2021 was such exciting an year for the BPL Book Club! We read books new and old, discovered authors from around the globe, and, after many months of discussions on Zoom, we finally met in person! Thanks to all those who participated online and in the BPL Quiet Reading Room. Now it’s time to take a look back at what we read in 2021, and to see what we have planned for 2022. And, of course, be sure to join us in the New Year as we embark on even more literary adventures. Whether you’re a regular or first-timer, we’d love to have you!
During a snowy Cleveland February, newlywed university students Muneer and Saeedah are expecting their first child, and he is harboring a secret: the word divorce is whispering in his ear. Soon, their marriage will end, and Muneer will return to Saudi Arabia, while Saeedah remains in Cleveland with their daughter, Hanadi. Consumed by a growing fear of losing her daughter, Saeedah disappears with the little girl, leaving Muneer to desperately search for his daughter for years. The repercussions of the abduction ripple outward, not only changing the lives of Hanadi and her parents, but also their interwoven family and friends—those who must choose sides and hide their own deeply guarded secrets.
And when Hanadi comes of age, she finds herself at the center of this conflict, torn between the world she grew up in and a family across the ocean. How can she exist between parents, between countries?
With just less than a month to go, the second meeting of the BPL Virtual Book Club is just around the corner! The upcoming meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 4 at 7PM, and we’ll discuss the book Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. It’s an award-winning book, well received by critics and readers alike, and is sure to generate an engaging discussion. Register to join us! I’m still in the midst of reading the book, but I’m enjoying it so far. It seems like a book I could usually finish in just a day or two, but I’ve been trying to take my time with it. Not only to better prepare for the discussion, but I also have a feeling it is a book I’ll be sad to see end.
If you’re like me and don’t want to race through the book just yet, you might be looking for another book to absorb yourself with in the meantime. These books share a variety of themes with Shamsie’s: identity, belonging (especially as experienced by an “outsider”), and the nuances of strained/difficult relationships. They follow well-developed, complex and sympathetic (though often flawed) characters. They’re books that evoke a strong sense of place and that attempt to humanize and explore sometimes difficult political stories; i.e., my favorite kinds of books. Indeed, several of these make my list of all time favorite reads!
As we prepare for our August 12th & 15th Virtual Book Club events, team member Debbie has put together a discussion guide that includes questions about and quotes from the BPL Virtual Book Club pick The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom.
Sarah M. Broom’s debut memoir and 2019 National Book Award winner, The Yellow House, tells a hundred years of her family’s story and their relationship to home in New Orleans. Broom’s mother, Ivory Mae, purchased a shotgun house in New Orleans East as a young widow and mother with insurance money. She remarried Simon Broom, and their combined family eventually included twelve children. Six months after Sarah was born, Simon passed away suddenly, leaving Ivory Mae to care for their large family and small home on her own. The Yellow House went into disrepair while Sarah was growing up, and it was finally destroyed when Hurricane Katrina swept through the city. Broom’s mother, siblings, and other family members survived, but most were then scattered throughout the country during evacuation efforts. Sarah and one of her sisters were living in Harlem at the time, and they could only watch the devastation on television while worrying about the safety of their loved ones.