Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
77 Forest Street
Hartford, CT 06105
Registration is open until 3/31.
Five month program.
Weekly schedule appears below.
$25 to attend
$10 for Hartford residents to attend
$75 to attend and have copies of the books mailed from the Stowe Center Museum Store
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was not read in isolation, but by a community of readers, across the U.S. and globally, who affirmed their anti-slavery sentiments in conversation and in some instances committed to action toward emancipation. The Social Justice Reading Circle invites participants to build a community through in-depth readings of the 2023 Stowe Prize shortlist, including the 2023 winning book, and, in the spirit of the Stowe Prize, to connect each work to a tangible path to address contemporary injustices.
Through weekly one-hour sessions, participants will focus intently on short sections of each text. Book club conversations will be facilitated by Stowe Center staff members, who will pose guiding questions and fully participate as members of the reading community. In addition to drawing out connections between each book’s themes, content, and prescriptions and each participant’s personal, cultural, and other community experiences, our reading circle will also include prompts and action ideas. We believe that reading builds empathy and understanding about the complex issues we face in our nation; it is our hope that audiences will be inspired to positive change through these readings, and help to build a sustainable path toward social justice.
The Stowe Center announces Dr. Ruha Benjamin, author of Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want, as this year’s 2023 Stowe Prize winner!
The Stowe Prize recognizes the author of a distinguished book of general adult fiction or nonfiction whose written work illuminates a critical social justice issue in the tradition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The winning book applies informed inquiry, is accessible and engaging to a wide audience, and promotes empathy and understanding. In creating this award, the Stowe Center recognizes the value of diversity to strengthen our communities.
While attendance at all sessions of the book club is encouraged, it is not required.
We encourage participants to purchase these books through your closest independent bookstore and/or through the Stowe Center’s Museum Store. If you plan to purchase using Amazon please consider using Amazon.Smile and select the cause of your choice to support non-profit work.
Books to be Read, with Brief Descriptions
The Trayvon Generation, Elizabeth Alexander, Ph.D.
In the midst of civil unrest in the summer of 2020 and following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, Elizabeth Alexander—one of the great literary voices of our time—turned a mother’s eye to her sons’ and students’ generation and wrote a celebrated and moving reflection on the challenges facing young Black America. Originally published in the New Yorker, the essay incisively and lovingly observed the experiences, attitudes, and cultural expressions of what she refers to as “the Trayvon Generation,” who even as children could not be shielded from the brutality that has affected the lives of so many Black people. The Trayvon Generation expands the viral essay that spoke so resonantly to the persistence of race as an ongoing issue at the center of the American experience.
Week 1, March 15 :Part I (61 pp)
Week 2, March 22: Part II & III (57 pp)
Stowe Prize Winner: Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want, Ruha Benjamin, Ph.D.
Part memoir, part manifesto, Viral Justice is a sweeping and deeply personal exploration of how we can transform society through the choices we make every day.
Vividly recounting her personal experiences and those of her family, Benjamin shows how seemingly minor decisions and habits could spread virally and have exponentially positive effects. She recounts her father’s premature death, illuminating the devastating impact of the chronic stress of racism, but she also introduces us to community organizers who are fostering mutual aid and collective healing. Through her brother’s experience with the criminal justice system, we see the trauma caused by policing practices and mass imprisonment, but we also witness family members finding strength as they come together to demand justice for their loved ones. And while her own challenges as a young mother reveal the vast inequities of our healthcare system, Benjamin also describes how the support of doulas and midwives can keep Black mothers and babies alive and well.
Born of stubborn hopefulness, Viral Justice offers a passionate, inspiring, and practical vision of how small changes can add up to large ones, transforming our relationships and communities and helping us build a more just and joyful world.
Week 3, March 29: Intro + Ch 1 (60 pp)
Week 4, April 5: Ch 2 & 3 (80 pp)
Week 5, April 12: Ch 4—6 (120 pp)
Week 6, April 19: Ch 7 (40 pp)
South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation, Imani Perry, Ph.D.
Weaving together stories of immigrant communities, contemporary artists, exploitative opportunists, enslaved peoples, unsung heroes, her own ancestors, and her lived experiences, Imani Perry crafts a tapestry unlike any other. With uncommon insight and breathtaking clarity, South to America offers an assertion that if we want to build a more humane future for the United States, we must center our concern below the Mason-Dixon Line.
Week 7, April 26: Intro + Ch 1 (51 pp)
Week 8, May 3: Part I/Ch 2—5 (64 pp)
Week 9, May 10: Part II/Ch 6—9 (76 pp)
Week 10, May 17: Part II & III/Ch 10—13 (98 pp)
Week 11, May 24: Part III/Ch 14—17 (94)
Week 12, May 31: Conclusion
Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival, and Hope in an American City, Andrea Elliot
In Invisible Child, Pulitzer Prize winner Andrea Elliot follows eight years in the life of Dasani, a girl whose imagination is as soaring as the skyscrapers near her Brooklyn shelter. In this sweeping narrative, Elliott weaves the story of Dasani’s childhood with the history of her ancestors, tracing their passage from slavery to the Great Migration north. As Dasani comes of age, she must guide her siblings through a world riddled by hunger, violence, racism, drug addiction, and the threat of foster care. Out on the street, Dasani becomes a fierce fighter “to protect those who I love.” When she finally escapes city life to enroll in a boarding school, she faces an impossible question: What if leaving poverty means abandoning your family, and yourself? Invisible Child is an astonishing story about the power of resilience, the important of family and the cost of inequality—told through the crucible of one remarkable girl.
Week 13, June 7: Intro + Parts 1 & 2 (180 pp)
Week 14, June 14: Part 3 & 4 (140 pp)
Week 15, June 21: Part 5 & 6 (140 pp)
Week 16, June 29: Part 7, Afterward (110 pp)
Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Ph.D.
Farah Jasmine Griffin has taken to her heart the phrase “read until you understand,” a line her father, who died when she was nine, wrote in a note to her. She has made it central to this book about love of the majestic power of words and love of the magnificence of Black life. A longtime professor, here she shares a lifetime of discoveries: the ideas that inspired the stunning oratory of Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X, the soulful music of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, the daring literature of Phillis Wheatley and Toni Morrison, the inventive artistry of Romare Bearden, and many more. Griffin entwines memoir, history, and art while she keeps her finger on the pulse of the present, asking us to grapple with the continuing struggle for Black freedom and the ongoing project that is American democracy.
Week 17, July 5: Intro + Ch. 1-3 (75 pp)
Week 18, July 12: Ch 4—6 (60 pp)
Week 19, July 19: Ch 7—10 (85 pp)
Week 20, July 26: Open discussion of all