In May, we launch our Belonging Book Club. This new offering, for non-members of B in Bath, exists to support our learning and growth as a community.
Particularly over the past 12 months, a large number of books and resources have been published that discuss and address issues around race and racism. We welcome this. In order for us to create an environment and community where everyone belongs, we need to be able to discuss race and combat racism. However, we understand that conversations around race, racism, language and sensitivities, can be difficult to dive into. We believe that belonging is created with everyone in mind, so we want to support everyone to learn, grow and understand these issues.
So we decided to start the Belonging Book Club.
We aim to introduce conversations and ideas around race at a level that is suitable for everyone, regardless of whether you have ever thought about or discussed race before or not.
Here, Rich Francis, who will run and facilitate the book club, talks to Renée about his thoughts behind it.
What will be the first book?
The first book we will read is White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Look I know it’s not the best book out there, but it’s a gentle introduction and it introduces some key topics, also it is written by a woman who is pretty easy to relate to, and might provide a “way in” for a lot of people. It’s sort of a softly-softly start, which is not exactly my way, but I think will welcome people. It also offers lots of opportunity to critique. There are people who will say that reading a book by a white woman about race is a bit wide of the mark, and that is fair, but Robin doesn’t claim to be an expert on the experience of being another race. She talks about how discovering that she was complicit in a system impacted her, and she talks a lot about the coded way white people speak. It is not the best book we will read, but it does bring people in.
Have you read all of the books yourself?
Yes, I have read each book on here and they have all spoken to me in different ways.
Which was your favourite and why?
My favourite is always the book I have read last, as each book seems to give me something new, that said there are some stand outs for me. Emma Dabiri is a stunningly brilliant writer, and her book What White People Should do Next really speaks to where I am at this point in my life. Also anything by Bell Hooks, she writes like she is your old friend and brings you into her life. For me it is so key that the books are intersectional, and really she taught me that.
Which was the most challenging to read?
I think this is really interesting because when I started reading books on race it was all hard. I had never really formulated my own thinking about race. As a doctor I knew it was made up, and I had been raised to be “colourblind” and never ever mention race. I have always had a diverse group of friends and partners, but the books really shook me, as I realised the superficial way that I had treated race probably limited my relationships. The most personal book was Audre Lorde’s Your Silence Will not Protect You, but the books that left me reeling were Black and British (David Olusoga) and The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.
Why a book club and not a book list?
Well a book list is great but there is no accountability, the book club will hopefully act as a way people can really try to open themselves. Start from where they are and do the work, and we can all be accountable to each other.
What can people expect from the book club?
People can expect a radically open space, where you can ask good faith questions and can make mistakes. An environment where you can learn and grow and hold your self accountable. But to be clear it is not a space that will accept intolerance, or bigotry. You should be open and try to engage.
What will it be?
It will be an hour or two once a month, we will have a guided discussion about the book, and build on our knowledge.
What won’t it be?
It will not be a give-your-opinion-on-the-book-and-drink-wine sort of thing. People will be expected to have read the book and have questions and critiques (but I will provide some prompts a week before).
What’s the format?
A sort of “curated discussion”.
Who is the book club for?
Of course the book club is open to everyone, but it is specifically targeted at white people, I want to emphasise that this work of learning about racism is our work. Non-white people are well aware through lived experience.
Why is this needed?
Different people will be drawn to this for different reasons, maybe people want to relate to other people, or they want to understand what is going on globally. Maybe people have an idea that something isn’t quite right but want a framework for thinking about it. For me it is all about building the kind of world I want to live in, and it really clicked when I saw just how connected all the oppressions were, that’s when I saw my role and struggle as being directly linked and connected.
Why is it important?
I think there can be nothing more important in the world than learning to de-centre yourself and truly listen to another person. This is a totally vital skill to building deep relationships and understanding the world we live in.
This is very much what you make it, it can be just me talking to the void, or it can be us all together trying to uplift each other and grow and learn.
You can see the current Belonging Book Club reading list, here: