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Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.
Hey now! I’m finally (sort of?) moved into my place in Portland! I survived the 17 hour drive with la familia (all in one day, mind you) and spent the next several days unpacking and shopping for housewares. Ikea furniture assembly frustrations aside (porqueeeee?!?!), it’s actually been kind of fun. Plus this is the patio/common area at my new spot: come through, greenery!
On a more somber note, this week I’m reflecting on the loss of a great American writer, the inimitable Toni Morrison. Let’s examine how we might honor her legacy in book club.
Ready? Vamos. To the club!!
Question for the Club
Alrighty, friends! In our last round of QFTC, I asked what sorts of books you’ve been wanting to read in book club but haven’t and why. The overwhelming response was: YA and sci-fi! seems like the rest of your book club members haven’t been into the idea. Bummer!
Let me say once and for all that YA and genre fiction make great book chats! Read Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give or Samira Ahmed’s Internment, or just about anything by Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemisin: I promise your group will have plenty to talk about.
In Honor of Toni Morrison
PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said of Toni Morrison: “Her unmatched ability to use story to kindle empathy and rouse the imaginations of millions to contemplate lived experiences other than their own has transformed our culture.” I couldn’t put it better if I tried; the experience of reading her work changed me, challenged me, dared me to think more critically about the world I move in. In honor of the loss of this great American writer, here are some suggestions for Morrison works to tackle in book club.
The Bluest Eye – This is Toni Morrison’s first book and an excellent introduction into her lush, evocative style, her particular brand of metaphor, and use of magical realism. It’s about a young black girl named Pecola who just wants blue eyes.
Paradise – I love this line from a 2011 Reading Pathway piece by none other than Jeff O’neal: “A crucial skill in reading Morrison is getting comfortable with ambiguity and a certain amount of confusion about what is going on. It’s not just you; it’s part of the ride.” This is certainly true of Paradise, where Ruby is a patriarchal “paradise” built by the descendants of freed slaves. It examines how patriarchy seeks to blame its shortcomings and failures on subversive women. WEIRD does that sound familiar?!?
Beloved – Shame! I’ll admit that I’ve never read this most famous of Morrison works because I’ve feared it’s painful and difficult nature, but this is the year I think that will change. Sethe escaped slavery eighteen years ago but has never once felt free; she’s haunted by the memory of the farm where she was enslaved and by the ghost of a nameless baby whose tombstone reads, “Beloved.” By all accounts, this is an unflinching, violent, and uncomfortable read that stares slavery and it’s long reaching toll straight in the face.
The Source of Self Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations – This last of her published works came out earlier this year at a time when many of us needed it most. The essays embody her thoughts and views on a myriad of topics (the foreigner, female empowerment, money, “black matter(s)”), but it’s the three-part structure that I live for; the first is a prayer for the dead of 9/11, the second is a meditation on Martin Luther King Jr,, and the third is a euology for James Baldwin. There is power on literally every page.
Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at email@example.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter, get it on the Read Harder podcast, and watch me booktube every Friday too.
Stay bad & bookish, my friends.