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an English major goes to a literary reading for the first time

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Author Belinda McKeon reading on stage at the 39th Annual Irish Evening – photo by Lee Waxman

A guest blog written by Christina Smith, a student in Professor Ryna May’s literature class at Howard Community College

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Admittedly, I had never attended a literary reading prior to the HoCoPoLitSo Irish Evening on February 10th. I hope that it is not too shocking that I say this, given that I am an English major. So, I am happy that I finally had the opportunity to experience a literary reading at the 39th Irish Evening held at the Smith Theater at Howard Community College.

Before I went I knew little about the program, only that the author would read from at least one of her two books, and that there would be Irish music and dancing for entertainment. Even though my friend Amy and I were probably some of the youngest people to attend that night, I did not feel awkward there. On the faces of the people there, you could tell everyone was having a fantastic time. The entire evening was a hit.

Catherine McLoughlin-Hayes, Ambassador Anne Anderson, and Susan Thorton Hobby at the 39th Annual Irish Evening- photo by Lee Waxman

I was shocked to see that the program boasted the Ambassador of Ireland, her Excellency Anne Anderson. She was very gracious, and it was impressive that Mrs. Anderson was able to join us for the Irish Evening despite her busy schedule. A list of her accomplishments made me feel lazy and slightly light-headed at the enormity of her dedication to civil rights and women’s right’s worldwide.

While I like to think myself well read, I had not been made familiar with Belinda McKeon’s work. It was a treat to have her read from both her books, Solace and Tender. I was quite taken with her reading from Tender as I could feel the insecurities that her characters suffered from, the anguish of unrequited love and how truly awkward it is to be a young 18-year-old. She was witty and kind with her characters, as though greeting an old friend. Hearing the author read her own work gives you an idea of how those characters really present themselves in her mind. From her reading, the audience got a feel that these characters were real, that they had pains, hopes, flaws, and humor.

I loved the reading from Tender so much that I even ordered it from Amazon when I got home. Now when I read it, I will have the added pleasure of knowing how the author intended for it to be read. And in a way I will be able to connect with the characters on a more personal level.

The evening wrapped up with a performance from the Narrowbacks and Irish step dancing by the Culkin School. The music was traditional Irish music, a perfect nightcap to a fantastic evening.

I admit that I got some strange looks when I told people about my Friday night, but it was definitely worth it to let my inner nerd have a fun evening.  I look forward to attending more events produced by the HoCoPoLitSo.

And a big thank you to Professor May for making it possible for me and a plus one to attend.

By Christina Smith

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