Library's fall TALK series to explore death and dying

The Newton Kansan
The Kansan

This fall, Newton Public Library offers “Dearly Beloved,” a three-part TALK (Talk About Literature in Kansas) book discussion series exploring death and dying.

Society admonishes us to live now, be in the moment, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. This conveniently allows us not to think about our own end. Although “death and dying” are uncomfortable topics, the three books in the NPL series take on this taboo subject from a variety of perspectives.

Members of the public are invited to participate in any or all of these free events. Thanks to a grant from Humanities Kansas, each will be led by a special guest.

Copies of the selected books are now available for borrowing. Ask at the public service desk, email or call 316-283-2890.

TALK discussions will be held online and via telephone using Zoom web conferencing. For details, visit, or contact the library.

• 7 p.m. Sept. 30: “Being Mortal,” by Atul Gawande. Discussion leader: Dennis Etzel Jr., instructor of English at Washburn University and host of the Top City Poetry Reading Series in Topeka.

Our culture idealizes youth. Nearly all of us are so busy trying to look, act or feel younger that we ignore the fact of our aging. “Being Mortal” offers a brutally honest truth: We will all some day die. How we age and how we die are the subject of the book. Gawande writes compassionately and engagingly about this sensitive topic. He argues that our medicalization of aging and dying merely prolongs life without regard to whether or not it is enjoyable.

• 7 p.m. Oct. 28: “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” by Roz Chast. Discussion leader: Miranda Ericsson, Readers Librarian for the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.

Chast’s memoir discusses the emotional rollercoaster of caring for aging parents without shying away from the gritty reality. How and when to help? How much, how often? When to downsize, what to do with all the stuff? How will the extended care be paid for? She takes on this tough topic in a lighthearted manner and in an unconventional way — through drawing.

• 7 p.m. Nov. 16: “Medicine Walk,” by Richard Wagamese. Discussion leader: Kevin Rabas, associate professor of English at Emporia State University and the 2017-18 Poet Laureate of Kansas.

“So far it’s all been stories,” remarks Franklin Starlight. “It’s all we are in the end, our stories,” replies his companion. Wagamese, widely considered one of Canada’s best novelists, writes about redemption, reconciliation, and the healing process in this rich novel filled with lush landscape. Sixteen-year-old Franklin agrees to take his estranged father to the back country of British Columbia to die the “warrior way” and along the way receives the stories his father must tell.

The Kansan