Book Notes | ‘Lessons in Chemistry’
Our book group broke a record: all 14 members enjoyed reading this month’s selection, Lessons in Chemistry, a story set in the late 1950s and 1960s. We liked the characters, especially the intrepid chemist Elizabeth Zott who stayed strong in spite of attempts to quash (and steal) her pioneering work and fought unwanted sexual advances.
When she landed work at the Hastings Research Institute, she and Nobel Prize winner Calvin Evans fell in love and lived together for two years. Mad, their daughter, was born after Calvin's quirky, accidental death.
Fired from Hastings, Elizabeth developed a lab in her kitchen. When offered a chance to host a TV show, "Supper at Six, " she did it her own way—teaching women chemistry as she cooked and raising her viewers' sense of self-worth. The show became wildly popular.
Some elements of the book felt implausible, but, as one member commented, "It's like opera, you just go with it." Our group liked Elizabeth's precocious daughter Mad, their thoughtful dog Six-Thirty, who learned hundreds of words, and the men who cared for Elizabeth.
One book club member said the novel reminds us of where we were; another said we must tell our stories to the next generation. We shared some real-life examples, remembering when women were excluded from the University of Minnesota Marching Band and the U's Campus Club. Other restrictions on women raised in our discussion included a married woman not being able to attend nursing school in 1957; a wife not able to buy a car without a signature from her husband or father.
One member was part of the Shyamala Rajender sexual discrimination case against the University of Minnesota 50 years ago and reminded us how that landmark lawsuit affected departments throughout the University.
I'd say Lessons in Chemistry is a “must read” book.
— Judy Helgen, UMRA Book Club I
Book Club I in September
Fri, Sep 15 2023, 2pm
Judy Helgen will lead the discussion of Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus when the UMRA Book Club meets via Zoom at 2 p.m. on Friday, September 15.
Email Pat Tollefson for more information, including suggestions for starting a new book club.
Go to Book Notes to read summaries of the book club members' discussions.
Please join us for an invigorating hike from The Monument located at the intersection of Mississippi RIver Blvd and Summit Avenue in St. Paul to Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis and back. This hike is on paved trails, approximately 5.5 miles in length, and will be at a pace suitable to the weather.
Knowing your family’s medical history is important, especially as we become more aware of the role played by genetics in many medical conditions. This presentation by UMRA member Michelle Casey will include suggestions for finding family death records—despite data challenges—based on Casey’s search for her own grandfather’s record.
Andy Whitman's Employee Benefits class will be holding an Oxford style debate on four different topics. During the debate a Board of Distinguished Professionals questions each Team, and finally comments on Team performance after the end of the debates.
Topics include tax changes; tax reducing moves required now and tax management in 2024.
It may seem like science fiction, but University of Minnesota researchers are exploring therapeutic interventions to treat aging and prevent age-related diseases. Laura Niedernhofer, MD, PhD, leads the Medical School’s Institute on the Biology of Aging and Metabolism, and will share her work on aging—and how to slow it down—for UMRA’s Living Well Workshop on Tuesday, January 16, via Zoom.
Pat Miles, former TV news anchor and journalist, lost her husband suddenly and found the financial and legal challenges to be overwhelming during her time of grief. She wrote a book about her experience, Before All Is Said and Done, incorporating wisdom from other unexpected widows, and will share her learnings for the first UMRA Forum of the New Year.
UMRA’s first Armchair Traveler program of 2024 will take us on travels close to home and to the edges of the earth with two fabulous presenters, Carol Urness and Kate Maple.
Join UMRA members at Midland Hills Country Club in Roseville for an afternoon of comradery, food, and entertainment. After an hour of mingling and nosh, the highlight of this mid-winter event will be an hour of song and music by Twin Cities musicians Dane Stauffer and Dan Chouinard.
Prepayment of $35 per person; or $38 after Jan 5
If you are curious about insects in their astonishing variety, plan to join the UMRA Cabinets of Curiosity to tour the Insect Collection and Natural History Library in Hodson Hall.