Readers to explore East Asia

Readers to explore East Asia Readers in the Vermilion area can learn about life in East Asia by participating in the South Dakota Humanities Council Reading Series this spring at the Vermillion Public Library.

The first discussion will be on Sunday, Feb. 7 at 3 p.m., with the second and third meetings on Feb. 21 and 28, also at 3 p.m.

Readers will meet with Jamie Sullivan from Mount Marty College, Yankton, to talk about life in Burma and China. The discussions will begin with Harp of Burma by Michio Takeyama, followed by Grandmother Had No Name by Alice Murong Pu Lin.

Participants can sign up for the discussions at the Vermillion Public Library. The program is free. A packet of books and a study guide can be purchased for $10.

Harp of Burma tells the story of a company of Japanese soldiers captured in Burma during World War II, who kept up their morale in the midst of hardship by learning to sing together. During their battle time in a foreign land, they ask many of the questions soldiers everywhere pose as they confront loneliness and memories of their homeland. The story was made into a film which will be shown in communities to supplement the discussions.

The second book Grandmother Had No Name, describes the historically repressive conditions for women in China that are changing slowly. Lin begins her story with a tale of her great aunt who had bound feet and was not allowed a formal education, but taught herself to read. She kept it a secret throughout the cultural revolution, using it for her own private satisfaction.

The author also learned that her grandmother gave up her own name once she married and became known only by her husband's name. Lin, a professor at Duke University, says "womanhood knows no national or ethnic boundaries. Our shared secrets bridge the centuries and continents."

The Reading Series takes place in 32 South Dakota communities this spring as part of the Humanities Council's "Knowing the World Through Reading." A discussion listserv also takes place on the Internet for readers, particularly those outside of communities sponsoring discussions.

For more information on the Reading Series or any other council programs, call or write the council at 605-688-6113 or Box 7050 University Station, Brookings, SD 57007, or visit the council website at www.sdstate.edu/whum/http/home.html.

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