Author speaks about Uganda for ‘Far Away Places’ lecture series

Anna Lawson

The “Far Away Places” lecture series is back for the school year with speakers lined up to take students and faculty on journeys to other parts of the world from the comfort of the back of Barnes & Noble.

WKU Libraries has been hosting the series “Far Away Places” for about 15 years. The first event of this school year, “The Moon in Your Sky: An Immigrant’s Journey Home to Uganda,” will be this Thursday at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble on Campbell Lane. 

The event will host Kate Saller, author of “The Moon in Your Sky.” The book follows the story of Annah Emuge, a woman from Uganda, who lived a life  fraught with violence and despite her hardships, worked to immigrate to a new world and a better life.

“Kentuckians, historically, have had limited opportunities for foreign travel to some of these far away places. Thus, we hope to expose them to a wider world of people and ideas, which they may want to see for themselves,” Brian Coutts, the department head of library public services, said.

The idea for the “Far Away Places” series came about when WKU faculty member Nancy Baird was doing research in South Africa. 

“She would email me, and her emails were so enchanting, and when she came home, I wanted to have her give a little talk to the library faculty and staff,” Peggy Wright, special services coordinator, said. “She was dynamite; she was wonderful.”

From there, Coutts and Wright came up with the idea for a lecture series that allowed people with global experiences to share their stories, and they wanted Baird to be the first speaker. 

“I came into Brian’s office and started singing the song, ‘Far away places with strange sounding names,’” Wright said. “We had a new program.”

The program has grown quickly, hosting over 90 speakers in its 15 years. Wright said she couldn’t be happier with the success.

“We decided, when we first started it, that so many people around us had no idea why the faculty were traveling so much. So, we started with the faculty,” she said. “Every year we change. It became so popular that editors we had contacted would get new authors and call us.”

She hopes Saller inspires students to travel abroad and learn about different cultures in her lecture, on Thursday. 

“We hope the youngsters realize that this can be their future. They can come and talk about what they have learned after they have traveled themselves,” she said. 

Coutts hopes that the event and others this school year will help students better understand the world.

“Being a leading American university with global reach, we hope to expose students to life in some strange and unusual places,” he said. 

All of the events are planned out for the rest of the year. Each features a unique story about the journey of someone from a different country.

“Future programs deal with successful Scottish women in an age of men, sacred places in Tibet and the Himalayas, a Boston architect describing rebuilding Haiti, often in the moonlight, Ecuador’s most famous political cartoonist and Tibetan folktales,” Coutts said. “We think they’re all great stories and four are based on new books.”

Coutts said it isn’t just the students who learn from these events. He has gained some knowledge from the speakers.

“Peggy and I have learned more about strange places and peoples than we could have ever learned from reading or studying,” he said. “We hope they (students) go away from these programs inspired, remembering that each of us can make a difference in someone else’s life.”