BSC is hosting virtual book clubs facilitated by experts, and you’re invited

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Now this looks like my kind of reading spot. Photo via BSC

2020, the year of virtual… well, everything. There’s no better way to fill your emptier-than-usual schedule than by learning something new, and Birmingham-Southern College is making it easy. Get all the deets on their virtual book clubs right here.

The Inspiration

This is why BSC’s campus is commonly referred to as “The Hilltop.” Photo via BSC

BSC kicked off their summer book club in June as a way for students to stay connected during this physically distant time.

They focused the reading materials on systemic racism, inspired in part by President Coleman’s statement in early June. Here’s an excerpt:

“As an institution of higher learning focused on the liberal arts, we believe in the power of education, and we encourage all to seek out knowledge of the issues that challenge our country and our society.

There are many ways to do that, including listening to the voices speaking out during this time of unrest, reading the works of African-American writers, seeking out works by African-American visual and performing artists, and examining the history of our own institutions and hometowns.”

Daniel B. Coleman, President, Birmingham-Southern College

Seeking out, listening to and learning from voices outside your own is one of the biggest skills you learn in college, and BSC wanted to make sure they were facilitating that.

In his statement, President Coleman went on to outline what this knowledge-seeking action has to offer participants:

“By reflecting on what we see and hear, and through civil discourse with others – especially those whose views have been shaped by experiences different from our own – we engage in the critical thinking that leads to change and progress, both within ourselves and throughout the world.”

How it Works

Even though smiles are hidden behind masks on BSCs campus these days, that spirit of enthusiastic education remains. Photo via BSC

BSC’s new book clubs are hosted by the Office of Alumni Engagement, which means they’re not just open to BSC students. They’ve invited faculty, staff, alumni and the larger community to join in.

There’s no charge for this program—all you do is pick your book and purchase, borrow or check out a copy. Each participant commits to finishing the book before the virtual meeting, which is a discussion led by two facilitators over Zoom.

Rachel Estes was one of the co-facilitators over the summer. Her group read through Four Spirits, which was written by BSC alum Sena Jeter Naslund. Here’s what Rachel had to say about the experience:

“The connections made this summer with our BSC book club were tremendous.

Not only did it knit alums from different eras, but the conversation between women who had been at BSC during the time of the book (Civil Rights era) bringing stories of being on the Hilltop and how students reacted and interacted with the Civil Rights injustices then, and the women who graduated recently who explored the similarities of the unrest of the recent George Floyd protests, were astounding.”

Rachel Estes, Facilitator

Fall Book Clubs

The twin Ginkgo trees on BSCs campus are an icon for the school. Photo via BSC

The summer book clubs were such a success that BSC decided to continue and expand the program this fall. The reading period for the fall series wraps up this week, but if you’re looking for a good book to read, the fall featured reading material is perfect for adding to your own bedside stack.

Timely and timeless, five of the books focus on systemic racism, while the other five explore pandemics. Here’s a preview:

  • Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
  • The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
  • How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America by Tanner Colby
  • Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
  • The End of October by Lawrence Wright
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World by Laura Spinney
  • The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

Depending on their subject, the facilitated discussions will aim to either inspire a deeper understanding of race, racism and equal justice or examine life during pandemics and times of contagion. 

The Experience

Outdoor learning has always been a part of the BSC student experience, but now it’s more common than ever. Photo via BSC

Being a college student in 2020 is something only a select few people will ever experience. We caught up with a few BSC students to get an inside look at what it’s been like.

Students, faculty, staff and more are all looking for ways to stay connected and learn creatively. These virtual book clubs are just another way to do that.

If you’re interested in getting in on the action—and enjoying a bit of nostalgia for the holidays—BSC will launch a winter book club highlighting a feel-good family classic.

  • Book: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Facilitators: Betty Gunn, a 1960 BSC graduate, and her daughter Dr. Amelia Spencer, BSC associate professor of education and a 1985 graduate
  • Dates: Sign-ups begin Sunday, November 4 | Discussion will be held Thursday, December 17
  • Follow BSC on Facebook and Instagram and watch for info on sign-ups.

Want to stay up-to-date on news from the Hilltop? Be sure to check out their blog.

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  • A Birmingham transplant who can usually be found hitting a new hiking trail or restaurant opening when she's not writing stories and snapping photos for Bham Now.