book clubs are badass
learning about Africa
things falling apart
Y’all, I’m so excited! A friend and I started a book club to read more non-white authors this year, and A LOT OF PEOPLE JOINED US. So many that I worried about whether we’d all fit in my living room.
Thankfully, a monstrous snow storm reduced our first discussion to a small group, but it fulfilled all of my book club dreams! I definitely felt like the least intelligent person in the room, and I loved watching the discussion go in so many directions that I couldn’t have anticipated.
Some notes for myself before our next meeting (which will be in March, and we’ll be discussing Americanah if anyone local wants to join in): take notes when I read the book so I remember more; do more research about the author’s background, because that is probably going to improve my understanding/interpretation of the book.
THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK?
It was interesting to read this so recently after The Poisonwood Bible. In my mind, they were very similar, though I’m doing some research as I write this and realize that one takes place in Nigeria in the 1890s and the other is Belgian Congo starting in 1959. They take place in different countries during different eras, book-ending the colonial period. (Note to self: you don’t know much about Africa. It’s okay. Keep learning.)
It was impressive the ways Achebe presented conflicting cultures without deifying one and demonizing the other – it allowed us to discuss them both neutrally and critically.
Hmmm…mostly I’m excited to be learning how to engage with a story that doesn’t match my own, and to approach it with respect but also assess it honestly. At the end of our book club, we were discussing universal themes like the inconsistency of man (and thus the inconsistency of societies they build), the roles of men and women in various cultures, the surprising novelty of Christianity (particularly because the counter-intuitive parts of the faith are woven into our national identity and never seem novel).
I was envious of those in the group who had read this book in a classroom setting, who were potentially walked through the historical context and guided through the themes. The more I read, the more disappointed I am in my history and literature education. They could have been so much more thorough! THERE IS SO MUCH MORE I WANT TO LEARN!
Ummm…so…this was a good book. Existential/intellectual angst is exactly where I hoped to end things.