Book club covers racial, gender equality with next book in series
In an ongoing celebration of March’s International Women’s Month, members of the CommUNITY Book Club in April will read “Hidden Figures” to continue their conversation about the accomplishments of women and the challenges women still face.
The CommUNITY Book Club will meet virtually through Microsoft Teams at 5:30 p.m. every Tuesday in April. The club welcomes new members at any point throughout the month to discuss “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly. The true story is a New York Times Bestseller about three African American female mathematicians at NASA who played a crucial role in the space program in the 1950s and 1960s.
The CommUNITY Book Club is supported by the University of Houston-Victoria Diversity and Race Task Force and is a collaboration between UHV, United Way of the Crossroads, Be Well Victoria Coalition and Center for Peace Victoria. The club sees an average of 40 people in their weekly meetings and welcomes more to join. The books chosen for the book club’s events are written by diverse authors and cover topics about race and diversity.
“The book ‘Hidden Figures’ is a fantastic choice because of the unfortunate commonality that many women share: being unseen, unheard and discredited,” said Amina Patton, a UHV assistant professor of communication design and faculty co-chair of the task force. “By shining light on these women, I hope we start to think about all of the others who history has left out of the narrative and how we can celebrate the accomplishments of women changing the world today.”
“Hidden Figures” is the second book the club will discuss this spring. The first book chosen as a feature for Black History Month in February was “Between the World and Me,” a book by Ta-Nehisi Coates about a father telling his son his experiences growing up as an African American. Although International Women’s Month is celebrated throughout the month of March, the club wanted to keep the focus on a book centered on women, said Jill Blucher, United Way community engagement coordinator.
The book is about three African American women mathematicians – Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – who overcome sexism and racism. The three women worked under the job descriptions of ‘Human Computers’ at NASA during the space race and calculated the flight paths to space before American astronauts landed on the moon.
The club will discuss the book in four sections throughout the month of April and will discuss about five chapters a week. The club aims to feature books that are available in various ways, including print, electronic audiobook, electronic audiobook on CD and film so that participants can choose the best and most convenient way to consume the book for themselves, said Jaena Manson, UHV instruction and outreach librarian. Participants can a check out the book in print, electronic audiobook, electronic audiobook on CD and film formats at the UHV Library, purchase the book, or watch the film “Hidden Figures,” which was adapted from the book instead of reading. To find information about the book and the copies available at the UHV Library, look through the library guide at library.uhv.edu/community-book-club.
“With the last book, several participants shared personal experiences and ways how the book relates to them in their lives, and it brings home the racial inequality in the Crossroads,” Blucher said. “I expect that we will hear personal anecdotes about gender challenges and experiences during our April book club meetings.”
The book club meetings have provided people from diverse backgrounds who may not have connected otherwise a place to have meaningful discussion on topics of racial and gender equality, Patton said.
“We know that the meetings are having an impact by comments we hear in the discussion that suggest it is one of the few places people feel comfortable and safe to bring up their experiences with discrimination or prejudice,” she said.
The Library Fund for Diversity Resources also will be accepting donations in honor of International Women’s Month. The fund was created to help bring more support to the library to purchase more literature about and written by people of color, LGBTQ people and more. These resources include printed books, audio books and electronic books. The fund will allow the library to enhance existing print resources and collect more online versions, said Rebecca Lake, UHV senior director of equal access and staff co-chair for the task force. The fund kicked off in February in honor of Black History Month. To donate to the Library Fund for Diversity Resources online, go to www.uhvconnect.org.
The UHV Library is located in UHV University Commons, 3006 N. Ben Wilson St., and is open to the public. To obtain a free UHV Library card, contact the library at 361-570-4166. Books purchased from the Texian Bookstore, 201 S. Main St., for the book club are offered at a discount. Those who purchase books through Amazon Smile can set United Way of the Crossroads as their charity of choice to help the nonprofit receive donations from Amazon at no cost to the customer.
The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.