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CURRENTS: Tamara Bhalla and Alyse Minter

Humanities Work Now



Date & Time

November 3, 2021, 12:00 pm1:00 pm


CURRENTS: Humanities Work Now is lunchtime series that showcases exciting new faculty work in the humanities in a dynamic and inter-disciplinary setting.

To Understand the Other, You Have to Be a Mother: Jenna Bush Hager’s #ReadWithJenna Book Club and the Politics of Race, Empathy, and Motherhood

Tamara Bhalla, Associate Professor, American Studies; Dresher Center Residential Faculty Research Fellow (Fall 2021)

In this presentation, Tamara Bhalla will examine how Jenna Bush Hager’s recently launched and yet highly influential book club, #ReadWithJenna, is emblematic of celebrity book club culture in the 21st century, as a phenomenon largely dominated by white women as both reader-participants and the celebrity tastemakers themselves. As any quick trip to Barnes and Noble or your local bookstore, or a scroll through Amazon or the New York Times best seller list, will attest, celebrity book clubs actively shape popular literary culture, determining which works of literary fiction are popularized, promoted, and sold. Bhalla’s talk uses the #ReadWithJenna book club as a case study to understand how contemporary book clubs tend to be organized around exigencies for white women’s self-improvement and education through interrelated discourses of empathy and motherhood. These discourses emerge in various facets of #ReadWithJenna, such as book club discussion questions, author interviews, and readers’ comments on social media. Together, they establish a hermeneutics of reading in popular literary culture that is white, neoliberal, and domestic.



Black Women and Unmet Fertility Desires

Alyse Minter, Ph.D. Candidate, Language, Literacy, and Culture Program; Dresher Center Graduate Student Research Fellow (Fall 2021)

Black women are almost twice as likely to face infertility compared to the general population, are less likely to seek medical help for fertility issues, and have lower success rates when utilizing assistive reproductive technologies (e.g. IVF). Yet, they remain grossly underrepresented in fertility research, leaving many unanswered questions. Using a qualitative approach, Alyse Minter seeks to better understand how Black women experience and make meaning of fertility challenges, in relation to themselves, their partners, and others. This talk will provide an overview of the medical and social realities that Black women navigate and present preliminary data regarding Black women's lived experiences with infertility and pregnancy loss.

Image description: Side by pictures - On the left, a woman with short black hair smiles at the camera. She is wearing red lipstick. On the right, a woman with her hair in twists smiles at the camera.