Thursday, September 21, 2006

BookHands: For the Love of Books, Chocolate & Open Communication

Every six weeks, there are ten of us who gather and share an evening of desserts that almost always include chocolate of some kind. We fill our plates with the goodies, grab a drink, and gather around to catch up on the latest news and a brief update on our kids.

Then the host implores everyone to sit down, grab their books, and make one final trip to fill up a plate. So begins an evening of BookHands, a women’s book club located in the Chicagoland area. The discussion begins by describing a brief reaction to the book that was selected weeks ago. One by one, we share our perspectives of the book, answer questions prepared by the host, or conduct an analysis of characters or events.

BookHands was the creation of Karen Carrier Kurt, a deaf mom who realized that a night out with other deaf moms often turned into a discussion about current books. She thought it would be fun to have a few moms over to do just that. In May 2003, Karen invited a few deaf moms that she knew and others that she met through “friends of friends.” The first meeting was held at her house, and the selected book was Lucky Man, an autobiography of Michael J. Fox.

Over the years, the books have evolved and so have the discussions. Some of the members use American Sign Language and some use simultaneous communication (signing and speaking at the same time). The name BookHands is a natural fit and an apt description of our group.

We have covered books such as The DaVinci Code, My Sister’s Keeper, Deafening, The Three Mrs. Parkers, and The Devil in the White City to name a few. We have met in each other’s homes and occasionally in a bookstore. For The Devil in the White City, we attended a slide show at a local library that covered the World’s Fair and had a discussion afterwards.

Our backgrounds are diverse: a former assistant director of a non-profit agency, two college instructors, librarian, a medical records technician, an accountant, a former legal assistant, teachers, an insurance agent, and a former computer programmer. BookHands fills a social niche for the ten of us because we are scattered geographically and often spend our days caring for little ones or at work communicating with those who can hear. To be able to combine a love of books and discuss them in an accessible medium allows for comfortable group dynamics. We certainly have the option of joining a local book club and using interpreters, but the group dynamic and communication style simply would not compare. With each book selection, we are learning more about each other’s lives and we are also being introduced to books that we might not have picked up otherwise.

And of course, you can’t beat the chocolate desserts!


Carl Schroeder said...

Wonderful! Many thanks for sharing such an excitement that you have. Passion, vitality, and creativity are qualities that you have in your group that makes life incredibly rich and meaningful. I would like to challenge you to keep up with writing about your group because you are defining yourselves in your own terms. You are on this journey already, and I would like to see that you continue it. Again, many thanks for sharing your love for books with us! May we hear from you again. Aloha!

Brony said...

That sounds like a very interesting book club. What a great idea.

Meg said...

Hi Karen- I found your site thru BlogHer. I've been enjoying poking around. I am working on a project to build a blogging/podcasting community for moms. If you're interested in learning more about it drop me a line at hatchew at hotmail dot com. I am looking for new contributors.
take care-