Law and Literature Weekend Seminar: Celeste Ng's "Little Fires Everywhere" October 25 - 26, 2019

In its unparalleled run of 25 years, the Alumni College's Law and Literature Weekend Seminar has relied on a highly effective model: gathering professors and participants to study a single work of literature from legal, ethical, and literary perspectives. The results can be exhilarating. Each fall, the School of Law chooses a compelling text, assembles a team of professors, invites participants to Lexington, and clears the way for a unique sharing of ideas and responses.

The Law and Literature program for 2019 will focus on Celeste Ng's latest novel, Little Fires Everywhere. Set in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a tidy, if not entirely immaculate suburb of Cleveland, Ng's gripping narrative describes the clash of lifestyles and values in the lives of two women, one who epitomizes the status and privilege of inherited wealth, and one who is an itinerant, though intensely dedicated, photographic artist.

As working mothers, their attitudes toward their children differ, though that is just the beginning of a beguiling tale. With an uncanny eye for setting and character, Ng describes a variety of women and their relationships with complicated children as well as with each other. Other themes emerge within this rich study of family life in contemporary America. "With brilliance and beauty," writes author Jodi Picoult, "Celeste Ng dissects a microcosm of American society just when we need to see it beneath the microscope: How do questions of race stack up against the comfort of privilege, and what role does that play in parenting? Is motherhood a bond forged by blood, or by love? And perhaps most importantly: Do the faults of our past determine what we deserve in the future?" These and many other questions - including an agonizing custody trial - are sure to inspire much discussion.

Teaching in the program will be law professors Brian Murchison and Beth Belmont, English professor and university provost Marc Conner, psychology professor Karla Murdock, and Dave Caudill from Villanova Law School. As a bonus to practicing attorneys, the 2019 program will again seek approval for two hours of Continuing Legal Education ethics credit. The program is open to anyone interested in literature-you don't need to be an attorney to attend.