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The Bibliophiles, Inc.: An African American Reading Group

Founded in 1988, incorporated in 1990, The Bibliophiles, Inc.: An African American Reading Group was born out of a mutual interest in reading, sharing, promoting, and preserving the literature of the African Diaspora.

Toni Morrison’s award winning Beloved was the catalyst that drew together the founding members; two commuting colleagues who yearned to share the pent-up emotions the book evoked. The two quickly became ten, rapidly morphing into 20 as friends were invited to join the newly organized group.

Today, The Bibliophiles, Inc. are 19 women strong who include among their varied activities literary field trips, book signings, Kwanzaa celebrations, scholarship fundraisers, and the Newark Museum’s Special Exhibition Docent Program.

Our book club has been recognized in articles published in Essence, American Visions, and Emerge magazines, and The Sunday New York Times, The Star Ledger, and local newspapers. The Bibliophiles, Inc. has also been presented on New Jersey Network’s Another View, and hailed by The National Book Club Conference, Inc.

Almost 25 years later, The Bibliophiles, Inc. remains the oldest, continuously operating, incorporated Black Book Club in America.

September finds us identifying the next year’s theme that guides our selection of six books for the following year. Our regular meetings are held every other month in each other’s homes. Every odd year we convene for an off-site retreat week-end where we elect our officers, and rededicate ourselves to our mission. Members enthusiastically gather at our November meeting with book recommendations in tow; selections go to the highest vote.

BOOKS WE’D RECOMMEND FROM RECENT SELECTIONS:

Revered for our diverse range of selections across a variety of genres, including fiction, non-fiction, memoir and choreo-poetry, recommendations include:

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; Standing at the Scratch Line by Guy Johnson; The Man Who Cried I Am by John A. Williams; The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin; and The Wild Seed by Octavia Butler.

BEST FOR DISCUSSION:

Standing at The Scratch Line by Guy Johnson – a sweeping tale of family, honor, loyalty, and a Black man’s unwillingness to bend;

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson – an epic account of America’s untold story of the migration of 6 million Blacks from the South to the North and West in search of freedom and dignity;

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – a seminal feminist work depicting a woman’s journey to self.

Second Tuesday Book Club

Second Tuesday Book Club has been meeting in the back room of a small, independently-owned bookstore (The Bookloft) in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, since early 2011. Monthly meetings usually include 5-7 women from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, who learn about the group through the bookstore. We didn’t know each other prior to coming to the club, but our group (which continues to grow – until we cap it at 8 members) seems to bond effortlessly with each new member. We have inspiring, respectful exchanges about the books and how they relate to our own life situations.We look forward to choosing the book each month – an opportunity to hear what others want to read, and why they’re interested, and we allow ourselves to be persuaded occasionally to move outside our comfort zone. It helps to meet in the bookstore because we often bring in copies of our suggestions from the store’s shelves or consult with the staff, then discuss as a group in the last 15 minutes of our meeting. We normally choose contemporary fiction with an occasional nonfiction choice. Our reading list includes a few books that members did not like, but even if the club unanimously didn’t like a book, the substance of our discussions deepens a collective understanding of each other and what we hope to get out of both reading and meeting.

BOOKS WE’D RECOMMEND FROM RECENT SELECTIONS:
The Housekeeper and the Professor (Yoko Ogawa), Out Stealing Horses: A Novel (Per Petterson), Brooklyn: A Novel (Colm Toibin), The Help (Kathryn Stockett), Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro), The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot)

BEST FOR DISCUSSION:

  • The Housekeeper and the Professor (Yoko Ogawa) Elegantly simple story of a relationship. Inspired a deep discussion about relationships, memory, and poignant stories from our own lives.
  • Lit: A Memoir (Mary Karr) Mixed reviews over a sometimes wild and exciting, at times slowly-moving memoir. Our conversation was intense and opinionated.
  • Out Stealing Horses: A Novel (Per Petterson) A quietly rich novel, respected by all. Members were impressed by the author’s style as character developed through reflective thought and memory.
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THE BOOK CLUB SHOW invites clubs to send a brief description of their reading group. We’re interested in learning more about what you’re reading and what books clubs have enjoyed discussing. Submit your Trending Books list.

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