What Are You Reading? Amy Forbus

My name is Amy Forbus, and I serve as Communications Director for Hendrix College. After I graduated from Hendrix, my husband and I spent 14 years living in the Dallas area, then moved back to Little Rock in 2010 – we’re both Arkansas natives. When we aren’t constrained by a pandemic, I sing with a couple of different bands on a regular basis. I enjoy hiking with my husband in Arkansas’s beautiful state parks and National Park Service areas. Life at home usually includes two dogs, sometimes more — we have fostered for multiple rescue organizations with Arkansas connections.

What are you reading at the moment or what is next on your list?

I’m about 60 pages from finishing Watershed, local author (and Hendrix alumnus) Mark Barr’s debut novel. It’s set in rural Tennessee, post-Depression, and brings to life captivating characters and situations that keep me plowing through it without noticing when a new chapter begins. My work provides opportunities to read a variety of books by our faculty (the most recent: Tyrone Jaeger’s debut novel, Radio Eldorado) and our alumni (this spring, microbiologist and epidemiologist Kristina Bondurant co-authored a children’s book to help kids get a handle on how they can help fight the pandemic).

My husband and I are in the middle of Dear Bob & Sue: Season 3 by Matt and Karen Smith. It’s the couple’s fourth book chronicling their adventures in National Parks and other government-protected lands. It was recommended to me by John Krebs, a music professor at Hendrix who began teaching there my first year as a student. He knows my husband and I are pretty serious about exploring our National Parks. I picked up the Smiths’ first book before a road trip and read it aloud while my husband drove – the original audiobook! – and my sister-in-law bought us the rest of their titles. They factor into our thinking about where we might travel next.

I think discussion groups are a great catalyst for reading more and exploring new or challenging topics, and I’ve also seen them make readers out of people who start out saying “Oh, I don’t really get into reading easily.” I’m about to re-read Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber for a five-week Zoom group discussion with some friends from church. I recently finished So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, which Hendrix faculty and staff used as a springboard for discussion via videoconference. I found both the book and discussion group helpful for thinking through issues of systemic racism that surround us all.

Also, I have a dear friend who has had several short stories published and aspires to have one of his novels picked up by a publisher. I devour every draft he sends me, and I think it’s a travesty that he doesn’t yet have a book deal.

 What role has reading played in your life?

Reading came naturally to me in my childhood, probably because my mother read to me so often that I don’t remember much of not being able to read by myself. I would read and re-read favorite books, especially Judy Blume. Years before that stage, though, I remember going to get my first library card at age five. When I finished Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House boxed set that my mother bought for me, a page in the back of the final book mentioned her home and museum in Mansfield, Missouri. I found Mansfield on a map, and my parents helped me put together a family vacation to get us there and back. That was in August of 1983; I was almost eight. Since then, I’ve visited other author homes when I’ve had the chance, including an amazing trip to William Faulkner’s home and surrounding areas in Oxford, Mississippi, as part of the Faulkner class at Hendrix taught by Chuck Chappell. The Hendrix-Murphy Foundation Programs in Literature and Language covered the cost of that trip for everyone in the class, and it was such a gift.

As someone who majored in English and who has spent most of my career shaping words, I can’t say enough about the foundational role reading has played in my life. I confess I have had dry spells when I couldn’t get through anything longer than a magazine article when I got home at night, but I’m thankful it’s been a while since that has happened. I think it’s vital to get young people reading and impart the inherent value of it, so when I find a children’s book that I think might help that cause, I send copies to all of my grown nieces and nephews who now have kids of their own. My oldest nephew’s wife recently told me that Kristy Bondurant’s book really helped their son understand that it has been difficult for everyone to stay home, not just him.

(Photo by Mike Kemp Photography)