Sandy, Stephie and Nadia win!
7:15 sounds like a great starting time for book club unless perhaps we are talking am instead of pm. Nevertheless, last Friday, with the help of another teacher and a community activist, I launched "Last Fridays," a monthly book club held in the school library where I work. A book club that welcomes parents and family as well as school staff members and neighbors in the great DC community of Shaw. An opportunity to both create a greater sense of community centered around the children in whose needs we are all invested and, as a bonus, an opportunity to let the kids "catch" the adults reading.Miriam at Hachette is always a dream of a publicist to work with, and this time, she is really coming through for our high needs community. How do you make a book club work when a large number of those we are inviting do not have disposable income for books, and the neighborhood public library is a small interim branch lacking enough multiple copies of books to serve the needs of a book club? You rely on the kindness of strangers. Hachette sent over books enough for all, and have also kindly helped us with our upcoming October meeting by supplying copies of the new Oprah pick, Say You're One of Them.
The book we discussed Friday was Stand the Storm by Breena Clarke, the story of a slave family who manages to purchase their freedom (at least nominally), and support themselves through the skilled labor of the needle arts. However, their freedom proves a bit of an illusion as they attempt to claim their own identities in an unsettled nation and city meeting the challenges of a civil war whose outcome will determine their legal freedom. The novel raises subtle yet probing questions as to how an ex-slave distances themselves from the legacy of slavery.
Our discussion was rich as we explored the connections of a story set in our own city, connected to the personal histories of some of our participants. Then our conversation and investment in the text was taken to another level by the participation of the author herself. The iPhone of one librarian plus the docking station with speakers of one helpful neighbor, and it was as if Breena Clarke was in the room with us sharing her personal connections to Washington DC, her insight into the difference between a slave narrative that takes place in the typical agrarian setting versus a city setting where skilled labor is valued, and most interesting to me, how she gave voice and agency to her female characters in a time when they were accorded none by society. We were all quite taken with Ms. Clarke and her easy, discursive sharing.
For more insight into this wonderful novel, check out the Washington Post review or the author's website or the info page over at Hachette. To further encourage a few of you to give it a read, I have three copies to give away. Please comment here by Saturday, October 3. Will ship anywhere.