Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for October 2019

October 9, 2019

October’s bookclub meeting included discussions of several books presented by individual members. Two members brought the same book: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. This book looks at the criminal justice system by following the story of an African-American man on death row, with a focus on injustice in sentencing and imprisonment, especially regarding the death penalty. Readers found it readable and very informative, but challenging due to the upsetting nature of its subject.

The second presentation was the August 18, 2019 issue of the New York Times Magazine, which focuses exclusively on the 1619 Project. The goal of this project is to re-examine the legacy of slavery in our country, timed to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the arrival in America of the first slaves. Its stated goals include telling the story of America truthfully, and learning accurate history as foundational to America’s identity. It also examines and catalogs contributions coming from the portion of Americans who were brought here involuntarily and their descendants.

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for September 2019

September 11, 2019

At September’s meeting, members discussed The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez. This is a story about two immigrant families who become connected in unexpected ways through the relationships of their teenage children. The characters in the story hailed from several countries in South and Central America and described the close-knit community they formed in their new American home. The reasons for immigrating were as varied and diverse as the characters and their traditions and culture provided an intimate view of Latinos living in America. It was revealing to see how some Hispanic immigrants view Americans and how immigrants, in turn, are viewed by their American neighbors.

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for July 2019

July 11, 2019

July’s meeting was a consultation on how the bookclub will proceed for the next several months. The discussion was animated and lively. Although the group did not initially decide on a theme, after picking several books we noticed that many of the suggestions are about migration or displaced people in various parts of the world. There were so many book title suggestions that we have decided to offer two (2) books per month. For each month members can read either book, and then discuss the book with the club. We decided to continue to have Personal Choice selections for some months.

The upcoming schedule is as follows:

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for June 2019

June 12, 2019

June’s meeting was a discussion of the book Becoming by Michelle Obama. Most members were able to finish the book, but a couple came to hear about it in advance of reading it. Response to the book was overwhelmingly positive. Readers felt that Ms. Obama was a good writer, portraying events clearly as seen through her eyes, with power, honesty, and grace. They felt the book was easy to read and well worth the time.

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for May 2019

May 8, 2019

Last month’s meeting was a lively discussion of several books brought by members and addressing the theme of “women who make/made a difference”. Book choices included memoirs, autobiography and biography, fictional heroines, and collections discussing women by cultural area. All of the women portrayed displayed admirable qualities, and the diversity of choices made for many interesting questions and follow up.

Here are the titles and authors discussed:

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for March 2019

March 13, 2019

Members discussed two books on Baha’i fasting at last month’s meeting: Happy Fasting by Saied Mirafzali, and Fasting, A Baha’i Handbook by Duane L. Herrmann. Members found both books helpful, but in different ways. Mr. Herrmann’s book includes quotations about fasting and the Fast, organized by which figure of the Faith authored the quotation. Dr. Mirafzali’s book provides some quotations, but takes a pragmatic approach as well, with discussions on topics such as what foods to choose during the Fast that members found especially helpful. Members shared personal experiences with fasting, such as recognizing another person was a Baha’i because they were fasting too. They also discussed their own helpful hints, such as what made them look forward to the Fast, what they preferred when breaking the Fast in the evening, and their own practices to encourage staying healthy.

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for January 2019

January 9, 2019

January’s meeting was a discussion on individual selections of books on the theme of stereotypes and the elimination of prejudice, and included sharing personal stories and experiences in this area as well. The conversation moved across the globe from the United States to Japan (where very close attention is paid to blood types when deciding who to marry), to the caste system in India, to the mistreatment of Baha’is in Iran. Participants pointed out that stereotypes and prejudice are not only about color, and there can be social prejudice about intellectuals versus non-intellectuals, and even against non-drinkers of alcohol. Overall, the discussion was lively, thoughtful, and far-reaching, so that time ran out before some of the books members brought could be discussed (Life on the Color Line by Gregory Howard William and The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan). The discussion included presentations by book club members of The Content of Our Character, by Shelby Steele (twin brother of the author of our February selection) and The Nature of Prejudice by Gordon Allport.

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for December 2018

December 12, 2018

Last month’s meeting was a reflection/consultation on the previous six months and plans were made for the upcoming six-month period. The group decided to continue the use of themes to organize our schedule (see above). The themes chosen for upcoming months are: stereotypes and the elimination of prejudice, fasting practices, and women who make/made a difference. In addition to the themes (and books) listed above, several ideas were discussed that may be utilized as themes as the book club continues. These included issues from current events, such as immigration, refugees, climate change, gun violence, and the opioid crisis. Another area members are very interested in is faith and religion, including faith traditions, sacred music, art and architecture in various religions, and how different faith traditions approach some of the current issues in society.

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for November 2018

November 14, 2018

Our discussion last month was about the poetry of Robert Hayden, an American Baha’i who was the first African-American Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (a role now known as poet laureate of the United States). Mr. Hayden was a resident of Ann Arbor, a professor at the University of Michigan, and longtime Ann Arbor Baha’i whose daughter is still a member of our community.

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for October 2018

October 10, 2018

October’s meeting was a discussion of members’ personal choices in the area of poetry. The first selection was Jesus the Son of Man, by Khalil Gibran. This book is a series of poems and prose selections, written as if those who came in contact with Jesus had set down their impressions and understanding him and his actions. The selections take various points of view and describe different incidents in the life of Jesus, from his birth to his death and after. Some of the “authors” are familiar, such as Mary Magdalene, Matthew, Luke, John the Baptist, and Caiaphas, but others are not named but merely described, as “A Persian Philosopher in Damascus”, or “A Shepherd in South Lebanon”. Taken together, they present a new picture of the Jesus we know from Christianity. Book club members were intrigued by the structure and imagination of this book, and several were interested in pursuing reading it as well.

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