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Photos by: Megan Lessard/Roger Williams University Library
Although the Roger Williams University campus and heart of downtown Bristol can seem like separate worlds at times, in fact it is only a six-minute drive between them. Through its open talks, lectures, and forums, the University Library has taken pride in sharing the campus learning environment with our Bristol neighbors. In order to further our relationship with the intellectually curious residents of Bristol, the University Library recently has been creating a series of partnerships with Rogers Free Library. This past year, jointly the University Library and Rogers Free were able to host Talking in the Library(s) event in the fall and the spring. The fall program welcomed novelist and short story writer, Jim Shepard, and the spring saw a packed house for novelist Claire Messud. In support of both of the events, RWU students and Rogers Free patrons alike engaged in the works of both authors, coming together in advance of each writer’s appearance to discuss the books. Additionally, Professor Ted Delaney hosted regular film screenings and discussions on Tuesday nights. “The expanding collaboration between Roger Williams University and Rogers Free Library is a great benefit for the local community,” says Rogers Free Circulations Supervisor, Cheryl Stein. “Increasing interaction and exchanging of ideas among students, faculty and members of the community has brought an ever widening world to all involved.”
So what else is on tap with the partnerships taking place at Rogers Free?
From May 11 – June 22, Rogers Free will host a memoir writing workshop that was developed by Rogers Free staff in conjunction with RWU interim Dean of Libraries, Betsy Learned, and University Library writer-in-residence, Adam Braver. It will be led by Susan Tacent. (http://rogersfreelibrary.org/memoir-writing-workshop/)
On October 5, 2016, novelist Dawn Tripp will be reading and discussing her latest novel, Georgia, a fictional account of the life of painter Georgia O’Keefe. (7 PM at Rogers Free. A partnership between RWU’s Talking in the Library / Mary Tefft White series, and Rogers Free’s Jane Bodell fund through their Friends of the Library). The appearance will be preceded by a book group discussion, with the date TBD.
April 3, 2017, as the 2017 Bermont Fund Distinguished Guest Writer, novelist, short story writer, memoirist, and critic Rick Moody will be speaking. (7 PM. A partnership between RWU’s Talking in the Library / Mary Tefft White series and Bermont Fellowship, and Rogers Free’s Jane Bodell fund through their Friends of the Library). The appearance will be preceded by a book group discussion, with the date TBD.
Also on the horizon will be programming in collaboration with RWU’s John Howard Birss program that celebrates the anniversary of a great book. The coming academic year will honor the 50th anniversary of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. Stay tuned for details on upcoming programs . . .
By Maggie Daubenspeck, Connections Intern
In mid-March of 2016, five members from the Advocacy Seminar class and their professor, Adam Braver, visited Washington, D.C. to advocate on behalf of the seventy-two-year-old Mohammad Hossein Rafiee Fanood, an imprisoned scholar and chemist in Iran. The Seminar works in collaboration with Scholars at Risk to serve as case minders on behalf of international scholars who are imprisoned for issues directly correlated to violations of their freedom of expression. Maggie Daubenspeck, Abby DeVeuve, Diandra Franks, Jen Gonzalez, Grace Napoli, and Adam Braver scheduled a total of thirteen meetings to be completed in a single day.
Tuesday Evening – March 15, 2016
The team arrived at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport at 10:00 pm, successfully navigated the Metro, and made their way to their Dupont Circle hotel. Being surrounded by the sights and sounds of the city made their mission real: they were in the nation’s capitol as participants of the democratic system—there to talk to members of congress and other officials about an issue of great importance.
But could they have an impact?
Wednesday Morning – March 16, 2016
The day’s first hitch was the late breaking announcement that all Metro transportation would be suspended due to maintenance. This news forced the group to have to rejigger their transportation and logistical planning. Somehow that seemed part and parcel of a day of advocacy in D.C., always being ready to rethink, readjust, and refine expectations.
But by 9:15am, the entire team was sitting down in the office of Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) in the Rayburn Office Building. The idea of meeting with congressional members on the Hill initially may have been intimidating, but once in action, the group was ready, relaxed, and motivated. After all, a man’s future was at stake.
