New webinar series highlights diversity in books

Joshua La Gorio, Contributing writer

Out of a love for books and their authors, Lynn Domina, head of the English department, is spearheading a new monthly webinar series, “Let’s Talk Books at NMU,” every third Friday of the month, with the next program being held on Feb. 18.

During one of these programs, after a 30-40 minute presentation from the authors about the book, students in the audience can ask questions in the Zoom chat, said Domina, while she hosts and facilitates the stream. The programs are also recorded and saved to YouTube for anyone to see if they missed it or wanted to watch it again.

“When COVID shut us all down at the beginning I was searching around the web for things and people were sending me things that I could see,” said Domina. “I was enjoying [webinars] and listening to all these different talks, and I thought I should do something like that – that would be kind of fun.”

For Domina, making her webinars themed around books and authors was an easy decision. 

“It’s almost a compulsion,” said Domina. “I’m always reading at least one if not two or three books – on a wide variety of topics.”

After a year of thinking about it, she consulted Robert Winn, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences during the Fall 2021 semester and decided January would be a good time to start.

There is a presentation planned every month up to April, with Domina hoping to carry on the idea for a few years and covering broad topics. She invites guests based on her own interest but encourages suggestions from others while searching for topics that are relevant to the university.

“I’m hoping the topics will be broadly interesting. If someone’s not necessarily interested in a topic one month, they’ll be very interested in the topic the next month,” said Domina. “In terms of students, they can have access to faculty members at other universities who are focused on something from a different angle perhaps, or compliment what we do at NMU.”

Domina cited January’s guest as an example. Larry Nesper was the first author featured in “Let’s Talk Books at NMU” on Friday, Jan. 21 with his book “Our Relations… The Mixed Bloods: Indigenous Transformation and Dispossession in the Western Great Lakes.” 

He has written about Native American treaties and dealings with Anishinaabe people and she thought that would fit with NMU’s strong Native American studies program. Domina also mentioned the guest for February, Gail Y. Okawa and her book “Remembering Our Grandfather’s Exile: US Imprisonment of Hawai‘i’s Japanese in World War II,” would also have her presentation collaborate with NMU’s Diversity Common Reader Program. The DCRP is an annual program that encourages diversity, inclusion and justice based on a chosen book. This semester’s DCRP book, “We Hereby Refuse,” similarly deals with Japanese American internment camps.

The other two authors announced are Melissa Homestead and her book “The Only Wonderful Things: The Creative Partnership of Willa Cather and Edith Lewis” on March 18, and Katie Booth, author of “The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness” on April 15.

After recording, the presentations can be found on Domina’s YouTube channel, Lynn Domina. Presentations will be through a link on Zoom, using the password 377912.

“Even though we’re in a very stressful period, we still have to make time to do the things that are really energizing for us. I’m hoping this will be one of those things,” Domina said.