Unlimited Book Club

To sign up for the book club, please click here: Unlimited Book Club registration.

The Unlimited Book Club is a joint venture of the Coos History Museum, Coos Bay Library, and North Bend Library. We formed to encourage awareness and foster community discussions on equity, diversity, and inclusion through reading and thoughtful conversation. 

The club will meet every second Thursday at 6:00 PM. The meetings will be an opportunity for members to discuss the month’s book as well as vote on book titles for future meetings and connect with fellow community members. Our next meeting will be on December 9th at 6:00 PM and we will be discussing the book: The Overstory by Richard Powers

You may also find information about the Unlimited Book Club on our Facebook page or by contacting Ariel Peasley at education@cooshistory.org or at 541-756-6320 x216.

View more information below!

Resources and Discussion Quotes

Richard Powers’ website: Richard Powers

September 13, 2021 – New York Times: Richard Powers Speaks for the Trees

October 16, 2019 – OPB: Richard Powers: “The Overstory”

Discussion Quotes & Questions

“The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.” (336)

It occurs to Adam where the word radical came from. Radix. Wrad. Root: The plant’s, the planet’s, brain.”

On his fourth night in the cell, Nick dreams of the Hoel family chestnut. He watches it, sped up thirty-two million times, reveal again its invisible plan. He remembers, in his sleep. On the cot’s thin mattress, the way the time-lapse tree waved its swelling arms. The way those arms tested, explored, aligned in the light, writing messages in the air. In that dream, the trees laugh at them. Save us? What a human thing to do. Even the laugh takes years.”

Once you’ve bought a novel in your pajamas, there’s no turning back.”

July 15, 2021 – The Nation: In Utopia, I Never Have to Write About Immigration Again by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

April 15, 2021 – Common Reads: Karla Cornejo Villavicencio (author of The Undocumented Americans) at the FYE Conference 2021

October 21, 2020 – New York Times: ‘I Came From Nothing’: An Undocumented Writer Defies the Odds by Concepción de León

Discussion Quotes & Questions

“As an undocumented person, I felt like a hologram. Nothing felt secure. I never felt safe. I didn’t allow myself to feel joy because I was scared to attach myself to anything I’d have to let go of. Being deportable means you have to be ready to go at any moment, ready to go with nothing but the clothes on your body. I’ve learned to develop no relationship to anything, not to photos, not to people, not to jewelry or clothing or ticket stubs or stuffed animals from childhood.” (60)

“Some people choose between the medical and the natural, but we didn’t have the funds for the medical.” (88)

February 23, 2016 – McMenamin’s History Pub Talk: Detained by My Country with Mitzi Loftus

May 9, 2012 (updated July 27, 2020) – Columbia Gorge News: ‘I had to give up the Hood River Valley’ by

April 14, 2007 – Oregon State University: Multicultural Voices of Oregon: Mitzi Asai Loftus Oral History Interview

Discussion Quotes & Questions

“It was not until years later, when my mother was in her sixties or seventies, that we learned how she felt about coming to a strange country to marry a strange man. Her answer to her parents had been, “I didn’t want to.” In traditional Japanese culture, a girl did not have a right to express her own feelings in such matters. I learned how liberal her family was back in 1911, for they asked her if she would like to marry this man in America.” (19)

“Having no idea how long we would be contained in camp nor how to appease the neighbor with his invented charges, Pa sadly but with resignation agreed to sell the farm to him. This whole episode was the source of a great deal of bitterness, rancor, and regret for Pa for many years. Pa’s respect for this man diminished, and I do not believe he spoke to him the remaining twenty-five years of his life.” (99)

Colum McCann’s website: Colum McCann

August 16, 2021 from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM ET – Temple Beth Zion–Beth Israel (BZBI) Book Club: Apeirogon by Colum McCann, to be reviewed by Sharon Greis

July 29, 2021 – Hyperallergic: How Watermelon Became a Symbol of Palestinian Resistance by Billy Anania

February 2, 2021 – WAMC Podcasts: #1698: Colum McCann “Aperiogon”

May 29, 2020 – Politics and Prose: Colum McCann, “Apeirogon” – in conversation with Ben Rhodes

February 24, 2020 – The New York Times: Colum McCann Gives Voice to Grieving Fathers, One Israeli and One Palestinian by

