The Belfast Free Library has been selected by the Maine Humanities Council to offer a new Let’s Talk About It, a free reading and discussion group with copies of the books available through the library. This program is provided by the Maine Humanities Council’s Maine Center for the Book in cooperation with the Maine State Library.

The series, “Making Sense of the Civil War,” a reading and discussion program to commemorate the anniversaries of the Civil War and Emancipation, will begin Thursday, Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the Abbott Room of the library, 106 High St., and continue for five sessions, through Dec. 6. The library will partner with the Belfast Historical Society and Museum to bring this series to the community.

“Making Sense of the American Civil War” was created and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of its We the People initiative that promotes scholarship, teaching and learning about American history and culture. The program is designed as a series of five conversations exploring different facets of the Civil War experience, informed by reading the words written or spoken by powerful voices from the past and present.

The following books will be read and discussed in this program: “March” by Geraldine Brooks, “Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam” by James McPherson and “America’s War: Talking About the Civil War and Emancipation on their 150th Anniversaries,” a new anthology edited by Edward L. Ayers and published by NEH and ALA.

The topic of the first program is “Imagining War” and will include discussion of “March” and a selection by Louisa May Alcott from “America’s War Anthology.” The remaining topics of discussion will be: Oct. 4, “Choosing Sides”; Oct. 25, “Making Sense of War”; Nov. 15, “The Shape of War”; and Dec. 6, “War and Freedom.” The specific readings for each session will be listed in a hand-out to the participants who sign up for the series.

The Maine Humanities Council has provided a scholar, Patricia Bixel, to lead the discussions. Bixel is a professor of history and chairman of the Department of Arts and Sciences at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine,. She has been a discussion leader for both Let’s Talk About It and Literature and Medicine for the Maine Humanities Council. She holds a doctorate in history from Rice University in Houston and a master of arts degree in history from Duke. A Jack-of-all-trades in history, she teaches survey courses and electives in American history, Atlantic history, the American Civil War and Reconstruction and public history, as well as courses in international relations and American government. She is author of “Sailing Ship Elissa” (Texas A&M University Press, 1998, 2011); “Galveston and the 1900 Storm” (with Elizabeth Hayes Turner, University of Texas Press, 2000); and “Seeing the New South: Race and Place in the Photography of U.B. Philips” (University of South Carolina Press, 2012). Like most academics, she also has published articles and reviews in professional journals.

Books for this series will be available for loan at the library the last week of August. Pre-registration is required to ensure that enough copies of the books are available; stop by the main circulation desk or call the library at 338-3884, ext. 10 to register.  For more information about Let’s Talk About It and the work of the Maine Humanities Council, visit

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or