We are excited to highlight the partnership between the UW Tacoma Library and the Center for Equity and Inclusion in the pilot of a social justice book club.
“Real Lit[erature]: Reading for Social Justice” is a book club envisioned as a thematic reading and discussion program to engage UW Tacoma students through literature-based outreach on contemporary societal issues. Based on research that indicates that fiction is able to positively impact displayed empathy (Bal and Veltcamp 2013), we want to raise awareness and discuss the experiences that are being had by our community. We believe that using a novel to discuss contemporary societal issues allows for hard but necessary conversations to take place. Joining a book club is also a fantastic way to create community by reducing isolation.
During the Fall 2018 Quarter, Real Lit is reading Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, a young adult novel grounded in the Black Lives Matter movement. This novel made the National Book Award long list, and has had a huge impact nationally. It tells the story of 16-year old Starr, who grows up in a poor neighborhood while attending an elite suburban prep high school. The novel traces the impact and struggles Starr, and her communities face, when her best friend Khalil was shot by a police officer.
Participants have received a copy of the book and tickets to see the recent movie adaptation. We have the opportunity to discuss the book twice a month in the UW Tacoma Library’s Chihuly Room with snacks and drinks, and have a campus-wide twitter conversation under the hashtag #RealLitUWT. The pilot will culminate in a skype conversation with the author.
We have 13 active participants this quarter, and have seen expressed interest from faculty and staff. In order to ensure that students voices are heard, we gave students the opportunity to decide whether they wanted a student-only book club, or a larger community conversation. They opted for the latter, and we are excited to see how these conversations build conversations and networks between students and staff and faculty.
From a theoretical perspective, we are interested in exploring what the role of literature is in promoting social justice and activism. We recently addressed the question of “reading as advocacy” in a presentation, available here for those interested, at the 2018 ACRL Oregon & Washington Joint Fall Conference.
Johanna Jacobsen Kiciman, email@example.com