inter-book club

Nine women are sitting on floral couches and wooden chairs drinking tea and eating cookies. They are chatting about politics, love, family, trauma and hope. This could be any group of women anywhere, but this group is special because it consists of a diverse ethnic group of women, including several Muslim women who live in the community of Bay Ridge. Many of them are mothers who met on the school playground or at parent events.

Barbara Cassidy, a longtime NYWC workshop facilitator, writer, actress and theater producer started the Inter-Book club with the idea of providing space for women to come together and discuss ideas. Her writing workshop, Ridge Kids, was started at the branch of the Bay Ridge library several years ago. She says, “When I noticed the children who were coming and writing together consisted of both Muslim and non- Muslim members of the community, a light went on. I remember thinking; wouldn’t it be great if the adults in our community could come together?”

Intergroup communication is a key part of building community and the peace process. The book club is an ongoing effort to build alliances. This effort to have an inclusive dialog is supported by the books they collectively choose. This past Thursday, meeting in the Arab American center, the women discussed Great House by Nicole Kraus. The theme of homeland woven through the lineage of a desk that passes through various characters with the backdrop of the Second World War provided members of the group to connect to their own experiences of displacement, homeland, and family.

Differing experiences were shared by the group: standing in refugee lines, hearing stories from grandparents, and revealing hopes for children. The women connected over symbols such as keys. As one member explained, “Keys have a special significance in Palestinian culture because when people left their home, they were given the deed to the land and the key to their home. These hold a special significance for those who believe they will return.”  As I listened to the women agree and disagree and yet hold the space for everyone to be represented, I felt encouraged. Every interaction provides space for social change.