The John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Program 2019

2019 Selection - Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Cover of Slaughterhouse Five


The Birss Committee selected Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five for the 19th annual John H. Birss Memorial program. The novel recounts the author’s real experiences as a World War II prisoner of war who survived the horrific firebombing of the city of Dresden, one of the darkest chapters of a very dark war. Readers of Vonnegut cannot help but note his natural gift for humor, his flights of inspired imagination, and his world-weary love of humanity, with all its faults and foibles. First published in 1969, Slaughterhouse-Five has remained a perennial read for college students because of its masterful mix of humor, pathos, outrage and, in the end, its invocation of the enduring quality of human hope and decency. It is a remarkable work that remains timely and reads as freshly now as on its publication day fifty years ago.

                    --The Birss Committee, 2018



Keynote Panel: Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse-Five: Fifty Years On, and So it Goes

Rick Moody, Ginger Strand, & Nanette Vonnegut
February 28, 2019
4:30 PM
School of Law – Appellate Courtroom 283


Cosponsored by the John Howard Birss Memorial Fund; and the Mary Tefft White “Talking in the Library” Endowment


For more information visit our Research Guide

To see selected images/letters from the exhibition please see the exhibition gallery


Schedule of Events

February 7, 2019 - Exhibition Opening - Mary Tefft White Cultural Center (4:30 PM)
A celebration of the library exhibition: “Kurt Vonnegut & Slaughterhouse-Five”
Open during library hours through April 30th, 2019

February 27, 2019 - Reading Group - Rogers Free Library, Bristol (3:00PM & 7:00 PM)
Community-wide discussions of the book hosted by Bristol’s public library.

February 28, 2019 - Keynote Panel featuring Rick Moody, Ginger Strand, and Nanette Vonnegut - School of Law – Appellate Courtroom 283 (4:30 PM)


Panelist Biographies:


Rick Moody HeadhotRick Moody is the author of six novels, including The Ice Storm and Hotels of North America; three collections of stories, including Demonology, and three works of non-fiction, including the forthcoming memoir The Long Accomplishment. He teaches at Brown University.




Headshot of Ginger StrandGinger Strand is the author of one novel and three books of narrative nonfiction, most recently The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Magic, which was called both "superb, provocative, and crystal-clear narrative nonfiction" (Booklist) and "a quantum leap forward" in Vonnegut studies (American Literary Scholarship). She has published essays and fiction in many places, including Harper'sThe New YorkerTin HousePacific StandardThe Believer and the New York Times, writing frequently about collisions between nature, culture, science and the arts. 





Headshot of Nanette VonnegutNanette Vonnegut was born and raised on Cape Cod. She earned her BFA in Printmaking from Rhode Island School of Design in 1978. She has since been in solo and group exhibitions, including, The Forum Gallery in New York City, Mercy Gallery, Loomis Chaffee School, Windsor, Ct., and William Baczek Gallery in Northampton, MA. Nanette is a long-time member of Zea Mays Printmaking in Florence, MA, exhibiting prints at EAB Fair, NYC and galleries throughout New England. Currently, Nanette is engaged with oil paint. Her artwork and writing have appeared in Take Magazine, The New Yorker, The Massachusetts Review, Pakn Treger and The Huffington Post. She also is the author of Kurt Vonnegut Drawings, a retrospective of her father’s drawings.