The Amerikahaus Literary Circle is a free English book club open to the public. Meetings (usually) take place in the Amerikahaus in Munich on the first Wednesday of each month.
The titles are nominated and voted upon by the members twice a year.
Meetings and Titles for April 2021 - December 2021
Wednesday, April 7, 2021 (6:00 P.M. - 7:30 P.M.)
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Pivoting from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a profoundly new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crises. Americans have built an empire on the idea of race, a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, ever threatened, increasingly imprisoned, and outright murdered.
Wednesday, May 5, 2021 (6:00 P.M. - 7:30 P.M.)
City of Girls by Elisabeth Gilbert
Acclaimed author of The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert sets her latest novel in the heart of Broadway—that is, Midtown Manhattan’s Theater District—during the 1940s. Narrated with sagacity and wit by an older woman recollecting the misadventures of her mid-century youth with both pleasure and regret (but mostly pleasure), City of Girls candidly explores the empowering themes of female sexuality and promiscuity against the telltale idiosyncrasies of true love.
Wednesday, June 2, 2021 (6:00 P.M. - 7:30 P.M.)
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
This classic by Willa Cather depicts a life lived simply and singly in the silence of the Southwest. In 1851, arriving to the new Territory of New Mexico, Father Jean Marie Latour comes to serve as vicar apostolic, where he encounters a vastness of hills and arroyos that is ostensibly now part of the U.S. but, really, far more Navajo, Hopi, and Mexican. Like Jerome of Stridon, Latour does God’s work in the desert—wherefrom Cather wrests a poetry now hailed as one of the best novels of the twentieth century.
Wednesday, July 7, 2021 (6:00 P.M. - 7:30 P.M.)
Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas
Funny in Farsi chronicles the adventures of the Dumas family, who, in 1972, leave Iran for California. Episodically, we witness the family reckon with the quirks of their adopted home in learning the language, in partaking of traditions, and, not least, in plumbing the curiosities of the culture—while watching Bob Hope, for example, Firoozeh’s parents guffaw uproariously, though they don’t get the jokes even in Farsi. This is a celebration of familial love amid the immigration experience that is beautifully told and quintessentially American.
Wednesday, August 4, 2021 (6:00 P.M. - 7:30 P.M.)
Grendel by John Gardner
The first and most terrifying monster in English literature, Grendel tells his own side of the story in this book that is frequently banned in the United States (yet a staple on college reading lists). This brilliant retelling of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf follows Grendel as he learns about how humans wage war. John Gardner, a medievalist, artfully seeds this postmodern novella with existential kernels of concern that include both the philosophical search for meaning amid a world of dubious good and the workings of language in a timeless tale whose power is redoubled by the echoes of intertextuality.
Wednesday, September 1, 2021 (6:00 P.M. - 7:30 P.M.)
A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
Melding wit with melancholy, Berlin’s art distils miracles from the gatherings of everyday women—whom, though lost, are also strong, clever, and, though fictive, utterly real. They embody the ennui of the wayward Christians and inveterate hitchhikers who populate the cafeterias and self-service laundries of the American Southwest, navigating their workaday worlds of jockeys, doctors, and switchboard operators, where they laugh, and they mourn, and they drink. Berlin remains a highly influential writer, and this remarkable collection from a master of the form is not to be missed.
Wednesday, October 6, 2021 (6:00 P.M. - 7:30 P.M.)
Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
Penned as sketches for The New Yorker while looking to get Lolita published, Pnin was later expanded into a novel that was nominated for the National Book Award for Fiction. The novel’s eponymous hero is, like Nabokov, exiled to the U.S., where he teaches Russian at the fictional Waindell College, which uncannily evokes Wellesley, where Nabokov taught. An inveterate punster, Nabokov might be toying with a homophone here—pain—in this celebrated metafictional response to Cervantes’ cartoonish treatment of Quixote, which Nabokov had infuriatingly read the year prior to starting Pnin.
Wednesday, November 3, 2021 (6:00 P.M. - 7:30 P.M.)
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore
Delving into the life of Wonder Woman's eccentric creator, psychologist William Moulton Marston, Jill Lepore, Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer, delineates the heroine’s feminist origins (from the warrior princesses of the Amazon to iconic suffragists like Emmeline Pankhurst) and inspiration in the women with whom Marston shared a bed—his wife and mistress. This riveting exploration into the history of American pop culture details insights into the twentieth-century struggle for women's rights and, thereby, the notable state of feminism today.
Wednesday, December 1, 2021 (6:00 P.M. - 7:30 P.M.)
The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
Toggling between past and present, The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence, a major figure in contemporary Canadian fiction, tells the story of ninety-year-old Hagar Currie Shipley. In the present day, Hagar struggles mightily in being relegated to a nursing home—for, age notwithstanding, her quiet life has been one full of rage. Approaching death, she retreats from the daily squabbling of her son and daughter-in-law to the fraught haven of reflection—where she relives her ill-advised marriage and remote home on the prairie—to bear witness finally to her own failures and the betrayals of others.
The Amerikahaus Literary Circle is sponsored by the Amerikahaus Verein and the Bavarian Center for Transatlantic Relations.