Monday, September 19, 2016: Discussion of Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay: Reflections on Art, Family, and Survival, by Christopher Benfey, led by Emily Stamey of the Weatherspoon Art Museum. 4 p.m., Hodges Reading Room, 2nd floor Jackson Library.
Monday, October 10, 2016: Discussion of Looking for Palestine, by Najla Said, led by Dr. Jeff Jones of the History Department, 7 p.m., Hodges Reading room, 2nd floor Jackson Library.
Please note the different start times on these two discussions.
Emily Stamey of the Weatherspoon Art Museum and Jeff Jones of the History Department will lead two book discussions this fall for the ongoing series of the Friends of the UNCG Libraries.
On Monday, September 19 at 4 pm, Dr. Stamey will lead a discussion in the Hodges Reading Room in Jackson Library of a book chosen in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the Weatherspoon.
The book, Christopher Benfey’s Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay: Reflections on Art, Family, and Survival, was a 2012 NY Times Notable Book with a bit of a North Carolina flavor. Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay follows one incredible family to discover a unique craft tradition grounded in America’s vast natural landscape. Looking back through the generations, renowned critic Christopher Benfey unearths an ancestry—and an aesthetic—that is quintessentially American. His mother descends from colonial explorers and Quaker craftsmen, who carved new arts from the trackless wilds of the frontier. Benfey’s father escaped from Nazi Europe—along with his aunt and uncle, the famed Bauhaus artists Josef and Anni Albers—by fleeing across the Atlantic and finding an eventual haven in the American South.
Bricks form the backbone of life in North Carolina’s rural Piedmont, where Benfey’s mother was raised among centuries-old folk potteries, tobacco farms, and clay pits. Her father, like his father before him, believed in the deep honesty of brick, that men might build good lives with the bricks they laid. Nurtured in this red-clay world of ancient craft and Quaker radicalism, Benfey’s mother was poised to set out from home when a tragic romance cracked her young life in two. Salvaging the broken shards of his mother’s past and exploring the revitalized folk arts resisting industrialization, Benfey discovers a world brimming with possibility and creativity.
Benfey’s father had no such foundation in his young life, nor did his aunt and uncle. Exiled artists from Berlin’s Bauhaus school, Josef and Anni Albers were offered sanctuary not far from the Piedmont at Black Mountain College. A radical experiment in unifying education and art, Black Mountain made a monumental impact on American culture under Josef’s leadership, counting Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, and Buckminster Fuller among its influential students and teachers. Focusing on the natural world, innovative craftsmanship, and the physical reality of materials, Black Mountain became a home and symbol for an emerging vision of American art.
Looking for Palestine, by Najla Said, will be the Keker First Year Common Read for this year. Dr. Jones will lead the Friends’ discussion at 7 pm on Monday, October 10, also in Jackson Library.
The daughter of the famous intellectual and outspoken Palestinian advocate Edward Said and a sophisticated Lebanese mother, Najla Said grew up in New York City, confused and conflicted about her cultural background and identity. Said knew that her parents identified deeply with their homelands, but growing up in a Manhattan world that was defined largely by class and conformity, she felt unsure about who she was supposed to be, and was often in denial of the differences she sensed between her family and those around her. She may have been born a Palestinian Lebanese American, but Said denied her true roots, even to herself—until, ultimately, the psychological toll of her self-hatred began to threaten her health.
As she grew older, she eventually came to see herself, her passions, and her identity more clearly. Today she is a voice for second-generation Arab Americans nationwide.
Both discussions are free and open to the public.