How to Pick the Perfect Book Club

Last night I went to a book club meeting with a coworker.  The book was Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio.  What I liked about the book was the opening of a character with tourette syndrome, we get to see how she tries to understand her disorder as she grows up.  The time period is the 1950’s and the book  really does delve into the education process for someone who was “altered,” as many of Icy’s classmates said.

I could tell you, voracious readers, about the quirky characters, because there are some good ones with names like Peavy Lawson and Maizy Hurley.  I could tell you about the writing style or the backwoods setting of Kentucky.  But I’m not going to.  You can read all that for yourself.  I’ve linked the book title above to Goodreads.  And you can go buy or rent the book yourself and read that too.  I encourage you to, it’ll be good.  Read it out loud so you can better hear the appalachian accents.  What I can’t provide for you so readily is the exact experience of the book club meeting I had last night.  I mean it was good.  I thought going into this, maybe I’ll make a few meetings here and there, we’ll talk about the book for two hours, no more I hope.  I needed to get home and write up a review for it!

Well, dear reader, that review would have been very different had I not attended that book club meeting, which mind you, lasted for almost 4 hours!  And in all that time, we discussed the actual book only a little.  And yet I left feeling so stimulated, is that a strange word?  LOL.  To say I enjoyed myself, seemed too simple.  It was a great dialogue.  I wish I’d taken notes so I could remember more of what we discussed!

Let me set the scene for you.  Wisconsin yesterday, freezing pouring rain, a map to a stranger’s house drawn in pencil, and my car with with a dying left blinker.  I arrive at the host’s house and scurry in under an umbrella.  We have a mini tour of her all too beautiful home.  (All the while I’m thinking, I could never host this meeting, these women are all retirees who’ve lived in these homes for years and made them their own!  My house looks like a retro 70’s fixer-upper, comprised of my boyfriend’s music paraphrenalia, orange carpeting, orange tile, and odd “knick-knacks” I’m not allowed to throw away.)  There are only 6 of us, the wine is poured, we eat daintily assembled toothpicks of fresh fruit and delicious puff pastries with cream cheese and bacon in them.  The book discussion begins.

Ok, last night, I was able to discuss this book with three former teachers, ranging from elementary to college, and two nurses.  Talk about gold mine of knowledge!  They brought so much to the table.  We discussed cognitive and physical disorders in the school system, how they’re handled, the improvements over the years, where opportunities still are.  And since I was the youngest member by a good 30 years, they certainly topped me with their history of how things have progressed.  In the book, Icy spends time in a children’s asylum, and I thought that was really interesting.  Throughout the book, she doesn’t really have friends her age, even there, her best friends are the aides and the doctor.  It was interesting to hear from everyone what their experiences were growing up with people of different abilities.  Many of the women at the group said they never saw them.  They knew these people existed but they were often segregated into “colonies” or separate schools.  One woman said her mother took her to one of the institutions when she was 12 to walk the halls and explain that the individuals inside these walls were people too, and she needed to know they were there.  The same woman later replied, “It’s amazing any of us were born normal.”  We all laughed, but it makes sense, with so many (I think increasing) numbers of chromosomal alterations and knowledge about water supplies, mercury levels, etc. I think we’re seeing more children born with disorders than we ever had before.  And since my friends at the book club came from medical backgrounds, we also discussed child  immunization and looked at a chart showing how many shots kids have before they’re 5 years old.  Each of us there had a different experience in school and how we were introduced to a person of varying ability, and we agreed that things have mainstreamed more now.  Where possible, schools are trying to blend classrooms and do what’s best for the children.  Certainly, there are some who succeed more than others.  What a rich conversation this was.

And then we talked about religion!  Ha!  There is a scene in the book where Icy and her grandma go to a revival, and it’s pretty intense.  This sparked up more conversation about people’s experiences and cultural beliefs.

I’ll leave you with two things.  1.)  If you’re involved with a book club, this is a great group read.  I’ll admit I thought it had a slow start, but the discussions it “sparked” where well worth having.  2.)  Start a dialogue with me!  I want more!!  I’m a born-again reader!  And I’m curious.  What has your experience been with people who have cognitive or physical disorders?  Did you ever have them in your classroom?  Your family?  How were they treated?  Do you think there is a rise in disorders like autism, asperger’s, dyslexia, maybe even down’s?  Do you agree with the statement “It’s amazing any of us were born normal”?

