Canadian Women Authors Provide Diversity of Settings and Experience: Book Club Meetings in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada

Article excerpt

In an environment where the winter months have wind chill temperatures that dip below minus forty degrees Celsius, a group of five women meet once a month in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, to discuss a variety of books written by Canadian women authors. This article provides an overview of selecting the books to be read, integrating the book club into the community, staging the venues for the meetings, outlining leadership roles and responsibilities, obtaining the books each month, and a culminating activity. Also provided are an annotated bibliography of the books read at the 2007-2008 Moose Jaw Book Club and additional information for Delta Kappa Gamma members who may wish to attend the Festival of Words conference.

This article describes procedures and in- sights of a book club in Moose Jaw, Sas- katchewan, Canada. The most important aspect of this particular book club is to choose appropriate material to be read. Attention is paid to selecting books by Canadian women authors that portray Canadian identities. One recently published book is chosen for each month. The range of settings for the books depicts the wide diversity of ethnic and cultural groups that com- prise the Canadian population. The settings also explore the vast geographical differences that exist within the Canadian landscape. For example, one author chosen for the book club, Kirkby (2007), is a Hutterite woman who has lived on several Hutterite colonies in the western prairie provinces of Canada. She tells about growing-up on the colonies, trying to discover who she is, all the time experiencing oppression from within the culture and discrimination from the outside "English" culture. Another author, Brooks (2007), explores her Icelandic roots and her ancestors' migration to the Western Canadian province of Manitoba. Familial and cultural ties to the homeland remained strong and enriched, as well as caused problems for her family group. Another author, Mckay (2006), describes what it was like to be a woman growing up in the eastern, maritime region of Canada, using marriage to gain wealth and social standing. A fourth author, Hay (2007), writes about her personal escape to remote Northern Canada, experiencing foraging bears, migrating caribou herds and political disputes between First Nations Peoples (Canadian Indigenous Peoples) and the Federal Government.

To create ties between the book club and the community, and to help promote reading by modeling, this book club typically chooses at least one book written for adolescents, but also enjoyed by adults. The selection of adolescent book titles is coordinated with a book club at a local high-school. Trading of personal copies of the books between the two clubs provides contact between the constituencies and saves money for the participants. As a way of further modeling, the teenage children of the book club members are invited to attend and participate in one of the book club's evening meetings each year.

The venues for the book club meetings rotate amongst the members' homes. The hostess provides lunch and ambience that, where possible, are indicative of the cultural and geographical setting of book to be discussed that month. For example, in Kirkby (2007), listening to Cowboy Music was not condoned in the book's strict religious setting, but the teenagers in the story would covertly play the forbidden music when community elders could not hear. The hostess for the book club that month, therefore, had a recording of a famous Cowboy Music artist from the book setting's historical period and named in the book, Hank Williams, playing in the background as the book club members arrived. Special foods, such as Saskatoon pies, made from Saskatoon berries, a fruit crop native to the geographical setting of the book and also mentioned in the book, were served for lunch.

The leadership role for the group is determined on a volunteer basis. One member of the group assumes responsibility for organizing the meetings and ordering the titles for the bookclub, but all members have a voice in the decision-making for the group. …