Book Discussions: June 2024

Decorah Public Library staff are hosting five book discussions in June. 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.

The Refugee Ocean

The Happy Hour Book Group will meet at Pulpit Rock Brewing Co. Wed. June 12 at 5:15 p.m. to discuss Pauls Toutonghi’s “The Refugee Ocean.” Born in Beirut in 1922, Marguerite Toutoungi dreams of traveling to Europe and studying music at the Conservatoire de Paris but her family—and her society—hold her back. When she meets the son of a Cuban tobacco farmer at a formal dance, love transforms her life. Together with him, she flees across the Pacific Ocean. She’s hoping for a new beginning. Instead, she finds revolution and chaos.  

Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China

The History Book Group will meet on the 2nd floor of the library Thurs. June 20 at 3:00 p.m. to discuss 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

Lady Tan’s Circle of Women

The Friday Book Group will meet on the 2nd floor of the library Fri. June 21 at 2:00 p.m. to discuss Lisa See’s “Lady Tan’s Circle of Women.” Tan Yunxian is being raised by her grandparents to be of use. Her grandmother is one of only a handful of female doctors in China, and she teaches Yunxian the pillars of Chinese medicine, the Four Examinations—looking, listening, touching, and asking—something a man can never do with a female patient. From a young age, Yunxian learns about women’s illnesses, many of which relate to childbearing, alongside a young midwife-in-training, Meiling. The two girls find fast friendship and a mutual purpose, and they vow to be forever friends. But when Yunxian is sent into an arranged marriage, her mother-in-law forbids her from seeing Meiling and from helping the women and girls in the household. Yunxian is to act like a proper wife—embroider bound-foot slippers, pluck instruments, recite poetry, give birth to sons, and stay forever within the family

The Empress of Salt and Fortune

The Speculative Fiction Book Group will meet via Zoom Wed. June 26 at 6:00 p.m. to discuss Nghi Vo’s novella “The Empress of Salt and Fortune.” Zoom link available on the library website. A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead, her armies and their war mammoths long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully. Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for.

Witch King

Immediately following the novella discussion, the group will discuss Martha Wells’ “Witch King” (beginning at 6:30 p.m. using the same Zoom link). After being murdered, his consciousness dormant and unaware of the passing of time while confined in an elaborate water trap, Kai wakes to find a lesser mage attempting to harness Kai’s magic to his own advantage. That was never going to go well. But why was Kai imprisoned in the first place? And what has changed in the world since his assassination?