Social Justice Book Club: Updates and August Selection

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Hey friends,

I know it’s been a while from both Kerry and me on the SJBC front. For those of you new here, this was a monthly book club co-hosted by us over on Slack, where we picked and chatted about books that covered several different social issues. Our last selection was Evicted: Poverty And Profit In An American City by Matthew Desmond, which just won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction this year (absolutely well-deserved). 

Unfortunately, both Kerry and I have had unexpected things happen in our personal lives which didn’t really allow us to devote the kind of time we wanted to devote to the club, so we decided to skip the months of June and July, brainstorm and figure how we wanted to proceed. We will be going back to a bi-monthly rotation of the book club. It gives us time to actually do things like come up with discussion questions and foster conversations, which was pretty much the intention of putting together the club in the first place. It gives members time to acquire the book selected, and to read over a decent time period. We’re hoping this will be amenable to current and future members of the group.

25942967Our August pick: Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano.

From Goodreads: “In the updated second edition of Whipping Girl, Julia Serano, a transsexual woman whose supremely intelligent writing reflects her diverse background as a lesbian transgender activist and professional biologist, shares her powerful experiences and observations—both pre- and post-transition—to reveal the ways in which fear, suspicion, and dismissiveness toward femininity shape our societal attitudes toward trans women, as well as gender and sexuality as a whole.” 

 

We will be kicking off on August 1st with this pick. For those of you who are interested in joining us over on Slack, you can fill out the form below, or drop your email in the comments, and we can add you!

-J

Social Justice Book Club: February Wrap-Up and Announcements

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First of all, my sincere apologies for the delay- life has been really getting in the way of my plans for this month. 

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In honor of Black History Month in February, we picked The Autobiography of Malcolm X. This is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while, and this was such a great opportunity to read it with the group. I knew very little about the life and work of Malcolm X. aside from the fact that he was a prominent activist for the civil rights of Black Americans. Even my high school education, which barely skimmed through American history, only mentioned Dr. King from that time, not Malcolm. Malcolm X. reminds me of Bhagat Singh, an Indian freedom fighter who also pushed for radical change and action, urging the people to be louder, and was pretty critical of Gandhi’s push for a non-violent movement at that time. Malcolm was far from flawed ( in fact, his opinion of women in the first half of the book made me want cringe so much), but much of what he said about the treatment of black people in America and how white people (in general) perceive the black man today is still so relevant. He learnt from a very young age that he had to hustle to survive, and that his existence had no guarantee in a world that could not see him past the color of his skin. He struggles with his identity and his roots and catches on very early to the social conditioning that black people have undergone to think that white people are superior to them, and how they’ve assimilated in order to survive. His experiences with women in his youth- oh boy. It’s also evident that his recounting of those stories as he got older is not without remorse- and I definitely believe that had he lived longer, his views would have been less sexist. A series of mistakes lead him to straight into prison, and it is during his time here that Malcolm engages in a lot of contemplation, and channels his rage and boredom into reading. (“The ability to read awoke inside of me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.” His relationship with Muhammed and conversion to Islam were fascinating, and one can see how as a disillusioned young man this was the crutch he needed, to discover himself, to have an identity, and to channel his rage about the injustices done to black people. I think it’s very easy for white people to read this book and go “oh wow he’s so angry!” or be uncomfortable with his animosity towards white people, and I think it’s important to sit with those feelings and remember that there’s so much baggage that comes with those feelings. It’s why, whether they admit it or not, white Americans will more easily celebrate Dr. King over Malcolm (King was just as revolutionary as Malcolm, but his push for non-violence is highlighted over his demand for action, casting Malcolm as “angry black man”.) There’s so much to unpack here on how Malcolm and King’s lives, messages, and legacies have been represented, and the discomfort white people experience with Malcolm’s confrontational approach, how that translates to the perception of black people in general and how nonblack people perceive movements like #BlackLivesMatter- I’m far from qualified to discuss any of these things, but these are things to think about and talk about, for sure. Malcolm never doubted that he would die violently, and he remains a contentious figure in American history. This autobiography is a crucial text to read. It is not only important as a tool to read Malcolm’s words and message, but also to be cognizant of where Malcolm’s anger comes from, the history of violence against black people, and how all of these are relevant in the movements we see today. 

