Armchair BEA LogoToday’s prompt for Armchair BEA is “Tell us about the books that transported you to a different world, taught you about a different culture, and/or helped you step into the shoes of someone different from you.” Diversity is a timely topic since the first-ever BookCon, a public day at the end of BEA, stirred up the controversy that led to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign.

For readers looking for books to diversify their experience, I thought I’d round up my Diversity Book Club posts. Diversity Book Club is actually a kind of short-hand for a local book club (with a less descriptive name) that formed after a shooting tragedy in my community. We began to talk about books that help us discuss the grim history and hard reality of race in America in order to create better understanding that, we hope, will lead to a brighter future. I told the story of our beginning most completely in this post about the fifth anniversary of the Kirkwood City Hall shooting and in this post about my favorite nonfiction.

cover of Sister Citizen by Melissa V. Harris-PerryOur annual book selection and potluck meeting is in September each year. Before last year’s meeting, I made a list of all 45 books we read to that point, because we’re starting to forget what we’ve already read. Everyone brings books they want us to consider and we throw them all on the table to pass around and talk about. Then we vote on them to come up with the 8 to 10 titles that we can fit into a year. For the last three years, I made lists of all the books we brought and the titles that we chose:

I don’t review all the books we read — sometimes talking about them is enough — but here are the ones I have reviewed:

The Grace of Silence by Michele NorrisThe Armchair BEA prompt also asked about books to recommend to readers who are just starting to read a bit more widely. Since I just listed an overwhelming number of books, that might be an excellent way to end this post! I’m going to go with The Grace of Silence by Michele Norris and The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson as the most accessible for people encountering this topic for the first time on their own. The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander make terrific companion reads. By then, you’ll be ready for the humor of Baratunde Thurston and the activism of Melissa V. Harris-Perry.

Do you have books to suggest for our book club? I’ve already started a list of books to suggest in September. I added I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou last night.

Signature of Joy Weese Moll


Diversity Book Club for #ArmchairBEA — 24 Comments

  1. I’ve read a few of the books on your lists and found them excellent. I have read more about the residential school experience suffered by the Canadian First Nations People. young people ripped from their loving families and forced into a strange system, many of them still struggle from the damage to this day.

  2. Once again, Joy, a great post and a wonderful Diversity Reading 101 list. After I absorbed the news of Maya Angelou s death, I pulled out my 20 year old copy of I know why the Caged Bird sings and was reminded of why I love her so much.. Excellent choice for September. I M encouraged by the discussion around diversity. I will add a step further and say we need more American people of color getting published – African, Latino, Native, Arab, and Asian- those are the real voices missing. Let’s keep reading, sharing, and hoping.

  3. Joy, thank-you for sharing this! It’s incredible that such a thoughtful book club should emerge out of such a terrible tragedy. I’ve never heard of anything similar happening before. I find it’s hard enough to find a book club that’s truly interested in discussing books – that your club has been able to persist over the years, reading books that deal with a difficult topic, is inspiring.

    Above, Heather mentioned reading about the residential school experiences. This is a topic I’ve been exploring the past year as well, through university courses about Aboriginal spirituality and traumatic autobiographies. Today more narratives by Aboriginal people are being published. I think while such narratives may be uncomfortable to read, it’s important that we witness their stories if we’re going to achieve any sort of reconciliation, as you doing through your book club.

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  5. I love it that you have a diversity book club! Just what I need to join too. Those are some really good books in your post! It is really nice to be able to come to books after a tragedy like that and try to learn more about people. Great venture!

  6. A great idea to have a Diversity Book Club! How wonderful that it’s lasted so well, too! Thanks for the reading suggestions! I’m sorry to say I haven’t read a single one of them yet.

  7. What a great idea for a book club – very inspiring.
    I found the Sidney Poitier autobiography fascinating & the Malcolm X one challenging if your group is looking for any more options 🙂

  8. Wow! Thank you so much for all of the book recommendations! I’ve always wanted to be in a book club, and it’s wonderful that your community came together after a tragedy. I’ll have to check out some of these books, and I need to read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I was so upset when I heard of her passing! great post 😀

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