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Learning about ourselves and others through books: Book clubs in Fort Collins

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Azar Nafisi, in her bestselling memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran, says of her time reading books with her Iranian students, “I am amazed at how much we learned without noticing it. We were, to borrow from Nabokov, to experience how the ordinary pebble of ordinary life could be transformed into a jewel through the magic eye of fiction.”

It is always rewarding to read a good book, to find something in written language that speaks to us and our understanding of the world. But this experience is enhanced, especially for Nafisi, by sharing those discoveries in reading with friends. This experience is something that you cannot get just by reading a book on your own. You need to share your thoughts, your experience, with others.

Here in Fort Collins, there are many ways for you to share your love of books. Book clubs are a great way to get involved in both a book and your community, sharing the impact of a great work of literature with others.  Old Firehouse Books in Old Town gives you tons of opportunities to participate in book clubs, no matter what your taste in literature. The bookstore currently offers five book clubs, including a “Strange Worlds Book Club” for science fiction lovers, an “Open Book Club” if you want to learn the most classic and popular books of our time, and even the “Cooking the Books” book club, for those who would rather spend more time in the kitchen than curled up on the couch with a novel.

Want to put together your own book club? Not a problem. If you have a group already discussing books, or if you want to build up a small reading group, you can register your book club at Old Firehouse Books. Not only will the bookstore make sure that each book you study is available, each book will be discounted 20% to book club members. Not only can you get your new club organized, your members will be able to participate for a good price.

If you are looking for a more dynamic book club experience, you do not have to restrict yourself to just written pages. Starting this year, Lyric Cinema Café is holding a monthly book and movie club. This club will explore literary works, and the Lyric will show these books’ film adaptations on the fourth Tuesday of each month. This gives the reader a multi-dimensional view of one story, moving the experience of narrative beyond the page and into new visual mediums.

Whether you are part of a club organized by a bookstore or other organization, or if you just meet a few friends in your living room every once in a while, sharing a good book with others leads to an enhancement of the reading experience. Hearing the ideas of others, while at the same time finding out how universal written works can be, gives a whole new perspective to reading a book.

Azar Nafisi used literary works to bring together a group of women in post-revolutionary Iran. Through books, these women were able to discover something about themselves and their collective lives. Literature gave them a lens through which they could understand themselves. Through book clubs it is possible for us, in our own way, to come together. In sharing a book, we can share a collective experience that is both enlightening and memorable. Make sure to utilize some of the many resources our town has available to get involved in this unique reading experience.

How Peaches Bring us Together: Anticipating the Harvest Season in Fort Collins

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perfectly ripe peaches

Meandering through the farmer’s market on a lazy Saturday morning this past week, I stumbled upon a rare and always exciting find: peaches. Early in the summer they are difficult to find, so by August I had almost forgotten about them. But to see something again that you know is so good-in this case juicy and perfectly ripe peaches- you begin to wonder how you ever lived without it. I bought a ton of them, exclaiming their greatness to everyone around me as I paid, and continued on my way with a delightful snack in hand. As I continued to look around, I noticed many foods that I haven’t seen at the markets lately. The new abundance of squash, beets, and other new produce could only mean one thing- the harvest season has begun.

To many of us, autumn means school or breaking out our winter jackets, but there is a long tradition of harvest all around the world that we might not often think about. For example, in ancient Israel special offerings were made at Temples three times a year: first when seeds were planted, then when farmers reaped the first crops, and finally when the harvest was in full swing. Who knew that holidays such as Passover had some association with the harvest season? And while it seems logical to think of the sun when we think of crops (the sun does help produce grow, after all), long standing Chinese traditions rejoice in the harvest moon instead. Harvest moon celebrations occur in mid-August, when the moon is said to be at its brightest, for it is s symbol of abundance. There are so many different ways to think about the harvest season. How do we celebrate harvest in our own community, here in Fort Collins?

We are certainly fortunate in this city, where fresh produce is farmed nearby and delicious peaches are available as soon as they are picked. But the idea of harvest seems to go way beyond food. A great example of this is a Fort Collins based company called the Northern Colorado Food Incubator. The name suggests something very technical, and also very food-centered. However, browsing their website, I surprised at all the Food Incubator does for our community. They are dedicated to a “Living Economy,” which means that they “support independent community- and land-based businesses and advocate for a whole, resilient community and bio-region.” This mission statement says little about farmers specifically, but rather emphasizes encouraging independent and entrepreneurial local endeavors. I was also excited to see how much of their website was dedicated to local events and community building projects. I found out about that Lyric Cinema Cafe, a local independent movie theatre, is showing a series of films that highlight food and sustainability, and that author and food activist Gary Nabhan will be giving a free lecture at the Lincoln Center next week. In supporting local food-bases businesses, the Northern Colorado Food Incubator helps boost the Fort Collins economy, while at the same time engaging the public in fun and interesting ways. What first appeared to be a food-only business is actually affecting the entire community.

