Pulitzer Book Club Inclusion Guide
"Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson
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Marilynne Robinson grew up in a devout Presbyterian household and occasionally pinch-hits the sermon for the pastor of her Iowa church. She’s a retired academic who moved to Iowa to teach at the Writer’s Workshop and earned a Ph.D. that involved a deep dive into metaphors.
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Featured Reader Wanted!
– 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.
Dying minister's letter to son about his Congregationalist extended family
John Ames Boughton tells John Ames about his the identify of his wife
Demonstrates the humanity and failings of three generations of midwestern Christian minsters via events in their personal lives that span Civil war to 1950s.
Short novel, 247 pages or 7 CDs; go slowly so content sinks in fully
Live your beliefs. Do more than preach about the right thing to do.
Racism, religious intolerance, ageism, class prejudice take on new meaning in the context of three generations of ministers. A Black church is burned; a minister in the pulpit calls for abolition with a gun in his belt. A minister’s son comes home from the war and does the unspeakable: he attends Quaker meeting. Years later that veteran can’t cope with the fact that his son is an atheist. Third-generation minister marries someone much younger and less educated and is processing the anger he feels toward his namesake who walks out on his poor pregnant girlfriend and, years later, reveals he’s married to a Black woman.
Members should bring a Presbyterian spread, including multiple casseroles, fruit salads, a “distinctly Presbyterian looking bean salad,” (whatever that is) as well as pie and cake. Minister guesses the provenance of each casserole. Spread should make you feel like someone just died.
“You can know a thing to death and be for all purposes ignorant of it.”
Church basement/meeting room or somebody’s living room where you can visualize a hospital bed in a nearby bedroom.
What’s to be learned about how the preacher reacts to locals who judged him for his marriage to a much younger, less educated woman? How does that minister reacts when his marriage is called a scandal by his namesake?
What do you know about U.S. anti-miscegenation laws that prohibited interracial marriage and interracial sexual relations? How recently could people be fired for marrying outside their race? How much has life changed for interracial couples and their families?
What role do ministers play in creating social justice in this novel and in the U.S. today?
Visit the town of Gilead in Southwest Iowa. Compose letters to your favorite youngster about your life as you take in the landscape between Des Moines and Omaha. Read about Iowa’s participation in the Civil War.
No update on film version of Gilead once planned to be directed by James Ivory.
The film “Republic of Gilead” is based on the Handmaid’s Tale, not Robinson’s novel.
Home (2008), Lila (2014), and Jack (2020) are novels by Robinson based on characters from Gilead.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is also set in Gilead.