If there was ever a time to cocoon yourself in the escapism and solace of books, it’s this three-quarter-year-old pandemic. We’ve had more unscheduled free time available for reading, a hobby that is so easily deprioritized in our schedules of having to be here, needing to do that, and in a presidency and a year beleaguered by COVID that feels more science fiction than real life themselves, online book clubs have fostered community and camaraderie in an age of physical distancing.
Veterans groups like Oprah’s book club and Well read black girl are stalwarts, but black women across the global web have started new book clubs and adjusted others that previously met in person to keep the important discussions and time they’ve been looking forward to intact.
When Kimm Lett, a digital media and communications strategist in Atlanta, launched Flower Book Club as a Facebook group in 2009, she envisioned it as a space of fellowship for goal-oriented women from diverse backgrounds. The books she selected were largely centered on the experiences of black women – the first titles the members read together were by Kimberla Lawson Roby A dark and deep secret and Focused Action: Seven Steps to Accomplishment by Towanna B. Freeman, but she hoped the questions and topics they discussed would generate a broader and deeper conversation about the lives of women around the world.
“I was a single mother and at the time was also a law student looking for direction and space to breathe. I wanted to create a soft place for us to land, a safe virtual space to learn other women’s stories where we go deeper and distance ourselves from what is happening around us,” she said. The root.
The flowers had grown to more than 500 members when Lett took a three-year hiatus to focus on work, her own healing journey and her daughter’s education. But in March, when shelter-in-place orders were implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19, she decided to revive the book club, partly as a mental escape from the tireless shenanigans of 2020, and partly as a way to reconnect her. community of reader friends. Members meet quarterly to discuss the selected book with the author who wrote it. At the end of September, it was a Zoom conversation with Deesha Philyaw about her National Book Awards finalist, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.
“Over the past ten years, even with a hiatus, Flowers has become much more than a book club, but operating virtually can be a challenge when it comes to maintaining member attention and participation. Sometimes it’s too easy to join and not engage, especially on a social media platform,” Lett said. “I think most people prefer in-person meetings for a sense of closeness and a willingness to share. So as a founder, my goal was to offer that in the space, before we could even get back together again. meet us. “
Singer Amerie is well known for her R&B catalog (“Why Don’t We Fall in Love” is and always will be my official spring soundtrack), but she has other contributions as an all-around creator: her young adult book, Because you love to hate meis a New York Times bestseller and, in November 2019, the voracious reader launched Amerie Book Club, “ABC” for short. Her favorite genres are sci-fi, fantasy and non-fiction, but she chooses monthly selections that highlight diverse and unique perspectives and voices, and animates IG Live Chats with authors such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, Yaa Gyasi and Bakari Sellers for over 7,000 other readers and subscribers.
“Curiously, this year has brought me even closer to a passion that I have had since my earliest childhood: reading. And since so many people are at home and online, I’ve been able to connect with amazing authors and readers around the world,” the Grammy nominee said. in a recent interview. “After years of building an online community about my love of books – and the other things that drive me: music, family, culture – I’ve found the best way to engage with my fellow bibliophiles is online. , where the connection is energized and in real time.”
Bands like Indianapolis For the girls of color book club and chapters of the Silent book club, where people come together to quietly read together without the pressure of simultaneously finishing the same book and conjuring up a poignant comment to share about it, will continue to meet online until in-person encounters are much less risky. Others were born virtually and will remain so. But the shared energy of experiencing the art of the story together — and discussing all the emotions, ideas, thoughts, and memories that a good, well-crafted story invokes — is a shared joy. Right now we need as many as possible. Pounds are the currency, but the platform for community and fellowship is payment.