Abington faculty member starts new chapter for local library book club

Book groups have existed in various forms for years, meeting in coffee shops, homes and online. But without a skilled moderator, they can suffer from a narrow focus, with discussion limited to prepared questions pulled from a publisher’s website.

Now the lens on the book club concept is being thrown wide open by the thoughtful and thought-provoking Karen Weekes, associate professor of English at Penn State Abington and the new leader of the book club at the township library.

“I want to help people in the community to read more widely and carefully, to get more out of their reading by having a smart, interesting and enjoyable group to share their insights and questions with,” she said. “Reading is a solitary act, but appreciation of literature can be a community one, something that enriches and links us.”

Weekes made her first appearance as leader of the Ruth and Robert Abel Memorial Book and Film Discussion Group at the Abington Township Public Library in June, only months after impressing a library board member when she addressed the The Rotary Club of Jenkintown. The board member connected Weekes and library Executive Director Nancy Hammeke Marshall, who was searching for a new book club moderator.

“What I bring to the group is an open mind and a few questions to help us probe beneath the surface. I try to make everyone feel comfortable, gently guide us to focus on the text, and give everyone a chance to be heard,” Weekes continued.

Weekes will open the 2012-13 schedule on Sept. 12 with a discussion about the award-winning Spanish film Volver. Maus, a graphic novel about the Holocaust, is among the books selected for this year. The group will examine one film each year and mark National Poetry Month in April with special selections.

Weekes’ teaching and research interests primarily focus on contemporary women’s autobiographical writings, whether ostensibly fiction, nonfiction, or a combination of the two. She is most interested in blended forms: montage or femmage, as well as the medium of the graphic memoir. She is the founder of the Society for Contemporary Literature. Weekes also explores how aspects of contemporary identity and positionality affect social justice issues, as demonstrated in the edited collection, Privilege and Prejudice.

Weekes has been the selected for numerous awards by Abington students and the college for her teaching and commitment to the college community, including the Outstanding Teacher, Lion Heart and Chief Ogontz awards.

To see the schedule for the book group, which meets six times through May 2013, go to