Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for November 2016

November 9, 2016

The bookclub met last month on November 9 and discussed several items presented by individual members. First up was a New York Times article written by Harry Belafonte about what was at stake in the election from his perspective. He made use of a poem by Langston Hughes about how people of color, specifically African-Americans, relate to America as a country and an ideal not yet realized (“Let America Be America Again”). Members shared the poem and their responses to it, information about Harry Belafonte and his obvious talents as a writer, and a discussion of his ideas as presented in the article.

The next selection presented was a book: White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg. This non-fiction study presents the background and history of a group of immigrants cast off from Europe as “waste people” coming to America beginning with the earliest British colonial settlements. The author challenges the standard view of American history and meritocracy, and discusses class injustice as a part of our history.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio, a young-adult fiction book, was then presented by a group member. It tells the story of a young boy with a significant facial malformation who is attending school for the first time in fifth grade, having been unable to attend previously due to his disability. The story is told from the boy’s perspective, and also at times from those he interacts with, providing a more complex picture of the struggle for acceptance by those who are different in some way. The author calls her book “a meditation on kindness”.

The last book presented for discussion was Stephen M.R. Covey’s The Speed of Trust. This book covers both business and family processes, presenting the role of trust in how things get done at center stage. The author’s thesis is that in situations where there is a high level of trust, it is more likely that productivity will go up, and that therefore the development of trust is very important in both business and family life. According to the presenter, the author defines trust, shows how it is important, and how it can be encouraged to develop, in an easy-t-read style, with stories, anecdotes, and diagrams illustrating the important points. Several members expressed interest in reading the book for either work or general information.

As the meeting was concluding, members were encouraged to share books that they were interested in even if they had not yet read them. A few of the titles mentioned in this way were: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward, and Reading the Bible Again for the First Time by Marcus J. Borg. Thank you to all of the members who came and shared their selections, providing lots of good reading ideas for cold winter evenings!

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