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Joyce Carol Oates’ Life Shaped Her Writings

Writer Joyce Carol Oates is the successful author of more than 50 novels and even more works of non-fiction, poetry, plays and short stories. Her writing, known for its high quality, is filled with ideas, themes and subjects across multiple genres. Many readers and fans of her work are aware of the violent, dark nature of some of her stories, but may not realize that many of these themes are based on events she experienced in her early years. Oates shares these stories in her recent memoir, The Lost Landscape. Listen to hear Oates explore how her early life shaped her not only as a person, but as a writer.


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Story Length: 6:16

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Listening Comprehension Questions

  • In what ways did Andrew Carnegie’s libraries serve their communities?
  • How did Carnegie benefit from a library when he was growing up?
  • Which personality traits helped propel Carnegie from poverty to riches? Bring specific details from the story to support your ideas.
  • According to Carnegie, what should rich people do with their money and why? Why was Carnegie known as both generous and “brutal”?

Discussion Themes

  • In your opinion, what should really rich people do with their fortunes?
  • What does it take for a person to rise from “rags to riches”?

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Listening Organizers

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