As you may recall, a few months ago we put out a call to interview book clubs. Our first book club profile is of an AMAZING group of Sisters who meet monthly for friendship, fellowship, togetherness, and oh by the way, books!
The Washington, DC-based D.E.A.R. Girlfriends Book Club has met since September 2012. This dynamic group of 13 women meet not only to enjoy both fiction and non-fiction books, but to mentor and give back to young women.
Most of the women in the D.E.A.R Girlfriends Book Club are in sororities and have extended that same type of sisterhood and fellowship into their monthly gathering. In fact, when I arrived at the meeting I was greeted so warmly that I immediately felt a connection to the group—like I had been a part of them for years!
“When I joined the club I wasn’t interested in reading the book at all. But I did join. And I really like it a lot.” Anita Lewis, Member
Every February D.E.A.R. Girlfriends Book Club members attend the Book Lover’s Breakfast held at the Pratt Library in Baltimore. This year the club was fortunate enough to have their picture taken and signed by Baltimore’s Sister Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Their participation in the event was even featured in the Afro newspaper for the second year in a row!
“We like each other! After we’ve had a discussion it is hard for us to leave!” Ladonia Wilkins, Member
Every June every member of the D.E.A.R. Girlfriends Book Club invites a young woman to attend their meeting and join the discussion. Members of the club purchase the book for the young woman she invites and use that meeting to establish and strengthen their relationships with young women they are informally and formally mentoring.
Their community service doesn’t end with the June mentoring event. D.E.A.R. Girlfriends Book Club members regularly volunteer their time to worthy charities in their community. In their monthly newsletter a volunteer opportunity is prominently featured and members enthusiastically support the featured charity. When asked why this group works so well together, their moderator Joyce Nixon replied, “We have a history together (we’ve) known each other for a long time.”
When asked to give one word that describes their fellowship…
“There is a sense of spirituality among this group. I know she’s praying for me and thinking of me.” Jan Elston, Member
The D.E.A.R Girlfriends Book Club is part of the growing number of African-American women readers. According to the Pew Internet Research Project, “Women are more likely than men to have read a book in the previous 12 months, and those with higher levels of income and education are more likely to have done so as well. In addition, blacks are more likely to have read a book than Hispanics.”
How the D.E.A.R. Girlfriends Book Club Operates
For those of you interested in creating or refining your book club, take a look at some of the details on how this dynamic group of Sisters manages their monthly meetings.
How often do you meet?
Sisters meet monthly, typically on a Saturday afternoon at the home of one of the members. The hostess provides warm, inviting environment and delicious food and drink for all attending. Guests are welcome!
How do you bring new members into your book club?
They have no formal strategy for inviting new women into the club. Given the friendly and inviting nature of the women in the club, I have no doubt that their number will grow in the coming years.
How do you identify books?
The hostess of the month selects the book.
Do you use reader’s guides? Do you think more authors should include them in their books?
Yes, we use reader’s guides. We also search the internet for thoughtful questions we can use in our discussion.
Do you only read African-American or women authors?
We read more female than male, but not females exclusively.
How do you keep it fresh?
We go on outings like Sunday brunch and performances at the Howard Theater.
Finally, when asked if they were concerned about the seemingly growing trend of African-American fiction focusing on cheating husbands, drug dealers and ‘jump offs,’ the book club members disagreed that African-American literature was this limiting. Instead they offered, “There is a lot out there [to read], we don’t know always know how to find them, but we look. The bookstore and library are where we find the talent we read and support.”
“A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life.” Isadora James
The D.E.A.R. Girlfriends Book Club is one excellent example of how a love of reading can help bring Sisters together for more than a book discussion. In this day and age, when we are pulled in so many directions, with so many pressures, coming together to support one another is very important. Kudos to the D.E.A.R. Girlfriends Book Club for modeling sisterhood in its highest form!