Book Discussions: July 2024

Decorah Public Library staff are hosting five book discussions in July. The groups are open to the public and newcomers are encouraged to attend. Anyone interested should call the library at 382-3717 to learn more or to reserve a book. Zoom links are available on the Library’s website or you can email to be added to any of the five groups’ email distribution lists. Funds for multiple copy sets were generously provided by Friends of Decorah Public Library.

For more information, contact Tricia Crary (Friday Book Group) or Kristin Torresdal (Happy Hour, History, and Speculative Fiction Book Groups) at 563-382-3717.

A Council of Dolls

The Happy Hour Book Group will meet at Pulpit Rock Brewing Co. Wed. July 10 at 5:15 p.m. to discuss Mona Susan Power’s “A Council of Dolls.” Sissy, born 1961: Sissy’s relationship with her mother is difficult, but her life is also filled with beautiful things, including a new Christmas present, a doll called Ethel. Ethel whispers advice and kindness in Sissy’s ear, and maybe even saves Sissy’s life. Lillian, born 1925: Born in her ancestral lands in a time of change, Lillian clings to her sister, Blanche, and her doll, Mae. When the sisters are forced to attend an “Indian school” far from their home and tragedy strikes, the doll Mae finds her way to defend the girls. Cora, born 1888: Though she was born into the brutal legacy of the “Indian Wars,” Cora isn’t afraid of the white men who remove her to a school across the country to be “civilized.” When teachers burn her doll Winona, Cora discovers that the spirit of Winona may not be lost.... 

Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China

The History Book Group will meet on the 2nd floor of the library Thurs. July 18 at 3:00 p.m. to discuss the second half of Jung Chang’s “Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China.” At the age of sixteen, in a nationwide selection for royal consorts, Cixi was chosen as one of the Chinese emperor’s numerous concubines. When he died in 1861, their five-year-old son succeeded to the throne. Cixi at once launched a palace coup against the regents appointed by her husband and made herself the real ruler. In this biography, Jung Chang describes how Cixi fought against monumental obstacles to change China. Under her, the ancient country attained virtually all the attributes of modern industries:  railways, electricity, the telegraph, and an army and navy with up-to-date weaponry. She inaugurated women’s liberation and embarked on the path to introduce parliamentary elections.  


The Friday Book Group will meet on the 2nd floor of the library Fri. July 19 at 2:00 p.m. to discuss Percival Everett’s “James.” When the enslaved Jim overhears that he is about to be sold to a man in New Orleans, separated from his wife and daughter forever, he decides to hide on nearby Jackson Island until he can formulate a plan. Meanwhile, Huck Finn has faked his own death to escape his violent father, recently returned to town. Thus begins the dangerous journey by raft down the Mississippi River toward the elusive and unreliable promise of the Free States. 

Lesser-Known Monsters of the 21st Century

The Speculative Fiction Book Group will meet via Zoom Wed. July 24 at 6:00 p.m. to discuss stories #8-11 of Kim Fu’s “Lesser-Known Monsters of the 21st Century.” Zoom link available on the library website.  

The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi

Immediately following the short story discussion, the group will discuss Shannon Chakraborty’s “The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi” (beginning at 6:30 p.m. using the same Zoom link). Amina al-Sirafi should be content. After a storied and scandalous career as one of the Indian Ocean’s most notorious pirates, she’s survived to retire peacefully with her family to a life of piety, motherhood, and absolutely nothing that hints of the supernatural. But when she’s tracked down by the wealthy mother of a former crewman, she’s offered a job no bandit could refuse: retrieve her comrade’s kidnapped daughter for a kingly sum. The chance to have one last adventure with her crew, do right by an old friend, and win a fortune that will secure her family’s future forever? It seems like such an obvious choice. But it soon becomes alarmingly clear that there’s more to this job than Amina was led to believe.