NewlyNested: The First Rule of Book Club…
a blogumn by Debra Goykhman
Just a little over a year ago I was still in graduate school on the east coast and newly engaged. I was also writing my final research paper on Oprah’s Book Club and women’s education, embarking on the question: does Oprah’s book club offer the same educational benefits as book clubs did for women during the times when women weren’t allowed an education? Like most of my fellow creative writing graduate students, I had a bit of snobbery towards book clubs. I thought that there was no way these gatherings could be nearly as stimulating as taking oneself super-seriously and writing a research paper or embarking on novel writing.
My snobbery was not in a vacuum. My first year in graduate school the sentiment was there by most of us (not all) and I even remember a old Professor rolling her eyes while discussing how draining it was to speak to a book club about her work. How they don’t ask meaningful at all questions.
Now that I have graduated, gotten married, and moved to another coast to an area where I know almost no one, I have had numerous people suggest I join a book club. My bias hadn’t completely gone away, but I figured the worst that could happen was that I’d get to read a book and have to have a boring conversation about it. The best would be that I liked the book and met some friends. I didn’t just join one book club, but I joined two. One through meetup.com and the other through a young professionals organization (however half the group is unemployed).
Within my first meeting I realized that all the bias I had developed had been completely unfounded. We began with a classic The Picture of Dorian Grey and had a 45-minute heated discussion about the book. Since then we have read a variety of books from The Time Traveler’s Wife to Are You There Vodka? It’s me Chelsea!. Sometimes we speak about our feelings from the reading experience. Other times we talk about style. But what I look forward to the most is getting together with a group of women that I normally would have never known and sharing our perspective with one another. When I wrote my paper on Oprah’s book club I found that diversity and empathy were her key agendas. Experiencing these agendas was something I would have never even known how to value in the academic world.
Of course book clubs are also a wonderful social experience, especially for me, newly nested and craving some girl time. Recently my book clubs have been reading and going to the movies with both The Time Traveler’s Wife and Julie and Julia. No matter how social our outings are intended to be, we still end up always going back to the books. When we met for coffee before one movie every time the conversation moved in one direction it quickly got wrangled back to a new book, old book, or simply treasured book. As a writer who would love to impact just twenty women’s lives in this fashion, I could never look down on something that is simply so good for literature.