Fighting Injustice with Fiction
Going beyond the book club
If you read my last post, you know that I am committed to rumbling with story. I try to push myself beyond my comfort zone to ask some pretty pointed questions. The goal? To better understand the world and my place in it.
If you didn’t read that post, you can check it out here.
Rumbling with story.
Rumbling helps me see things more clearly or from a different perspective. It can help me make something new. This is what my favourite writers do. They rumble with some aspect of their lives, something that challenges or confounds them, and then they move what they learn from their heads to their hearts through their hands. (Hat tip to Brené Brown for that bit of wisdom.)
Their books invite us to rumble, too. When we truly engage with their work, something in us shifts. I know I was fundamentally different after reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee or, more recently, The Meaning of Life by Viktor Frankl.
Reading, alone, won’t address wicked problems like racism and anti-Semitism. We need to do more than mark the books “read” on GoodReads after we place them back on the shelf (or return them to the library). We have to move “what we’ve learned in our heads to our hearts through our hands.” (Thanks again Brené Brown.) We do this by taking action.
In recent years, there has been a surge in the number of book clubs that explicitly address social justice issues like racism. The response has been mixed as discussed in “Can a Book Club Fight Racism?” by Claire Fallan. (Huffington Post, August 19, 2020)
The problem of white supremacy, said Dr. Fleming, a professor of sociology at Stonybrook University, “is not something that an anti-racist reading group will fix. It’s something an anti-racist reading group can help facilitate.
Too often, book clubs encourage us to stay in our heads. The best book clubs encourage members to challenge and support each other, and then find ways to apply lessons learned in the real world.
Challenging our understanding, beliefs, or perspectives.
The Amnesty International Book Club helps readers go “beyond the book.” The club recently released the discussion guide for its January/February pick: Gutter Child by Jael Richardson, founder and Executive Director of the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD), books columnist on CBC Radio’s q, and an advocate who speaks out on issues of diversity.
I’ll be rumbling with Gutter Child in the coming weeks. Care to join me? If you are a current subscriber, watch for an email inviting you to participate in the Amnesty International Book Club with me this Winter. (Not yet a member? Subscribe below.)
The club also urged readers to consider the far-reaching effects of anti-Black racism and policing in Canada—and to take action. (Want to know how? Keep reading.)
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Supporting organizations bringing about real change in the world.
This Winter, Amnesty International is asking Canadians to take the following action:
The United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent has raised alarms about systemic racism within Canada’s justice system, including specific concerns on how police practices such as carding disproportionately impact Black people. Those concerns are also documented in numerous other reports, including from the Ontario Human Rights Commission and Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.
Communities have told officials what they need, and it isn’t more enforcement. Urge your Premier to support new, transformative approaches to upholding public safety.
TAKE ACTION TODAY and call on Canada's Premiers to empower communities.