13 responses

  1. I don’t know much about statistics, or the medical end of things, but I know that one of my cousins on my dad’s side has Asperger’s, and one of my cousin’s on my mom’s side as Down’s Syndrome. And I know that many people on my mom’s side have some form of unipolar or bipolar disorder. While I think there is definitely a problem with over-diagnosis (especially with clinical depression and ADHD), I also do think there is an honest rise in such disorders. And I agree: It’s amazing anyone is born normal.

    1. I can see that viewpoint too, that there are too many diagnoses. It’s a fine line. Some things like ADHD seem overdiagnosed, while others like forms of dyslexia I feel are swept under the rug and not diagnosed. I think we have to ask ourselves how these diagnoses or misdiagnoses are impacting our society’s ability to learn and advance in the mainstream world.

  2. Sounds like my kind of night. I loved the added elements that were part of the book group meeting, especially the medical stuff. The vaccine conversation would have been right up my alley.

    1. Yah, I knew it was a lot, cause my sister has taken my niece in a few times, but I had no idea just how many. It’s intense.

  3. I’ve never joined a book club but have always been curious. Sounds like a great experience for you!

    1. It was a bittersweet book in my opinion. Another book would have a whole ‘nother vibe. Have you ever checked out any books by Michael Perry. I read Population: 485 for a different book club and that one was much more about small town culture and contrasting humor and tragedy. Check him out, great read for men and women, and a Wisconsin author to boot!!!

  4. Very interesting post. It inspires me. I have never been a member of a book club, regrettably, but the experience you describe sounds right up my alley. I would love to connect with other people who share a love my love of books and literature. It must’ve been cool to share different perspectives and the like. Better than the Boob tube, yes :). Now, if I could just find one…

    1. Start at the library! I found out mine has several. All for various genres, and some are less committal than others which is nice if you want to do one but can’t commit to a book every month (cause if you’re like me, your book list never ends). And if you’re on goodreads, I just noticed there are all kinds of online book discussion groups, which isn’t as fun cause you don’t get snacks, but should have a lot of great reads. Otherwise, start one up yourself! You can be in control of how often you meet and what books to choose. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Unabridged Girl | Reply

    1. I now want to join a book club, like, STAT.

    2. I must add this book to my never ending list of to-read.

    3. I seem to know quite a few people, all male, with asperger’s. I also have a cousin who is mentally handicap. And there are a few people in my family with dyslexia. The physical handicaps aside, I know plenty of people, too, that suffer some form of mental illness, which never surprises me, as there appear to be all forms of mental illness today. I do know that each of these people has a specialness about them, (rather caused from their disorder or not, I am not one to say), and I would not trade them for the world.

    1. 1. Do! 2. Read it at your book club! 3. Right on!

  6. Hi Jess:

    I love my book club!

    My dad’s cousin had Down’s Syndrome (born in the 1940’s). Her mother educated her at home, and after her parents died, her older sister took over her care. She lived until she was in her early 60’s.

    I think there are still a lot of people out there who need treatment for mental illness who either haven’t been properly diagnosed, aren’t being correctly treated, or are pretending they don’t have a problem. The other problem is that with cutbacks in the social welfare system, beds in care facilities are being closed and these folks often find themselves homeless. I wish the government would give the same attention to mental health that they do to other areas of health care.


    1. That’s an intelligent concern. I think my biggest fear with some of the recent budget decisions is that we’re dividing the middle class and the spectrum grows more into wealthy and impoverished. More and more families are becoming working class and while yes, wherever there are humans there will be human error and those that abuse their privileges, but big picture we’re not as a society making it easy for people to advance be it in housing, employment, education, health care, etc. I hope one day we’ll all see some true progress.

  7. […] Another magical book club meeting.  Two months ago, I joined up with a coworker of mine and attended her book club.  At the end of that meeting, hoping to insight me to return, they asked me what my favorite book […]

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