Image: Study for Gassed Soldiers, John Singer Sargent, 1918, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons
Each November 11, the United States of America honors its Veterans through parades and ceremonies and, for many, a day of rest. We recognize our brothers and sisters, friends and relatives for their sacrifices, making public what we hold in our hearts throughout the year.
This Veterans Day, we at Books@Work are proud to announce that, in partnership with Ohio Humanities and a few generous individual donors, we have embarked on a community program at the Wade Park campus of the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. There, we are working in the Domiciliary, with Veterans who reside within the center. These are men and women who have overcome many hardships, and they are using literary discussions to stretch their minds, to explore human themes and approach sensitive issues on their own terms and in their own time. For the next four months, Veterans will participate in guided literary discussions with faculty members from Case Western University and Baldwin Wallace University. They are already reading stories by John Steinbeck, Gabriel García Márquez, Ursula LeGuin, and Jorge Luis Borges.
The program has only just begun, but we are nonetheless invigorated by what we are hearing from faculty and participants. “We got through many layers of the story,” a professor said after one session. “They take apart the text and bring multiple interpretations. They enjoy unpacking the story and really want to wrestle with what it all means.” For one short story, Veterans were so enthusiastic they found themselves researching names and symbols before and after their discussion.
The most thrilling testaments come from the veterans themselves. The professor, one Veteran said, “was energetic, excited and open-minded. She made us feel like her students in her university class.” He continued, “You’ve created a marvelous and exciting opportunity for us to engage our minds, and in ways that most of us haven’t for quite some time. It was awesome to see and feel the critical thinking being done, and to see the creative juices flow!”
Our Veterans are smart, engaged, thoughtful people, and we are pleased and grateful to be working with them – their enthusiasm is contagious and inspiring. We are equally grateful to Ohio Humanities and several individual donors, without whose generosity this program would not be possible.