The team then split up into two separate groups to tackle a series of morning meetings, toggling between House and Senate offices at the Hart and Cannon buildings. While scrambling to different meetings in different buildings was initially confusing, the students soon became experts at navigating the legislative passages, making sure to include small breaks for team meetings to discuss all they were hearing, and continually strategizing for upcoming conferences. Before lunch, Team One met with Representative Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), the staff of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Senator Bob Menendez (R-NJ). Team Two focused on an extended meeting with a law clerk from the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
Throughout the morning meetings, the students were met with mixed reactions, particularly on strategies specific to addressing human rights issues in Iran. What became more and more clear: most members were willing to lend some form of support, but they preferred someone else to take the lead.
Wednesday Afternoon – March 16, 2016
The entire team attended a meeting at the State Department with Democracy, Rights, and Labor (DRL). This meeting proved to be very informative as the group sat down with the Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Busby, Foreign Affairs and Near Eastern Affairs Officer Matthew Hickey, and Iranian Affairs Officer Emily Norris. In addition to helping the team further understand the relationship between the nuances and complexities of human rights in Iran and the case against Dr. Rafiee, the meeting also introduced new speaking points to present in the day’s remaining meetings on the Hill.
By far, the most promising meeting of the day came at the end of the schedule. Following a spirited and up-tempo meeting with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and his staff, the team left Senator Whitehouse’s office with a strong indication from the Senator that he would draft a letter in support of Dr. Rafiee’s release. Finally, the students had found a representative willing to take the lead.
Other meetings to round out the day included the staffs of Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Representative Lee Zeldin (R-NY), and Representative Leonard Lance (R-NJ).
Wednesday Evening – March 16, 2016
With all the meetings finished, the exhausted but happy team met over dinner to discuss and compare the details from the various meetings, as well as the overall experience. A plan was set up to send out follow up emails, and to write a final report for Scholars at Risk about the findings, allowing the parent organization to engage further with some of the representatives, as needed.
By 10:15pm, the team was in the air, and en route back to Rhode Island. A full day of meeting directly with government officials about Dr. Rafiee’s situation made the students feel hopeful that the case would receive the much needed attention that might help contribute to a positive outcome—further highlighting the responsibility of those who live in cultures that are granted freedom of expression to speak up for those who don’t have that right.
The annual Bermont Fellowship in Fiction and Nonfiction took place over April 10 – 11, 2016. Each Fellow, from several corners of the university, applied and were chosen through a blind submission process. For an afternoon, as guests of Katherine Quinn at the Anthony Quinn House, this year’s Fellows engaged in a Master Class with Distinguished Visiting Writer, Claire Messud.
We are pleased to honor the 2016-2017 Bermont Fellows:
Alexis den Boggende
Kaitlin Della Rocca
The following evening, in a collaboration between the RWU University Library’s Talking in the Library series, the RWU Department of Creative Writing and English Literature, and the Rogers Free Library’s Jane Bodell Endowment, Claire Messud gave a public talk at Rogers Free in Bristol.
By Kevin Marchand, Connections Intern
The Other Joseph by Skip Horack
Imagine, before reaching age thirty, that you’re the last surviving member of your family. Your only brother has been lost to war; your parents ripped away a few years later by a car crash. This is precisely the situation of Roy Joseph in Skip Horack’s new novel, The Other Joseph. And things don’t let up for the young man from here.
It is clear from the start that all he wants is something to care about—someone to care about–to be needed, or even wanted. When he receives a mysterious email from a San Francisco teenager claiming to be his lost brother’s biological daughter, Roy packs up his life in Louisiana—which really only consists of himself, his car, and his dog Sam—and heads for the West Coast. Still paying for the mistakes of his past, Roy will be up against the clock in California. He will have only five days to find Joni (his brother’s alleged daughter) and convince her that it is worth maintaining contact with him; otherwise Roy will have to return to Louisiana alone, as the only surviving Joseph.
