Written by Catherine Coundjeris, Book Club Facilitator and Writing Classes Instructor
This summer’s Book Club at the Literacy Council met for three sessions and enjoyed reading stories from an anthology, Coming of Age Around the World, edited by Adiele Faith and Mary Frosch. It was a grand journey around the world as we read pieces about self-discovery such as “On the Road at Eighteen” by Chinese author Yu Hua; “Sea Urchin” by Korean author Chang-rae Lee; “The Veil” by Persian Author Marjane Satrapi; and “The Women’s Swimming Pool” by Lebanese writer Hanan al-Shaykh.
We shared our definition of the term “coming of age” as we also read stories about family in such excepts as “Black Men” by Finnish and Nigerian author and editor Faith Adiele; “In Heaven” as well as “Shoes for the Rest of My Life” by Mexican author Guadalupe Dueñas; and “Of White Hairs and Cricket” by Indian author Rohinton Mistry. We crossed boundaries to meet the other with Algerian author Albert Bensoussan in his excerpt from “The Lost Child: An Algerian Childhood.” We laughed and commiserated as we read “Beets” by Tiffany Midge who is of mixed Sioux and white race. Members of the Book Club included students: Maria V., Jacqueline B., Jamila T., Joseph K., Geraldine C., Sidike B., and YR. We also had the company of volunteer tutors who also participated in the discussions: Diana P., Robert E., and Heather W.
At the end of our summer Book Club session many of the members borrowed their copies for a longer period of time, so that they could read the other stories that we did not have time to explore together. Members shared their own personal coming of age moments, and their experiences journeying through their lives. Jacqueline B. was very enthusiastic about her experience: “I enjoyed the book club. It opened my mind to different cultures and histories as well as it gave me the opportunity to improve my English. I liked the way Catherine had presented the PowerPoint, led the group conversations, and the questions she brought up for any one who would like to share their own experiences regarding similar events that occurred in the readings. Thank you, Catherine, for your passion and hard work.” Tutor Heather W. remarked, “I really loved the discussion! Thank you, Catherine and everyone who joined!”
In addition, Jamila T. had this to say about Coming of Age Around the World: “The book is a collection of stories by writers from different countries who tell stories about children in these different countries, and through which we know more about their cultures, traditions, and how this affects their growth and ideas. I enjoyed reading this book, and learned a lot about the lives of children in different parts of the world. I recommend reading the book.”
Maria V. was very happy with the structure of the Book Club: “I really liked that you invited me to join the Summer Book Club, directed by Catherine. I liked because we read the most recently published book titles. Being a group, each one expresses our point of view, and in the discussions about the book: Coming of Age Around The World, we wonder if we readers have experienced something similar with the protagonist in the story. One of the best ways to ensure a successful book club meeting is to come prepared with discussion questions. Catherine came prepared with discussion question, and beyond the obvious questions, like whether or not we liked the book. I liked the book Coming of Age Around the Word with its multicultural anthology and its different authors.”
Another Book Club member Y R. had this to say: “Coming of Age Around the World, was the very best book I’ve read in the summer book club. There are 15 short stories and 10 other stories are excerpted from books, categorized under: Displaced Childhood, In the Shadow of War, Meeting the Other, School Days, and Self-discovery. The editors provided historical background for each author and their stories that made the book easier to read and comprehend, the best part of the book. I ended up buying the book to keep in my collection.”
Tutor Diana P. was a very enthusiastic member and said: “I found the book choice, Coming of Age Around the World Edited by Faith Adiele and Mary Frosch, to be very compelling and enlightening as to experiences of young people from other cultures. During a conversation before the meeting started, you were talking with several people about the challenges of the words in the stories from the perspective of non-English proficient speakers (and even us with English proficiency!). That helped me appreciate what they were dealing with in the readings. You did a great job of presenting PowerPoints to focus the discussions. You kept the conversations moving along with personal anecdotes and probing questions for the group. In just those three sessions, I got to know the members of the group and felt very happy to hear their thoughts and experiences. The atmosphere was welcoming for all of us, and our sharing ranged from deeply personal to light and humorous. Thanks for letting me be a part of this summer Book Club discussion!”
Anyone who is a volunteer or student of the Literacy Council is invited to join our biannual group. We have been holding the Book Club for several years now, and have read such books as The Distance Between Us: Memoir by Reyna Grande, Enrique’s Journeys by Sonia Nazario, A Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine, The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Parks, and As Far as the I Can See by former Literacy Council tutor and Co-editor to Reflections: Voices of English Learners (the Literacy Council’s literary magazine), Julie Heifetz. We are open for suggestions for our next Book Club session, which will be sometime in December/January. An announcement will be made in our upcoming Winter Class Schedule. Thank you again for a lovely summer gathering!