The We the People Book Club will launch in September with a discussion of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. The online book club, sponsored by The Practicing Democracy Project, will give readers opportunities to strengthen their vision of democracy and their connections with others. The selections for the year-long program chronicle the last century of American thought and explore such themes as individualism and communalism, difference and unity, law and justice, the "stranger," and the spiritual values of resilience, compassion, hospitality, freedom, equality, and civility.
The titles to be discussed are:
September – The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
October – The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
November - A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor
December – Poetry (selections to be announced)
January - Tenth of December by George Saunders
February - Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
March - Puddnhead Wilson by Mark Twain
April - The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
May - Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
June - The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
July - The Partly-Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
August - Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
We the People Book Club participants will receive a weekly email with insights on the week's reading, questions to discuss in an online forum, recommended resources, and spiritual practices to try. A guide to the month's selection will also be available as a download at the beginning of the month.
The book club resources will be created by Julia Davis, who will also lead the online discussion. Davis, a fellow with The Practicing Democracy Project, holds an M.A. and C. Phil. in English and American Literatures and Cultures from Brown University and has 17 years experience teaching American literature at the college and high school level.
Davis explained her criteria for choosing the books for the Book Club: "Some of these are my favorite books because they are so very honest about where we are in relation to our ideals. They hold up tough love as a form of patriotism and, hopefully, inspire in their readers compassionate action as an alternative to a feeling of powerlessness."
The authors and works represent different regions of the United States, genders, sexualities, sensibilities, races, religions, time periods, worldviews, and genres. Davis continued: "I also wanted to champion contemporary writers who I think are doing important work and place these new works beside classic texts. My hope is that as the year progresses, new and old will enter into productive dialogue with one another in the We the People Book Club meetings."
To join the We the People Book Club, visit: www.SpiritualityandPractice.com/PracticingDemocracyBookClub
The Practicing Democracy Project is a collaboration between The Center for Spirituality & Practice in Claremont, California, and the Fetzer Institute in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It has an Internet presence at www.PracticingDemocracy.net. The Project is identifying spiritual practices to support the flourishing of America's democracy. Spirituality & Practice also runs a multifaith website providing resources for spiritual journeys. Through book and film reviews, they have been tracking spiritual themes in the popular culture for nearly five decades.
Mary Ann Brussat