Multicultural Affairs hosts book club to open discussion about varying cultural experiences

The Multicultural Affairs book club reads novels voted on by students that feature various racial and ethnic groups. Photo courtesy of Kristen McDowell

By Sophia Tejeda | Staff Writer

For a couple of years now, Multicultural Affairs has hosted a book club each semester. The book club consists of three to four hourlong evening sessions in which participants discuss the current book, which is chosen through student interest by voting on Instagram.

Graduate assistant Kristen McDowell coordinates the book club, arranging a list of 10 books as options for reading that focus on various racial and ethnic groups. McDowell divides the book into sections, facilitates meetings with pre-selected questions and leads students through the numerous paths of conversation — bolstered by participants’ thoughts, opinions and questions.

“The goal is to see how we can relate to those who may not be our own culture and to see how they view themselves through writing,” McDowell said.

Last semester, the book club read “Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, which provides insight into Noah’s experience growing up in South Africa as a mixed-race individual. The book club is currently reading “Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.

“It is about crossing barriers,” McDowell said. “Even though I’m not Asian, I am super excited to read this book, not only because I loved the movie but also because there is so much rich culture to learn. You can be from any background and sign up and learn something new and enjoy a good book.”

Associate director of Multicultural Affairs Geoffrey Griggs noted that the book club has worked to promote Baylor’s mission to cultivate student leaders within a global perspective by expanding upon the knowledge and beliefs of one’s self and others.

“The goal is to provide another outlet to have conversations about diverse topics that we probably weren’t addressing in some of our other programs,” Griggs said. “We do a lot of programming that is engaging and allow students to learn about other cultures. We wanted to do that from a different avenue to where [students] could hear about the perspective of an author … and to have a space to have a discussion about it.”

The book club works to accomplish these goals and objectives through the means of literature.

“Literature makes me think of research, utilizing [it] to see what has already been done or what are some implications of what could be done based upon another person’s research,” Griggs said. “Books open thought processes that can change your viewpoints based on what you read — and either strengthen your current thought but also give you the ability to change your thoughts.”

Griggs said he hopes to facilitate future author participation in the book club through responses or lectures. He noted authors’ excitement, demonstrated by several who have reached out through social media to express their enthusiasm about the use of their books in discussion.

McDowell said the book club provides the opportunity to form friendships across grade levels and have learning opportunities beyond the classroom.

“Reading about a culture that was wholly opposite my own and hearing other people’s experiences that did relate to that opens my own eyes and [allows me] to serve my students better,” McDowell said.

Griggs said he encourages students who enjoy reading and wish to learn more about diverse perspectives to join.

“This is a space to learn about something and have a good time, meet some peers and discuss something that is important,” Griggs said.