By Elena Rosario
Every second Monday, Scarritt Bennett Center hosts a monthly book club. We read books about women, while learning the different ways women are empowered. The participants select the books and together we read them in community. The space we create promotes lively discussion, inter-cultural learning, and authentic conversations. As a Belle H. Bennett Fellow at Scarritt Bennett I’ve had the pleasure of working with the book club for the past two months.
I have never been a part of a book club before, but I definitely would like to be a part of one after my experience here. We always have wonderful discussions that leave us going over time or sharing our personal experiences. It has been great to see how differently each participant expresses herself and thinks about each book. I have really enjoyed being able to create vocabulary lists and research each of the books.
Last month we gathered together to read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In her book Adichie narrates the story of a young Nigerian women who immigrated to the United States to further her education. She left her family and her boyfriend back in Nigeria with the hopes of returning soon. She ended up staying in the United States for several years during which she graduated from university, worked, and wrote blogs. The book follows Ifemelu’s story, along with the story of her first love, Obinze. Some of the major themes discussed include race, class, gender, and immigration.
Both Ifemelu and Obinze experience what it’s like to immigrate to another country. The author does a phenomenal job of illuminating the struggles of immigration, both documented and undocumented. While Ifemelu and Obinze both came from middle class families in Nigeria, they struggled in their new cities, and socioeconomic status became a major theme in the book. Another major theme in the book is how race is constructed in the United States. Adichie’s main character Ifemelu is a writer who throughout the novel constructs the difference between what it is to be Black in the United States and what means to be a Black American in the United States.
During our book club meeting last month, we were able to break down many of the book’s themes. In a lively discussion, we talked about the character’s lives and what we thought of the book. I created a list of vocabulary that we used to guide our conversation. As a facilitator my role is to help move the conversation along neutrally, while providing guiding questions. Overall, everyone enjoyed the book and the conversation.
If you are interested in being a part of a community of women who read books together, we meet on the second Monday of every month from 7pm-8:15 pm and if you would like to learn more please contact Chandra Allen (email@example.com).
Elena Rosario is a 2014 graduate of Connecticut College who majored in History. She is currently a fellow for the Belle H. Bennett House at the Scarritt Bennett Center where she is living in an intentional community and interning at Conexión Américas in Nashville, Tennessee. Elena will be pursuing a doctoral degree in History at University of Michigan in the fall 2015.