Virtual Book Club – Difficult Topics – Poverty and Homelessness

For July’s virtual book club, we’ve decided to continue our series on difficult topics – this week’s is homelessness and poverty. We’ve curated a book list to spark ideas and conversations, local organizations that need your help and support, and a list of questions and resources to help you examine your own privilege.

If you’d like to check out any of the books below, just click on the cover to be taken to Hoopla, one of our e-book platforms. All you need is your library card and PIN, and you can check any of them out at any time, no waiting!

Books to start the conversation:

Local organizations to support:

The City Mission

Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless

Family Promise of Greater Cleveland

Cleveland Homeless Legal Assistance Program

A Place 4 Me

Focus Cleveland

Examples of Socioeconomic (Class) Privilege:

  1. I assume I will be able to meet my basic needs. I take having necessities for
    granted.
  2. I buy what I need and want without worry. I can afford luxury items easily.
  3. I do not fear being hungry or homeless.
  4. I am free of the burden of debt.
  5. I have the freedom to waste.
  6. I can manage to know only people of similar class background by exclusively
    frequenting places where such people gather — neighborhoods, schools, clubs,
    workplaces, etc.
  7. I evaluate others and recognize those of similar class background because I was
    taught to do that kind of evaluation.
  8. I can avoid spending time with people whom I am trained or have learned to
    mistrust and who may have learned to mistrust my kind.
  9. I can hide family secrets and family failures behind the doors of my home.
  10. I am in control of how I spend my time.

The list continues here, in the “Examples of Socioeconomic Status (“Class”) Privilege” document from the University of Michigan.

Find more information on the homeless and homelessness here, from the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Check back next Sunday for a new reading list on another topic that deserves our attention!

Virtual Book Club – Difficult Topics – Immigration

Welcome back to the virtual book club on difficult topics – we hope that these resources have helped spark conversations and new ideas for all of you! This week, we’re looking at another facet in the social justice sphere – immigration. Specifically, that of undocumented immigrants and people of color.  

As always, we’ve got a list of books to start your reading journey, local organizations that could use your support, and more reading to further the conversation. Click on any of the book covers below to be taken to Hoopla, one of our emedia sites. Just log in with your library card number and PIN, and you’re ready to go! 

Books to start the conversation: 

Local Organizations to Support: 

Legal Aid Society of Cleveland

Hope Center for Refugees and Immigrants

Refugee Services Collaborative of Greater Cleveland  

The Refugee Response 

Catholic Charities Diocese of Cleveland – Migration and Refugee Services

US Citizenship Privilege Checklist: 

  1. Most if not all of the time I am able to surround myself with people who share a common or collective history, who understand the norms of U.S. society, who speak the same language that I do, and who understand my culture.  
  2. I can see my nation as “default” – it is normal, everybody else is “different”.  
  3. I can view my cultural norms as universal.  
  4. I do not know what is like to have war in my homeland.  
  5. I expect people in other countries to speak my language when I travel abroad.  
  6. I can assume everybody knows, or should know, my culture (for example, “American Idol” contestants).  
  7. I can assume no one else has any of the technological advantages I have (for example, assuming others do not know how to use a computer or oven).  
  8. I can easily ignore the fact that most news stories are told from the USAmerican or Western point of view and are not a universal truth.  
  9. I assume everybody wants to live in the United States, since I have been trained to believe is the best place to live (even without universal health care).  
  10. I see people from other countries as inferior to me, even if they are highly educated and successful. 

The list continues here, in the Examples of US Citizenship Privilege document from the University of Michigan. 

For further reading, check out this summary of key findings on immigrants from the Pew Research Center, a teaching guide on refugees from the UN Refugee Agency, and a lesson plan on asylum seekers from the Advocates of Human Rights

Check back next Sunday for more of the virtual book club!

Virtual Book Club – Difficult Topics – Feminism

For our third week of the virtual book club on difficult topics, we want to focus on women and feminism. Why is that? Partly because of this statistic from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

“In 2018, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median usual weekly earnings that were 81 percent of the earnings of male fulltime wage and salary workers.”

– from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “Highlights of Women’s Earnings 2018”

Even in 2020, women’s work isn’t valued as much as men’s – and the disparity is even worse for women of color. 

Below are books that we thought would shine a light on the experience of women in the United States. Every one is available right now from Hoopla – no holds, no waiting. All you need is your library card number and PIN. We’re also including local women-focused organizations here in Cleveland, as well as a ‘privilege checklist’ to get you thinking.  

Every Sunday in June, we’ll be sharing curated book lists on difficult topics, organizations in the area to support, and more resources to explore. 

Books to start the conversation: 

Local organizations to support: 

The City Mission

Cleveland Rape Crisis Center

League of Women Voters Ohio

Renee Jones Empowerment Center

Women’s Recovery Center

YWCA Greater Cleveland

Male Privilege Checklist: 

  1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favour. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed. [However, men who appear to come from poverty or the working class are much more likely to be turned away from a prestigious job than a middle class or wealthier-appearing man.] 
  1. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex – even though that might be true. [This is far more true for white men than for many men of color.] 
  1. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex. [But may well be due to my race or ethnicity, if I’m not white.] 
  1. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities. [“Black mark” is part of racist speech. Black Monday, black mark, black sheep of the family: all generate negative associations with blackness and Blackness. See Dreaming The Dark, by Starhawk, for more on this.] 
  1. The odds of my encountering sexual harassment on the job are so low as to be negligible. [This is much more likely to be the case for men perceived to be heterosexual.] 

