By Will Broaddus
---- — A box full of 25 books and three films, all exploring the history and culture of Islam, was recently delivered to the Peabody Institute Library.
The collection, “Muslim Journeys Bookshelf,” was selected by scholars in a variety of fields and was organized as part of a “Bridging Cultures” initiative by the National Endowment of the Humanities and the American Library Association.
Along with Salem State, Peabody was one of 18 libraries in the state and 843 libraries nationwide to apply for and receive one of the sets.
“We like to bring people together to explore ideas,” said Kelly Rae Unger, adult services librarian at Peabody’s main library. “The main idea is to introduce Islamic literature, culture, history and art.”
The books range from literary masterpieces like “The Conference of the Birds” by Farid al-Din Attar, to histories of the origins of Islam, including “The Children of Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, Islam” by F.E. Peters.
The library’s application had to include plans for programs they would base on the collection, and these will be presented on Wednesdays at 11 a.m. throughout May.
“We have a lot of interest in hosting discussion series on current events, and literary discussion,” Unger said. “We talked to scholars we have worked with in the past and asked them which books they might want to present.”
On May 1, Claire Keyes, a poet and professor emerita of English at Salem State, will give the first talk. She will speak about 13th-century mystical Persian poet Rumi.
These will be followed by sessions on “The Arabian Nights” led by Jennifer Jean, a poet who teaches at Salem State, and on “Snow” by Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, which will be facilitated by poet Jacquelyn Malone.
“Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi, a graphic novel about growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution of the 1980s, will follow, with discussion led by Stephenie Young from Salem State’s English department.
A documentary, “Koran by Heart,” will be screened and discussed on the last Wednesday of the month.
Those planning to attend the discussions are asked to read the books, copies of which will be available at the library.
“We hope to see a strong audience,” Unger said, “and we would like to see as many people as possible attend these sessions. If you have any questions, please contact me.”