With the terrifyingly destructive weather going on in other parts of the world right now, I’m so thankful for the truly gorgeous morning we have here: the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and it’s once again warm enough to have the windows and doors open after a spell of cooler-than-average weather with threats of rain nearly every day. I’ve got a cup of steaming chai tea and a slice of freshly baked Date Bread as I think about my book club meeting yesterday.
Since I already posted about our book club selection, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot last week, I won’t give a summary today, and I don’t have many comments from the group discussion that differ from the comments I made last week about the book, that it dealt with racial inequality in the medical field and that it tried to explain the science behind genetics, which we all found rather confusing. The only thing I can add from our discussion is that we thought Henrietta’s family was not really entitled to anything from Johns Hopkins Medical Centre, as the hospital treated her cells the same as anyone else’s, and that it was just a fluke that they were collected at a time when they had the ability to reproduce (cells collected later in her illness and after her death did not perform in the same way). We felt that the Lacks family, particularly the sons, were looking for compensation where none was due. It was a small group yesterday, so the discussion lacked the depth that it has when everyone is able to make it.
I read a book last week that we will be discussing at my next “Friends” meeting on September 18th, Jeannette Walls’ novel The Silver Star. Once again, there were fewer copies available than there are book club members, so I read it as soon as it became available, then returned it right away, as it was on hold for someone else. I don’t want to comment on this book now, as I think it would be better to wait until we’ve discussed it, but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this selection and am glad someone recommended it, as it's not a book I would have likely picked up on my own.
So I though I would focus my post today on book clubs. Yesterday at my “Volunteer” book club meeting, we spent at least half of our time together re-evaluating our meetings, which I generally do at this time of year. I subscribe to many book- and publisher-related e-newsletters, and I recently received one that included a feature called “Tips for Book Clubs”. This was divided into sections such as “Finding a book club”, “How to choose discussion books”, “Leading a group” and “Troubleshooting a book club”. This last was the section I was most interested in, as I sometimes feel that my “Volunteer” book group digresses too often, and one member complained that we spend too much time socializing - this I tried to address at this time last year, but I don’t think things have really changed much. In these “Tips”, the writer asks the group to identify the reasons why the group is not running smoothly. He points out that groups that acknowledge a social purpose to the meetings expect to spend time discussing other things, while groups that want serious book talk will frown on digressions. That, in my opinion, was exactly the issue with our group. I think we started out ten years ago as a serious book group, but as we’ve been getting together over the years, the group dynamic has evolved into more of a social one, that the members are more like friends who use the excuse of a book club to come together once a month. Also we have a great history of shared reading: a book a month every month over ten years, plus two extra meetings per year for the first five years, makes about 130 books and discussions. Whew! That’s alot of shared books! So socializing in our group is inevitable, since we are all friends who only get together once a month, and we do build that time into our meetings. As the group leader, I’ve always felt that it was my responsibility to help direct the discussion back to the book if I felt that the digressions were going on too long, and these “Tips” support that notion, but I have been reluctant to do this too often, as I figured my group members are all adults, and if they wanted to be discussing the book rather than chatting, they would be doing so. I’ve also noticed, as the “Tips” suggest, that the amount of chatter is often directly related to how interesting everyone found the book to be. What we came up with yesterday was a possible solution to the side-chatting issue: there will be a brightly-coloured scarf in the middle of the table. If we veer off-topic and have too many side conversations, and if someone really wants to get back to discussing the book, she will hold up the scarf as a signal for people to stop their conversations. This way, everyone takes responsibility for directing the discussion rather than leaving it up to me. I hope it will work.
The other book club dilemma I’m facing is with my “Friends” book club. We meet every second Monday at a cafe in a central location, and when we all come out, there are seven of us, which makes a full table (we actually have to push two tables together to fit us all in, including our coffees). My April 2, 2017 post addressed the problems with adding another member to this group, as one member said her friend was interested in joining our group and asked what we thought. There were several issues related to having new members join, including the size of the group in general, the difficulties in meeting with such a large group in a public space, and the possibility that we may disrupt the awesome dynamic we have. What we decided was that we could have a “Bring a friend” night, but the person who was interested in joining us never ended up coming out. Well, a teacher at one of my schools recently expressed interest in joining us, so I will once again bring it to the next group meeting, and maybe we can try having a “Bring a friend” night for our November meeting, as there will be plenty of copies of that book, Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on your Knees, available. Hmmm… who knew we would be so popular!
That’s all for today. Get outside and enjoy the fabulous day!
Bye for now…