Last night, I attended a peaceful action and solidarity gathering. Neighbors came together in support of the Black Lives Matter movement to express grief and anger over the institutional and interpersonal racism plaguing our society, to mourn the lost lives of George Floyd and too many others at the hands of police brutality, to challenge each other to confront our state’s racist history and rethink our privilege and complicity in continuing racist structures, and to share ideas for how we can thoughtfully and actively work together to make the world more just, more equal.
I’m a white woman living in one of the least diverse states in the country. After growing up in Queens and Philadelphia, it's strange to now live in a small town in rural Maine where almost every person I encounter is also white. I know that last night's gathering looked quite different from the sickening and heartbreaking scenes from city streets across the country and we, as Bookclubz, know that our voices do not need to be at the forefront in this moment.
However, if Nancy and I have learned anything in the past three months it is that book club can be a powerful force for good. Whether it’s keeping people connected in a time of global isolation or holding the space for learning and tough conversations during a nation’s reckoning with racial inequality, book clubs are a tool for connectedness, growth and change. Book club is not just about the book, it’s about the community.
At the event, while speakers called for personal and political reforms, our state representative passionately announced, “We can’t just post anti-racist resources and book lists to our Facebook feeds, we have to actually read the books AND discuss them in our book clubs!”
In the past 72 hours we’ve seen hundreds of clubs form on Bookclubz under the auspices of antiracist education, either clear in their club name like “Becoming Antiracist: The Virtual Book Club” and "Learning about Race, Racism and Privlege" or captured in their description, “A place to gather to further our education on how to be a better POC ally” and “Curating a space for the discussion and celebration of black authors telling stories of people of color.”
They are forming with humble intentions, across races, and in a way that recognizes that many mainstream books, and therefore book clubs, are filtered through a lens of racism and discrimination.
These clubs' collective declaration to learn, to understand, and to heal inspires us. We hope that they also inspire you.
What Bookclubz Can Do Better
Like many individuals and companies, we are figuring out what allyship and activism means for Bookclubz in a specific and intentional way. How can we use our platform to amplify voices and stories that need to be heard and to encourage the formation of more book clubs willing to have open dialogue that will lead to change?
In the spirit of transparency and action, here are the first steps we are taking:
- Consciously ensuring that black authors are represented on Bookclubz via our book of the month promotion, recommended reading by genre selections, and through our newsletter and blog content
- Ensuring that our “Join a Book Club” platform is inclusive of book clubs led by black voices and dedicated to social change
- Supporting black owned bookstores through our site and social channels, starting by integrating Bookshop.org and Libro.fm partnership links into all book pages
Calling on Our Community
We need your help to keep the conversation going, to make book club and Bookclubz more impactful and inclusive. We’d like to make “The Antiracist Book Club” a monthly feature on our blog, highlighting the clubs and discussions taking place with the goal of fighting racism.
Through the comments section below and by reaching out to us via email, we’d love to know:
- What are you reading?
- What were the breakthrough moments in your meetings?
- What questions were asked?
- How did your book club conversations turn into action?
- Could you commit your book club to reading books this year aimed at improving racial literacy?
If you are a part of a “book club for change” themed book club and would like to make it open to new members, please let us know so that we can add you to our Join a Book Club platform. Please also feel free to share learnings, insights, and summaries with us that we could post here.
If you would like to author an upcoming blog post or day on our social media channels, they are open for a “take-over.” We welcome your ideas, your experiences and your wisdom. Our goal next month is to share some key best practices for book clubs that are leading tough discussions.
We can all adjust our book club calendars for the year ahead with a mantra of “Books to educate, Reading to understand, Discussions to grow, Book Club to heal.”
In Allyship and Solidarity,
Anna and Nancy