Announcements:

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I’m sure you’re already aware that we’re reading Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario in March. I haven’t finished reading, but it’s been interesting to hear from those who have. We still have 11 days left in the month if you’d like to join us! Shoot me an email at theshrinkette@gmail.com to be added to the Slack if you’re not already in it. You can also use this sign-up form, if that’s your preference. Sonia Nazario has graciously agreed to answer a few questions from the group for a club Q&A, and her responses should be in by the end of this month. 

 

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Due to popular demand, we’re going to try hosting the book club on a monthly basis. For April, we will be reading Headscarves and Hymen: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy. Since each book’s discussion is being held in it’s own channel, members can opt in or out of the month’s discussion based on their personal preferences and schedules. 

 

 

-J

 

 

Social Justice Book Club: Wrap Up and Announcements

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Hey friends,

First of all, thank you so much for participating in our edition of Social Justice Book Club. I’m floored by the responses and the discussions that have taken place as a result of our new format, and just the sheer number of people that have joined the group. The internet is constantly amazing me with how it can bring people together. 

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While Hope In The Dark wasn’t my most favorite SJBC pick, I think it’s one that we all needed in some capacity or the other. This book was a calculated choice for the club, given all of the recent (and ongoing) unrest and radical shifts happening in our current political climate worldwide, and I hope it served up in some capacity to everyone that participated in SJBC. I thought it started off well, felt a little disjointed and repetitive in the middle, and towards the end I was drawn in. Some of her stances felt like it came from a place of white privilege. However, I appreciated the overall message of the book, particularly the part about keeping perspective during the fight for social change. Something I’ve observed in the last few weeks is how easy it is for us to give in to the chaos, which I think is a part of the current administration’s agenda. Panicked people are too distraught to fight back. However, it is safe to say that a lot of things happening in America have been happening for a very long time, and now it’s broadened to impact a significant number of groups. So I’m working on picking out specific actionables, some as an in-group advocate, and some as an ally to other marginalized groups, focusing on those, and trying to remain hopeful and not give in to despair. Like Solnit said, “Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win. Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.

If you enjoyed or were intrigued by Hope In The Dark, here are some titles we suggest for further reading:

A few announcements:

  1. As mentioned over on Slack, we will be having a Black History Month edition of SJBC in the month of February. We will be reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X As Told To Alex Haley. Once again, this is completely optional and a low-pressure book club, since all book discussions will be happening in it’s own channel and you are free to mute notifications as needed. For those people that are comfortable with a fairly loose schedule:
    Introduction to Chapter 6: Detroit Red
    Chapter 7: Hustler to Chapter 13: Minister Malcolm X
    Chapter 14: Black Muslims to Epilogue

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  2. If you are new to this space and our interested in joining our Slack discussion, you can sign up here and we’ll add you as soon as possible! Unsure how to use Slack? We’ve got you covered.

  3. Lastly, we’d love to hear about your experience with SJBC on Slack. Kerry and I are looking to continue honing the club format to provide the best experience for participants, so any feedback you have for us is greatly appreciated. 

Thanks for sticking with me till the end, and I look forward to continuing our thoughtful discussions over on Slack!

-J

Social Justice Book Club: We’re Moving To Slack!

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It’s official! The Social Justice Book Club is moving into Slack as of January 2017. Our hope is that this new platform will foster stronger, more on-going discussion, a simpler sharing of links, and reduce the possibility of trolling in the conversation.

Because so many of you said you’d not yet used Slack, we’ve put together a basic tutorial of the platform, how it works, and how we plan to use it. But first, a video! If you’re completely and totally new to Slack, this is an awesome place to start

How Slack Works

Think of Slack as the most robust chatroom you’ve ever seen. You can DM other participants directly, or engage with the larger group in themed “chatrooms.” Conversations are easily searchable, and yes, there are gifs.

Slack can be viewed as a website, mobile app (for iOS or Android), and Mac desktop app. Notifications can be customized to your liking, and there’s a “Snooze Mode” available if you want to set yourself away to focus, sleep, or, you know, read the book.

