If you’re ready to give your brain and your heart some new input in 2021, Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) is making it easy with eight virtual book clubs. Keep reading to find out how you can get involved or hop over here to register now.
Why Birmingham-Southern is hosting virtual book clubs
Back in June, BSC kicked off its inaugural virtual book club as a way to help alumni, faculty, staff, and community members stay connected. Participants had such a great experience, BSC decided to do it again in October 2020. So far, books have focused on systemic racism and pandemics.
For Spring 2021, they’re taking a slightly different tack, with an eclectic mix of books written by authors with a Birmingham-Southern connection.
We reached out to Jennifer Waters, BSC class of ’86 and Director of Alumni Engagement, to find out more about the why behind the book clubs.
“When the pandemic hit in March and prevented our coming together for in-person alumni events, virtual book clubs became a way for our alumni not only to connect with one another, but to read, study, discuss and listen to one another during a time in our country when so many needed to feel seen, heard and supported.
Over 300 alumni, faculty, staff and community members have participated in our virtual book clubs and I think for many alumni, it represents a return to staying connected to the College and to one another. Selecting the books to feature, recruiting facilitators and participating in these book club discussions has been some of the most rewarding work I’ve done for the College in my 25+ years on staff.”
How the virtual book clubs work
- Who: Birmingham-Southern faculty, staff, alumni and the larger community are all welcome—a connection to BSC is not required.
- What: facilitated virtual book club with BSC alumni authors and/or facilitators.
- When: Zoom book club discussions will take place March 11-March 23.
- Register between Monday, February 1-Friday, February 5.
The books, authors, facilitators + meeting times
1. Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips, BSC class of 1997
- The book: Love a page-turner that you’ll gobble up in one sitting? Fierce Kingdom made a splash when it came out—it was one of the New York Times Book Review‘s Best Crime Novels of 2017 and named a best book of 2017 by NPR, Kirkus, Amazon and Bustle. Not your classic crime thriller, this one takes a deep dive into motherhood and asks where the boundary is between our animal instinct to survive and our human duty to protect one another.
- The author: Montgomery-born Phillips is a seasoned magazine writer who worked across the globe for a decade before moving back to Alabama. Fierce Kingdom is her fifth novel.
- Facilitator: Dr. Fred Ashe, Retired BSC Professor and Phillips’ husband.
- Time: Thursday, March 11, 6:30PM
2. Ahab’s Wife: Or, the Star-Gazer: A Novel by Sena Jeter Naslund, BSC class of 1963
- The book: Whether or not you ever made it through Moby Dick, you’re bound to be captivated by Ahab’s Wife. Part family drama, part romantic adventure and part portrait of a marriage, if you’re needing perspective on the American experience, this book may be just what you’ve been looking for.
- The author: This New York Times bestselling author has published eight books of fiction and has taught at several universities. If you are a lover of the written word and the craft of storytelling, you’re going to want to be a part of this group.
- Facilitators: Judy Shaw Cook ’68 and Jim Cook ’68. Both are retired teachers and avid travelers.
- When: Monday, March 15, 6:30PM
3. Pearls of Wisdom: Little Pieces of Advice (That Go a Long Way) by former First Lady Barbara Bush, with two BSC alums participating
- The book: This instant New York Times bestseller pulls together the best of Barbara Bush’s advice to family, staff and close friends, gathered from speeches, letters and recollections. If you’re hungry for wit, wisdom and thoughtfulness, this one’s for you.
- The author: Former First Lady Barbara Bush needs no introduction. In Birmingham-Southern terms, though, one of the most interesting things about this book is that the last chapter was written by Rev. Dr. Russell Levenson, Jr., class of 1984.
- Facilitator: BSC Board of Trustees member and Laura Sisson ’79, BSC retired Director of Church Relations.
- Time: Monday, March 15, 6:30PM
4. Alabama Moon by Watt Key, BSC class of 1992, facilitated by Brooke Tanner Battle, BSC class of 1996 and Board of Trustees Member
- The book: This book revolves around 10-year old Moon, who’s been raised out in a forest shelter with his father. When his father dies, he’s thrown into a thrilling coming-of-age story in a world he doesn’t know or understand.
- The author: Albert Watkins Key, Jr., publishes under the name Watt Key. His debut novel Alabama Moon was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2006 and was the 2007 winner of the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award for older readers. It received a 2006 Parents’ Choice Award. In 2015, Alabama Moon was listed by TIME Magazine as one of the top 100 young-adult books of all time.
- Facilitator: Brooke Tanner Battle, class of ’96 and BSC Board of Trustees member.
- Time: Tuesday, March 16, 6:30PM
“I chose Alabama Moon because it’s written by an old friend, Watt Key.Watt and I are both from the Mobile Bay area and his writing really takes me home.
I hope participants learn about Watt’s writing process and enjoy a unique opportunity to ask the author direct questions. Beyond that, I hope we laugh, learn and meet new friends.”Brooke Tanner Battle
5. My Soul is Rested: Movement Days in the Deep South by Howell Raines, BSC class of 1964
- The book: A portrait of the courage and faith that propelled the Civil Rights Moment, as told through moving personal recollections. There are tales told by foot soldiers and leaders of the movement as well as those from the “Down-Home Resistance.”
- The author: Howell Raines was a local Birmingham reporter who rose to Executive Editor of the New York Times. He won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, and is the author of multiple books.
- Facilitator: Dr. Mark Schantz, BSC Professor of History and Chair, Department of History
- Time: Wednesday, March 17, 6:30PM
6. An Anguished Hallelujah by Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith, BSC’s 15th President
- The book: A memoir about growing up in poor, white rural Mississippi during the 1950s and early ’60s told through a collection of nonfiction short stories and vignettes. At the core: a heartening message about sheer determination and the strength of family.
- The author: Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith was BSC’s 15th President. She’s a financial consultant and an author as well.
- Facilitator: Dr. Louanne Jacobs, BSC Associate Professor of Education
- Time: Thursday, March 18, 6:30 PM
- The book: A graphic novel that is at once personal and epic, set in the 1960s American South. Toland, a young gas station attendant, searches for his identity amid the fight over segregation, an unplanned pregnancy and small-town bigotry. It’s a story of coming of age and coming out in Birmingham.
- The author: the late “father of gay comics” got his start with cartoons in the Hilltop News at BSC. Read more.
- The facilitator: GK Armstrong ’92, Assistant Professor of the Library (and 2012 Jeopardy contestant!)
- Time: Monday, March 22, 6:30PM
- The book: If you’re fascinated by medieval studies, the Virgin Mary and contemporary gender and culture studies, there’s something in this book for you.
- The author: Teresa Reed, BSC class of ’89
- The facilitator: Dr. Susan Hagen, BSC Retired VP for Academic Affairs and Associate Provost and English Professor
- Time: Tuesday, March 23, 6:30PM