Previous Special Events

Friday, November 1, 2013
2:00pm @ Plaza Branch

Abuse of consumers by the funeral industry has only worsened in the decades since Jessica Mitford’s landmark expose The American Way of Death. But a funeral consumer movement is awakening, as Joshua Slocum explains in a discussion of his book Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death.

As with natural childbirth and hospice care, Americans are asserting their right to take charge of this major event in their lives. Many still want the help of a funeral director – but to assist, not direct. And many are handling it themselves with home burials, green burials, or direct arrangements with a crematory.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The fictional Rooster Cogburn, made famous in Charles Portis’ novel True Grit, is probably a bit too idiosyncratic—cranky, bellicose, boozy, trigger-happy—to be a successful modern-day U.S. marshal.

But as U.S. Marshal Anthony Gasaway explains, Cogburn’s story nevertheless reveals many truths about the professional duties and dangers faced by officers of the country’s oldest law enforcement agency. He discusses the history of the U.S. Marshal Service and the role it plays in law enforcement today in a program titled U.S. Marshals: A Popular History of the Nation’s Oldest Law Enforcement Agency.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
6:30pm @ Plaza Branch

“God is beautiful and loves beauty,” said the Prophet Muhammad. Now Harvard’s Ali Asani explores various artistic and literary forms to open the sacred, complex, and culturally diverse worlds of Islam. “The arts help to humanize cultures where political discourse based on nationalist ideologies tend to dehumanize,” Asani says.

Asani is chair of the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department and the director of Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University.

Sunday, October 27, 2013
1:30pm @ Plaza Branch

James Whale’s Frankenstein was a somber adaptation of Mary Shelly’s 1818 novel about a scientist who builds a creature from dead bodies and gives it life. It made an overnight star of actor Boris Karloff, who played the mute “monster.” The Bride of Frankenstein employed most of the same creative team that produced the original Frankenstein four years earlier. Yet this sequel is a much different animal – and much superior.

Friday, October 25, 2013
6:30pm @ Plaza Branch

Members of the Out Loud Teen Readers’ Theatre, made up of local teens interested in reading, performing, and sharing stories, bring to life the compelling and complex characters of this year’s Big Read pick, True Grit.

The young actors will have spent three weeks rehearsing their performance. Their efforts culminate in this interpretation of Charles Portis’ classic Western novel. Appropriate for ages 11-18.

Thursday, October 24, 2013
6:30pm @ Plaza Branch

Is True Grit’s Mattie Ross a genuine feminist hero or a merely a woman who mimics traditional masculinity?

Panelists Brenda Bethman, Adrianne Russell, and Crystal Gorham Doss — led by moderator Jane Wood — discuss the concept of the female hero and how this image has evolved. They delve into questions of the media portrayal of women (with special note of the Western genre), diversity in female depiction of heroism, and current activism in the Kansas City area to empower women and girls.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Like her older brother, Benjamin, Jane Franklin was a passionate reader, a gifted writer, and a shrewd political observer. While he was rich and famous, she was poor and obscure. Yet Jane was a constant presence and influence in her brother’s life—in fact, Benjamin Franklin wrote more letters to her than to any other individual.

Historian Jill Lepore explores this extraordinary, overlooked life in a discussion of her new book Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin.

Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Martin Espada, widely recognized as “the Latino poet of his generation,” joins Angela Elam from New Letters on the Air for a reading and discussion based on his most recent collection of poems, The Trouble Ball, winner of the Milt Kessler Award, a Massachusetts Book Award, and an International Latino Book Award.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013
6:30pm @ Plaza Branch

In a 2007 college football season filled with unfathomable twists and turns, Missouri and Kansas—unranked at the start of the season—kept winning, setting up the biggest game ever played in the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi. The winner would be ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Monday, October 21, 2013
6:30pm @ Plaza Branch

In Gryphon, his career-spanning collection of short stories, author Charles Baxter offers yarns in which our acutely observed reality is rocked by the exotic, the surreal, and by Baxter’s comic-melancholic world view.

Now Baxter—whose novel The Feast of Love was a National Book Award finalist and became a feature film starring Morgan Freeman and Greg Kinnear—holds a discussion about his work with New Letters on the Air host Angela Elam.