Can well-being truly exist in a relationship controlled by power?
Acclaimed author and National Public Radio (NPR) correspondent Margot Adler, Ph.D. explored the question with students, faculty, leadership and staff at the Adler School’s Chicago and Vancouver Campuses this month, as featured speaker for School’s 2012 Common Book Program.
Established in 2011, the Common Book Program annually brings together faculty, staff, students, and trustees at both campuses to read and examine a fictional work that explores a theme of social justice or social responsibility.
Last year’s selection, Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, examines themes of identity, alienation and assimilation through the experience and voice of a Pakistani newcomer to the United States. This year’s Common Book selection, Octavia Butler’s “Fledgling,” is a vampire novel “with events and scenes which are specifically engineered by the author to disturb and to distress the reader—and to force readers to rethink what they think they know about power, about privilege, about abuse, about difference and diversity,” said Adler School President Raymond E. Crossman.
Both books reflect the character and identity of the Adler School community, he said. “Both books are particularly challenging, both books pose large and complex questions, both books demand that the reader work hard to bridge understanding across a wide chasm of human difference and diversity.”
Introducing Margot Adler for her presentations in Vancouver on April 2 and in Chicago on April 9, Crossman described her as continuing her family’s longtime work addressing issues of community, gemeinschaftsgefühl (social interest), and social justice.
Adler is the granddaughter of Alfred Adler, a physician and psychotherapist whose work in community psychology provided the framework and inspiration for the founding of the Adler School.
As an NPR correspondent, she reports regularly on mainstay programs such as “All Things Considered,” “Morning Edition,” and “Weekend Edition.” Her reports have documented confrontation between radicals and the Ku Klux Klan, the work of AIDS counselors, the lives of homeless people, and the state of the middle class. Recently, she has reported on controversy surrounding the proposed Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero, aspects of the Occupy Movement, and the Hoodie March following the slaying of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin that has stoked national debate.
“When I heard last year that Dr. Adler was working on a book about why vampires have such traction in our culture, I immediately knew she would be the perfect speaker for our Common Book Program this year,” Dr. Crossman said.
In her Common Book remarks, Adler—who received an honorary doctorate from the Adler School in October 2011—discussed her perspective on the “Fledgling” and sociocultural contexts for vampires in American literature through the years.
“I was really disturbed by ‘The Fledgling,’” she said. Beyond its themes of discrimination, she said, she identified a central focus on issues of compelling others against their wills. “Can you love someone if you are compelled by them?” she asked. “Can there be true love if there is not freedom, no freedom to leave?”
The book speaks to relationships and to power, a theme that Adler has explored in reading more than 200 vampire novels over the last three years. Never a fan of vampires in literature of pop culture, she picked up and read “Twilight” while traveling in May 2009. Shortly thereafter, her husband was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer. As she cared for him over the next nine months, she “obsessedly” read vampire novels and realized that her reading reflected a level of meditation on mortality.
Click here to read Adler’s NPR story “For Love Of Do-Good Vampires: A Bloody Book List.”
“I realized there was a tension in all of these novels, on whether living a long life is a good thing or a bad thing,” she said. “Do you want a life of eternity or do you want to be one with the cycle of life? Then I said to myself, that’s not why people are obsessing over vampire novels. Something else is going on.”
That something else is the concept of power—“how we use it, how we abuse it, how we are mesmerized by it,” she said. For example, teenagers have a clear view of power and authority at school and at home, and are attracted to the concept of having a powerful identity outside the world.
Adler also spoke to vampire portrayals through the last two centuries as reflections of their social and geopolitical eras. In today’s novels and stories, “[vampires] are all struggling desperately to be moral creatures,” she said. “And that’s who we are. As oil is our blood, as we are waging all the wars in the world, we are struggling to be moral despite all these addictions.”
In that struggle, people take action such as reducing their carbon footprints, she said. Yet the needed change is systemic—reflecting Alfred Adler’s constructs that individual well-being holistically relies on social interest, the health of his or her connections to a healthy community.
Leading Common Book selection and program development, the Adler School Common Book Program Team at the Chicago Campus includes Tim Brown, Accounting Coordinator; Paul Fitzgerald, Psy.D., Director of Master's Counseling Training; Nataka Moore, Psy.D., Core Faculty; Mitzi Norton, Director, Office of the President; and Megan Rivard, Systems Analyst. At the Vancouver Campus, the team includes Larry Axelrod, Ph.D., Dean; Malcolm Dane, Admissions Advisor; Jaspreet Gill, Admissions Advisor; Michael Mandrusiak, Psy.D., Core Faculty; and Begum Verjee, Ed. D., Program Director, M.A. in Community Psychology Program.
At the event, Crossman recognized the team as well as its chair, Elina Manghi, Psy.D., Professor in the Department of Clinical Psychology, who passed away in January after a battle with lymphoma. She was a leader “who we all miss greatly, and who we honor by trying to be the kind of reader, learner, teacher, and practitioner that she was,” Crossman said.
About the Adler School of Professional Psychology
The Adler School of Professional Psychology has provided quality education through a Scholar/Practitioner model for more than 50 years. The School’s mission is to train socially responsible graduates who continue the visionary work of Alfred Adler throughout the world. The Adler School offers 13 graduate-level programs enrolling more than 1,000 students at its campuses in Chicago and Vancouver, British Columbia, and through Adler Online.
Kim McCullough, Director of Communications
(312) 662-4124 or via email