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Book Groups

VB Reads...Virtual General Lit Book Group

Mon, 03/01/2021 - 7:00pm

Monday, March 1, 7pm

Join us for a discussion of the 2021 Whatcom READS selection.  Register here to access the meeting!

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Eleven-year-old George Washington Black—or Wash—a field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation, is initially terrified when he is chosen as the manservant of his master’s brother. To his surprise, however, the eccentric Christopher Wilde turns out to be a naturalist, explorer, inventor, and abolitionist. Soon Wash is initiated into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning, and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human.
But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash’s head, they must abandon everything and flee together. Over the course of their travels, what brings Wash and Christopher together will tear them apart, propelling Wash ever farther across the globe in search of his true self. Spanning the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, London to Morocco, Washington Black is a story of self-invention and betrayal, of love and redemption, and of a world destroyed and made whole again.

Esi Edugyan is author of the novels The Second Life of Samuel Tyne and Half-Blood Blues, which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Orange Prize. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

VB Reads...Armchair Historians

Mon, 03/08/2021 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm

Monday, March 8, 7:00pm

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No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin  *We will be discussing this book at our March AND April meetings!

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History, No Ordinary Time is a monumental work, a brilliantly conceived chronicle of one of the most vibrant and revolutionary periods in the history of the United States.
With an extraordinary collection of details, Goodwin masterfully weaves together a striking number of story lines—Eleanor and Franklin’s marriage and remarkable partnership, Eleanor’s life as First Lady, and FDR’s White House and its impact on America as well as on a world at war. Goodwin effectively melds these details and stories into an unforgettable and intimate portrait of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and of the time during which a new, modern America was born.

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s interest in leadership began more than half a century ago as a professor at Harvard. Her experiences working for Lyndon B. Johnson in the White House and later assisting him on his memoirs led to her bestselling Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. She followed up with the Pulitzer Prize–winning No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. She earned the Lincoln Prize for the runaway bestseller Team of Rivals, the basis for Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award–winning film Lincoln, and the Carnegie Medal for The Bully Pulpit, the New York Times bestselling chronicle of the friendship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts. 

VB Reads...Motherhood By the Book

Sun, 03/14/2021 - 2:00pm

Sunday, March 14, 2:00pm

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The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates

How can we summon a moment of lift for human beings—and especially for women? Because when you lift up women, you lift up humanity.

For the last twenty years, Melinda Gates has been on a mission to find solutions for people with the most urgent needs, wherever they live. Throughout this journey, one thing has become increasingly clear to her: If you want to lift society up, you need to stop keeping women down.

In this moving and compelling book, Melinda shares lessons she’s learned from the inspiring people she’s met during her work and travels around the world. As she writes in the introduction, “That is why I had to write this book—to share the stories of people who have given focus and urgency to my life. I want all of us to see ways we can lift women up where we live.”

Co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world, Melinda Gates has dedicated her life to achieving transformational improvements in the health and prosperity of families, communities, and societies. Core to her work is empowering women and girls to help them realize their full potential. In 2015, Melinda created Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company that enables her to bring together other new and emerging strands of her advocacy and philanthropic work focused in the US. Melinda received a bachelor’s degree from Duke and an MBA from Duke’s Fuqua School. After joining Microsoft Corp. in 1987, she helped develop many of the company’s multimedia products. In 1996, Melinda left Microsoft to focus on her philanthropic work and family.

VB Reads...Motherhood By the Book

Sun, 04/11/2021 - 2:00pm

Sunday, April 11, 2:00pm

Register here to access the meeting!

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray

The Butler family has had their share of trials—as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lillian can attest—but nothing prepared them for the literal trial that will upend their lives.
Althea, the eldest sister and substitute matriarch, is a force to be reckoned with and her younger sisters have alternately appreciated and chafed at her strong will. They are as stunned as the rest of the small community when she and her husband, Proctor, are arrested, and in a heartbeat the family goes from one of the most respected in town to utter disgrace. The worst part is, not even her sisters are sure exactly what happened.
As Althea awaits her fate, Lillian and Viola must come together in the house they grew up in to care for their sister’s teenage daughters. What unfolds is a stunning portrait of the heart and core of an American family in a story that is as page-turning as it is important.

Anissa Gray is a Senior Editor at CNN Worldwide and a contributor to Emmy and DuPont-Columbia award-winning coverage of some of the most consequential stories of our time. She began her career at Reuters as a reporter, based in New York, covering business news and international finance. Born in St. Joseph, Michigan, Gray studied English and American literature at New York University. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her wife.

VB Reads...Armchair Historians

Mon, 04/12/2021 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm

Monday, April 12, 7:00pm

Register here to access the meeting!

No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin  *We will be discussing this book at our March AND April meetings!

