Pulitzer Book Club Inclusion Guide

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GET THE BOOK

"A Thousand Acres" by Jane Smiley

INCLUSION MILESTONES

1992

• LA Riots follow acquittal of four white LAPD officers in Rodney King beating
• Carol Moseley Braun is first African American woman senator

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AUTHOR INSPIRATIONS

Jane Smiley was an only child raised by her mother; her vegetarian father left when Jane was a baby. Smiley, who did not grow up on a farm, attended grad school and taught in Iowa. She advocates for farmers and has horses.

Featured Reader Wanted!

Featured Reader

– Share your key take-away about inclusion in this book in a sentence or two.
– Write a paragraph or two (up to 250 words) to describe your thoughts on exclusion/inclusion in the book, why you related or did not connect with the book, and why you think reading, inclusion and dialog about inclusion matter.
– Identify the name and website address of a cause you support with an inclusive mission.

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Father gives family farm and major emotional baggage to daughters

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Father says horrible things to his daughters – calls them whores and more – then storms out of the Iowa farmhouse and into a violent storm.

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Inspired by King Lear, the classic Shakespeare’s tragedy about the aging medieval king who tests the love of his three daughters prior to dividing his kingdom and going insane. Plot parallels don’t stop there.

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384 or 14+ listening hours

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"Don’t presume. Keeping up appearances is sometimes a strategy to hide big problems."

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White guys with literal farmer tans of English, German and Scandinavian descent struggle. Farm women make epic meals, scrub, take care of family members, large gardens and accounting, and pitch in with harvest. Church-going Lutheran community gossips and judges and is unaware of emotional well-being.

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It’s Tuesday so tonight you’re making pork chops cooked with tomatoes you canned, plus potatoes and three kinds of homemade broccoli and cauliflower pickles on the side. Must serve homemade pie. No substitutions or tardiness or there will be major dissatisfaction and/or resentment. Tabasco, carefully sequenced food consumption required for toxin-shedders. Do not yield to the temptation to gift jars of homemade hemlock liver sausage and sauerkraut as parting gift.

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“Are we friends? Have you had us over for a barbecue? Do you call me to chat from time to time? Do you solicit my advice on your problems? No, no, and no. I don’t want you coming out here for a purpose. I don’t want to be on your rounds.”

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While it’s tempting to schedule a Rendezvous at the dump near wild rosebushes with a hottie, meet your bookish pals in a farmhouse kitchen. Hang a Boar Boutique sign and a picture of Jimmy Carter, put on the weather channel for tornado monitoring and set up for a Million Dollar World Series of Monopoly.

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Describe the “caste” system in Zebulon County. Who were the outliers?
Why is keeping up appearances so important and such an effective, misleading false-front?
Why do people go to church and church social events?
How does society view farmers?
What is unsaid in the novel and the real world about pesticides, mental illness, and abuse?

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Breakfast at Perkins with your ex, then cultivate inner peace an organic farm. Ask for a divorce over lunch at Wendy’s. Go to the state fair and/or visit a pig farm. Dinner at a church supper; do not lose it there, however. Do all of this in one day with the stamina of a farmer. Extra credit if you do all of that in Iowa and fess up to a secret that has been holding you back.

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1997 “A Thousand Acres” film
Plenty of “King Lear” performances on You Tube
Several “King Lear” films as well as alternative film adaptations

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Breakfast at Perkins with your ex, then cultivate inner peace at an organic farm. Ask for a divorce over lunch at Wendy’s. Go to the state fair and/or visit a pig farm. Dinner at a church supper; do not lose it there, however. Do all of this in one day with the stamina of a farmer. Extra credit if you do all of that in Iowa and fess up to a secret that has been holding you back.