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Concordia Hosts Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys Reading & Discussion Series

Concordia University, St. Paul presents, Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys, a collection of novels and memoirs that give a glimpse of what life is like for children and adults living in Muslim-majority societies. As part of this literature, Concordia will host a number of readings and discussions on campus themed “Points of View” throughout the 2013-14 academic year.

The “Points of View” discussions will feature selected titles from the Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys collection with the purpose of increasing understanding of the Muslim world and some of the various Muslim cultures and peoples. All events will be held in the Buenger Education Center on the Concordia University campus and are free and open to the Concordia community and general public. (see full schedule and descriptions below)

Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys is made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in cooperation with the American Library Association.

Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys
Points of View event schedule:

  • September 26, 2013, 7 p.m.
    Immigrants and Spiritual Pluralism in America and The Experiences of a Muslim Immigrant
    Dr. Jon Butler
    , author of Religion in Colonial America, will provide us with historical background on the development of religion in America.  He reminds us that we as a people have always been religiously diverse; religious pluralism is a central part of what defines us as Americans.  As each new wave of immigrants settled in our communities, new challenges for understanding these new belief systems presented themselves.  The First Amendment and the unique protection it provides nurtured a “spiritual pluralism unlike that found in any society on either side of the Atlantic or Pacific” (Religion in America, p. 141). Dr. Odeh Muhawesh, CEO and successful business leader from Plymouth, Minn., will tell of his experiences as a new immigrant to the Twin Cities.  Over the past 26 years, Dr. Muhawesh has founded several very successful businesses and established a strong record of growing revenue and developing competitive products for software and service companies.  He holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Theology from International Theological Seminary, specializes in theology and modern Middle Eastern history, teaches at the University of St. Thomas and is an associate of their Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center.
  • October 2, 2013, 10:30 a.m.
    In the Country of Men, by Hisham Matar
    In Hisham Matar’s debut novel, a Libyan boy must come to terms with difficult truths about Libya, loyalty, and truth when his father disappears. On the surface a story of the violence and absurdity of life during the rule of Muammar al-Qaddafi, In the Country of Men (New York: Dial Press Trade Paperbacks, 2006) describes the politics of childhood more than the politics of nations. Just as the plot brilliantly unfolds in unpredictable ways, we are catapulted forward to the next decade. We are left to reflect on the ties that bind us all—the universal embarrassments and frustrations of childhood, the challenge of constructing meaning from memory, and the presence of unavoidable truths.

  • November 12, 2013, 7 p.m.
    Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi
    Persepolis (New York: Pantheon Books, 2003) is Marjane Satrapi's inventive, wry, and tragic memoir of growing up in Tehran in the 1980s—the tumultuous years when the Islamic Revolution took hold in Iran and the country fought off an invasion from neighboring Iraq. Using a striking black-and-white comic strip format, Satrapi chronicles daily life from the perspective of a middle-class schoolchild, as well as cataclysmic events such as the overthrow of the shah and the long, bloody war with Iraq. Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the personal costs of war and repression, convincingly related by a perceptive girl caught up in the raging currents of history who also has time to listen to Michael Jackson and dream of a better life. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring of 2011, Persepolis feels even more timely, insightful, and essential.
  • February 11, 2014, 7 p.m.
    House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East,
    by Anthony Shadid
    From the late New York Times journalist Anthony Shadid comes a chronicle of his quixotic efforts to restore his family’s ancestral home in Lebanon.  While House of Stone (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2012) is a memorable tale of the ups and downs of house renovation, it is also a thoughtful meditation on the profound changes the Middle East has undergone in recent centuries. Shadid uses the history of his Christian family in Lebanon, the rise and decline of the Ottoman Empire, and accounts of life in Lebanon today to illustrate the diversity and difficulties of the region. Deeply personal, beautifully written, and intensively researched, House of Stone paints an unforgettable portrait of the people of Lebanon, their history, and their daily lives.

  • March 5, 2014, 10:30 a.m.
    Broken Verses, by Kamila Shamsie

    Pakistan was created as an independent nation in 1947, carved from predominantly Muslim regions in the east and west of India after British colonial rule ended on the Indian subcontinent. Ever since, Pakistan has struggled to be Islamic yet secular, and to create a sense of nationhood in a population of great cultural, ethnic, and economic diversity. In Broken Verses (New York: A Harvest Original/Harcourt, Inc., 2005), Kamila Shamsie beautifully captures the promise of Pakistan and the country’s divisive political reality. Told through the eyes of a young television journalist working in the flourishing seaport of Karachi, the novel traces one family’s incredible experience of Pakistan from the 1970s to the present. Part mystery, part romance, and part coming-of-age tale, Broken Verses combines a compelling story with a larger meditation on the meaning of poetry, politics, religion, and Pakistan itself.

  • April 8, 2014, 7 p.m.
    Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood, by Fatima Mernissi

    Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood (New York: Perseus Books Group, 1994)takes place in Fez, Morocco, in the 1940s and early 1950s. The harem of this memoir’s title is a large house with its own courtyard, shared by several generations of an extended family. Fatima Mernissi recounts her experiences and observations as a precocious young girl living in the harem, acutely aware of the many sacred frontiers she is forbidden to cross—the barriers between men and women and between Muslims and Christians, the threshold separating one room from another or the interior of the house from the street outside. She learns that all the women around her chafe at the limitations of harem life in one way or another, but she also comes to realize that she can transcend these limitations covertly—through imagination, creativity, learning, and even mischief.

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