At last month’s meeting of the new diverseCity Book Club at BookPeople, a Chinese-American man walked in about 10 minutes after the discussion had gotten underway.
“Is this the book club that’s open to anyone?” he asked, holding onto the reading selection, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me,” a 150-page essay about the author’s at times harrowing experience growing up in Baltimore as a young, black man.
After receiving a resounding “Yes!” the man pulled up a chair and joined the group. There, around the table, sat about 10 Austinites from all walks of life.
For about 90 minutes, the conversation around themes of the book frequently flowed into topics ranging from racism to self-defense courses. One compelling idea led to another and the conversation just never stopped.
The Chinese-American visitor, when he spoke, stunned members of the group with his soulful, mellow southern drawl, later explained by the fact that he grew up in Louisiana but made his way to Austin about four years ago.
Another member of the group, an Austinite originally from England, compared his own early life journey to that of Coates’, describing the stifling and alienating experiences he endured.
Over chips, salsa, and a cheese and fruit platter, the discussion was at times light-hearted and comical, other times difficult and somber, but always relevant to an individual – or our collective – reality in Austin.
Why don’t we acknowledge what diversity we do have and collaboratively create campaigns to build on that?
Native Austinite Charlotte Moore, a local writer who happens to be Black, started the book club in January. Her motivation was stirred by two things: a desire to read more books and a frustration with recurrent grievances about the city’s growing homogeneity.
“So much has been written about Austin’s lack of diversity,” Moore said. “We know that people of color are leaving or, for various reasons, being forced out of the city. But, there is still diversity in Austin. While we try and figure out ways to compel people of color and varied ethnicities to remain in or move to Austin, why don’t we acknowledge what diversity we do have and collaboratively create campaigns to build on that?”
Moore is reporting on diversity in Austin for an article in soulciti later this month.
Currently, the club meets every two months. There are no fees or requirements for membership, save for a desire to read and a mind open and willing to contemplate differing opinions about the social issues Austinites face today.
Click here for more information about diverseCity Book Club. Another upcoming event for Austin readers is the Austin African American Book Festival, celebrating its 10th anniversary on Saturday, Jun. 25, at the Carver Museum & Library.