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Jacquelyn Gill’s transformative journey through books

On Wednesday, March 29, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., Assistant Professor Jacquelyn Gill gave her audience insight into her life though a path of reading. This was part of a library series in which UMaine faculty reveal how the books they read and experienced throughout their lives left a permanent mark. According to the librarians who help host the event, “it is a challenging request, but it reveals so much.”

Jacquelyn Gill is an assistant professor of paleoecology and plant ecology at the University of Maine. According to her biography for the event, “As a paleoecologist and biogeographer, she is interested in using the natural experiments of the past to inform conservation in the Anthropocene. Jacquelyn applies an interdisciplinary approach combining paleoenvironmental reconstructions from lake sediments, modern field ecology, and modeling. Research in the Gill Lab focuses on climate change, extinction, and biotic interactions through time, from species to communities to ecosystems.”

Her book biography explored her favorite novels from childhood all the way to the present time. The very first book she brought to light was a popular favorite, “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. She described an instance in which her grandfather cut down a tree in the backyard and—much like in the book—she took her place upon the stump reciting “I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees!”

Other titles included “Julie of the Wolves,” “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” “Ender’s Game,” “Dogsong,” and “The Hunger Games.” She put the novels in chronological order, but also lumped them together by theme. The titles—“Little Women,” “Little House on the Prairie” and “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn”—were all together, for instance, because of their similar focuses, themes and time periods. Namely, women struggling and determining how to grow with their differences. Similarly, “Sweet Valley High” and “The Babysitters Club” were put together because they both dealt with her adolescence and her desire for the kinds of lives presented by the books.

Gill was so enchanted by English and novels that she married a writer. As a good practice and learning experience, they each pick their favorite books and have the other read it out loud to them. This way they can discover and discuss the books together. Gill said that this helped her experience her favorites in a way she never expected before.

A range of attendees came to the talk, spanning faculty, students and the general public. Among those who attended was Courtney Pilon, a zoology student.

“The Books in My Life event was interesting. There was definitely an age gap in the books she mentioned because I knew a maximum of like two. Plus, I was never really a reader as a child unless it was school related and even then not so much,” Pilon admitted.

But Pilon still identified with the talk. “Hearing her talk about how the books impacted her life made me think about the books I’ve read. When making that list I found a disturbing theme of tragedy throughout them not sure why that was. My take away from the event was that books we read are important and sometimes life changing, which makes me want to pay more attention to what I have, am and will read in the future,” Pilon said.

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