Discussion Quotes

“…the Germans killed six million Jews and…now we have an Israeli diplomat in Berlin and we have a German ambassador in Tel Aviv. You see, nothing is impossible. As long as I am not occupied, as long as I have my rights, so long as you allow me to move around, to vote, to be human, than anything is possible.” (242)

 

“…anything which creates emotional ties between human beings inevitably counteracts war. What had to be sought was a community of feeling, and a mythology of the instincts.” (111)

 

“It struck him early on that people were afraid of the enemy because they were terrified that their lives might get diluted, that they might lose themselves in the tangle of knowing each other.” (124)

 

“We may have built up our wall, but the wall is really only in our minds, and every day I try to put a crack in it.” (227)

 

“Arabs? Really? Going into the same meeting as these Israelis? How could that be? A thinking, feeling breathing Palestinian? And I remember seeing this lady in this black, traditional Palestinian dress, with a headscarf–you know, the sort of woman who I might have thought could be the mother of one of the bombers who took my child. She was slow and elegant, stepping down from the bus, walking in my direction. And then I saw it, she had a picture of her daughter clutched to her chest. She walked past me. I couldn’t move. And this was like an earthquake inside me: this woman had lost her child. It maybe sounds simple, but it was not. I had been in a sort of coffin. This lifted the lid from my eyes. My grief and her grief, the same grief.” (223)

Luis Alberto Urrea’s website: Luis Alberto Urrea

August 24, 2021 from 6:30-7:30 – Chicago Public Library: Adult Book Discussion: The Hummingbird’s Daughter

April 8, 2021 – URI College of Arts and Sciences: Spring 2021 Humanities Festival: Luis Alberto Urrea

August 2, 2019 – Time: The Shame of the Border Crisis Will Never Leave Us by Luis Alberto Urrea

Discussion Quotes

“The sibs all thought Little Angel was cheating the system somehow. A culture thief. A fake  Mexican. More gringo than anything. He knew that. He had heard his sister call him a “gringo-Mex.“

“He believed he was celebrating them when he shared stories of their foibles. He felt the burden of being there living witness. Somehow the silliest details of their days were, to him, sacred. And he believed that if only the dominant culture could see the small moments, they would see their own human lives reflected in the other.“

And Lalo hears his own voice again, sounding alien, as if it were his father’s voice, saying, “We got to stop. We just running in circles. Payback, payback, payback. You ain’t never gonna pay nothing back.” The pistol drops to his side. The man on the couch opens his eyes, sees the gun has dropped away from his face, and suddenly deflates with disbelief. He is revealed: a middle-aged loser who has disfigured his own face and is not a threat to anyone in the world. Not even worth shooting.” (243)

“…the pallbearers were all in white. Yndio and Lalo at the head of the coffin. Pato and Marco in the middle. Little Angel holding up his back corner, looking across at Minnie. She stood tall. Pants and a satin vest. Nobody was going to tell her women didn’t carry coffins.” (312)

Dr. Seema Yasmin’s website: Dr. Seema Yasmin 

Fahmida Azim’s website: Fahmida Azim

November 23, 2020 – The New York Times: ‘Muslim Women Are Everything’ Turns the Page on Stereotypes

Discussion Quotes

“… the International Skating Union eventually changed its rules to keep with the times, and with Zahra. A sponsorship deal with Nike soon followed and Zahra became one of the faces of the company’s athletic hijab, which was launched in 2018. Her persistence, strength and courage paved the way for Stephanie, who similarly refuses to let other people’s narrow beliefs limit her movements.” (91)

Muslim women are expected to defend Islam, explain their rituals, explain their dress, justify their existence—anything contrary to this is seen as a radical act…Suhaiymah refuses to be “respectable,” to write the words expected of her: “I put my pen down. I will not let that poem force me to write it, because it is not the poem I want to write. It’s the poem I have been reduced to. Reduced to proving my life is human because it is relatable. Valuable because it is recognizable…Because if you need me to prove my humanity, I’m not the one that’s not human.” (37)

The Toni Morrison Society website: Toni Morrison

The Last Interview Series – Toni Morrison: The Last Interview and Other Conversations by Melville House and Nikki Giovanni

