Council offering new international series


PORTLAND – “Let’s Talk About It,” the Maine Humanities Council’s free book discussion program offered through the state’s libraries in partnership with the Maine State Library, is launching several new series highlighting literature and life outside the United States.

The series, which will be added to the 35 already part of the program, were created in response to requests from librarians for additional programs focusing on other countries and cultures.

The new series include the recently revised “So Near and So Far: An Exploration of Cuban Literature,” and the three-part Middle East lecture and discussion program, “Behind the Headlines: An Introduction to the Middle East,” beginning in May.

Future offerings will feature Japanese and Caribbean literature, as well as a series built around the theme of growing up in a foreign culture.

Adopted by the council in 2004, “So Near and So Far: An Exploration of Cuban Literature” originated in the fall of 2003 as a grant-funded discussion program created by Brunswick-based scholars Pilar Tirado and Genie Wheelwright.

The series includes four novels and a book of short stories, all of which represent perspectives on Cuba from those living there.

In response to requests from Maine libraries for a series focusing on the Middle East, beginning in May the council will offer “Behind the Headlines: An Introduction to the Middle East.”

Mahmud Faksh, a Middle East expert and professor of political science at the University of Southern Maine who helped develop the program, will also facilitate some of the discussions.

The series will use the recently published anthology, “The Contemporary Middle East,” as a central text. A collection of articles written by leading scholars, observers and policy analysts on an array of topical Middle Eastern issues and crises, the book focuses on key countries and issues such as Israel and Palestine, Iran and Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the forces of nationalism and Islamism, and U.S. involvement and foreign policy in the region.

Each session will begin with a 45-minute lecture/presentation by the facilitator and will continue with facilitated discussions running for an hour and a quarter. More information can be found at

Future international “Let’s Talk About It” series will be announced in early summer. Let’s Talk About It” is made possible through support from the Belvedere Fund of the Maine Community Foundation.