There is no underlying tone of heartache in this gripping novel; instead, it is on the surface, within every one of Roy’s thoughts and encounters, and in almost all of his memories. He tells us near the beginning of his journey: “I only have a foggy window of boyhood recollections of my brother, and every year I lose more. In maybe my last one I’m twelve years old and we’re stuck in a rainstorm together.”
The Other Joseph is a story of longing. Longing for meaning, longing for identity, for purpose and connection. Like so many characters in American literary tradition, Roy is hopeful that he will find what he’s looking for by going west. All he wants is “that the daughter and the mother might gradually grow to love me, maybe even take the Joseph name. That a man with no one but a dog might stumble upon a family.” It doesn’t take the reader long to understand that his wishes are futile, his actions desperate and hopeless. Most tragic is that we see it, while he doesn’t.
Despite the fact that we know early on that Roy’s mission is a dead one, we turn every page of The Other Joseph with increasing hope that we may be wrong. Skip Horack allows Roy’s desperate hope to become our own, and we are crushed time and again as he is beaten back by a world that seems to have no use for him. And it’s the final surprise that melts away the piece of ourselves we’ve thrown in with Roy Joseph—and what makes it worse: when it actually happens, we realize that we knew it all along.
Paul Harding won the Pulitzer Prize for his debut novel Tinkers, and his recent 2013 novel Enon has inspired comparable praise. In the New York Times Mark Slouka wrote: “One might have to go as far back as Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping to find a first novel that declared itself with such authority. Harding’s associative flights—his twisting, turning lyricism—were stunning, his ability to stress the physical world into extended metaphor downright Melvillean…In Enon, Harding’s gifts are again everywhere on display.” Tinkers also won the PEN Bingham Prize, and inspired the following citation: “An exquisite novel, at once fresh and hauntingly familiar, simple and profound.”
Paul Harding is the 2014-15 Bermont Fellowship Distinguished Visiting Writer. He lives with his family outside of Boston, and currently teaches at University of Iowa MFA Workshop.
MONDAY, APRIL 13, 2015
Presented in Association with the Department of Creative Writing and Mt. Hope Magazine
Roger Williams University
Mary Tefft White Cultural Center
Free and open to the public
Questions: (401) 254-3031
Please come to hear and meet Jewher Ilham at our next “Talking in the Library “ program on March 23, 2015 at 4 PM in the Mary Tefft White Cultural Center
An excerpt from the forthcoming book Jewher Ilham: A Uyghur Daughter’s Fight to Free her Father (University of New Orleans Press, 2105; eds. Adam Braver and Ashley Barton)
On February 2nd 2013, we didn’t tell anybody.
We went to the airport.
* * *
My father always said, “Oh, a lot of universities in America would like me to be a professor.”
“Okay,” I said. “Okay.” I didn’t believe him. I’d thought maybe he was just saying this to impress me. He always talked like this, kind of teasing. Your dad can sing. Your dad can draw. Your dad can blah-blah-blah. I figured he was kidding when he started talking about teaching in America. One more thing.
On the evening of January 2nd, he asked me, “So, do you ever want to go to America again?” We were in our apartment in Beijing. My stepmother and two little brothers were out somewhere. I was getting ready for the winter break. It was my first year of college.
“Sure, of course I want to go again.” I’d been there once with my dance troupe when I was fourteen.
Then he looked at me with a more serious expression. “Do you want to go with me?”
I didn’t really take it as serious. My father likes to joke. Especially with me. “In the future,” I replied.
But then he showed me an invitation letter from Indiana University. It read that they were inviting him as a visiting scholar. And it said that he could take one person with him for a month. A family member. And because my stepmom couldn’t speak English, and my brothers were too little, he said I would be the best person. In the US, I could cook for him, and clean his apartment.
Maybe because I’d been to the US before, it didn’t sound as exciting. But also it was my school break. I said that. I told him, “I want to stay with my friends. We’ve been making plans.”
“Too bad. You’re coming.”
He thought I’d be super happy. America!
He added, “And we’re leaving in February.”
I didn’t want to argue with him. What could I say? Even if I’d said no, I would still have to go. It was better to say okay and make him happy, even though—and I told him this—it would be kind of boring to stay with your father in an apartment for a whole month. Cooking for him every day.
