English Prof Leads Pulitzer Prize Reading Group

Photo dr brandon Kempner

Dr. Brandon Kempner

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.

The free book discussions begin at 6 p.m. in Donnelly Library, 802 National Ave., on these dates:

Sept. 1 – Beloved by Toni Morrison

Sept. 22 – The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

Oct. 13 –The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever

Nov. 10 – Lovely, Dark, Deep by Joyce Carol Oates

Dec. 1 – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

All of the books are available at Donnelly Library.

Beloved by Toni Morrison is one of the most acclaimed novels in the last 40 years. Morrison is an African-American Nobel Prize in Literature laureate. Beloved deals with recovering from the ghosts and horrors of slavery,” Kempner said.

Kempner said Native American writer Louise Erdrich is a major figure in contemporary literature.

“Erdrich’s novel The Plague of Doves dramatizes the tensions between Native American and white characters in a small town in North Dakota,” Kempner said.

He said John Cheever is one of the most respected short story writers of the 20th century.

“John Cheever is best known for uncovering the alienation of suburbia, with a focus on angst and alcoholism,” Kempner said.

He said Joyce Carol Oates is a prolific best-selling author.

Lovely, Dark, Deep is a collection of short stories that focus on characters whose lives are unraveling in dark and dangerous ways,” Kempner said.

He said Junot Diaz is one of the most exciting new voices in American fiction.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a novel about a Dominican boy who is obsessed with pop culture, trying to survive poverty and his history,” Kempner said.

Kempner’s teaching and research interests include 19th, 20th and 21st century American literature, Southwestern literature, multiethnic American literature, literary theory and popular culture.

April Kent, a Donnelly librarian and head of public services, coordinates the library’s reading groups. She said the challenge of the reading group is to read five Pulitzer fiction winners or finalists in five months.

“The reading groups are informal, and I encourage people to join the discussion whenever they can,” Kent said. “At Donnelly we offer free library cards to area residents.”

For more information, contact Kent at 505-454-3139, ajkent@nmhu.edu, or visit the library.

Kent said the Pulitzer reading group is made possible by the generous support of the New Mexico Humanities Council and the Pulitzer Campfires Initiative.