Author and theologian Damian Costello explores how the practice of maple sugaring in Vermont connects us to the land, our ancestors, and all that surrounds us. In conversation with the bestselling book Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, he suggests that sugarmaking—which is informed by Indigenous wisdom—is a communal medicine of connection that teaches mutual reciprocity with the land.
He spoke at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum on October 5, 2022 as part of our First Wednesdays series.
About Damian Costello
Damian Costello received his Ph.D. in theological studies from the University of Dayton and specializes in the intersection of Catholic theology, Indigenous spiritual traditions, and colonial history. He is an international expert on the life and legacy of Nicholas Black Elk and the author of Black Elk: Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism. Costello was born and raised in Vermont and serves as the Director of Postgraduate Studies at NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community.
Underwriter: Passumpsic Bank, FDIC
Recent First Wednesdays Videos
John Lewis and RUN!
Vermont HumanitiesFebruary 9, 2023
In this presentation for Vermont middle and high school students, Andrew Aydin, co-author of The March Trilogy with civil rights icon John Lewis, describes the creation of the next book in the series, RUN! Aydin also relates becoming an author, how he became involved in politics, and his experiences working with Congressman Lewis. He’s joined by a panel of students from Rutland Union High School.
Many communities recently have questioned the value of long-standing monuments. These debates can strike at the heart of history and memory. Seeking dialogue instead of a shouting match, author Raffi Andonian suggests four simple questions for communities to consider as they evaluate historic sites, famous figures, and public monuments.
Adapting Traditional Stories into Mainstream Literature
Noel ClarkJanuary 25, 2023
Author David A. Robertson examines his middle grade fiction fantasy novels, The Misewa Saga, and discusses what role traditional stories played in the development of the series. In this January of 2023 virtual event presented by the Norwich Public Library , he explains how he honored the richness, intent, and themes of those original stories.
In 2021, UVM student Jordan Rowell kayaked the 120-mile length of Lake Champlain. Over a two-week journey, Rowell and local filmmaker Duane Peterson conducted interviews to better understand the challenges facing the lake and to explore our relationship with natural resources in the era of climate change. The pair shares excerpts from their short documentary film and discusses its creation.
Where Do We Stand? A Report from the Climate Battle
Noel ClarkDecember 7, 2022
Author and activist Bill McKibben— the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and leader of the climate campaign group 350.org— shares an overview of the climate crisis and what changes need to be made to save the planet. McKibben spoke at Norwich Congregational Church, United Church of Christ on December 7, 2022, presented by the Norwich Library.
Cosplay— the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game—has a long history within science fiction and fantasy fandom. In recent years, it’s become a mainstream phenomenon. Andrew Liptak, author of Cosplay: A History, describes how cosplay has evolved from a niche activity of convention-goers in the mid-20th century to wide popularity today.
The Making of the Graphic Novel: 1177 BC The Year Civilization Collapsed
Noel ClarkNovember 21, 2022
In this First Wednesdays event at the Brownell Library on November 2, 2022, author/illustrator Glynnis Fawkes reads from and discusses her latest work-in-progress and describes how the storytelling elements of comics—panel design, pacing, research, and narrative—are employed in creating non-fiction graphic novels. She also reviews the comic she contributed to the Vermont Reads 2022 book, The Most Costly Journey (El Viaje Más Caro).
Author and Middlebury professor Gloria Estela Gonzalez Zenteno discusses her new novel Arribada, about a woman pushed to confront her role in environmental and social injustice, and a well-to-do family’s realization that their comfortable position rests on crimes against the natural world, their town, and their loved ones.
A finalist for the Vermont Book Award, North is a moving story about a Vermont monk, a Somali refugee, and an Afghan war veteran whose lives converge on a snowy Vermont night. Author Brad Kessler reviews the creation of the novel and his ongoing work with new Americans in Vermont.
In this First Wednesdays event recorded on November 2, 2022 at the Rutland Free Library, UVM lecturer Chris Vaccaro explores J.R.R. Tolkien’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and his occupation with female divinities such as Varda, Yavanna, Melian, Luthien, and Galadriel in his work. Vaccaro compares these divinities with goddesses within Greco-Roman, Celtic, and Norse mythologies and considers Tolkien’s influences.
In his award-winning Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America, journalist Eyal Press examines the morally troubling jobs that society tacitly condones, and the hidden class of workers who do them. Press, a contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Times, discusses his reporting for the book, which won the 2022 Hillman Prize for book journalism and appeared on numerous “best books of 2021” lists.
On his farm overlooking Brattleboro, Rudyard Kipling wrote the Jungle Book and many of his Just So Stories, and began to draft his great novel, Kim. Christopher Benfey, author If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years, answers hard questions about Kipling’s time in this country, including whether he should be considered partly an American writer.