Narrative Medicine Book Club: Passing, Following up on Week 4

Derek: This description of Clare makes me appreciate even more her power of presence and sense of agency. Even though passing for white was her survival tactic, it hinges on her social capital as well. The paradox of her being among them yet “someone apart” captures her duality perfectly.  


Carmen: This passage captured me as well. It, like many other passages in this work, alludes to a passing of a different nature, outside of color, and points to a “passing” of her performative personality, one who appears engaged but is not. I wonder if she can articulate who she really is or accept and engage with her multiple identities – of her skin and her mind.

For this final week (Week 5), May 10th-15th, we’re finishing the book with the Finale!

We look forward to seeing you all on Zoom this Saturday at 11:00 a.m. EDT. We will be having our final live discussion of the book, including our thoughts on the final pages and the book as a whole! 

If you don’t already have your copy, books can be purchased from the publisher, direct from your local indie bookstore, or through indiebound.org or bookshop.org. If you want to join in the book club discussion, you can respond here or on social media using #NMBookClub.


Narrative Medicine Book Club: Passing, Week 3

Derek: A quandry, a dilemma, a Catch-22 — Irene seems to be caught in a swirl where standing up for her race could lead to the downfall of Clare and their mysterious bond.


Carmen: And yet she does protect Clare – She demonstrates a fierce loyalty to a principle to protect or ‘side’ with one’s race and it forces her to choose a person (of her own race), of whom she clearly disapproves and struggles with her resentment over it. Clare cares nothing for the race, “she only belongs to it.” That’s got to hurt…or at least make her angry.

For Week 4 next week, May 2nd-9th, we’re reading Part 2 Chapters 3 and 4!

If you don’t already have your copy, books can be purchased from the publisher, direct from your local indie bookstore, or through indiebound.org or bookshop.org. If you want to join in the book club discussion, you can respond here or on social media using #NMBookClub.


Narrative Medicine Book Club: Passing, Following up on Week 2

Carmen: I was moved/disturbed by the pathologizing of blackness in Chapter 3 as Clare, Irene, and Gertrude talked about pregnancy – “It’s awful the way it skips a generation and then pops out…nobody wants a black child.” A little later on in the chapter “Clare began to talk, steering carefully away from anything that might lead toward race or other thorny subjects. It was the most brilliant exhibition of conversational weightlifting that Irene had ever seen.” Chapter 4 offers additional weight that has the potential to crush them all. I considered the weight of internalized racism, the self-loathing, secrets, and the emotional weight for all these women reconciling race, and navigating the “norms” they have created for themselves. The weight of these exchanges felt very contemporary.


Derek: “Conversational weightlifting” — so vividly accurate! When John Bellew joins the women (like a wrecking ball), I tracked with Irene who “thought, unbelievable and astonishing that four people could sit so unruffled, so ostensibly friendly, while they were in reality seething with anger, mortification, shame. But no, on second thought, she was forced to amend her opinion. John Bellew, most certainly, was as undisturbed within as without. So, perhaps, was Gertrude Martin.” This revisited recognition created for me an image of Irene inextricably linking the racist message to its messenger.

For this week (Week 3), April 25th-May 1st, we’re reading Part 2 Chapters 1 and 2!

If you don’t already have your copy, books can be purchased from the publisher, direct from your local indie bookstore, or through indiebound.org or bookshop.org. If you want to join in the book club discussion, you can respond here or on social media using #NMBookClub.


Narrative Medicine Book Club: Passing, Week 1

Derek: Irene seems sure of herself, but what does “through with” mean, really? So many chapters to go, and already we feel a burden of knowledge and experience that Irene carries, one that she seems unwilling to share with her father. 


Carmen: So far the vacillating curiosity and disdain that Irene has for Clare doesn’t have me convinced that she’s “through with” Clare Kendry, so I do too wonder what she means. I’m anxious to understand the curiosity that Irene has about Clare. Through Larson we learn Irene’s inner thoughts “It was as if the woman sitting on the other side of the table, a girl that she had known, who had done this rather dangerous and, to Irene Redfield, abhorrent thing successfully and had announced herself as well satisfied, had for her a fascination, strange and compelling.” I’m not sure Irene is ready to let go. For me, more breathless tension.


We look forward to seeing you all on Zoom this Saturday at 11:00 a.m. EDT. We will be discussing a close reading of Part 1, Chapters 1 and 2. 

For Week 2, April 18-24th, we’ll be reading Part 1 Chapters 3 and 4!

If you don’t already have your copy, books can be purchased from the publisher, direct from your local indie bookstore, or through indiebound.org or bookshop.org. If you want to join in the book club discussion, you can respond here or on social media using #NMBookClub.


Narrative Medicine Book Club: Passing by Nella Larsen, Welcome and Our Reading Schedule

Welcome to the first week of Narrative Medicine Book Club and our reading of Passing by Nella Larsen. We’re excited to begin reading with you! This week, we are starting off by announcing our anticipated reading schedule, and will officially commence next week.

We’ll be reading at a pace of two chapters a week, as follows:

  • Week 1 – April 11-17: Part 1 Chapters 1&2
  • Zoom Discussion: April 17th at 11AM EDT: Register Here!
  • Week 2 – April 18-24: Part 1 Chapters 3&4
  • Week 3 – April 25-May 1: Part 2 Chapters 1&2
  • Week 4 – May 2-9: Part 2 Chapters, 3&4
  • Week 5 – May 10-15: Finale
  • Zoom Discussion: May 15th at 11AM EDT: Register Here!

