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November Book Club meeting: "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle"

November is a month in which our thoughts turn to food.  But how many of us bother to think about where our food comes from and how it is produced?  And how many of us ponder how or even whether it's even possible to obtain healthy food in sustainable, responsible and environmentally conscious ways?  We will learn about these things by reading and discussing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver.

Hang on for the ride: with characteristic poetry and pluck, Barbara Kingsolver and her family sweep readers along on their journey away from the industrial-food pipeline to a rural life in which they vow to buy only food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Their good-humored search yields surprising discoveries about turkey sex life and overly zealous zucchini plants, en route to a food culture that's better for the neighborhood and also better on the table.

Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life, and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.

What does this book have to do with humanism?  Well, it touches upon many topics of interest to humanists, such as environmentalism, sustainability, community, family, evolution, helping others, anti-corporatism and empowering people.

Please join us for a delicious brunch and an interesting discussion of this fascinating book.

About Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver was born in 1955 in Annapolis, Maryland, and grew up in rural Kentucky. She counts among her most important early influences: the Bookmobile, a large family vegetable garden, the surrounding fields and woods, and parents who were tolerant of nature study but intolerant of TV. 

After high school graduation she left Kentucky to enter DePauw University on a piano scholarship. She transferred from the music school to the college of liberal arts because of her desire to study practically everything, and graduated with a degree in biology. She spent the late 1970's in Greece, France and England seeking her fortune, but had not found it by the time her work visa expired in 1979. She then moved to Tucson, Arizona, out of curiosity to see the American southwest, and eventually pursued graduate studies in evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona. After graduate school she worked as a scientific writer for the University of Arizona before becoming a freelance journalist. 

Kingsolver's short fiction and poetry began to be published during the mid-1980's, along with the articles she wrote regularly for regional and national periodicals. She wrote her first novel, The Bean Trees, entirely at night, in the abundant free time made available by chronic insomnia during pregnancy. Completed just before the birth of her first child, in March 1987, the novel was published by Harper Collins the following year with a modest first printing. Widespread critical acclaim and word-of-mouth support have kept the book continuously in print since then. The Bean Trees has now been adopted into the core curriculum of high school and college literature classes across the U.S., and has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

She has written eleven more books since then, including the novels Animal Dreams , Pigs in Heaven, The Poisonwood Bible, and Prodigal Summer ; a collection of short stories (Homeland ); poetry (Another America ); an oral history (Holding the Line ); two essay collections (High Tide in Tucson, Small Wonder ); a prose-poetry text accompanying the photography of Annie Griffiths Belt (Last Stand ); and most recently, her first full-length narrative non-fiction, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. She has contributed to dozens of literary anthologies, and her reviews and articles have appeared in most major U.S. newspapers and magazines. Her books have earned major literary awards at home and abroad, and in 2000 she received the National Humanities Medal, our nation's highest honor for service through the arts. 

In 1997 Barbara established the Bellwether Prize, awarded in even-numbered years to a first novel that exemplifies outstanding literary quality and a commitment to literature as a tool for social change.

Barbara is the mother of two daughters, Camille and Lily, and is married to Steven Hopp, a professor of environmental sciences. In 2004, after more than 25 years in Tucson, Arizona, Barbara left the southwest to return to her native terrain. She now lives with her family on a farm in southwestern Virginia where they raise free-range chickens, turkeys, Icelandic sheep, and an enormous vegetable garden.

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  • Wilfredo P.

    That's correct, Jack. It's a very important book for humanists, as it addresses topics very important to us, such as environmentalism, community, helping others, evolution and anti-corporatism. If you want to see the questions we used, check out the Files section of our web page. The questions will help with understanding and appreciating the book.

    December 3, 2013

  • Jack T.

    I'd hoped to attend. A, V, M is both a more significant contribution than most of us realize, and readable. Enjoy.

    November 23, 2013

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