Women’s History Month: Q&A with the SAFE Alliance Book Club

Before Women’s History Month comes to an end, we wanted to give the TBF audience a look inside the book club at the SAFE Alliance, the Austin organization that serves survivors of sexual abuse, child abuse, and domestic violence. The book club has been reading together for about four and a half years, with roughly 25 members.

Here’s a brief Q&A about what SAFE is doing with their book club — answers are courtesy of Lesley Landry, SAFE’s volunteer onboarding coordinator.

What made SAFE decide to start a book club?

Two of us (Erin and AJ) were catching up over coffee outside of work and started listing all the books we want to read but had not yet read, particularly around anti-racism and feminist themes. Erin said it had been her dream to start a book club. We realized Lesley and so many others at work would be interested as well so we put a notice about the book club in the monthly staff matters newsletter. AJ credits book club with reigniting her love of reading.

What types of books do y’all read?

Thought provoking intersectional feminist fiction, nonfiction, and memoirs. We do our best to select books that reflect the broad range of lived experiences, written by people who have lived experience with their subject matter. We do not shy away from books that share hard realities but we also seek books that uplift and empower historically marginalized individuals. We are still learning how to achieve this balance as it can be a tough line to walk!

What has been the favorite read so far? What about the most lively discussion? Our most lively discussions tend to be ones where people had strong and/or competing opinions about the books.

Some of our most lively discussions have been around the following books: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi, Islands of Decolonial Love by Leanne Simpson, The Power by Naomi Alderman, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and Madame President by Helene Cooper.

Some of our favorites have been the following: The Mothers by Brit Bennett, Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, Saga by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples, Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor.

Why do you think the book club is important?

Book club is a great way to gather outside of work and discuss a topic that may relate to our work but is not specifically about our work. It helps us broaden our perspectives both through the books we read but also through the opinions and lived experiences of group members. We have always told people to come to our meetings even if they have not finished (or even read) the book. It is a supportive “come as you are” group that gives us a chance to unwind and grow at the same time. No matter how tired one is on arrival, we leave feeling energized and connected. The friendships formed have carried us through a lot of change and some hard years, and makes us all the more grateful to this amazing community of book lovers!

What are y’all looking forward to reading this year/in the coming months?

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, Good Talk by Mira Jacobs, and The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern are the books some of us are really looking forward to reading and discussing this year.