At work, we had been toying around with starting our own book club for awhile since (1) we love talking about books,(2) our customers are very well-read, and (3) we love hearing what they think about books they’ve read.
With book clubs, there are so many ways to go about it. What age range should we cater do? Which books will we read? Because we strong believe bookstores are vital to any community and they serve as great places to connect with others, we decided on a Family Book Club. We would invite kids and their parents to discuss a middle reader novel.
This past Wednesday we kicked off our first ever Family Book Club with Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer!
What a great title to kick it off with! It’s a book I normally wouldn’t have read this (because it’s historical fiction) even though I wanted to (because everyone only had good things to say about it) so I’m glad we chose this. There were lots of things to talk about in this coming of age story about three African-American sisters forced to fly to the Bay Area to live with a mother who abandoned them when they were young. Set in the late 1960’s, their personal lives mirrored the troubling circumstances of that time. The beauty of the language and the power in its words found me underlining many passages from the book.
While seven people were scheduled to show up and many more people had bought the book since our announcement, only a mother-daughter duo actually came that day. On one hand, it was disappointing because they missed out on a fun event. On the other, I had been feeling nervous having had to moderate the book club. Even though I talk about books all the time, the idea of having to lead a discussion kind of intimidated me. But a few minutes into it, I felt completely at ease. The girl (aged 10) had never been to a book club before and I wanted to make it a good experience for her and not make it seem it like schoolwork.
By way of introduction, we talked about the story behind our names since names played an important part in One Crazy Summer. We then shared our first impressions of the book and the characters. No surprise, Cecile wasn’t winning any popularity points! But, by the end of the book, if we didn’t completely like her 100%, at least, we understood where she was coming from.
Even though I took notes, there was a very natural flow in the discussion so I didn’t really have to look at them. It was very interesting and satisfying how that came about.
I had been wondering how a young kid would enjoy the story. The girl said it was difficult to get into at first because there were so many references she didn’t get but she liked it once she was able to identify with a character. As for the mom, she found the historical context fascinating and pointed out that, sadly, the racial injustices of the past mentioned in the book are very much still alive today.
We ended on a much lighter note. Taking a cue from the Gaither sisters and their side trip to San Francisco, we talked about our dream vacation destinations! I hope they had as much fun as I did during our Family Book Club! One Crazy Summer is definitely a book I will be recommending!