educate, or to preserve history?  Or all three.  It is a treasured personality trait to be a good storyteller in Indian culture.  The ability to tell a good story is a rare gift and should be appreciated.

I look forward to our meeting on August 27th.  Feel free to post comments or questions to one another, this is a great forum to prepare for our discussion group.  See you soon!

Monday, August 8, 2016

4 Big Questions for a John Cheever Discussion

I'm an optimist.  I believe that everyone who shows up to the Gallup Pulitzer Discussion Group will have read "The Stories of John Cheever," this 700-page collection, from beginning to end, retaining absolutely every story perfectly in their minds.  But what if...let's say... a couple people only get halfway through.  We all want them to participate in the discussion too.  While I have plenty of questions that pertain to individual stories, I'd like to share some of the broader topics, we'll address that will make it easier for everyone to get a turn.

   1. What does Cheever seem to think of the typical nuclear family?

It's probably not hard to guess how Cheever felt about the nuclear family. If you've read one story, you don't have to guess his feelings toward the upper-middle class and wealthy white world. But this is an opener. People that read even a single story can start citing sources and picking through details.

2. Do the families portrayed in John Cheever stories still exist today?

I've rephrased this question half-a-dozen times in my head, and I'll probably do it a dozen times more before the discussion. What I'm trying to get at: Cheever's works really have a specific feel, a specific time, a specific place. Husbands all have mistresses and wives are all trapped at home. Perhaps some readers will think family structures have changed to no longer reflect the ones in his stories. Perhaps some readers will think they have not.

3. How are male-female relationships portrayed?

All general questions have a million-billion specific ones that can follow, and this one, in particular, can branch out in a million-billion different directions. Perhaps, because I am a man, I found the way Cheever writes men particularly fascinating. Our masculine protagonists are ignorant of their families, constantly cheating on their spouses, failing at work, and irritated by the tiniest of domestic issues, almost without exception. Women can be just as horrible in his tales, but they usually live like caged birds. I'd love to know how other readers felt about these two groups and how/why they clashed against each other.

4. How does the evolution of technology affect the people in these stories?

This is kind of an odd one, but John Cheever's stories take place when a whole lot of new/advancing technologies were drastically changing the world. A few examples I can think of are in The Enormous Radio, The Swimmer, and The Brigadier and the Golf Widow. Do radios, and swimming pools, and bomb shelters (and nuclear bombs!) change relationships and outlooks of people, and in what ways?

So these are four questions that can easily be used to boost discussions of John Cheever's works. They should function pretty well for those who finished the book, those who got halfway through, and those who jumped around, reading the stories that sucked them in, and skipping those that didn't.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

And we're off! - Plague of Doves

Hello everyone!  First of all, let me thank you for taking the challenge with the South Broadway Library.  As you begin to read "The Plague of Doves," please remember to check the blog regularly as I will be posting questions to help facilitate our discussion on August 27th.  Please post any ideas or questions you might have.  The blog is intended to be a tool to keep us communicating as we read.

The first question I would like you to consider as you begin the book or even you're already on page 74 like me is, "Why do you think Erdrich uses a series of different narrators who tell their own stories, going backward and forward in time? What effect does this narrative style have? How do the voices of multiple storytellers reflect the novel’s broader themes?"  It may help to keep a list of characters (and there are quite a few) and their relationships with one another.  

Happy Reading and we'll see you August 27th.

Albuquerque, Are You Ready for the Pulitzer Challenge?

Albuquerque Bernalillo County Librarians in the South Broadway branch are ready to celebrate five months of Pulitzer winning literature.  Although we're just focusing our discussion groups on three novels and two short story collections, these wonderful librarians have assembled a broad collection! 15 lucky participants can sign up here to receive free copies of the books to be discussed.

First up, Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich, on August 27.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Gallup Discussion: Lovely, Dark, Deep - Turning Bonobo

Most of Joyce Carol Oates' stories in "Lovely, Dark, Deep" are firmly set in reality.  The problems people have in the story are typically those we could face in the real world.  Three exceptions can be found in the collection.

Forked River Roadside Shrine, South Jersey is a kind of ghost story.  Anyone whose seen a roadside shrine, usually decorated in pictures, flowers, and the occasional teddy bear, immediately knows their meaning.  They exist to memorialize someone who died in a car or motorcycle crash, and often serve a second purpose, reminding everyone of the dangers of the road.  Forked River follows the spirit of "Kevie" as he witnesses people from his past visit his shrine.

Jesters is a very different ghost story, one where the ghosts might be a bit more active in the physical world.  An elderly couple feels harassed by their noisy neighbors, only to find that the house is long abandoned.  But for our discussion group, there were some strange moments in the story where our protagonists' perspectives are called into question, like when they can't figure out which one of them drove to "the Jesters'" house.

The members of our group saw similarly unreliable storytelling in Betrayal.  In this story, a young man gets an internship at the zoo working with bonobos and his parents are not particularly thrilled.  As he grows to love this non-paying job, his father, in particular, becomes hostile towards it, noting there was "no future" in the zoo.  Towards the end, the son seems to disappear, until the parents realize that a new bonobo in the habitat is there son.  He had betrayed them for the bonobos!

In a collection where most of the stories are pretty comfortably grounded in normalcy and upper middle class problems, this is by far the strangest story.  Some of our readers had their doubts about the son, Rickie's, transformation.  Whether the parents were delusional or Rickie really did turn bonobo, the story was a clear metaphor.

Members of the group pointed out Rickie's rejection of his parents' values.  "All of us feel somewhat estranged from our kids," one reader noted.  The parents had a hard time accepting the path Rickie was choosing for himself.  They couldn't understand him, and one person suggested, "the world of bonobos was just as strange to the parents as his own chosen lifestyle."  So maybe they really had thought Rickie turned into a bonobo, but it wouldn't have been much different to them if he had just joined the zoo staff instead.  It still would have been a betrayal in their eyes.

Junot Diaz Fan Art

What's your favorite Junot Diaz or Oscar Wao quotation? Tell us in the comments!

Readers' images via Tumblr

Monday, August 1, 2016

South Broadway Library announces Pulitzer discussion dates and times!

The South Broadway Library announces the dates and times for the 2016 Reading Challenge.  The object of this challenge is to read 5 Pulitzer prize winner/honor books in 5 months.  The dates and books are as follows:

The Plague of Doves                                                                     August 27th

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao                                     September 17th
The Stories of John Cheever                                                        October 22nd
Lovely, Dark, Deep                                                                   November 19th
Beloved                                                                                    December 17th

All discussions will be from 2:00 - 3:30 pm at the South Broadway Library, 1025 Broadway SE in Albuquerque, NM.

The first book, The Plague of Doves, is available to those taking the challenge at the front desk of the South Broadway Library.  Quantities are limited to the first 20 challengers.  You may also sign up online at

If you have any questions please feel free to contact the South Broadway Library at (505) 764-1742 or