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Billiken Bookmarks: Books to Begin the New Year

Flannery Burke, Ph.D.
Flannery Burke, Ph.D. 

As the semester winds down and days grow colder, Saint Louis University's published authors have recommendations for great books to begin your New Year. In this occasional mini-series, SLU authors share their favorite reads for a winter's day with their fellow staff, faculty and student colleagues.

In this edition, Newslink reached out to Flannery Burke, Ph.D., advises reaching for a novel that might nestle next to The Age of Innocence on your shelf.



The Groom to Have Been by Saher Alam (Spiegler & Grau, 2008)

About the book

The book follows a Muslim-Canadian man working in New York City who, following September 11, pursues a traditional arranged marriage.  The plot arc is the same as that of The Age of Innocence, and the books are great to read side by side.  Together, they show how much context matters to how we understand the stories we tell.

Reasons to read

History is storytelling, and I've learned to read fiction for my professional benefit as much as for pleasure.  The Groom to Have Been is a great story with compelling characters that brings the places it visits alive for its readers, all while delivering a message about the constraints that limit and nurture our connections with others.

Saher [the novel's author] and I have often spoken about the relationship between problems and stories.  Without problems, we can't have stories.  The Groom to Have Been describes a problem with a story, and that's the challenge historians pose for ourselves when we write too.

The SLU Connection

Alam teaches creative writing right here at SLU!  When I learned we would be colleagues, I ordered the book.  Saher told me I was the first person to ever tell her, "I downloaded your book today!"

SLU Author Bio
Flannery Burke, Ph.D., teaches the history of the American West and environmental history.  She is the author of two books, A Land Apart: The Southwest and the Nation in the Twentieth Century and From Greenwich Village to Taos.  Burke has a forthcoming article due out next year on the history of the natural childbirth movement in the 1970s United States, and is at work on a book titled Back East, which is about how people in the American West have imagined the eastern United States over the twentieth century.

'Billiken Bookmarks' is a mini-feature series that will appear with new reading recommendations from Saint Louis University authors and bibliophiles in the lead-up to the University's winter break. Recommendations for "Books to Begin the New Year" can be sent to Newslink until Dec. 20.