Reading Groups

Los Altos Institute has two current reading programs being undertaken by three book clubs.

2018: Revolution: What Conditions Make Revolution Possible?

What is a revolution? When can we say that a society has changed so much so quickly that a revolution has taken place? What are the social and material conditions necessary to make a revolution possible? And what does it take for a revolution to institutionalize itself and prevent a counter-revolution?

This year’s Los Altos Reading Group will engage with these and other questions as we read about four very different revolutions from four distinct perspectives. We will begin with Piero Gleijses’ Shattered Hope, which documents Guatemala’s “ten years of spring” between 1944 and 1954, which ended with the first-ever CIA-orchestrated Latin American military coup. Written from a Marxist-informed academic perspective, the book includes self-critical firsthand accounts by those who orchestrated the revolution. This will be followed by John Reed’s classic eye-witness account of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, Ten Days that Shook the World, published ninety-nine years ago.

Of course, Marxists are not the only movement that stage revolutions. Liberals originally came to power through violent revolutions, in the US, France and Haiti. Richard Bushman’s analysis of how an essentially monarchist movement based on English common law traditions was seized by a revolutionary vanguard that favoured creating an independent liberal state gives us new perspectives on the American Revolution in King and People in Provincial Massachussetts. And we will conclude with Avengers of the New World, Laurent Du Bois’ synthetic narrative of the Haitian Revolution, the revolution that so terrified the world that it produced a level of international isolation and hostility, exceeding even that provoked by Lenin’s seizure of power.

 

 

As with our urban studies reading group, we will move through these fairly dense books a little more slowly than in a conventional book club, in a style more similar to a reading group. And the pace and content of the reading program will be adjusted based on the democratic wishes of the reading groups. As with the 2016 urban studies reading series, we will have both a Surrey and Vancouver group moving through the books and holding meetings at their own pace.

This group will meet on weeknights in a pub or restaurant, typically in a private room.

As per our 2016 and 2017 reading groups, discussions will be co-chaired by our president, Stuart Parker in both Vancouver and Surrey. The Vancouver co-chairs are Dan Jenneson and Michael Demers; our Surrey co-chair is Chris Green.

The Ursula K Le Guin Series
2018: Gender and Sexuality in Speculative Fiction

Following the success of its first year, the speculative fiction group has begun its 2018 season. This seems an auspicious year to engage with the possibilities for rethinking questions of gender and sexuality offered to us by speculative fiction. From the #metoo hashtag to controversies within feminism about the relationship between personal subjectivity and the body in defining gender, social movement politics is especially focused on these questions today.

Our first two books are Le Guin’s classic The Left Hand of Darkness and one of the first of the genre, Herland by Charlotte Perkins-Gillman. We will also look at the short stories of James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Bradley Sheldon), whose writing challenged the notion that authorial voice is always gendered: her identity was unknown for the first ten years of her career. Joanna Ross’s explicitly feminist science fiction novel, The Female Man,  examines four parallel universes in which gender roles are expressed in very different ways. We will interrogate the biological determinism of Sheri S. Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country, first published in 1988, and then examine the cultural value of gender, as found in Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, released 2013.  If the group has time, we will read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, currently enjoying a resurgence due to the popularity of the recent TV series based on the novel.

 

This group meets for salon-style meetings on weekend evenings and afternoons in members’ homes. If you would like to join, please contact us at info@losaltos.ca.