The YW Southern Arizona Book Club was founded by YWCA S.A. staffers Liane Hernandez and Michelle Pitot. Some may remember it originally titled the Race to Justice Changemaker Book Club. There was also an incredible amount of help from ASU MSW interns Roshann Pressman and Sara Galaz as well. It began in September of 2016 to hold space for conversations. The goal was to help develop a shared language and understanding about race, social justice, mass incarceration. It’s about hearing the experiences of growing up in the U.S. from multiple perspectives.

“Part of it was being able to share what we were learning with ‘The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness’ by Michelle Alexander and the community conversation series that was happening at the time. The other part was to use this book as the baseline so that we can engage the YW community.” This conversation began in the middle of the #BlackLivesMatter movement happening around the country leading up to the election.

Of course, the YW Southern Arizona Book Club dove into the classic authors like James Baldwin. They also found new authors who paid homage to Baldwin and the African American experience. When Liane and Michelle Pitot, Chief of Staff at YWCA Southern Arizona, first started it was only for 6 months. Tackling 6 books at a time left space for participants to bring books and make suggestions. The YWCA Stand Together Advocacy and Training (STAT) tour took place in Montgomery, Alabama. There we saw the opening of the Legacy Museum and the Memorial for Peace and Justice. Liane left the trip inspired. She reflected on the ways in which conversations can affect the individual internally and, in turn, begin to heal systemic racism.

After the tour, Liane participated in the Dunbar Center’s workshop “Looking in the Mirror.” This led to further discoveries in reading “The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World”. It became the book club’s first read for January 2019. “We’ll end the year with a focus on sustainable activism, environmentalism, and open a New Year with a book about forgiving,” says Liane, relating to current events of social activism today.

Then in February, we open the discussion and thought-process up to possibilities with “The S Word” by John Nichols. Back in March, we focused on the “New Jim Crow” baseline with a book about incarceration. We’ve read “Just Mercy” by Equal Justice Initiative founder and lead attorney Bryan Stevenson. In April, we investigated the life of a Japanese-American internment camp survivor in “Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama” by Diane C. Fujino. This is an account of life and involvement in the black liberation movement and community organizing. In May, political murder ensues in this classic story of historical fiction by Julia Alvarez “In the Time of the Butterflies.”

This summer we’ll be reading ‘Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans”. It will be interesting to see what everyone thinks about it. With this year’s books, Liane would like to know more about Asian American experiences’ role in shaping the U.S. experience. In the fall, readers will get to discuss Eduardo Galeano. Galeano is hands down Liane’s favorite author of all time. Of course, Liane’s excited to hear about other people’s reaction to “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent”. She wants to know what you think about his poetic stylings and incredible command of Latin American history.

This text is one that will follow the history of exploitation of Latin America. He is concerned with gold and silver, cacao and cotton, rubber and coffee, fruit, hides and wool, petroleum, iron, nickel, manganese, copper, aluminum ore, nitrates, and tin. These are the veins which he traces through the body of the entire continent. Those veins run up to the Rio Grande and throughout the Caribbean as well. The story journies to their open ends where they empty into the coffers of wealth in the United States and Europe.

In October, travel back to the birthplace of the civil rights movement in the USA with “In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma (Civil Rights and Struggle)”. Author Bernard Lafayette shares his story as a co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He was also a leader in the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins, a Freedom Rider, an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the national coordinator of the Poor People’s Campaign.  After meeting Dr. LaFayette last year, we are inspired to dig into more of his work around the international movement for nonviolence.

Let’s turn up the heat in November with “If I Could Write This in Fire” by Michelle Cliff. Her writing is about living in Jamaica, England, and the U.S. The book features stories of racism, homophobia, and social injustice. Of course, we’re excited for this one!

Ending the YW Book Club year in December with “Bad Indians” by Deborah A. Miranda.  This is suggested by YW staffer, Rhiannon O’Leary. The text “focuses on the erasure of Native American tribes, centered on the experience of the author and her tribal identity. I love her writing style, and she uses pictures, newspaper clippings, poems, analogies and a combination of different ways to tell her story rather than just through narrative. It’s a really good read and really illuminating.”

Uncover all the YWCA-recommended reading here!

It is our genuine hope that folks will join us as we explore these texts. In fact, you can read along with us in person at the STAT Training Center. We meet on the 3rd Wednesday of the month. Or, if you can’t make it in person, new this year we will be live streaming to our Facebook YW Book Club.

Plus, have some special promotions for YW Southern Arizona Book Club attendees! Receive a coupon from Bookmans at our next YW Southern Arizona Book Club meeting. In addition, mention “YW Southern Arizona Book Club” to receive 10% off any books from our list at Antigone Books in Tucson, AZ.

We invite you to the table to dig into these texts too! Let’s have some conversation, learn together. We hope that you will join us at the YWCA Book Club!