(Posted August 27, 2003)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Penn State University, will lead a book discussion of the Barbara Kingsolver novel ?The Poisonwood Bible? at 7 p.m., Sept. 4 in Neff Auditorium in the von Liebig Center for Science on the Juniata College campus.

The discussion is free and open to the public.

The best-selling novel ?The Poisonwood Bible? was chosen earlier in the summer as the assigned summer reading for Juniata freshmen and other members of the Juniata faculty and staff, as well as readers in the Huntingdon community. Anyone who has read the novel is welcome to participate in the discussion.

?The Poisonwood Bible? follows Nathan Price, a Baptist missionary, as he takes his wife and four daughters into the Belgian Congo. The novel opens in 1959 and follows the fate of the Price family over 30 years as the Congo struggles to free itself from a colonial past and undergoes extraordinary political change. The novel has been called ?a classic work of postcolonial literature.?

Barbara Kingsolver wrote ?The Poisonwood Bible? in 1999. The book was chosen as one of the selections for The Oprah Book Club as well. Kingsolver also has written ?The Bean Trees,? ?Animal Dreams,? ?Pigs in Heaven? and ?High Tide in Tucson.?

?Professor Jenkins will explore the history of missionaries in Africa during the period covered by Kingsolver?s novel,? says Donald Braxton, associate professor of religion at Juniata. ?He also will talk about the renewed interest in missionary work today.?

Jenkins has been at Penn State since 1980. He is the author of 17 books, including ?The Next Christendom: The Rise of Global Christianity,? which was named one of the top religious books of 2002 by USA Today. He also wrote ?Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way,? ?Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American History? and ?Images of Terror: What We Can and Can?t Know about Terrorism.?

He earned a bachelor?s degree in history in 1974 and went on to earn a master?s degree and doctorate in history in 1978, all from Cambridge University in Cambridge, England.

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.