The list continues here, in the Male Privilege Checklist from Arizona State University. 

Virtual Book Club – Difficult Topics – LGBTQ+

June is Pride Month, so for this week’s ‘Difficult Topics’ virtual book club, we’re talking about another marginalized group: the LGBTQ+ community. 

All of the books below can be checked out from our emedia service Hoopla with your card number and PIN – every item is available now, with no holds lists and no waiting! We’ve included titles to educate on a broad swath of the LGBTQ+ experience, from trans to nonbinary to gay and lesbian. You can also find links to local Northeast Ohio LGBTQ+ organizations to support, as well as a link to homework for those wanting to be a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community.

Books to start the discussion: 

Local organizations to support: 

LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland

Equality Ohio

GLSEN Northeast Ohio Chapter

PLEXUS LGBT & Allied Chamber of Commerce

PFLAG Cleveland

Straight Privilege Checklist: 

1. I am not identified or labeled — politically, socially, economically, or otherwise — by my sexual orientation.  

2. No one questions the “normality” of my sexuality or believes my sexuality was “caused” by psychological trauma, sin, or abuse.  

3. I do not have to fear that my family, friends, or co-workers will find out about my sexual orientation, and that their knowing will have negative consequences for me.  

4. I get paid leave from work and condolences from colleagues if my partner dies.  

5. My sexual orientation (if known to others) is not used to exclude me from any profession or organization (teaching, coaching, the military, Boy Scouts).  

6. In the event of my partner’s death, I can inherit automatically* under probate laws.  

7. I am not accused of being deviant, warped, perverted, or psychologically confused, or dysfunctional because of my sexual orientation.  

The list continues here, in the University of California Merced’s excellent Queer Ally Homework document, where you can find more ideas to consider for being a friend of the LGBTQ+ community.

Virtual Book Club – Difficult Topics – Race and Racism

In light of everything going on in the world right now, we’ve decided to pivot from choosing just one book to discuss for a whole month to sharing curated lists of books on difficult topics. Every Sunday, we’ll be linking books to help start kick-start discussion on challenging topics, as well as including links to local organizations that need your support.  We know that these conversations will be hard, and they will make people uncomfortable, but we believe that they are important to have.

To start, we’ll be looking at race and racism, especially racism that predominantly affects Black people in America. All of the items below can be  checked out right now from Hoopla with your library card and PIN – just click on the book cover!

Books to start the discussion:

Local organizations to support: 

Questions to consider: 

  • What is privilege? Who has it? Who doesn’t? Why do some people have privilege while others don’t?
  • Name some examples of White Privilege.
  • Where do these privileges come from? What can people with privilege do that people without privilege can’t?
  • What is the cost of White Privilege for persons of color? What is the cost of White Privilege for white people?
  • How are issues like education, healthcare, poverty, housing, and economic status relate to White Privilege?
  • How are societal challenges like drugs, crime, failing schools, high drop out rates, and food deserts related to White Privilege?
  • Why is it challenging for white people to think about (and do something about) White Privilege?
  • When did you first realize you were white?
  • How do you see White Privilege demonstrated in media daily?

Questions from Chicago Theological Seminary. Click that link to find their White Privilege Glasses Discussion Guide, which has many helpful links to further reading and discussion.

Virtual Book Club – Week 5 – Book Woman

We can’t believe it’s the final week of our May virtual book club already! So in this last Sunday, we’re going to wrap up the discussion of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.

If you’re just finding this post today, no worries! Click the link above to get a copy of the book from Hoopla, where it is always available. If you are a little late to join the discussion, you can always go back and comment on the older posts, too, using the ‘virtual book club’ tag. We are so interested to hear what you think about this fascinating work of historical fiction, so please share! Now, let’s get to the discussion questions:

  • What do you think life was like for the people of Troublesome? What are some of the highlights of living in such a remote place? What are some of the challenges the people on Cussy’s library route face?  
  • Back then, entering into a prohibited or interracial marriage in Kentucky was a misdemeanor that could result in incarceration, and we see these racial tensions attempt to sever Cussy and Jackson’s relationship. Discuss antimiscegenation laws and marriage laws. Do you think this kind of prejudice still exists toward interracial couples?  
  • What do you think happens to Cussy, Jackson, Honey, and the other inhabitants of Troublesome after the story ends? Imagine you were Cussy. How would you feel leaving Troublesome for good? 

Questions from the author’s website.

Thank for you joining us on this journey into the hills of Appalachia! We hoped you learned a lot about life in Kentucky during the Great Depression, the Librarian Pack Horse Program, and about Kentucky’s famous Blue People.  