My father values education very highly, and so the majority of my time away from school was spent studying in my room or at the library. I had little time to sit and just talk to my father. Still, I knew that things weren’t right between my father and the government. My father began to be more involved in Uyghur issues; he saw clearly that the tensions between the Uyghur and Han Chinese were only escalating, so he created his website, Uyghur Online, as an open forum to ease the tension and create discourse across ethnic lines. At first the website was unfiltered; anyone could say anything: comment on any article and post any information. But my father was careful about these types of things; if extremists posted on his website, he was quick to take those posts down. His goal was not to incite violence or promote extremists’ points of view; his aim was to alleviate ethnic boundaries, and that could only be done through moderate reasoning and discussion. If opinions are too extreme it undermines the other perspectives, and that is never a good thing. My father was the token for moderate voices. But the government, they didn’t see him this way.
* * *
At the airport, they led us to a small room with a camera. Actually they took him.
“Where are you taking my father?” I pleaded, following them.
They ignored me. They wouldn’t talk to me at all.
Just moments earlier, we’d been standing in line, waiting to be called to the last step before boarding—having our passports stamped.
I went first with no problem. They looked up some information on the computer, and then called me forward. It only took a second. But when I looked back, my father was waiting there, still waiting to be called.
Then it had turned to ten minutes.
When my father asked what was happening, the immigration officials would repeat, We are checking, we are checking.
Finally they told my father, “Please come with us.”
“Why should I come with you?” he said. “I have done everything legally. I have all the documents. Why do you want me come with you? If you want to say anything, just say it here!” My father explained to them that our flight was waiting to board; that we had to go now, if we were going to make it.
I thought, what happens if we are not able to go there?
The immigration officer, a young man, said that if we were allowed to continue on, he’d make sure we’d still catch the flight. Don’t worry. And then they began to lead my father away.
I heard him ask, “What about my luggage? . . . What about my luggage?”
When they didn’t reply, he asked me about the bag.
I said, “Dad, is it really the time to think about that?”
“They’re not going to let me go right now,” he said. “You go ahead.” It was just a temporary hold up; he just didn’t want his baggage left behind.
I ended up with his suitcase. I hadn’t realized it would be so heavy.
I still have it. His shoes. His jackets. His sweaters. They all are with me.
Every time somebody asks, Who did you come to America with? I say, it was supposed to be my father. They say, Is he coming?
I think so, I tell them. I have his suitcase waiting.
And I followed them. That’s how we’d ended up in the room.
I was so scared! My father was such a strict man. Nobody argued with him. Never ever. But now I was seeing someone pulling my father so roughly.
“Why are you talking to my father? Why are you doing this to him?”
I was so freaked out.
And so afraid.
My father looked at me. “Don’t cry,” he commanded. He saw my tears welling. They could fall at any moment. “Don’t cry.”
Because I never faced this kind of situation before I was scared I would forget everything. If they are mistreating my father, I thought, I have to have evidence. So I turned on my phone. And I began to record.
It was a very small room with no windows, like the size of a bathroom. There was one camera. Two chairs without backs. And one guy who kept watch, sitting with us, making sure I would not run away.
“Why you are doing this to me?” my father said to the guard. “I have everything authorized.”
“We only are following the legal steps.”
My father looked like he could burst. “I have the full legal steps. Why don’t you let me go?”
“We are checking. We are checking.”
We sat there for two hours in that little room in the Beijing airport, listening to the immigration officers repeat we are checking, we are checking.
All I could think is: What is going on? How are they going to treat us? Are we going to jail?
We only had to do was get on the plane. Then we could go to Indiana. It should have been so simple.
We didn’t do anything wrong.
I was so confused. My mind went very messy.
By Kevin Marchand, Connections Intern
TurtleFace and Beyond by Arthur Bradford
Farrar, Strauss & Giroux
The world you’ll find in the pages of Arthur Bradford’s new short story collection, TurtleFace and Beyond, is certainly a bizarre one. And yet it is somehow perfectly believable. By the end you can’t help but feel saddened at the thought of leaving it.
