Black History Month display leads to a black-fiction group

Book club

August 08, 2002

An interview with Robert Lockett, coordinator of the Black Fiction Book Club at the east Columbia branch of the Howard County Library.

How did your club get started? A lot of people ask, "Where is the black fiction section?" here at the library, and the books are not separated that way. One year for Black History Month, I pulled one copy of everything we had in black fiction, and I made a display case and that did really well. ... So, in December of last year, I decided to start a black fiction book club because the interest seemed to be there. ... For the most part, we read books that are not best sellers, but they could be. I want to give people a chance to discover new writers and new titles. We don't read relationship books, which are very popular now, like [books by] E. Lynn Harris [or] Omar Tyree.

What book are members reading this month? The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker.

Has there been a book that stood out that members enjoyed the most? You know, I got my highest attendance for Cane River [by Lalita Tademy], and I had a group of about 20 people attend. We even had a white couple that came in because the wife was from the area [of Louisiana] that was discussed in the book, and she had known about one of the characters in the book.

Is it nonfiction? Well, it was published as fiction, but it was based on the author's research of her family.

Is there a book most of the members did not like? A lot of people found The Bridge of Beyond [by Simone Schwartz-Bart] difficult to understand. It was a thin book, and some people thought it would be a quick read, but it was one of those books that caused the reader to have to read passages over and over again. I don't know if you've read a lot of Caribbean writers, but they use a lot of stories to explain something. They would use an anecdote or a parable, and a lot of their stuff is implied. Like in Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory, one of the characters in the book had cancer, and no one ever said anything about it until the end, but there were clues throughout.

What are the demographics of your club? Most of the members are female. We have one male in addition to myself. They are all black, and our youngest are probably 20-something, and our oldest member is retired.

To register for the Black Fiction Book Club: the library information desk, 410-313-7704.

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