FPU panel to discuss justice for Native women

  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/15/2021 3:16:32 PM

Franklin Pierce University is hosting an event next week to discuss a book focusing on sexual violence against indigenous women, thanks to a New Hampshire Humanities grant.

English professor Donna Decker said that the event, titled “Sexual Assault, Justice, and Tangled Jurisdiction in Louise Erdrich’s ‘The Round House’,” has been highly anticipated.

“It’ll primarily be a discussion about the book, the way that Louise Erdrich talks about rape, sexual assault, and justice – can there be justice for Native women? Those kinds of big questions,” said Decker. 

According to Decker, the novel centers on a Native woman who is sexually assaulted, but the story is told through the lens of her 13-year-old son as he tries to navigate the world around him. 

“So it’s a novel that takes up a really important and disturbing issue and it uses a compelling story to get there,” Decker said. “This novel is fabulous – I’ve taught it for years.”

The event will feature discussion from attendees and panelists, including two local indigenous women, Sherry Gould and Denise Altavater, and Carrie Baker, a professor from Smith College. Franklin Pierce professors will also be speaking, including Decker, Jessica Landis and Bob Goodby. 

Landis said that her students have responded well to the novel, and have handled its topics with “maturity and interest.” She said that she believes a good discussion will come out of it.

“I would love to hear various perspectives – I think there’s so much in this novel that can prompt discussion,” she said.

“It’s just exciting to get people talking about a well-written, timely, interesting novel, and get various voices,” Landis said.

Honors student Jenna Parent will be introducing the book and kicking off the event as work for her honors project, and said she hopes she’ll be able to lend a student perspective to the discussion.

“I’m excited, I really love the book, so I’m just really excited to be a part of it,” Parent said. She said she read the book over the summer, and now has the book assigned in two different classes. 

Parent added that although the subject matter is difficult, she believes the book sets up an important opportunity for discussion.

“I have a few friends in my classes who I know it’s been really difficult for them to read it,” she said. “But everyone recognizes that it’s a topic that really needs to be talked about more,” Parent said.

In this vein, Decker said that some counselors will be present at the event, to have people on hand in case the subject matter is too intense for attendees. 

“I think it will be a sensitive but good, rich, robust discussion,” said Decker. 

Students from three classes that are studying the novel will be in attendance, Decker said, estimating that it would amount to about 70 students. “The students are really pumped about it,” Decker said.

The school has also invited a group from the RiverMead retirement facility, and the event is open to the public.

The event is being put on in part thanks to a grant from New Hampshire Humanities, in which the English department proposed this event and got approved, according to Decker. “We had to really make a case for this being a compelling topic that would draw people in from the community,” she said.

It’s also being put on with support from the university’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office and the Sigma Tau Delta English honor society. 

The event will be held both in-person at Franklin Pierce’s Marcucella Hall in room 102, and on Zoom, at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 21. 

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