How We’ll Use It

We’ve got a few basic channels set up to start:

  • #general: General conversation about anything that strikes your fancy and may be relevant to the club/other club members. Kerry and I will also use this channel for overall group announcements, as all incoming members will be in this channel.
  • #introductions: Introduce yourself! Share your blog, social media channels, Litsy username, whatever you’re comfortable with. As new members join, they can introduce themselves and view existing members in the chat history.
  • #random: Exactly what it sounds like: totally random things. Some great YouTube video you saw, or an awesome plugin for Slack, or what you had for lunch. You know, random things.
  • #recommendations: We know you all know about as many social-justice themed books as we do… if not more. Use this channel to toss out recommendations, discuss possible books to add to the club’s list, etc. You can always use the Google form as well, but we thought this might be easier & more centralized for all to see and comment on.

Then there will be a designated channel for each month’s read. By separating the individual book discussions, members interested in, say, the January book but not the March book can join the app without being bothered by notifications for conversations they don’t plan to participate in. The channel for January is called, appropriately, #hopeinthedark.

It’s worth noting that while we can add you to a channel, you can always remove yourself from any channel you don’t want to join. You control your Slack experience, from channels to notifications to snoozed settings.

How the Club Will Operate

In order to be sure to continue to spread the word about the club, sign-ups will be open for each round. In order to keep things simple, we will be keeping sign-ups on Kerry’s blog, but you can always always get in touch with either of us anywhere on social media to let us know you want to participate. Members who sign-up for a specific book will be added to the book-appropriate channel (and new members added to the club-level channels). We still hope that members will share photos and thoughts on their respective social channels (don’t forget the hashtag, #SJBookClub), but that Slack’s conversation model will foster more real-time discussion.

Where appropriate/applicable, Kerry and I will share additional book content (author interviews, suggested reading lists, etc.) on our blogs (and link to these in the Slack). We hope members with blogs will review the book(s) read and share links to those reviews in the Slack platform, though reviews are not required to participate in any way. To wrap up the month, we’ll collect the reviews, relevant media pieces, articles of note, etc. in a wrap-up post on our blogs and share the link in Slack.

Don’t forget, our January 2017 pick is Hope In The Dark by Rebecca Solnit. There’s still plenty of time to buy or borrow the book in your preferred format, so you can head over to Kerry’s blog to sign up and we’ll see you over on Slack! 

-J

Exciting News!

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Hello, hello!

(Apologies if you’ve seen this on twitter already)

The Social Justice Book Club, started by Kerry back in April, is a bimonthly book club focused on reading and discussing books that fall under the giant umbrella of social justice. As with all other things, the club sprung from a twitter conversation, and is especially so relevant given the garbage fire that is 2016. The club has discussed three books so far, and Kerry has been amazing with book selections, coming up with a reading schedule, and incorporating suggestions of book club members who are notoriously terrible with sticking to any of the schedules (shameface). I did read all three books though, and I can’t thank Kerry enough for bringing these to my attention via said book club.

That being said, I’m very excited to let you guys know that I will be co-hosting the Social Justice Book Club along with Kerry, starting January 2017. A tiny part of me agreed for purely selfish reasons- I’d like to engage more with the discussion part of the book club and sticking with the schedule, and having the responsibility of co-hosting will definitely help with that. Also, Kerry is an awesome person, and I wanted to help her in any way I could to keep this book club going.

That being said, our next round begins in January 2017, and we will be reading Hope In The Dark by Rebecca Solnit. Given this past week, we felt this would be especially relevant. Plus, for the next FOURTEEN HOURSHaymarket Books is offering completely free, no strings attached downloads of the ebook. So feel free to download a free copy, or buy a print version, or borrow from the library to read with us starting January 1st- whatever floats your boat.

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Meanwhile, you can check out all of Kerry’s posts here in case you’re interested in joining the club. You can also follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Litsy (@kerry). We’ll have a space to sign up on our respective blogs when we announce our next selection. Got recommendations for the club to consider? We’ve got a form right here.

Kerry and I are working together to give all of you a meaningful book club experience, and we will announce sign-ups and future books closer to the end of 2016. Thanks once again for joining us!

 

 

 

 

Social Justice Book Club: The New Jim Crow Intro Check-In

Howdy!

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Sorry guys, I know it’s been a couple of weeks. For those that don’t follow me on Twitter/Snapchat/any other social media, I’ve been packing and moving out of my old apartment to a temporary space for the month of August, so it’s been a tad overwhelming. I have finally moved out, I even managed to get a solid hour of reading last night, and generally in the groove of things. 

Continue reading “Social Justice Book Club: The New Jim Crow Intro Check-In”