In The Required Reading Revisited Book Club we focus on books considered “Required Reading” by most educational institutions, i.e. books you read (or were supposed to read) in school – either high school or university.
In March’s meeting we discussed Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. In April we followed up with Toni Morrison’s Sula, a book that feels heavily influenced by Hurston.
Written in 1973, Sula takes place in a similar time period as Their Eyes Were Watching God, albeit in a different part of the country entirely. It follows the relationship of two young girls as they grow up and follow different paths, one very conventional and the other anything but. Much like Janie Crawford, Sula discovers what she wants and doesn’t care what anyone has to say about it. As the novel progresses it becomes clear how necessary Sula is to to not just her friend, Nel, but to the entire town in which they live. A town that falls to pieces without the one thing needed to unite the townspeople… someone to define themselves against. Morrison’s writing has a delicate poetry to it, ironic as what it is describing is anything but delicate. And somehow she is able to weave multiple perspectives seamlessly, almost dreamily, into her storytelling. The innermost thoughts of the characters become like the scenery upon which the everything occurs. Their inner lives just as important as their outer ones.
Toni Morrison has won a Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize and the American Book Award. In her 40 year writing career, Morrison has published ten novels. Her 11th is due out in April of this year, God Help the Child, and is available for pre-order from Book People now!
In May we’ll be reading James Baldwin’s book of essays, The Fire Next Time. The book consists of two essays, the first written as a letter to Baldwin’s 14 year old nephew discussing the role of race in American History. The second deals with race and religion, focusing on Baldwin’s experience with the Christian church and the Islamic ideas of many people in Harlem. The book is considered by some to be one of the most influential books about race relations in the 1960’s . Baldwin himself is quite an interesting person. Following his preacher step-father’s footsteps he became a junior minister in the Pentecostal church, but around age 17 he began to view Christianity as falsely premised. At age 24 he moved to Paris, France and became involved in the artist scene known as The Left Bank, which included Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He was also a close friend of Nina Simone, Marlon Brando, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, among others. Baldwin was made a Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur by the French government in 1986.
The Required Reading Revisited Book Club, hosted by Consuelo Hacker and Sarah Holdgrafer, meets on the 2nd Sunday of every month at 4pm at Book People (the next meeting is Sunday May 10th). We typically we meet on the 3rd floor. Just stop by the 1st floor information desk when you arrive if you are unsure where to go. Sula by Toni Morrison and The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin are both available online at Book People. Or if you come in to the store, don’t forget to mention it’s for Book Club when you purchase and you’ll receive 10% off at the register! And join our Facebook page to get all the latest information! We look forward to talking with you on Sunday, May 10th!
“Sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can anyone deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.” – Zora Neale Hurston