Linda Plaut returned to the classroom on Wednesday, January 13, 2021, when she facilitated the Colorado Academy Alumni Association’s first Book Club discussion. Linda was the head of CA’s English Department and taught English in the Middle and Upper Schools from 1972 to 1982. She continued for two more years as Assistant to Head of School Frank Wallace. In a lively and far-ranging conversation, Linda’s former students joined her virtually to discuss Their Eyes Were Watching God, by American writer Zora Neale Hurston.
Written in 1937, Hurston’s book was included in the 2005 Time magazine list of the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923. Set in central and southern Florida during the early 20th century, the story explores the growth into womanhood of the main character, Janie Crawford. The novel is regarded as influential to both women’s and African American literature.
Alumni who attended were a small but focused group. John Appelbaum ’82 tuned in from Roseville, Calif. He is the Deputy Attorney General for the State of California in the Civil Rights Enforcement Section. Despite his busy schedule, John found time to read the novel. Sarah Boxer ’76 and her son Julius (a junior at Georgetown Day School) joined from “ground zero.” as Sarah described her home in Washington, D.C. Julius had read Their Eyes Were Watching God in his freshman year. Lynne Matthews ’80 connected from Jackson, Wyo. where she has lived for years. With three grown children, Lynne had time to read the book, despite working as a bank supervisor and helping her parents. Laura Plaut ’83, Linda’s daughter, wanted to hear her mother “teach.” As she said, “My mom has come to so many of my presentations. I wanted to return the favor.” Laura lives in Bellingham, Wash., where she founded the non-profit Common Thread Farms, which connects kids to healthy food in the garden, in the kitchen, and at the table. Most of her work is with public schools.
A surprise pop-in visit came from Linda’s colleague and former CA French teacher Jean Lachkar Dahlman (1970-1978) who joined from her ranch in Forsyth, Mont.
Linda certainly hasn’t lost her teaching competency, drawing out the highlights of the novel, whether it was a discussion of the dialect, giving the readers a glimpse into the Black culture; the outside forces that affected Black lives beyond their control, causing them to look to God; the style of author Hurston and her descriptions of nature; Janey’s growing independence; or the relevance of the book today with regard to race.
Thank you, Linda, for coming back to the “classroom” and guiding us through such a thoughtful discussion.