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More Than A Netflix Series, “The Queen’s Gambit” Tackles Gender, Success and Addiction

"The Queen's Gambit" is the February selection for the Talk of Iowa Book Club/
Iowa Public Radio

Before it was a Netflix hit, “The Queen’s Gambit” was a 1983 novel written by University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop graduate Walter Tevis.

The book begins with eight-year-old Beth Harmon’s arrival at an orphanage in Kentucky following the death of her mother. The orphanage is a cold, uncaring place where she and the other children are fed tranquilizers to keep them docile. Beth's only saving grace is her discovery of chess through an unlikely teacher, the gruff janitor Mr. Schaibel who holds court in the dank, dark basement. The rest of the book follows Beth as her extraordinary chess skills grow. She is adopted, becomes the Kentucky chess champion and moves on to competing on the world stage. All the while she struggles with addiction and isolation.

It's the February meeting of the Talk of Iowa Book Club. Host Charity Nebbe is joined by expert readers Loren Glass, Heidi Pierce and Rachel Yoder for a discussion of this chess-focused novel.

Interested in joining the next meeting of the Talk of Iowa Book Club? Our March selection is “The Overstory” by Richard Powers. Join the discussion on March 23rd.

In the meantime, chat about book club selections and other literary interests with Charity and hundreds of other readers from across the state in the Talk of Iowa Book Club Facebook group.

Guests:

  • Loren Glass, professor and chair of the department of English, University of Iowa
  • Heidi Pierce, women and girls coordinator for the Iowa State Chess Association and psychology professor, Kirkwood Community College
  • Rachel Yoder, author of the forthcoming novel, “Nightbitch”
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Katelyn Harrop is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa