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Social Justice Reading Circle
For immediate release:
February 13, 2023
Social Justice Reading Circle
The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center announces book club dedicated to
2023 Stowe Prize finalists
WHEN: Wednesdays || March to July || 12:30pm – 1:30pm
COST: $10 for Hartford residents to attend || $25 to attend || $75 to attend and receive copies of the books
Hartford (CT)—The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center introduces a virtual Social Justice Reading Circle dedicated to the top five nominees for the annual Stowe Prize award. Each week, participants will discuss a manageable section of a work in depth and with strong encouragement to share connections, both personal and cultural, to contemporary social justice issues.
At the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, 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.
Amy Hufnagel, the Director of Programs who facilitates the 9-person Stowe Prize Panel review says, “The books for the Stowe Prize go through such a unique process. We start by crowdsourcing nominations and anyone can suggest a book for the prize. Then the panel reduces this large list down to a reading list. But the entire reading list this year is so dynamic we wanted to offer our audiences a similar reading and discussion experience. Reading the finalists will have a lasting impact on anyone who makes the commitment to words that can change the world.”
Here are this year’s finalists in alphabetical order:
Elizabeth Alexander, The Trayvon Generation
Ruha Benjamin, Viral Justice: How to Grow the World We Want
Andrea Elliot Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City
Farah Jasmine Griffin, Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature
Imani Perry, South to America: A Journey Below the Mason Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation
Through weekly one-hour sessions over five months, participants will focus intently on short sections of each text, spending three to seven weeks on each title. Book club conversations will be facilitated by Stowe Center staff members, who will pose guiding questions and fully participate as members of this program’s 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.
The Stowe Center will announce the 2023 Stowe prize winner (one of the five books listed) in the coming weeks. 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.
$75 for virtual attendees to attend and have books mailed from the Stowe Center’s Museum Store
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.
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.
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.
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, and 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, and 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.
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.
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.
The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is a museum, research library/archive, and program center in Hartford, Connecticut. The Stowe Center’s mission is to preserve and interpret Stowe’s Hartford home and the Center’s historic collections, promote vibrant discussion of her life and work, and inspire commitment to social justice and positive change. For general information and updates, please visit www.HarrietBeecherStoweCenter.org.