Thursday, May 21, 2020

Finally Fulfilling a Book Club Dream

Over the years I have tried to get a couple in-person book clubs off the ground but they never materialized.

But then the pandemic happened.
 And everyone is stuck at home.
 Mindlessly scrolling social media.
 And getting in political fights with friends and family.

 So while I was having a weekly Zoom hangout with friends a few weeks ago, I brought up my favorite podcast Pantsuit Politics (as I am wont to do), and their book I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening). That got me thinking: what if I tried to get a virtual book club off the ground to try to bridge the topic of how to have hard conversations that revolve around politics. So I proposed a virtual book club as a way to help me feel productive and making a contribution to helping teach us all how to talk about politics better.

 I was lucky enough to read an advanced copy of this book during the summer of 2018 because I had the good fortune of getting to present with Beth Silvers and Sarah Stewart Holland at NCTE in November of that year in a presentation we called Keep It Nuanced, Y'all: Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable in the Classroom and Beyond. I had been listening to their podcast since the summer of 2016 when nobody thought that Donald Trump could possibly become president, and I was so impressed how lovingly and respectfully they disagreed with each other, they quickly became my favorite podcast, to which I now refer to them as my "Political Prozac."

 While Beth and Sarah come at their views from two different ends of the political spectrum, new listeners might assume that they are always in agreement with each other, and have even been criticized for claiming to disagree politically but never actually disagreeing with each other. But the truth of the matter is, they disagree all the time. It's just we're so used to pundits yelling over each other on cable news that we're not used to hearing what respectful disagreement sounds like.

 I reread the finished copy in April/May 2020 for the aforementioned virtual book club. While I was proposing said book club to my friends and family on Facebook, Beth saw my post and offered to have her and Sarah join the discussion. I was stunned and honored and happily accepted. And last night, a group of women from all over the country, along with Beth and Sarah, talked about grace and nuance and how you get comfortable being uncomfortable. It was moving and cathartic and filled me with hope. A few of us have even agreed that it would be helpful to continue to "practice" having hard conversations and would like to meet again, maybe even regularly.

 So for those of you reading this post for whom politics is an uncomfortable subject, I'd like to leave you with these nuggets of wisdom that I found extremely valuable and most quotable from the book:

I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening) by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers
Published: February 5, 2019
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Pages: 205
Genre: Nonfiction/Politics
Audience: Adults
Disclosure: Advance reader copy provided by publisher/purchased finished copy

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