Come out Thursday to discuss Summer Reading Challenge

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 10, 2008

By Deirdre Parker Smith
How did you fare with the Summer Reading Challenge?
The selections this year certainly covered a broad spectrum ó from a political thriller to a Washington guidebook to serious political analysis. Throw in one perennial bestselling author, John Grisham, with a dismaying tale of tainted elections and evil big business, and it was a red, white and blue year.
The edges were a little frayed by the time we finished, what with the election just 22 days away, but everyone should have been able to digest at least one of the books.
Grisham fans were probably surprised when the good guys lost in “The Appeal.” His story of corruption of the courts, thanks to shady political organizations and big money from big businesses, is too depressingly close to reality. No matter how much you wanted the evildoer to get his in the end, it didn’t happen.
The other quick read was Brad Meltzer’s “The Zero Game.” The fast-paced thriller with a not-too-complicated plot took readers inside the Capitol for a game turned deadly serious. If nothing else, you might learn a little about the buildings that house our lawmakers and what a particle accelerator does.The most challenging and most important book of the challenge was “Divided America.” Brothers Earl and Merle Black wrote, as political scientists, the story of how America votes. Dr. Michael Bitzer, who teaches political science at Catawba College, helped readers understand the why behind the how in three discussions that prompted talk of many political issues.
“Divided America” explained the red and blue states, the ethnic, racial and religious differences that define the different voting regions of the U.S., and how Americans are likely to vote this year.
On a much lighter note, “Black Men Built the Capitol,” by Jesse J. Holland, took readers on a tour of Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas to show them African Americans who have made history, if not history books. He covers not just the famous, like Thurgood Marshall, but the little known, the men who physically built the monuments we visit in our capital.
An added feature of this summer’s challenge was “The Best Man,” performed by the St. Thomas Players. The play, by Gore Vidal, raised questions of political ambition and power.
The panel discussion to wrap up the readings will be Thursday at 6:30 p.m., starting with a free reception courtesy of Trinity Oaks Retirement Community at Waterworks Visual Arts Center. The panel discussion follows at the F&M Trolley Barn.
Dr. Janice M. Fuller, writer-in-residence and professor of English at Catawba College, will discuss “The Appeal” and “The Zero Game.”
She has won numerous awards for her classroom teaching. A published poet and playwright, her work has received national and international recognition. She has been a teaching fellow in Spain, Ireland, Scotland and Estonia. A graduate of Duke University, she earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from UNC-Greensboro.
Bitzer, assistant professor of political science at Catawba College, will discuss “Divided America.” His professional interests are American politics, public administration and public law. He earned degrees from Erskine College, Clemson University and the University of Georgia. A political analyst for area television stations, his research interests are Southern politics, U.S. campaigns and elections, and the intersection of politics and popular culture.
Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, professor of history at Norfolk State University, Norfolk, Va., is a graduate of the University of Virginia and earned her Ph.D. from the College of William and Mary. An expert on the history of African Americans in Virginia, she was named one of the five outstanding teachers of African American history and culture by American Legacy Magazine. She co-authored a book on ex-slave interviews titled “Eyewitnesses to History.”
Back by popular demand on the panel, Dr. Newby-Alexander will discuss “Black Men Built the Capitol.”
Dr. M.J. Simms Maddox, associate professor of political science at Livingstone College, will serve as panel moderator. Her background includes work as academic dean, director of development and as a writer in the field of politics. She has also penned a novel, a number of short stories and general articles. A graduate of Livingstone, she earned her doctorate in political science from Ohio State University.
Presenting sponsors include Waterworks Visual Arts Center, F&M Bank, The Salisbury Post, Trinity Oaks Retirement Center, Catawba College, Livingstone College, Friends of Rowan Public Library, Rowan Regional Medical Center, Miller Davis Agency, Heather St. Aubin-Stout/Loft 130, The Literary Bookpost, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Salisbury Symphony Orchestra; with additional support from Marathon Business Center-Xerox, Center for Faith & the Arts, and Godley’s Garden Center & Nursery.
As Barbara Setzer, organizer of the challenge and a member of Libretto Book Club says it, “Whether you have read all of the books, some of the books or none of the books,” come out to enjoy the discussion.
Contact Deirdre Parker Smith at