Last week before Nemo (the storm) dumped nearly two feet of snow in Providence, I met with a group of colleagues from across campus to discuss our Friarside Readers (great name, huh?) book selection. We read Mudbound by Hillary Jordan which recounts the history of African American soldiers who fought in WWII for the US yet found no respect or honor when they returned to their own country.
What I love about this group are two things:
- We read a variety of books that so happens to address many different aspects of diversity. In the past year we read The Horseboy about autism and Mongolia, Caleb’s Crossing about Native Americans and English foreigners on Martha’s Vineyard, Mudbound about the South and African American soldiers and next it’ll be The Shoemaker’s Wife about Italians immigrating to NYC at the turn of the last century.
- We discuss with relative ease about the difficult topic and reality of race, racism, power and privilege. That is, we feel comfortable enough around each other to share our thoughts about what is so hard for so many to broach. As the sole person of color in the group, I confess that I first wondered if I could really express my opinion but soon enough my colleagues through their words and demeanor created a space that allowed not just me but all of us to openly share with one another.
As I think about this wonderful group, it makes me wonder how is it that we can do this. And what comes to mind is the power that comes from reading a book in community, which allows us to share stories and perspectives juxtaposition against what we’ve read.
What starts with simply giving a thumbs up or down to rate the book or in the case of our group giving one’s rating between 1 and 5, it ends up with being so much more. Suddenly I’m learning about someone else’s family or personal history, and my life is enriched all the more.