Student Affairs book club sparks impactful discussions

By Christian McCarville

Reading can bring peace and tranquility to a reader, especially in times of high stress and pandemic-related worry. Reading can also shine a light on topics of importance, relevant to societal issues.

Student Affairs has invited students to participate in a virtual book club, meeting periodically over Zoom. The selected text for this most recent book club is “I’m Not Dying With You Tonight” by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal.

“The virtual book club is an opportunity for interaction among student and staff participants, promotes a form of self-care through engagement and relaxation and provokes thoughtful conversation on a variety of issues,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Leanna Fenneberg. “It can be difficult to find time to ‘read for fun’ outside of course material and the book club offers some motivation and accountability to pick up the book and discuss it.”

The original suggestion for the club to discuss was “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. However, the consensus was that most students are already familiar with the book and the film.

“As we explored that option, we recognized that many students have already read the book or seen its corresponding movie,” said Associate Dean of Campus Life Nick Barbati. “As we discussed books with similar themes geared towards young adults, we came to find ‘I’m Not Dying With You Tonight’ as a great option based on previous work of Kimberly Jones and its reviews.”

“I’m Not Dying With You Tonight” follows the story of two teenage girls who must rely on one another when their city falls into unrest due to racial tensions escalating. Both girls come from different backgrounds and points of view, but they must set their differences aside to survive the night.

In 2020, the book was nominated for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award. It provokes many relevant discussions relating to racial inequality in America.

“In a time where the stark realities of racial inequality are so vividly surfaced in our country, the content of this book is even more timely,” said Fenneberg.

“The book offers an opportunity to recognize and debunk stereotypes, consider someone else’s perspective and observe systemic racism and its impact on individuals and the community.”

The book club has currently covered the first third of the book. It had its first meeting on Feb. 23 and held productive discussions about the text.

“Discussing the book with students has already been an eye-opening experience as I believe each of us had an ‘aha!’ moment when hearing how someone else interpreted particular moments and motivations of the characters,” said Barbati. “We each bring with us unique perspectives based on our lived experiences, and that alters how each of us interprets what we are reading.”

The shared experience of a book discussion is sure to produce a greater appreciation and understanding for everyone involved. The book club plans to meet again soon to discuss the next assigned portion of the text.

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