Parsons Public Library will offer a three-part fall book discussion series entitled “The Kansas Experience.” The first discussion will be at 6 p.m., Monday, Sept. 18, at the library. Tom Prasch will lead the discussion of The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks. Copies of the book are available at the front desk.

Parks, a Fort Scott native, wrote the semi-autobiographical novel in 1963, the same year he photographed the March on Washington and the day-to-day activities of members of the Nation of Islam. It’s the story of Newt Winger, a Black teenage descendant of Exodusters growing up in rural Kansas in the 1920s who learns through hard-won lessons how to navigate the injustices of systemic racism.

Discussion Leader Thomas Prasch is a professor and chairs the history department at Washburn University. He received his Ph.D. in history from Indiana University. Prasch has been leading TALK discussion since 1999. 

The Kansas state motto, “Ad Astra per Aspera,” translates as “to the stars through difficulty.” It’s a nod to the can-do, pioneer spirit of our people, but also references the struggles, violence, and bloodshed that marked the state’s entry to the union. In Kansas, the path to personal success is filled with more social and systemic obstacles for some than for others. This series explores the experiences of individuals who pushed back against poverty, racism, violence, and hatred to reach the stars, then advocated for others in a similar situation. Through advocacy, art, and writing, the authors in this series shine a light to guide the next generation of Kansans to a clearer path for all.

The discussion series continues with Heartland by Sarah Smarsh at 6 p.m., Oct. 23, and No Place Like Home by C.J. Janovy on November 20.

Humanities Kansas, a non-profit cultural organization, sponsors the discussions as part of its Talk About Literature in Kansas program. The group furnished the books and discussion leaders for the Parsons TALK series. More information about Humanities Kansas can be found at

Parsons Public Library is located at 311 S. 17th St. For more information about the event, contact the library by calling 620-421-5920.