We will read a variety of non-fiction, including memoir, history, crime, and social sciences.
No registration required. Copies of each title are available at the circulation desk approximately one month before each meeting. Drop in to any meeting regardless of prior attendance or completion of the book. Email [email protected] with any questions.
March 18th at 6:30pm
Thin Skin by Jenn Shapland
For Jenn Shapland, the barrier between herself and the world is porous; she was even diagnosed with extreme dermatologic sensitivity–thin skin. Recognizing how deeply vulnerable we all are to our surroundings, she becomes aware of the impacts our tiniest choices have on people, places, and species far away. She can’t stop seeing the ways we are enmeshed and entangled with everyone else on the planet. Despite our attempts to cordon ourselves off from risk, our boundaries are permeable.
Weaving together historical research, interviews, and her everyday life in New Mexico, Shapland probes the lines between self and work, human and animal, need and desire. She traces the legacies of nuclear weapons development on Native land, unable to let go of her search for contamination until it bleeds out into her own family’s medical history. She questions the toxic myth of white womanhood and the fear of traveling alone that she’s been made to feel since girlhood. And she explores her desire to build a creative life as a queer woman, asking whether such a thing as a meaningful life is possible under capitalism.
NO APRIL MEETING DUE TO HOLIDAY
May 20th at 6:30pm
Doppelganger by Naomi Klein
What if you woke up one morning and found you’d acquired another self―a double who was almost you and yet not you at all? What if that double shared many of your preoccupations but, in a twisted, upside-down way, furthered the very causes you’d devoted your life to fighting against?
Not long ago, the celebrated activist and public intellectual Naomi Klein had just such an experience―she was confronted with a doppelganger whose views she found abhorrent but whose name and public persona were sufficiently similar to her own that many people got confused about who was who. Destabilized, she lost her bearings, until she began to understand the experience as one manifestation of a strangeness many of us have come to know but struggle to define: AI-generated text is blurring the line between genuine and spurious communication; New Age wellness entrepreneurs turned anti-vaxxers are scrambling familiar political allegiances of left and right; and liberal democracies are teetering on the edge of absurdist authoritarianism, even as the oceans rise. Under such conditions, reality itself seems to have become unmoored. Is there a cure for our moment of collective vertigo?
June 17th at 6:30pm
Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant by Curtis Chin
This memoir tells the story of Curtis Chin’s time growing up as a gay Chinese American kid in 1980’s Detroit. Nineteen eighties Detroit was a volatile place to live, but above the fray stood a safe Chung’s Cantonese Cuisine, where anyone—from the city’s first Black mayor to the local drag queens, from a big-time Hollywood star to elderly Jewish couples—could sit down for a warm, home-cooked meal. Here was where, beneath a bright-red awning and surrounded by his multigenerational family, filmmaker and activist Curtis Chin came of age; where he learned to embrace his identity as a gay ABC, or American-born Chinese; where he navigated the divided city’s spiraling misfortunes; and where—between helpings of almond boneless chicken, sweet-and-sour pork, and some of his own, less-savory culinary concoctions—he realized just how much he had to offer to the world, to his beloved family, and to himself.
Served up by the cofounder of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and structured around the very menu that graced the tables of Chung’s, Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant is both a memoir and an to step inside one boy’s childhood oasis, scoot into a vinyl booth, and grow up with him—and perhaps even share something off the secret menu.
July 15th at 6:30pm
How Infrastructure Works by Deb Chachra
A new way of seeing the essential systems hidden inside our walls, under our streets, and all around us Infrastructure is a marvel, meeting our basic needs and enabling lives of astounding ease and productivity that would have been unimaginable just a century ago. It is the physical manifestation of our social contract—of our ability to work collectively for the public good—and it consists of the most complex and vast technological systems ever created by humans. A soaring bridge is an obvious infrastructural feat, but so are the mostly hidden reservoirs, transformers, sewers, cables, and pipes that deliver water, energy, and information to wherever we need it. When these systems work well, they hide in plain sight. Engineer and materials scientist Deb Chachra takes readers on a fascinating tour of these essential utilities, revealing how they work, what it takes to keep them running, just how much we rely on them—but also whom they work well for, and who pays the costs. Across the U.S. and elsewhere, these systems are suffering from systemic neglect and the effects of climate change, becoming unavoidably visible when they break down. Communities that are already marginalized often bear the brunt of these failures. But Chachra maps out a path for transforming and rebuilding our shared infrastructure to be not just functional but also equitable, resilient, and sustainable. The cost of not being able to rely on these systems is unthinkably high. We need to learn how to see them—and fix them, together—before it’s too late.
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