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History, No Ordinary Time is a monumental work, a brilliantly conceived chronicle of one of the most vibrant and revolutionary periods in the history of the United States.
With an extraordinary collection of details, Goodwin masterfully weaves together a striking number of story lines—Eleanor and Franklin’s marriage and remarkable partnership, Eleanor’s life as First Lady, and FDR’s White House and its impact on America as well as on a world at war. Goodwin effectively melds these details and stories into an unforgettable and intimate portrait of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and of the time during which a new, modern America was born.

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s interest in leadership began more than half a century ago as a professor at Harvard. Her experiences working for Lyndon B. Johnson in the White House and later assisting him on his memoirs led to her bestselling Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. She followed up with the Pulitzer Prize–winning No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. She earned the Lincoln Prize for the runaway bestseller Team of Rivals, the basis for Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award–winning film Lincoln, and the Carnegie Medal for The Bully Pulpit, the New York Times bestselling chronicle of the friendship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts. 

VB Reads...Armchair Historians

Mon, 05/10/2021 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm

Monday, May 10, 7:00pm

Register here to access the meeting!

The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro De' Medici by Catherine Fletcher

Born to a dark-skinned maid and Lorenzo II de' Medici, the illegitimate Alessandro was groomed for power. In 1532, at the age of nineteen, backed by the Holy Roman Emperor--his future father-in-law--and the Pope, he became Duke of Florence, facing down family rivals and oligarchs and inheriting the grandest dynasty of the Italian Renaissance. Catherine Fletcher's The Black Prince of Florence is the first complete account of the real-life counterpart to Machiavelli's Prince.

After ruling for a turbulent six years, Alessandro was murdered in 1537 during a late-night tryst arranged by a scheming cousin. As Fletcher puts it, he was assassinated twice: "first with a sword, then with a pen." Following his death, Alessandro's reign was dismissed by his enemies--of which every Medici prince had many, and Alessandro more than his share--and his death painted as tyrannicide. It was in the years and centuries that followed that his racial origin became a focus, first by those seeking to emphasize his "savagery" and thus to justify his murder, and later to argue his case as the first ruler of color in the Western world. In 1931, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, founder of the famous collection of African history in Harlem, wrote an article about Alessandro in the magazine The Crisis, then edited by W.E.B. Du Bois, calling him the "Negro Medici."

Defined by intrigue, opulence, sexual conquest, and an endless struggle to retain power, Alessandro's life and afterlife reveal how racial identity has played out over the centuries, and to what degree it remains in the eye of the beholder. In this captivating biography of an intriguing and forgotten figure, Fletcher does full justice to his remarkable story, unraveling centuries-old mysteries, exposing forgeries, and bringing to life the epic personalities--artists, popes, queens, and pimps--of one of the most colorful periods in history.

Catherine Fletcher is a historian of Renaissance and early modern Europe. Her first book, The Divorce of Henry VIII, brought to life the Papal court at the time of the Tudors. She consulted on the Golden-Globe-winning TV miniseries Wolf Hall and regularly broadcasts for BBC radio. She is Associate Professor in History and Heritage at Swansea University and has held research fellowships in London, Florence, and Rome.

VB Reads...Motherhood By the Book

Sun, 05/16/2021 - 2:00pm

Sunday, May 16, 2:00pm *Note: We are meeting one week later than usual to avoid meeting on Mother's Day.

Register here to access the meeting!

The Magical Language of Others: A Memoir by E. J. Koh

A tale of deep bonds to family, place, language—of hard-won selfhood told by a singular, incandescent voice.
The Magical Language of Others is a powerful and aching love story in letters, from mother to daughter. After living in America for over a decade, Eun Ji Koh’s parents return to South Korea for work, leaving fifteen-year-old Eun Ji and her brother behind in California. Overnight, Eun Ji finds herself abandoned and adrift in a world made strange by her mother’s absence. Her mother writes letters, in Korean, over the years seeking forgiveness and love—letters Eun Ji cannot fully understand until she finds them years later hidden in a box.
As Eun Ji translates the letters, she looks to history—her grandmother Jun’s years as a lovesick wife in Daejeon, the horrors her grandmother Kumiko witnessed during the Jeju Island Massacre—and to poetry, as well as her own lived experience to answer questions inside all of us. Where do the stories of our mothers and grandmothers end and ours begin? How do we find words—in Korean, Japanese, English, or any language—to articulate the profound ways that distance can shape love? Eun Ji Koh fearlessly grapples with forgiveness, reconciliation, legacy, and intergenerational trauma, arriving at insights that are essential reading for anyone who has ever had to balance love, longing, heartbreak, and joy.
The Magical Language of Others weaves a profound tale of hard-won selfhood and our deep bonds to family, place, and language, introducing—in Eun Ji Koh—a singular, incandescent voice.

E. J. Koh is the author of poetry collection A Lesser Love, winner of the Pleiades Editors Prize (Louisiana State U. Press, 2017). Her poems, translations, and stories have appeared in Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, World Literature Today, among others. She is the recipient of The MacDowell Colony and Kundiman fellowships, 2017 ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship, and is Runner-Up for the 2018 Prairie Schooner Summer Nonfiction Prize.

 

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