In The Club

In the Club – 8/28

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

‘Sup, club nerds? The time has come! This is the last newsletter I will write as a San Diego resident (at least for the foreseeable future). I’m mostly packed, very excited, and more than un poquito emo as I prepare to say my goodbyes. I’m also nursing one hell of a headache because my going away party’s theme was apparently tequila.

Let’s get to club business so I can go back to avoiding bright lights and loud noises.

Ready? To the club!!

As I prepare to leave the place I’ve called home for most of my life, I’ve reflected on how privileged I am to be moving under these circumstances. For many, leaving home isn’t some fun and emotional adventure; it’s a matter of life and death, a harrowing journey fraught with peril in pursuit of shelter, safety, a chance.

Today’s book club suggestions each examine the immigrant experience: two unique works of fiction on the journey itself and one nonfiction title about Dreamers. They should get your clubs talking about what it means to be an immigrant.

Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, translated by Lisa Dillman – Yuri Herrera is one of Mexico’s most exciting contemporary novelists. In this tiny but powerful quest novel, a young Mexican woman crosses the border to deliver a letter to her brother at her mother’s request. It’s a border story unlike any I’ve read before; the maybe-magical realism, the play on language, the haunting dream-like quality… so good.

  • Book Club Bonus: First, and perhaps especially if you do speak Spanish: do yourself a favor and read the translator’s note first. It’s at the end of the book but I don’t feel like it spoils anything. When you’re done, discuss the translator’s word choice as discussed in that note; the author’s choice not to name specific destinations; how the story draws from other quest and hero journeys.

In the Distance by Hernan Diaz – When I tell you I’m recommending a powerful immigrant narrative, odds are you aren’t expecting a western about a Swedish dude. That’s precisely what this Pulitzer finalist novel is though! Håkan is just a boy when he’s sent to America by his father and is separated from his brother when he gets on the wrong boat. He embarks on an eastbound cross-country journey on foot to find him while everyone else is migrating west in the American 1800s.

  • Book Club Bonus: What Hernan Diaz does with the immigrant story by making the protagonist a very safe white male is just brilliant. Brilliant, I say! Discuss the language device (yeah, it’s weird, but also kind of genius), the cast of characters he encounters; how Håkan’s physical size as he grows into manhood is a metaphor for his legend; the physical and less tangible characteristics that we use to “other” people.

Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America by Helen Thorpe – I was in my early twenties when this work of nonfiction made me think a little harder about the ways in which the immigrant experience varies from person to person, and that’s coming from the child of immigrants. We meet four Mexican teens, all of whom have grown up in Colorado and two of whom are undocumented. This is an intimate view into their lives and specifically the plight of the Dreamer: poverty, citizenship status, and increasing fear of immigrants are just some of the threats they face in pursuit of an education, and their friendship often suffers in turn.

  • Book Club Bonus: This book was published in 2009, but I don’t have to tell you just how many of the topics discussed could easily have been plucked from 2019. Compare and contrast each young woman’s situation and the ways in which the system helped or failed them. Do some extra reading on the DREAM Act and DACA while you’re at it.

Suggestion Section

How a tiny Edinburgh book club grew to reach over 20 countries worldwide.

I know many of you won’t need help here, but for those that do: how to start a boozy book club.

Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at 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.

More Resources:
– Our Book Group In A Box guide
– List your group on the Book Group Resources page