Mennonite In a Little Black Dress

Tonight I led a book discussion at the Wisconsin Association of Public Librarian’s Spring Conference on Mennonite In a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen.  It is always a gas to lead a discussion with my fellow librarians as it is so easy.

We began the discussion by debating the relative merits of biography vs. memoir.  We also discussed which works best in a book discussion.

We then covered the controversy about the veracity of the authors of memoirs, dealing with the issue of whether truth matters when you want the book to be discussable.  Maybe a little lie is going to make the book a better read or possibly just give you another thing to talk about.

Lastly, we actually discussed the book.  This book could be initially dismissed as a humorous confession but proves to be much more as the revelation of the central facts come slowly and the thematic development of one of the major issues (the relationship between the author and her husband of fifteen yeas) starts out funny and ends up philosophically melancholy.

Entertaining it was and the librarians who attended the session stayed after the scheduled end time which is always a positive sign.  But then you know those smarty pants librarians–you just cannot get them to stop talking.



About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

2 Comments on "Mennonite In a Little Black Dress"

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  1.' CarolK says:

    Our book group recently read a memoir by Alan Alda. The memoir vs. biography question arose. Our group felt memoir left you wanting more and did not give a full picture of the person. This was not necessarily a bad thing. What did your group decide works better in a book discussion?

  2. gary warren niebuhr says:

    We felt that memoirs are easy because they are often not as scholarly as a biography which carries the weight of trying to cover the person’s entire life as your group noted in its comments. If your groups is willing to tackle them, a great biography can be wonderful. Some groups want discussion-lite and we thought memoirs works for them.

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