Tag Archives: Go On Girl! book club

Go on Girl! (Part Two): Ideas for Your Book Club

Go On Girl! Book Club’s 2011 Author of the Year, Daniel Black, author of Perfect Peace.

I’m an advocate of reading and travel to bring friends together. Go On Girl! Book Club (see previous post) does this in quite a spectacular way. GOG is one of the largest national, non-profit reading organizations dedicated to supporting authors of the African Diaspora. For the past 20 years they have hosted an author awards weekend in a different location each year, usually with 150 to 250 members and guests in attendance.  The chapters in the host city plan and execute a weekend full of activities that include a mixer for GOG members and authors, meetings of the national board and executive committee and membership breakfasts. They also have panel discussions, book signings and tours of the host city.

Says GOG President Lynda Johnson, “Our members love interacting with the authors, having serious one-on-one discussions with them and being treated to sneak peeks of their upcoming novels.” It sounds like the authors enjoy it, too. Says Johnson, “Bebe Moore Campbell once said to us that she really appreciated her readers because the craft of writing is a solitary art and when you hear from people who’ve read your work you know you are appreciated.”

The high point of the weekend is the awards ceremony in which the group honors its Author of the Year, New Author of the Year, Life Achievement Awardees, and scholarship winners. Says Johnson, “Walter Mosley, Terry McMillan, Diane McKinney Whetstone, Sonia Sanchez, J. California Cooper, Daniel Black, Isabel Wilkerson, Stephen Carter, and Bebe Moore Campbell are among the literary luminaries that have attended our event to accept their awards. Our members look forward to this annual event so they can bond over books, meet their favorite authors and rekindle the cross-country friendships they’ve forged with each other. We stay connected throughout the year with a membership newsletter, chapter meetings and other gatherings.”

But if events of such magnitude aren’t for your group, GOG has some ideas to spice up your book club’s interaction and activities. For example, members get together to support each other for charity functions such as donating books to libraries and schools, reading to shut-ins and even donating books to women behind bars. Says Johnson, “Our members do so much around literature such as attending and hosting book signings, inviting authors to our book discussions and bringing the books to life such as preparing meals around the foods discussed in a book. For instance, we baked the cookies from the novel Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice and listened to the music of singer Nina Simone, who is prominently featured in the story. We also visit the locations in which the books take place. Our chapters in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas visited Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, Monticello, when we read the historical novel, Sally Hemmings by Barbara Chase-Riboud.”

If your book club is looking for great African-American writers, check out the extensive list of the books GOGs have read over the past 21 years. Says Johnson, “Through the course of our book club’s existence we have discovered some amazing African-American writers and many writers who are struggling to get their work out there. What we as an organization would love to see is writers of color getting recognition on the very large literary landscape.”

Go On Girl! Book Club will host its 21st Annual Author Awards celebration from Friday, 2013-logo-header[1]May 31st to Sunday, June 2nd at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel. The awards dinner on Saturday, June 1st will feature our 2012 winning authors, Marlon James, Author of the Year for The Book of Night Women and Karen Simpson, New Author of the Year for Act of Grace. Authors who have attended past awards dinners include, Walter Mosley, Terry McMillan, Diane McKinney Whetstone, Lawrence Hill, Jewell Parker Rhodes and many others. For more information and to purchase tickets to the awards dinner visit www.GoOnGirl.org/events.

Go on Girl! This is one inspiring book club. Part One.

While some book groups struggle to meet regularly or to get everyone to read the book goongirlbookclubbefore they meet, others take the reading group concept to a whole new level.

In the course of doing research for my upcoming book, Off the Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Groups, and Girls on Getaways, I was looking for book clubs that travel and do other interesting things together– beyond the typical meeting that includes book discussion, wine, and dessert, not necessarily in that order.  One of the most impressive groups I came across was the Go On Girl! Book Club.  They’re headquartered in New York but GOG has become a national organization with 30 chapters in the following 13 states.

Their mission: to encourage the literary pursuits of people of African descent. The group started with Lynda Johnson, Monique Greenwood, and Tracy Mitchell who all worked at Fairchild Publications as editors. Says Johnson, “Tracy and I were avid readers. She loved coming of age stories and I loved any and everything surrounding the Harlem Renaissance writers. Tracy and I were both reading the novel No Easy Place to Be by Steven Corbin and would discuss it over lunch. Monique heard our intense conversations and originally thought we were discussing real people. We told her she had to read the book; she did and joined our conversations. Based on our discussions Tracy suggested we get a small group of friends together and form a book club. It was during that first meeting that the foundation for GOG was set. Ironically, we had 12 women attend, all with different tastes in books.”

This formed Go On Girl! Book Club’s commitment to read 12 different genres a year, one for each month. They also decided to limit their group to 12 women to make for manageable book discussions. Eventually, various members of the group moved to other parts of the country and they established GOG chapters wherever they went, starting with Washington, D.C. and Chicago. They didn’t set out to form a national organization.  “Our growth happened very organically,” says Johnson.

But they eventually became women on a mission. “We chose to read writers from the African diaspora to support those authors and experience stories about ourselves. The publishing industry didn’t realize that a large black readership existed until the publication of Terry McMillan’s books. We quickly discovered so many wonderful black writers who weren’t getting recognition or support. We wanted to let them know that we realize they exist and are reading and discussing their books. We hosted book signings and readings for some of those authors and then decided to recognize them with our annual author awards weekend. We just wanted a platform for African American writers. There were so many great writers out there who we felt were following the tradition of Toni Morrison, James Baldwin and a host of literary writers from the Harlem Renaissance but not getting the recognition they needed. We felt we could do that for them as a book club and discuss and enjoy some great stories at the same time.”

Ultimately, GOG became a national, non-profit reading organization.  They give out scholarships to encourage writing of stories about the black experience. “We decided to give a scholarship to an aspiring writer studying literature/communications and an unpublished writer struggling to be read. And, if that’s not enough, for the last 20 years, the GOG chapters have come together in a different location each year, to connect with each other and to host author awards that have been attended by some of the luminaries of the literary world including Walter Mosely, Bebe Moore Campbell, Terry McMillan, and many others.

Impressed?  Read more about the Go On Girl! book club in my next post.