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English Doctoral Students Form Partnership with Local Libraries

Some IUP doctoral students are partnering with the Homer-Center Public Library and Burrell Township Library in Black Lick to offer a postcolonial studies community-library group called Community Connections.

The group’s next meeting will be October 24, 2010, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Homer-Center Public Library, 6 Main Street, Homer City. The focus of the program will be a discussion of the book and film Persepolis, the coming-of-age story of an outspoken Iranian girl growing up during the Islamic Revolution. A discussion will follow the showing of the film.

Community Connections is free and open to the community.

Tracy J. Lassiter, of Homer City, an English Department doctoral student specializing in postcolonial literature and criticism, is the founder of Community Connections. The group includes several IUP students pursuing doctoral degrees in Literature and Criticism and in Composition and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

“Making these connections with the local residents is really vital to debunking myths and misunderstanding and to forging good global-neighbor relations,” Lassiter said. “I hope we can make new friends, too.”

Lassiter has worked closely with Judy Palaski, president of the Homer-Center Public Library board of directors and founder of the Book Ends Club, to develop Community Connections.

Palaski said the library hopes to build on what the book club has been doing since its founding, “reading thought-provoking books and having interesting discussions of those books with interesting people.”

“Joining with the IUP students brings another element to our discussion that allows us to hear viewpoints from people of other faiths, colors, education, and life experiences,” Palaski said. “And, joining with the IUP students will also lead us to books that will help us understand people and places that are so frequently in the news. The movies are just another element to add to the discussions.”

The first session of the series on September 19 featured screening and discussion of the film Binta and the Great Idea, which offers a view of western culture from the perspective of people living in a lesser-developed nation—in this case, Senegal.

“Students in postcolonial literature are profoundly aware of past and present abuse of power by the West, (but) people don’t always feel comfortable having frank discussions about this history,” Dr. Susan Comfort, associate professor of English and advisor to the doctoral students participating in the series, said. “Nevertheless, it’s important to have these discussions because this knowledge can add invaluable insight into public dialogue about current global economic and political challenges.

“The students are really doing stellar work extending the discussion into a community forum.”

The project has received financial support from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, in addition to the Homer-Center and Burrell Township libraries.

For more information about the project, contact Lassiter at t.j.lassiter@iup.edu, or Palaski at jlets2003@yahoo.com.