Book groups.

Author:DeYoung, Sara

How would you describe your book group?

Chattanooga, Tennessee, has a growing Latino population, and our only Latino social service agency is La Paz. La Paz had the idea to form a book club based on Latin American and Spanish literature as a way to educate local residents about Latino culture while bringing the community together. Our book club had its first meeting three and a half years ago, and we continue to meet every other week. We are a diverse group--in race, age range, and sexual orientation. We have retirees, an architect, a psychotherapist, a professor of education, a rug designer, and a writer, as well as a case manager in mental health. From time to time, we have new members join us, but our two men and five women make up the core group.

How is your book group structured?

We are a flexible group with few rules, except for one: everyone must bring either food or wine! We read Latin American authors, literature from Spanish-speaking countries, as well as American authors of Latino-Spanish descent. Our reading tends to progress from a heavy, complex book to a short story collection. We read both fiction and nonfiction (though we prefer fiction), and we read both in English and in Spanish. We don't have a set system for choosing books; members offer suggestions, and then we choose which one sounds the best.

What have been some of your best discussions?

It seems that every book we read leads us into discussions on culture, politics, and history. We have a researcher in our group who comes to meetings prepared to shed light on the history of the country where the book takes place and to ask thought-provoking questions to guide our discussions. The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander was especially interesting because of its exploration of Argentinean culture, Jewish culture within Argentinean culture, and the Argentinean Dirty War fought during the 1970s and 1980s. The family dynamics brought forth much discussion as well.

What have been your book group's favorite novels?

A Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Conversations in the Cathedral...

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