December 7, 1993 – The Nobel Prize: Toni Morrison: Nobel Lecture

Discussion Quotes

“…the aspect of married life that dumbfounded him and rendered him totally dysfunctional was the appearance of children. Having no idea of how to raise children, and having never watched any parent raise himself, he could not even comprehend what such a relationship should be…As it was, he reacted to them, and his reactions were based on what he felt at the moment.” (126)

“His subconscious knew what his conscious mind did not guess–that hating them would have consumed him, burned him up like a piece of soft coal, leaving only flakes of ash and a question mark of smoke.” (151)

Then they had grown…They ran the houses of white people, and knew it. When white men beat their men, they cleaned up the blood and went home to receive abuse from the victim. They beat their children with one hand and stole for them with the other. The hands that felled trees also cut umbilical cords; the hands that wrung the neck of chickens and butchered hogs also nudged African violets into bloom; the arms that loaded sheaves, bales, and sacks rocked babies into sleep. They patted biscuits into flaky ovals of innocence–and shrouded the dead. They plowed all day and came home to nestle like plums under the limbs of their men. The legs that straddled a mule’s back were the same ones that straddled their men’s hips. And the difference was all the difference there was.” (108)

 Jacqueline Woodson’s website: Jacqueline Woodson

March 16, 2021 at 4:00 PM – Virginia Festival of the Book: An Evening with Jacqueline Woodson 

March 18, 2021 at 5:00 PM – Vernon Area Public Library: One Book, One Community: Author Visit with Jacqueline Woodson

March 23, 2021 at 3:00 PM – Politics and Prose: Parent Like It Matters: How to Raise Joyful, Change-Making Girls with Jacqueline Woodson

Discussion Quotes

“But that morning in September, as we run from the Black Breakfast Table to the television in our homeroom, we blend into a single child crying as newscasters tell us how much we don’t yet know” (122).

“It’s the grown-ups who can’t fathom what they refuse to see” (173).

Maybe this was the moment when I knew I was a part of a long line of almost erased stories” (15).

“She felt red at the bone–like there was something inside of her undone and bleeding” (161).

“We both loved how he wrote. He was truly saying, Can we just be who we are, people? Can we just take off our masks and laugh and dance and eat and talk? But then he has the nerve to have that name Paul Laurence Dunbar—like you need to say it with your pinky pointing out. Hmph. Made me and Po’Boy shake our heads at all that our people are” (179).

Julia Serano’s website: Julia Serano

March 11, 2021 – The New Yok Times: How Some States Are Moving to Restrict Transgender Women in Sports

March 8, 2021 – The Crime Report: Anti-Transgender Legislation Boom in 2021 Called a ‘Culture War’

January 28, 2021 – The Hammer Museum: White Feminism with Koa Beck & Julia Serano

Discussion Quotes

“One of the most frustrating aspects about being a transsexual is that I’m frequently asked to explain to other people why I decided to transition. Why did I feel it was necessary to physically change my body? How could I possibly know that I’d be happier as a woman when I had only ever experienced being male? If I don’t believe that women and men are “opposite” sexes, then why change my sex at all? Unfortunately, while these are among the most common questions people ask, they are also the ones to which people are the least open to hearing my answer” (77).

“Similarly, while I understand cissexual culture (as I was raised as, and generally assumed to be, cissexual), most cissexuals tend to have an extraordinarily limited understanding of transsexuality” (290).
 

“If we truly want to bring an end to all gender-based oppression, then we must begin by taking responsibility for our own perceptions and presumptions. The most radical thing that any of us can do is to stop projecting our beliefs about gender onto other people’s behaviors and bodies” (193).
 

“So long as we refuse to accept that ‘woman’ is a holistic concept, our concept of womanhood will remain a mere reflection of our own personal experiences and biases rather than something based in the truly diverse world that surrounds us” (227).

Ocean Vuong’s website: Ocean Vuong

January 28th – Brooklyn Public Library: Documenting the Uprising: A Panel Discussion on Archiving and Activism 

Discussion Quotes

“I am thinking of beauty again, how some things are hunted because we have deemed them beautiful…” (paragraph on 238).

