Church looks at literature and race

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Church looks at literature and race

Churches around the country and right here in Yolo County are asking what they can do to dismantle systems of racism and deconstruct internalized white supremacy. In this time of physical distancing, education via book studies, small groups and webinars seem to be a big part of the answer.

The Episcopal Church of St. Martin in Davis is offering one such opportunity at 7 p.m. July 22 with an online presentation titled, “The Country That Fiction Built: How Literature Shapes Feelings About Race,” featuring professor Michelle Liu of the University of Washington.

“While we have been involved in marches and letter-writing and similar actions, we also see this moment as a critical time for doing our 凯发体育官方sporthomework when it comes to learning about race and racism in this country and even in the church,” said the Rev. Dr. Pamela Dolan, rector of St. Martin’s. “There’s a lot of work to do and no one approach is ever going to be sufficient. We’ve been really lucky to be able to offer a three-part class on Understanding Racism with a parishioner who recently retired from teaching Ethnic Studies at UC Irvine. We’re starting intensive small group work with a program called Sacred Ground. But when I learned about Professor Lui’s presentation, I knew it would be a perfect stand-alone opportunity.”

Ever since Harper Lee imagined him into life in 1960, the name Atticus Finch has become shorthand for a person who acts according to their conscience, not majority rule. This talk delves into the many ways our country is deeply shaped by Harper Lee, as well as by the best-selling who lived in the century before her — Harriet Beecher Stowe. Using Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” — the novel largely credited with moving the United States into the Civil War — Liu invites participants to think about how these two works of fiction still fundamentally shape how we think about skin color, morality, and who counts as human. How can fiction help us imagine building more empathy and openness to those with experiences different from our own?

“Maybe it’s because I was an English major,” Dolan said, “but having a chance to investigate how literature has shaped our feelings about race really excites me. Like a lot of people, I’ve read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and seen the movie multiple times. I’ve even had dreams about Boo Radley! I know I’m going to be challenged and learn a lot.”

Liu is a professor in the English department at the University of Washington, where she specializes in teaching writing and exploring ideas about identity, history, emotion, and storytelling. Liu also has spoken at the UW Zhejiang Summer Program to undergraduate-age Chinese students to introduce them to racial dynamics in the Seattle area. Liu earned her Ph.D. in American studies from Yale University.

The public is welcome and there is no charge to attend. This is an online event. Contact Jan Sanders in the office to obtain the Zoom meeting information at [email protected] or 530-756-0444.



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