On Monday Stephen G. Bloom, author of Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America, spoke at the Chester Fritz Auditorium and Marci and I were there. The night was marred only by the incessant chatter of a girl parked behind a video camera about 15 feet away and within earshot of our entire section of the auditorium, possibly a communications student assigned to cover the event. Oh, mother, my sweet usher, where were you on Monday!!!
As part of the Great Conversations series in honor of the University of North Dakota's 125th anniversary, Bloom appeared on stage in an interview style (much like Inside the Actor's Studio, as it was compared earlier today!). Bloom discussed his work (5 years of weekends researching and interviewing folks in Postville, Iowa) and some of his revelations. He also addressed some of the recent controversy with the raid that resulted in the largest arrest of undocumented workers in American history.
The book of Postville focuses on fundamental changes confronting a small, predominately Lutheran, Iowa town after 150 Lubavitcher Jews from Brooklyn settle there, buy the local slaughterhouse, and become the community's new power brokers.
Read a proper review of the book here.
Bloom stated he has no interest in writing a sequel or continuing his work in Postville. That's someone else's job now. For him that chapter is done. He talked about what it was like as a Jewish man to move with his family from San Francisco to a relatively small city in Iowa. He explained, "We're never going to become Iowans, but Iowa has become our home." He explored the notion of truth and accuracy in writing. Bloom did emphasize how he sees himself as a writer who gives a voice to those without a voice and he believes in shining a flashlight in the dark places.
Bloom's latest book (due out in Fall 2009), Tears of a Mermaid, explores the journey a pearl makes from oyster to necklace in the global assembly line and its impact in history. He currently teaches at the University of Iowa.
Since I'd not planned to attend, I'd not read the book. This Great Conversations event was merely a pleasant surprise and now I'm intrigued even more. As an added bonus Marci and I met up with a trio of gals she knew who were meeting at a coffee shop after as a book club focusing on the book. It was such a treat to crash their party and to hear their insights into the book, and now I may even have a new pal to go to Neil Diamond with next month! Woo Hoo!