Donnelly Offers Muslim Journeys Reading Group

Brandon Kempner

Brandon Kempner

Las Vegas, N.M — The New Mexico Highlands University Donnelly Library presents a free reading and discussion group titled “Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys.”

The books are available at Donnelly Library, thanks to a National Endowment for the Humanities grant awarded to the library for the Muslim Journeys collection.

Brandon Kempner, a literature professor in the university’s English Department, will lead the book discussions. He teaches American literature courses as well as multicultural literature, 9/11 literature, composition and more.

Muslim Journeys is an exciting group of books that can educate us on culture, social mores, and religion in the Middle East,” Kempner said. “These books allow us to see the connection between our humanity and others in the Muslim world.

“This is an accomplished group of authors ranging from Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, who writes about a 20th century Turkish life, to medieval Sufi poet and philosopher Farid Ud-Din Attar, who writes about Islamic mysticism, to provocative contemporary women authors like Fatima Mernissi, who write about women and Islam,” Kempner said.

He added that the Donnelly book groups are designed to be accessible to all types of readers and the discussion is free flowing. Kempner led six earlier Donnelly book groups on topics like Latina/o literature,  Native American literature, and world literature.

April Kent, Donnelly assistant librarian and head of public services, wrote the successful NEH grant proposal for Muslim Journeys, and coordinates the library’s book groups.

“Literature can be one of the best ways to explore other cultures,” Kent said. “Muslim Journeys offers a very intriguing and diverse collection of books from folktales and poetry to memoir and contemporary novels. The books convey the rich complexity of the Muslim world.”

Kent added that the books span Muslim literature across the ages, with locales in the modern-day countries of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Sudan and Morocco.

“I think these books are certain to spark interesting discussion,” Kent said. “This book series fits into our Donnelly mission of promoting lifelong learning through quality programming we offer to the campus and community.”

All book discussions begin at 7 p.m. in Donnelly Library, 802 National Ave. The dates include:

Thursday, Sept. 5 — The Arabian Nights / Husain Haddaway, translator                                 
Thursday, Sept. 26 — The Conference of the Birds / Farid Ud-Din Attar            
Thursday, Oct. 17 — Snow / Orhan Pamuk

Thursday, Nov. 7 — Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood / Fatima Mernissi

Thursday, Dec. 5 — Minaret / Leila Aboulela

Arabian Nights is among the best-known works of Arab literature and includes folktales compiled from A.D. 750 — 1258. The Conference of the Birds is a masterpiece of Sufi epic poetry penned in the 12th century.

Snow is a postmodern contemporary novel about the political and social tensions of modern Turkey. Dreams of Trespass is a coming-of-age memoir depicting traditional life in a harem in the 1940s and early 1950s. Minaret is a contemporary novel that chronicles the spiritual and cultural journey of a Muslim woman from Sudan who moves to England.

Donnelly Library offers free library cards to area residents. For more information about the Muslim Journeys book group, contact Kent at ajkent@nmhu.eduor visit the library.

The National Endowment for the Humanities developed Muslims Journeys in collaboration with the American Library Association. The collection is part of a new NEH initiative called Bridging Cultures aimed at highlighting the importance of civility in American life, and the role libraries can play in fostering community discussions.

Highlands was the only university in the state to receive the Muslim Journeys collection of 25 books, four films, and other resources through the NEH grant.

The Bridging Cultures Bookshelf is a project of the NEH and the ALA Public Programs Office, with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.