Reading Clubs Grow with Blacks

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

When black readers catapulted The Covenant to the top of The New York Times best-seller list last month, Felice Franklin wasn't shocked.

For 12 years -- in stark contrast to an oft-circulated Chris Rock joke about a book being the best place to hide something from black people -- Franklin has witnessed the growth of a continuous community of black bookworms.

"I'm not surprised [at the success of The Covenant]," said Franklin, who along with Wilene Dozier co-founded the book club PRIDE, or People Reading for Inspiration, Discussion and Enjoyment, in 1993. "There are [black] book clubs all over the country ... believe it or not -- ours is relatively new.

"If you have people in book clubs like this, and people who are reading, then that awareness is there. ... We have people who bring their children with them to our meetings, and their children learn too."

The Covenant is a collection of essays by black writers on issues facing black Americans. It made history when, on April 23, it became the first book by a black publisher to top the Times' best-seller list of nonfiction paperback books.

While all the people who bought The Covenant aren't necessarily members of black book clubs, such clubs have helped develop a culture of black people who read regularly. There are, for example, literary cruises, workshops and seminars that focus on works by black writers, Franklin said. …