The story behind the Inclusive Reading Club, invitation to join February’s discussion
For anyone wanting to become more involved and informed about today’s most pressing social issues, the Inclusive Reading Club is a monthly book club to help students, faculty and staff to do just that. The book club will kick off the spring 2020 season on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 12:30 p.m. in McKillop Library, Room 109, for an enlightening dialogue around police brutality and racial issues. Student leaders from the Black Student Union and the Multicultural Student Organization will also be joining the discussion.
The Inclusive Reading Club began during a moment of inspiration at a New Employee Orientation in 2019 when Rose Albert, assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Programs and Retention, realized that McKillop Library did themed displays around a variety of subjects. She wondered if a book club centered on themed conversations around diversity using the library’s resources might be a good idea.
Albert approached Dawn Emsellem-Wichowski, director of library services, who thought the proposal sounded like an amazing joint effort between McKillop Library and the Office of Multicultural Programs. Emsellem-Wichowski connected Albert with Gretchen Sotomayor, special programs and instruction librarian, and the two met to begin shaping what this might look like. The Inclusive Reading Club was born.
“[We were] just trying to find a very creative and innovative way of bringing the community together and people that you would not see … on a regular basis with something that they have in common—which is reading,” said Albert.
The club first happened in October 2019 with a discussion on LGBTQ issues, with subsequent months focusing on Native American heritage and the 1619 Project surrounding slavery. The club has recently adopted an official mission statement that speaks to their desire to “encourage participants to develop a greater understanding and appreciation of different identities, cultures, and communities.”
While the beginning of something like this has its challenges, so far it has been a rewarding experience, and the club continues to attract interest. “It’s been fun, and we’ve just been trying to figure it out how to promote it,” said Sotomayor of her experience working on the book club with Albert. “It’s definitely a way to increase understanding, and break down walls and barriers, and promote unity among different communities and cultures and identities. I think that’s really important.”
February’s Inclusive Reading Club will center around a discussion of “The Hate U Give,” the award-winning, critically acclaimed “New York Times” best-seller by Angie Thomas that chronicles the experiences of a black family in Georgia confronting racial norms and police brutality. There is also an option to read selected excerpts from “Race Matters” by Dr. Cornel West, a national best-seller with powerful essays that explore a range of issues relevant to black Americans.
The library is purchasing limited copies of “The Hate U Give” for students, and students can contact Albert or stop by The Office Of Multicultural Programs for a copy. Alternatively, copies can be requested through the library’s catalog.
If someone can’t make it to the meeting, they can also post thoughts online to the club’s padlet conversation portal. And even if the actual meeting can’t be an option due to scheduling conflicts, Albert and Sotomeyer are hopeful that people will get together on their own to have conversations around the topics. There will even be a movie screening of “The Hate U Give” on Thursday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m. in O’Hare Academic Building, Room 260, for those who might want to watch a movie instead of reading something.
“All we want is people to be engaged with this conversation,” said Albert. “It … makes you step into somebody else’s shoes, some other culture, some other religion, and maybe empathize and try to understand how other people are living their life and how others see the world.”