The Northern Colorado Food Incubator shows us what an impact the harvest has on our lives here in Fort Collins. When you think about it, this is true for all cultures as well. The offerings at harvest time, or the celebration of the wondrous moon, are all activities that bring people together.

Homegrown Fort Collins

So as the harvest season comes to our city, think about how our community celebrates and what that celebration really means to you. At Beet Street, we want to help commemorate not just the harvest but its effects on Fort Collins. Beginning September 25th, Beet Street is bringing Homegrown Fort Collins to our community. Homegrown Fort Collins celebrates the harvest season and its contribution to community and local culture. Beet Street will be featuring events ranging from Downtown Tasting Tours, to VIP chef’s tours of the local farmers’ markets, to cooking competitions and demos (all using local produce). Bringing people together is a cornerstone of the Fort Collins lifestyle. Enjoying good food with friends and family while engaging in the unique elements of our community is one of the things that make living in northern Colorado so special.

To keep on top of Homegrown Fort Collins updates follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

The Many Meanings of Home

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If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any farther than my own backyard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.

Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz

Our language tells us a lot about the complexity of how we construct meanings of home. Dictionaries provide long entries for the word “home,” which can be used as a noun, adverb, adjective and even as a verb.  We talk and think about home towns, home states and home countries since “home is where the heart is,” and “there’s no place like home.” Home base is where we are stationed and from where a mission starts and ends. In games like baseball, home is a rubber slab that we dodge towards, avoiding being tagged “out.Homing pigeons can return home by accurately finding a starting point from a long distance, and when we come to a deeper understanding we say a “point has been driven home.” Most of us would agree that a mere dwelling or house does not define home, although we interchange the words. Home is not always where you live, it is also a safe space, where you have the right to be—without question.

Decades of immigrants to the United States have created mythic narratives about finding home in America in numerous media forms. The archetypal hero quest is replayed in movie homecoming after homecoming. One of the best loved versions is The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy begins her journey by dreaming of distant lands, “somewhere over the rainbow.” When Dorothy loses her home (through an overwhelming tornado that she didn’t see coming) she journeys to a land that mirrors her home. Dorothy loses her home, and her understanding of her place in the world, only to realize that she had found it all along!

In the United States, at the time that The Wizard of Oz was made, the family farm had come to embody the ideal of home, and Americans were literally losing their homes. The Great Depression destroyed financial institutions, wiped out family fortunes, shattered the American Dream of family homesteads, and forced millions of Americans to become homeless. Currently, many Americans face similar conditions. Can we draw comfort by thinking about how to salvage our dreams together?

In The Hero and the Perennial Journey Home in American Film, Susan Mackey argues that the purpose of the hero quest is not limited to the discovery of a holy grail. It is also about finding oneself and finding a home in the universe. This ultimate understanding of home simultaneously includes the hero’s literal home at the start, as well as the personal growth he or she experiences during the journey back. Mackey-Kallis shows that an outward journey into the world of action and events is what propels the hero towards a journey inward. The journey outward is what creates an interior journey of growth and ultimately allows the hero to find and define home and then share (with the culture at large). Dorothy can’t wait to get back and tell her family about what she has learned!

This month in Fort Collins, we have the opportunity to really think about how we define home by attending Finding Home: Sharing the Collective Journey of Immigration events and discussions. Whether you have called the United States home for generations, or for a shorter time, current events and economics ask us to all really think about living together. The journey is not always easy, and we won’t always agree. But, if we are brave enough to question our personal definitions of home, we can collectively shape our future home. All of us long for an environment of affection and security—and we can embark on epic journeys of self discovery without leaving Fort Collins!

The next two weeks include opportunities to attend Anon(ymous) at the OpenStage Theatre & Company or the open house series at the Museo de las Tres Colonias which hosts Dr Norberto Valdez of CSU on April 21 and Toni Natale and Robert Lujan on April 28. Both of these events have been running through the month of April. Then this week, on Tuesday, April 14, Bas Bleu presents Immigration Tales: El Latino Experiencia followed by a showing of the Milagro Beanfield War on Wednesday April 15, at the Lyric Cinema Cafe. The weekend opens with Impact Dance’s presentation of BORDER/Lines happening on Friday and Saturday evenings and then also on Saturday, the Fort Collins Museum presents their Archival Workshop: The Memory Project where you can reserve a spot to create a digital album of your own stories for your family and friends!

Next week brings the first of our thought leader speakers — Frank Sharry will be at the Lincoln Center on Tuesday April 21 to engage us all in some earnest discussions of the controversial issues around immigration reform and then the weekend sees Dan Zanes entertaining us all on Sunday April 26 with his show Nueva York!

There’s more still to come — Check out the beetstreet calendar for all the details, and I’ll see you in our neighborhood!

Thank you Dom Dada and Barabeke for the images!

I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.

Maya Angelou, American Poet

Deborah-Eve Lombard