And please make sure to join us for the Summer Reading Program, starting June 6! Find more information here. Check back here at the blog every week for more summer reading posts, book lists, virtual programs, and lots of other fun stuff!

Virtual Book Club – Week 4 – Book Woman

This Memorial Day weekend, we’re talking about another holiday celebration: one that takes place in The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson.

If you’d like to read along with us, click the link above to go to Hoopla, one of our e-media services. All you need is your card number and PIN to check out a copy of the book – no holds, no waiting! And what better to do over a long weekend stuck at home than to read? Now, let’s get to the discussion…

  • How do you think Cussy feels when she is ostracized at the Independence Day celebration, despite her change of skin color? Can you relate to her feelings of isolation? 
  • If Cussy was alive today, do you think she would still face the same kind of prejudices against her skin color that she did during the Great Depression?
  • Cussy has to deal with the loss of many loved ones in a very short amount of time. How do you think she handles her grief? Which loss was the most difficult for you to read?  

Some questions from the author’s website, some additions by me.

Check back next Sunday for our final week of discussing Book Woman! We’ll post the last batch of discussion questions and close out our virtual book club for May. Whether you comment or just read, we’re happy you’re here!

Virtual Book Club – Week 3 – Book Woman

Hello everyone, it’s time again for our virtual book club! We’re in our third week of talking about The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, which you can get right now from Hoopla if you click that link. No waiting, no holds, always available!

This week, we will talk about the community scrapbooks that Cussy makes, as well as a ‘spoilery’ question about Cussy’s genetic condition. Don’t read the second question if you haven’t read about the ‘cure’ for Cussy’s blueness. You’ve been warned!

  • Imagine you were making a community scrapbook like the ones Cussy distributes to the people of Troublesome. What would you include? Do you think these materials were helpful to Cussy’s library patrons?  
  • When Cussy receives the cure for her blueness from Doc, she realizes there’s a price to pay for her white skin and the side effects soon become too much to handle. If you were in Cussy’s shoes, would you sacrifice your health for a chance at “normalcy”? If there weren’t any side effects, do you think Cussy would have continued to take the medication? Would you? 

Questions from the author’s website.

We’re dying to hear what you think in the comment section below! And make sure to check back next Sunday for our next batch of discussion questions and comments.

Virtual Book Club – Week 2 – Book Woman

And we’re back – week 2 of our second virtual book club pick – The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson! That link will take you to an ‘always-available’ copy of the book through Hoopla. Let’s get right to it!

In the first few chapters, despite her protests Cussy is married off, even though she has a job as a librarian and can support herself. But her father, thinking he is doing what is best for her, gives her to a violent and angry man. The discussion questions this week talk about that betrayal and the aftermath, as well as how hillfolk have been treated throughout history. Questions come from the author’s website.

  • Missionaries, government, social workers, and various religious groups have always visited eastern Kentucky to reform, modernize, and mold hillfolk to their acceptable standards. Do you think Cussy faced this kind of prejudice from the outside world? Is there any prejudice or stigma associated with the people of Appalachia today?  
  • How do you think Cussy’s father feels after he marries her off to an abusive man? Why do you think he agrees to Charlie Frazier’s proposal in the first place? What do you imagine life was like for an unwed woman at that time? 

Throughout the month of May, we will be posting new discussion questions in this read-along book club of Book Woman.  Sound off in the comments below, or just read along with us. Check back every Sunday for new questions to think about, and read along with us! 

Virtual Book Club – NEW Title! – Week 1

It’s here, the day you’ve all been waiting for… the day we announce the new book for the virtual book club for May! This time, we’re taking a turn from present-day literary fiction to historical fiction.  

Our book club pick this month takes place in the rolling hills of Kentucky during the Great Depression. Most people are out of work, or killing themselves in the coal mines to provide for their families.  They barely have time to sleep, let alone educate themselves. But that is where Cussy Carter and the Kentucky Pack Horse Librarians come in. Funded on a grant from the Works Project Administration, the Pack Horse Librarians braved the wilds of Kentucky to bring the people of the hills books and education. Cussy is not just a librarian, though – she is a Blue: one of the last blue-skinned people of Kentucky, whose skin is a cerulean hue from a unique genetic trait.  

Based on historical fact, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson shines a light on a fascinating time in America’s history, seen through the eyes of a blue librarian. And you know we just can’t resist a story about librarians! 

Just like last month, we’ll post new discussion questions each week on Sunday. Click the book’s title up there to go to Hoopla, where it is always available. No need to wait or place holds for this one! Our librarians may also pop in to add their thoughts to the discussion. If we have a lot of interest, we’ll do an online meet-up to discuss the book. 

For this week, let’s talk a bit about libraries and librarians – you don’t need to have read the book to answer these!  

1. The Kentucky Pack Horse program was implemented in 1935 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to create women’s work programs and to assist economic recovery and build literacy. Looking at the novel, how did the program affect the people in this remote area? Do you think library programs are still a vital part of our society today? 
 
2. How has a librarian or book lover impacted your life? Have you ever connected with a book or author in a meaningful way? Explain. 

Questions from the author’s website

As always, thanks for reading, commenting, and hanging out with us!