Bradford should be considered one of the contemporary masters of the short story form. For thirteen stories you follow the life of Georgie, as he tries to make his way through a disconnected world of selfish friends and outright absurdity. Of course, it doesn’t help that Georgie is a complete doormat and is constantly allowing himself to be manipulated by those around him; dragged headfirst into the most ridiculous situations one could possibly imagine. Take, for example, the title story when he gets stuck watching over a strange 217 pound dog. All we can ask is how? And when we open up to the story “Lost Limbs” Georgie tells us, “It wasn’t until my second date with Lenore that I discovered one of her arms was missing.” Wow.
Moments like this are precisely why we love Georgie. We might slap our forehead as we watch him try to suck the venom out of a stranger’s leg in the car on his way to a wedding (obviously smearing blood all over his nice shirt… for which he has characteristically forgotten a tie), but still we love him. And this isn’t anywhere close to the craziest situation Georgie gets himself into. Throughout the collection we see Georgie high on LSD with his friend’s sick infant in his arms, or nursing a wounded turtle back to health, or prematurely ejaculating all over the face of a girl in Thailand during an unexpected and overwhelming threesome.
Again, the head slap.
If you like strange then this is definitely the book for you. Bradford’s writing style is poignant and engaging and right to the point. His dialogue is at times outrageous, but somehow perfect. There is no time to question what is going on because he drags you along at the same dizzying speed as Georgie’s life is dragging him. You’ll find yourself feeling all the emotions that Georgie should be feeling but seemingly can’t comprehend or else doesn’t care to explore. And when you put the book down and start watching TV or doing the laundry, you’ll surely just stop and think, “Oh, Georgie.”
Danny DiCamillo, Assistant Director of Residence Life, has been at RWU for 8 years, and for the past 3 as Assistant Director.
Interview conducted by Ryan Monahan
The Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher, a fantasy series about a modern-day wizard, are high on Danny’s list of favorite books. The wizard, Harry Dresden, acts as a private investigator for regular people who have magical things happen to them. Danny, passionate about fantasy and science fiction, attributes his active imagination as a child to his love for this genre. As a child, his father read him The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling to fall asleep at night, which greatly influence his reading taste now as an adult.
As Assistant Director of Residence Life, Danny also chooses to read a number of books that can aid him in interacting with students, parents, and his coworkers. Currently, he is reading Getting to Yes by William Ury and Roger Fisher, which Danny describes as a guide on how to have productive conversations with people in difficult situations, and how to reach mutually beneficial outcomes for both parties. Once finished with Getting to Yes, he plans to read the sequel, Getting Past No by William Ury.
What stands out in Danny’s mind is Still Alice by Lisa Genova, a powerful read about a professor from Harvard with Alzheimer’s and her struggle with losing aspects of herself. Danny found himself sucked into the novel, in part due to Genova’s description of Boston, an area Danny knows well. “When you can read an amazing book and put yourself in the reader’s shoes, [it’s] difficult… I found myself thinking of my own mortality.”
Prefacing his next choice by saying, “this is not a plug for the University,” Danny describes The Circle by Dave Eggers, RWU’s freshman common read selection, as a book that predicts the possible outcome of “eliminating all secrets.” The novel depicts the protagonist, Mae, as she gets a job at a fictional corporation based on Google and quickly loses her personal identity to the vast company. In response, the novel made Danny very conscientious of how much technology has become a crutch, pointing out the “Jawbone” bracelet he wears that records activities such as sleep patterns and fitness routines.
Danny has a tremendous list of upcoming books to read; he’s stopped buying books, as the bookshelves in his house are filled with both fantasy novels and books to read for his career. Besides working on the stacks of un-read books, he intends to re-read the Harry Potter series. Danny loves to receive suggestions for new books, and if you have a book in mind Danny may enjoy, he wants to hear from you. E-mail him at email@example.com to suggest great reads.
When asked what book everybody should read, Danny took much consideration. He finally chose Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling, but with a disclaimer that this was “his” book. This book is the most important for him, but he knows that “it won’t change everybody’s life.” His wish is that everybody will find a book that will change their lives, just as Harry Potter did for him.