Harford library hosts Veterans Book Club at Bel Air branch

The Aegis

The Harford County Public Library, in a special collaboration with the Maryland Humanities Council, will offer the Veterans Reading and Discussion Series, a unique program giving veterans an opportunity to read thought-provoking writings and share their ideas and service experiences with a group of like-minded people.

Participants in the Veterans Reading and Discussion Series are coming together over the course of five sessions to discuss a variety of thematically linked texts with moderator Karen Arnold, former visiting English professor at the U.S. Naval Academy.

"With readings representing a variety of eras and types of service, this program offers a mix of perspectives and the chance to really reflect on one's personal service and the larger military experience," Arnold said.

"We do reading and discussion groups all the time, but this is a series of discussions around one topic," Bethany Hacker, community relations specialist for the library system, said.

The group began Feb. 26 and meets at the Bel Air library every three weeks from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Books are handed out at the meeting prior to the scheduled discussion. Should one miss a discussion, readings also will be available at the circulation desk of the library three weeks before the book's discussion. Participants should plan to attend all sessions. Lunch is included as part of the program.

The turnout at the first meeting was about a dozen people, including veterans from World War II through the War Against Terror.

"For the vets, it's not meant to be a therapy group," Hacker said. "Book groups allow people to share their experiences and to relate to other people who have similar, or totally different, experiences."

They also help newer vets relate to the older ones, and vice versa, she said, adding they can also gain insight into their own experiences.

Session dates, readings

The first meeting, on Feb. 26, drew about 15 participants who discussed "Shiloh," a short story by Bobbie Ann Mason; the essay "What I Saw of Shiloh" by Ambrose Bierce; "How to Tell a True War Story," a short story by Tim O'Brien; "After War, a Failure of the Imagination," an essay by Phil Klay; and "The Worst Day of My Life Is Now New York's Hottest Tourist Attraction," a blog post by Steve Kendall.

In March, members discussed "My Life as a Foreign Country," a memoir by Brian Turner.

The next session is Thursday, April 9, when participants will discuss the novel "The Yellow Birds" by Kevin Powers and the essay "Falling In" by Christy L. Clothier.

On the schedule to be discussed April 30 is the memoir, "I'm Still Standing: From Captive U.S. Soldier to Free Citizen – My Journey Home" by Shoshana Johnson.

And on May 21, they will discuss the novel "Nostalgia" by Dennis McFarland.

"It is a privilege to be one of the three Maryland library systems involved with this program," Mary Hastler, CEO of the Harford County Public Library, said. "Providing opportunities for veterans and other residents to enrich their lives through the reading and discussion of literature is an important part of what Harford County Public Library does for the community."

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