2008 Common Reader
The Secrets of a Fire King, Kim Edwards
Kim Edwards’ first collection of stories, The Secrets of a Fire King, has been selected as the 2007–2008 common reader. The goal of the common reader is to celebrate the works of our featured speakers, to provide a common text for our own reading and enjoyment, and to establish a focus for chapter activities fostering literacy and the pleasures of reading in our local communities. Sigma Tau Delta is offering $150 for the best convention presentation (in any genre) featuring the common reader.
Kevin Stemmler, Clarion University
2007 - 08 Service Committee Chair
Sigma Tau Delta’s Service Committee is pleased to announce this year’s selection for the society’s common reader. We have selected a text by one of this year’s convention speakers, Kim Edwards. Kim Edwards is a resident of Kentucky, but her stories draw on settings from around the world. While Kim Edwards made literary history with the success of her second book, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, we have selected the newly re-issued collection of short stories The Secrets of a Fire King because it provides many opportunities for group discussions and literacy inspired service projects.
I imagine all readers turn to books in order to be moved. For me, the sign of a good book is that it challenges me to think about familiar topics in a new way. My opinions on a subject are rarely swayed by verbal discussions; however, an insight in a book can forever change my mind. I place more emphasis on the written word because I believe it has more power in its permanence. Furthermore, I believe that books have the power to change the world and that those of us who love books have been called to carry forth that charge. Sometimes books prompt us to take action and we engage in projects that are inspired by reading, such as participating in literacy training, undertaking book drives for local libraries, or living our lives according to the humane standards we find in books. Some of my students roll their eyes when I tell them this, but that’s a response I am willing to shoulder, the chalice I am willing to carry through a throng of foes. I have deliberately paraphrased James Joyce here because I personally see Edwards’ work on a par with Dubliners and Alice Munro’s The Moons of Jupiter. These are collections of stories that have the potential to teach any aspiring writer the essential elements of the craft.
The Secrets of a Fire King provides a variety of intellectual and moral challenges for both the characters in the stories and for the readers. The stories allow us to examine the consequences of actions. The collection also provides various issues and topics for students to address in papers that may be presented at the annual Sigma Tau Delta Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. I would also remind you that there are opportunities for awards for essays that best address some aspect of the common reader.
The charge of Sigma Tau Delta’s Service Committee is to select a common reader that will be the focus of each chapter’s discussions and activities. We anticipate that chapters will be prompted by the content or ideas of the common reader to host discussions, to sponsor literary events on campus, or to react to a text through some type of community action. The Service Committee challenges you and your chapter to react to the text in meaningful and productive ways.