By C. Aileen Blaine
Upon the ornate chairs and rugs of the parlor of St. John’s Episcopal Church, members of Lit Youngstown gather together to view a film relevant to the month’s book discussion. While the chandeliers sparkle overhead, the group discusses topics both lighthearted and serious.
Karen Schubert, director and co-founder of Lit Youngstown, said the book discussions have been around for several years. However, the addition of the accompanying films is new this year with help from Laura Beadling, associate professor of English and film studies at Youngstown State University. Beadling has been able to bring her insights and scholarly knowledge to the table as well.
“We thought it would be really fun to have a companion film series that were all biopics about writers so that we could explore that extra dimension that film offers beyond the book, in addition to the book or beside the book,” Schubert said.
The Food for Thought discussions run September through May. This year’s theme focuses on the “writer-as-subject,” or instances where the protagonist of a work is a writer.
“We’re reading books that are autobiographies, memoir biographies and fiction,” Schubert said. “It’s not surprising that writers write about writers, and there’s a really interesting interior landscape there.”
The discussions are informal and meant to foster conversations about the themes present in the works, as well as the potential creative process behind the works themselves. Schubert said one of the things she enjoys most is how each group member is able to contribute different ideas and noticed details to sustain the discussion.
“I love that, as people who love books and films, you just completely disappear into that work and you lose track of where you are,” Schubert said. “I think that’s just one of the great pleasures.”
Some of the biggest takeaways, according to Schubert, is that many writers endure hardships that affect their subsequent works, such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s experience as an English soldier during WWI that led to his crafting of “The Hobbit.”
“It reminds us that a book walks around in the world without its author, but there’s always a context and it’s interesting to know a little bit more about that context,” Schubert said.
The Food for Thought book discussions occur on the second Thursday of each month at the Michael Kusalaba Library. Upcoming books are as follows:
- February: “Begin Again: James Baldwin’s American and its Urgent Lessons for Our Own” by Eddie Glaude
- March: “World of Wonders” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
- April: “The House of Broken Angels” by Luis Alberto Urrea
- May: “The Planter of Modern Life: Louis Bromfield and the Seeds of a Food Revolution” by Stephen Heymen
The Food for Thought film series takes place on the third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church. For more information on books, authors or upcoming events, visit lityoungstown.org