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BookTalk April 2010
BookTalk: “The Saffron Kitchen” sparked a great discussion for Elizabeth Dunn’s book group.
"The Saffron Kitchen" by Yasmin Crowther sparked a great discussion for Elizabeth Dunn's book group. What would your book group recommend? Write to editor@womenspress.com.

Elizabeth Dunn's book group has been meeting monthly for 25 years since some of the members were students together at Macalester College. It's a casual, low-key group.

Q. What books have you recently read?

A. "A Far Cry from Kensington" by Muriel Spark, "The Wordy Shipmates" by Sarah Vowell, and "Delta Wedding" by Eudora Welty.

Q. What book sparked a great discussion? Why?

A. "The Saffron Kitchen" by Yasmin Crowther because of Maryam's "stuck" status. Born in Iran, Maryam lives in England. She was never fully at home in England, never embraced life with her British husband. She fiercely longed for her home country despite her experiences in Iran. We talked about how what society accepts as family pride or protectiveness can actually be profoundly cruel, vindictive and scarring; how we can survive even the worst things that happen to us and the power that place has over so many of us. A place can cast a spell over us that does not let go.

Q. What book would you recommend? Why?

A. We all enjoyed tremendously and would recommend "The Latehomecomer" by Kao Kalia Yang. This young Minnesota author has a distinctive voice! She writes about the power of family love and support to carry one through incredible hardship and change. She writes about the resilience of the human spirit, the hidden strengths and stories behind the eyes of the old, the poor and the immigrant. Yang's grandmother was an old, tiny, non-English-speaking woman with only one tooth, who could be easily dismissed by outsiders, but to Yang she was a hero.

Q. What questions lead to deeper discussions?

A. In our discussions we talk about the whys-why did a character do x and not y or why did the author make the choices she or he made? Some of the best discussions involve our different takes on the correctness or morality of choices the characters have made.

Q. What traditions does your book group have?

A. When a group member's daughter reached menses we wanted to honor her with joy. We'd read about the fact that unlike some cultures, our culture has no ritual or celebration in honor of this change. As each girl had her first period, she was invited by her mother to attend the book club as a guest and choose the book we read for that meeting.

-Norma Smith Olson

Tell us about your book group. What would your book group recommend? Write to editor@womenspress.com.


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