by Laura Fenton
If it’s been a while since you’ve graced the classrooms of Patterson Hall or the campus
of the University of Memphis, now is a good time to come back.
Just in time for reading on a bench outside and basking in the spring sun, the Department
of English Book Club Series has a list of books to liven your leisure time.
“English and reading are fun, and they’re vital. And, what better place to house a
book club than a literature or English department?” said Ladrica Menson-Furr, associate
professor in the U of M Department of English and interim director of African and
The department will host two more book clubs this semester on April 11 and 25. All
book clubs are open to students, faculty, staff, alumni and anyone from the community.
“We want to open the doors in different ways,” said Menson-Furr, “for people to feel
welcomed back to campus.”
The book club originated last fall as part of the department’s centennial celebration.
The club held one meeting that semester to discuss the Harry Potter series with speakers Tammy Jones and Catherine Dice, both U of M English instructors.
The English department will host two more book club meetings this semester on April
11 and 25 at 6 p.m. in Patterson Hall. All faculty, staff, students, alumni and members
of the community are welcome to attend.
Book club meetings this semester highlight the divisions of the Department of English
and the expertise of several U of M faculty members. The department has concentrations
in African-American literature, applied linguistics and ESL, composition studies and
professional writing, creative writing, and literary and textual studies.
The meetings this semester will cover all topics except applied linguistics and ESL;
those may be the starting topics for the next series. The intention is to hold three
or four meetings per semester.
Attendance at all meetings and reading every book beforehand are not required.
“You don’t have to read the books, although that’s encouraged,” said Leslie Graff,
communications coordinator for the English Department. “We just want to inspire more
people to read books. We want to give options based on the many topics of interest
to our faculty and alumni.”
Book clubs are indispensable to education and personal growth, said Laurie MacGillivray,
associate professor of Instruction and Curriculum Leadership for the U of M College
of Education, Health and Human Sciences.
“Through book clubs, people not only learn to see the world in different ways, but
they also learn to imagine themselves in different ways,” she said. “Through book
clubs, people can actually create positive trajectories about their lives.”
MacGillivray sees this first-hand every week at a book club she leads at the Salvation
Army for homeless women.
Introspection, she said, is the most influential element a person gains from conversations
“Through learning to talk about literature, they’re better able to talk to people
that they care about,” MacGillivray said.
Learning to articulate why you like or dislike a character and the reasoning behind
the decision helps people better voice the same thought process in conversations with
family and friends.
“It’s safer to talk about a character than to talk about yourself,” she said.
For book clubs, like the one at the U of M, conversations move to the sharing of personal
stories that relate to the themes at hand.
“That’s what happens in a good book club,” MacGillivray said.
Lonnie Latham, associate director of Multicultural Affairs, attended the Black History
Month-themed book club meeting in February.
He didn’t get a chance to read the books beforehand, but the topic caught his attention.
“It was interesting to me because I am a history major also,” he said.
Bringing his understanding of African-American history, Latham was able to contribute
to the discussions about the past, present and future of African-American literature
expressed by the three speakers.
This was a refreshing change from the other book clubs he has attended off campus,
which is why he plans to come to more of the events.
“Most of the ones I’ve been to, people review the book,” he said. “This one was a
discussion. Once it got started, it was a discussion that led to where other individuals
could chime in.”
During the April 11 book club meeting, U of M English professor Dr. Stephen Tabachnick
will lead the discussion of “The Rise of the Graphic Novel: Watchmen by Alan Moore."
In the last meeting this semester on April 25, Dr. Susan Popham, associate professor
and director of undergraduate studies for the English Department, will lead a conversation
about Nicholas Carr's The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.
Both meetings are at 6 p.m. in Patterson Hall, 530 Patterson St. Reservations are
recommended, but not required.
“Come back,” said Menson-Furr. “Come engage with the University. Come engage with
the English department.”
For more information, visit http://www.memphis.edu/english/bookclub.php or contact Leslie Graff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 678-4956.