For Summer Reading 2020, the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling will offer a new People’s University Livestream series to be broadcast simultaneously on YouTube, Facebook,and the library’s website. The series will occur live online at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday evenings from June 11 through July 30, with a finale program on Aug. 6.
People’s University: Around the World in Literature & Language is designed to fit the library’s summer reading theme, “Reading Takes You Places.”
Each class will include recommended books in the library’s collection, each of which is set in the geographic regions explored.
Dr. David Javersak will kick off the world tour on June 11 by serving as a guide for a 4,000-mile trip across the North Atlantic to Sweden through the works of contemporary Swedish authors of funny stories and warm human interest, including Fredrik Backman, author of A Man Called Ove and Jonas Jonasson, author of The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared. Javersak will be accompanied by Scandinavian Language instructor Asta Solie, who will teach attendees useful words and phrases in Norwegian.
For class two, students will depart Sweden to fly 1,000 miles southeast and a century back in time on June 18, exploring Russia through the novellas of Leo Tolstoy. Led by Dr. Ian Lanzillotti, Bethany history professor and Russian speaker, the class will include useful words and phrases in Russian.
On June 25, retired Wheeling Jesuit University history professor Dr. Joe Laker will lead his class 4,600 miles east (and 270 years back in time to 1639) across the massive Eurasian Steppe to explore Japan through Endo Shusaku’s novel Silence. Endo was Japan’s best known Japanese Catholic novelist, and this particular historical novel is set in early 17th century Japan. A Japanese speaker, Dr. Laker will also teach Japanese word and phrases.
On July 2, Dr. John Cox, former history professor at Wheeling Jesuit and current professor of East European history, North Dakota State University, will shepherd students 5,700 miles back west (and 330 years back to the future) to Serbia through the novels of Biljana Jovanovic. A translator of books from Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian, Hungarian and Slovene to English, Dr. Cox will teach useful words and phrases in Serbian.
On July 9, Father Alfred Obiudu will lead his class 3,000 miles southwest (and a century back in time) to the African nation of Nigeria through the works of Chinua Achebe, best known for the 1958 novel, Things Fall Apart. The chronicle of pre-colonial life in Nigeria through the arrival of Europeans during the late 19th century is perhaps the most celebrated novel of Africa. Hailing from Nigeria himself, and once assigned to St. Michael’s Parish here in Wheeling, Father Obiudu is now a priest at St. Leo’s Parish in Inwood, West Virginia.
He will also help attendees to explore the primary Nigerian language, Hausa.
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On July 16, Brad Fitzmaurice will lead students 9,500 miles “Down Under” (no time travel this time) for an excursion through the Australian Outback in a class called “Jumbucks, Billabongs and Budgie Smugglers: Ballards and Bards of the Australian Bush,” focusing on the works of writers like Henry Lawson and A B (Banjo) Patterson. Fitzmaurice’s master’s dissertation examined the work of a group of Australian writers in the 1890s and early 1900s. He currently teaches American history at the University of Sydney and is writing a doctoral dissertation on the history of Wheeling.
On July 23, Lou Volpe, beloved English teacher at Wheeling Central Catholic High School for many years, will lead his class 10,000 miles northwest (and 260 years back in time) for a tour of Italy through Giuseppi Manzoni’s I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), which takes place in 1628 Milan during a plague. Volpe will also teach a few Italian words and phrases.
The eighth and final class on July 30 will take students 5,600 miles southwest across the Atlantic and 270 years forward in time to explore early 20th century Columbia through the lush novel Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Instructor Dr. Kim Grewe calls the book “a parable, perhaps, for our times, with themes of looking at the later years in life as a place of richness and celebrating the sacredness of ritual.” A lifelong educator, Dr. Grewe is professor and instructional designer at Northern Virginia Community College. Epitomizing the theme, she lives 2,500 miles from her job in northern California.
The 2,500-mile, 120-year return to Wheeling in 2020 means the full series will consist of traveling some 46,000 geographic miles and 1,450 years backward and forward through time, an amazing journey to verify reading’s ability to “take us places.”
The library’s Summer Reading Finale for adults will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6 when Dr. Javersak hosts a World Geography Bee featuring questions inspired, in part, by the Around the World series. Prizes will be awarded in the form of gift certificates to local businesses.
In keeping with the mission of public libraries as sanctuaries of learning for all people, the Ohio County Public Library created The People’s University, a free program for adults who wish to pursue their goal of lifelong learning in classic subjects such as history, music appreciation, philosophy and literature. Patrons can attend as many classes as they wish. There are no tests of other requirements and all programs are free and open to the public.