To get us kicked off into our reading next week, here are our preliminary thoughts on the first pages:

Derek: “The rooftop encounter between Irene and Clare — chance or fate? I felt tension in the knowing and the unknowing.”

Carmen: “For me, the tension was present from the opening sentence and didn’t let up. It seemed every moment in the present and those recounted from the past were capable of leaving me breathless.”

We look forward to diving into Part 1 Chapters 1 and 2 with you next week!

If you don’t already have your copy, books can be purchased from the publisher, direct from your local indie bookstore, or through indiebound.org or bookshop.org.

We hope that you are able to join us, and we look forward to reading along with you!


Narrative Medicine Book Club: Magic Mountain, Week 19

Week 19: Whew, what an ending! A bloody duel between Settembrini and Naphta, followed by the onset of World War I and the quick disassembly of the community we have been in for the duration. Then, in the final pages, a tour-de-force last scene depicting Castorp, our “simple fellow,” just one of thousands running through a landscape of exploding shells and fallen bodies. A satisfying feeling, to reach the end of a book and feel that the whole novel has been leading you to that last scene without your knowing it, and that the novel’s ending casts you back over the whole book. So much to say – I can’t wait to talk about this more with all of you tomorrow!

Join for our last zoom at 11 am Saturday, registration below! 

https://columbiacuimc.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAlfu-gpjIqHtHaXaxCJWHzj3LPLknFD_TW


Narrative Medicine Book Club: Magic Mountain, Week 18

Week 18: What a fascinating sequence in our next-to-last week! In this week’s chapter, “Highly Questionable,” we witness a séance, with the medium of a young Berghof patient named Ellen Brand. Her “spirit,” a “deceased, ethereal creature” named Holger who “speaks” through her, conjures for Castorp and a small group of others, after nearly two hours of writhing and sweating, the figure of Castorp’s cousin, Joachim. What a moment! We don’t totally know what happens for Castorp as he sees his cousin, gazing at him in “friendly silence” with “tenderness,” but Castorp, in response, whispers “‘Forgive me,'” though the text specifies that he whispers it to himself. Does he say this to excuse the fact that he then gets up to turn on the light and leave the room? Or is he saying this, instead, to Joachim? A very powerful, evocative, and unexpected scene. And so we are propelled forward to the end! Those who haven’t finished yet, how do you predict this will all end? 


For next week: Finish the book!! And join our LAST zoom meeting on Saturday (not Sunday!) October 3rd at 11 am! Register at narrativemedicine.blog/narrative-medicine-book-club


Narrative Medicine Book Club: Magic Mountain, Week 17

Week 17: The conclusion of the Peeperkorn story surprised me quite a bit. And Chauchat’s departure doesn’t even get its own paragraph?! In the wake of these losses Castorp descends into a full solitude, a “stupor,” where meaning and engagement is harder to find. Yet we end these pages with the introduction of a gramophone to the Berghof; Castorp falls in love with it quite literally (his obsession recalls when he first started reading the medical textbooks), and we get an examination of his favorite recordings, which bring him into deep relation with the world of art and feeling. “…An object created by the human spirit and intellect, which means a significant object, is ‘significant’ in that it points beyond itself, is an expression and exponent of a more universal spirit and intellect, of a whole world of feelings and ideas that have found a more or less perfect image of themselves in that object – by which the degree of its significance is measured. Moreover, love for such an object itself is equally ‘significant.'” I love reading Mann on art; hard not to read all of this as a reflection on the novel itself, as we come close to its end.


For next week: Read to “The Great Petulance.” 


narrative medicine book club: Magic Mountain, Week 16

Week 16: In the conclusion of this week’s pages we see Castorp seal a new bond with Peeperkorn, a kind of brotherhood forged in the mutual love for Chauchat. In the scene prior, of course, we see Castorp forge a similar bond with Chauchat, agreeing to “a friendship…for [Peeperkorn’s] sake,” and then sealing it with a kiss! I wonder if Castorp will get in trouble for any of this, perhaps leading to the solitude I assume he must be in by the end of the book. As we head into the final stretch, looking forward to what folks are predicting for a conclusion (no spoilers!) – I note that the narrator is ever more interesting, as the voice speaks to itself and to the readers in more directed, perhaps even more frustrated ways? Looking forward to talking more on Sunday! 


For next week: read to the section “Highly Questionable.” 


And join our zoom call on Sunday at 11am! https://narrativemedicine.blog/blog/narrative-medicine-book-club/ to register.


narrative medicine book club: Magic Mountain, Week 15

Week 15: Chauchat is back at the Berghof, and she has brought with her a very colorful character, wonderfully named Mynheer Peeperkorn (!). Aside from comic relief, I wonder what folks think Mann is up to with this character? Castorp and Chauchat share an interesting scene – there is clearly intimacy between them, though she discourages him from calling her by her first name – and then Peeperkorn arrives, and a raucous party ensues, the first I think we’ve seen this closely at the Berghof. Peeperkorn and Castorp talk about “vice” and “doomsday,” and Peeperkorn tries to get Castorp and Chauchat to kiss each other goodnight, to which Castorp refuses, an “act of insubordination” that amazes Peeperkorn. My interest is peaked! 


For next week: read to “Mynheer Peeperkorn (Conclusion)” in Chapter 7. 


Our next zoom call will be 9/13 at 11am! Click here to register: https://tinyurl.com/nmbc-09132020