In this novel we have the pleasure of meeting the Reverend John Ames of Gilead, Iowa. In the person of someone who is gentle, aware, loving, and at the same time troubled like the rest of us, Robinson crafts a story that is itself a spiritual practice. Ames's meditative voice is a powerful influence, guiding us to do what he is doing: pay attention to life. The book consistently and credibly models the better nature we all have the ability to access: kindness to our neighbor and a capacious definition of "neighbor"; transcendence of petty troubles in favor of service to the eternal.

Robinson's first novel, Housekeeping, was published in 1982 and won the PEN/Hemingway Award. Readers had to wait 23 years for Gilead, her second novel, which won a handful of awards including the Pulitzer. She followed Gilead with two more novels set in the same town, Home in 2008 and Lila in 2014. Though popularly known as a novelist, Robinson has published far more nonfiction than fiction, and her many books of essays are also award-winners. One of her most faithful readers, President Barack Obama, awarded her with the National Humanities Medal in 2012.

We look forward to sharing this book with you! In each of four emails, which you can schedule to receive at a pace that suits your needs, you will receive:

  • A summary of a portion of the book.
  • Commentary by Julia Davis.
  • Questions for reflection and practice.
  • An invitation to journal about what you're learning.

Your guide for this exploration is Julia (Julie) Davis, who was a 2018 - 2019 fellow with The Practicing Democracy Project. Julia holds an M.A. and C.Phil. in English and American Literatures and Cultures from Brown University and a B.A. in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara. When she created this program, she was pursuing her Master of Divinity at Claremont School of Theology with a focus on Interfaith Chaplaincy. Her interest in chaplaincy grew out of her 17 years experience teaching American literature at the college and high school level. Julia is passionate about the intersection of spiritual practices and social change.

Gilead is one of twelve books included in the We the People Book Club, an opportunity to strengthen your vision of democracy by contemplating America's past and possibilities as presented by classic and contemporary literary voices. You may also be interested in the other books in this series, which are listed on the book club's webpage.

(4 CEHs for chaplains available.)

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