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Pulitzer Book Club Inclusion Guide


"The Overstory" by Richard Powers



• Billy Porter first openly gay Black man to win Emmy for drama series lead actor
• Teen activist Greta Thunberg arrives in NYC after emissions-free voyage across the Atlantic



Richard Powers left his Stanford teaching gig to live among the trees, plants and wildlife of the Smoky Mountains. Powers wanted “to treat trees as persons in their own dramatic narrative.”


Patty Rappazzo, West Wardsboro, VT, Tree hugger, book hugger

Featured Reader

There comes a moment when passion compels activism. The courage to stand up for injustice and danger unites the characters in these seemingly disconnected stories.”
“By reading this novel about individuals who risk their lives to save the forest, inclusion of diverse groups around us seems very simple in comparison. No activism is required to accept our neighbors. Yet sometimes, more is required of us. Would I have the courage to demonstrate as these characters do? Could I endure the stress and repercussions of being part of a resistance movement? Maybe I do not see myself as a political activist. But I CAN and will continue to voice my opinions, vote for people who embrace inclusion, and raise my children to value diversity and fairness. “Living in Vermont and Maine makes it easy to appreciate trees. A few years ago, I won a book in a fundraising raffle to “Save the Elms.” My family and I ignorantly joked about The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by German forester, Peter Wohlleben. Trees talking to each other? Bah! When I read The Overstory, I wondered if Richard Powers had consulted Wohlleben for the character of Patricia Westerford, the plant researcher who was ostracized for her views. We shamefully banish people we don’t agree with! We shut out and mock views we cannot understand. Yet Westerford eventually connects with others who will validate her ideas. Powers’ novel is about conservation and naturalism, for sure, yet from a wider lens, it is about acceptance and, primarily, activism. Movements like Black Lives Matter operate on the same principals of ethical responsibility. Like the characters in this novel, they are compelled to act.”

Patty’s Inclusive Cause: The Maine Coast Heritage Trust.


Tree lover/eco activist stories converge; planet's destiny at stake


Couple lives atop a giant redwood for a year to protect it; helicopter arrives to destroy Mimas, the majestic 300-foot-tall tree.


Ecofiction. Non-humans – trees – are central characters.


Redwood-sized book at 512-pages or 20 CDs/23 hours.


Connect. Survival and happiness depend on mutual respect of each other and our shared surroundings.


Most diverse cast of characters in any Pulitzer fiction winner becomes an interconnected, interdependent community, like our planet’s natural world.


Glean what you serve. Avoid poison mushrooms; you have much to discuss and do. If you are hundreds of feet up a redwood tree and hungry, look for huckleberries and little pools of fish.


“Your kind never sees us whole. You miss the half of it, and more. There’s always as much belowground as above. That’s the trouble with people, their root problem.”


Tree house or under a tree.


The book makes the point that trees and humans share a quarter of their genes. How are you similar to a tree? What characteristics of trees described in the novel should humans emulate to create an inclusive society?

How did the diversity of the characters in the novel affect your response to the story and the book’s message?

Is there a way to harness Mimi’s staring therapy to foster inclusion?

Discuss how/when/why protests capture media attention based on the novel and RL (real life).

Relative to Overstory characters, how far are you willing to go to create an interconnected world?

Do reading, multiplayer games like Neelay’s Mastery, and spending time in nature influence brain development and/or inclusive thinking?

If trees can talk to each other and protect each other, warn each other, defend each other, why can’t humans?


Plant trees in a community that needs them. Participate in an environmental or climate protest. Plan a state or national park trip involving camping and fly fishing. Observe an ant colony. Choose your sentinel tree and snap its photograph on the 21st of each month.


No adapations yet.


“Bewilderment” (2021), “Generosity: An Enhancement” (2009), “Plowing the Dark” (2000), “The Gold Bug Variations” (1991)

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