THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

A Memoir

Elizabeth Alexander

A New York Times bestseller, a Pulitzer Prize Finalist, a National Book Critics Circle Finalist, a Books for a Better Life Award Finalist, and an NAACP Award Finalist

In The Light of the World, Elizabeth Alexander finds herself at an existential crossroads after the sudden death of her husband. Reflecting with gratitude on the exquisite beauty of the intimacy they shared, grappling with the resulting void, and finding solace in caring for her two teenage sons, Alexander channels her poetic sensibilities into rich, lucid prose that universalizes a very personal quest for meaning and acceptance in the wake of loss.

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A New York Times bestseller, a Pulitzer Prize Finalist, a National Book Critics Circle Finalist, a Books for a Better Life Award Finalist, and an NAACP Award Finalist

In The Light of the World, Elizabeth Alexander finds herself at an existential crossroads after the sudden death of her husband. Reflecting with gratitude on the exquisite beauty of the intimacy they shared, grappling with the resulting void, and finding solace in caring for her two teenage sons, Alexander channels her poetic sensibilities into rich, lucid prose that universalizes a very personal quest for meaning and acceptance in the wake of loss. The Light of the World is both an endlessly compelling memoir and a deeply felt meditation on the blessings of love, family, art, and community. For those who have loved and lost, or for anyone who cares about what matters most, this book is required reading.

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  • Grand Central Publishing
  • Paperback
  • September 2016
  • 240 Pages
  • 9781455599868

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$15.99

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About Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Alexander composed and recited “Praise Song for the Day” for President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration. She is the author of six books of poetry—including American Sublime, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize—and is the first winner of the Jackson Prize for Poetry and a National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim fellow. She is the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University.

Praise

“Both raw and exquisitely crafted, mercilessly direct and sometimes lavishly metaphorical … The Light of the World is, quite simply, a miracle.” —The Boston Sunday Globe

“It’s magnificent.” —First Lady Michelle Obama

“A gorgeous and intimate tribute” —Newsday

Discussion Questions

1. Consider the title of the book, which is taken from a poem by Derek Walcott: “O Beauty, you are the light of the world!”. What did you think about it before you read the memoir? What do you think now?

2. In particular, address the question of self-pity. Does Alexander pity herself? In what ways does she indulge that impulse, and in what ways does she deny it?

3. Read the Jeannette Walls blurb at the beginning of the book. Why do you suppose she describes The Light of the World as a “book about the redemptive realization that such pain is a small price to pay for such love?”

4. Discuss the notion of what it means to grieve in the absence of religious culture. Have you ever searched for meaning after a loss, where none initially presented itself? How did it hinder or help your healing?

5. Consider Alexander’s use of time throughout the book. How did it help structure the story and how did it affect your reading experience?

6. Before The Light of the World, had you ever read any of Elizabeth Alexander’s poetry? Are there passages in which her poetic attention to word, rhythm, and musicality are particularly evident?