“A new immigrant, within two years, will come to know that the salon is, in the end, a place where dreams become the calcified knowledge of what it means to be awake in American bones—with or without citizenship—aching, toxic, and underpaid.” (80-81)

“Sometimes being offered tenderness feels like the very proof that you’ve been ruined.”

“I am thinking of freedom again, how the calf is most free when the cage opens and it’s led to the truck for slaughter” (216).

Netflix documentary film – “I am Not Your Negro”: Based on James Baldwin’s unfinished book , this visual essay explores racism through the stories of Medgar evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.

October 7th – PGCMLS (Prince George’s County Memorial Library System): Eddie S. Glaude Jr. on “Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for our Own”

November 20th – WDET: Detroit’s NPR Station: Eddie Glaude: Racism We’ve Seen in Trump Era is Not New. It’s Just Louder. 

Upcoming: February 9 at 6:30 PM – Oregon Humanities: The Fire is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., And the Debate over Race in America.

Discussion Quotes 

“We don’t hurt more, we just die faster.”

“We must tell the truth till we can no longer bear it.” (4)

“In our time, with so much hatred and venom in our politics and our culture, we must actively cultivate communities of love that allow us to imagine different ways of being together. That means pulling people we love closer; opening ourselves to the unexpected pleasure of meeting and knowing someone new; and retreating into the comfort of their company as a material counterweight to the ugliness of our politics.” (142-143)

“It is not enough to merely acknowledge these dark moments when the politics of fear threaten to overwhelm, as Jon Meacham does in his brilliant book The Soul of America, but then to move quickly to examples of hope that affirm the country’s sense of its own exceptionalism. We fail to linger in the dark moments at our peril… One has to linger here. Move too quickly, and you set yourself up for another nightmare.”

Interpretation matters: What we do with the facts, the kinds of questions we ask about them, and for what ends, matter.” (78)

OCTOBER

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele 

A talk presented by PEN America and Summit: Patrisse Cullors and Joshua Wong in Conversation with Baratunde Thurston 

Interview with Patrisse Cullors hosted by Trevor Noah on The Daily Social Distancing Show: How to Phase Out the Police 

NYTimes article: Some Protests Against Police Brutality Take a More Confrontational Approach(question for discussion: “How does the BLM movement fit into what is currently happening in Portland?”)

Questions by Hosts

If you had to use one word to describe a major theme running through this book that holds the author together and provides her much needed comfort, what would that word be?

Now having read this book, in a sentence or so, what do you believe is the main purpose and goal of the Black Lives Matter movement?

I want to discuss her beautiful writing style, and her influences, but I think it might be more important to look forward instead, and (borrowing and wrecking a line from Hamilton) discuss her book as a moment in a movement.


NOVEMBER

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

An interview with Ibram X. Kendi hosted by The Aspen Institute: How to Be an Antiracist

TED talk with Ibram X. Kendi: The Difference Between Being “Not Racist” and Antiracist 

Questions by Hosts

On page 180, Kendi says “To be antiracist is to equate and nurture difference among racial groups.” We often talk about celebrating diversity and differences, but do we need to concentrate harder on equating differences? How do we do this?

In my own interpretation, Kendi says that if we make things equal, fair, and just for Black people, especially for Black transgender women, that we will ultimately make the world, or at least our country, better for everyone. Conversely, he says that groups such as white supremacists and the policies and ideas they promote, are making the world worse for everyone, including White people. What do you think about these ideas?

How does Kendi make you examine your own situation, your own biases?


DECEMBER

Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson 

Jan 21, 2021 – New York Times podcast: America’s Caste System Is 400 Years Old. That Doesn’t Change Overnight

Dec 1, 2020 at 5:00 PM – Oregon Humanities: Can We Get Along? 

2017 TED talk with Isabel Wilkerson: The Great Migration and the Power of a Single Decision

Los Angeles Times Virtual Book Club: Journeys to America: Writings on a Hidden Nation with Karla Cornejo Villavicencio & Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

Questions by Hosts

Do you agree with Isabel Wilkerson’s argument(s) that the United States embodies a caste system? On page 352, Wilkerson quotes Taylor saying “if people were given the choice between democracy and whiteness, how many would choose whiteness?”; what do you think? On page 387, Wilkerson says that we need to be “pro-African-American” among other pro’s; how does this relate to or differ from Kendi’s argument to be “anti-racist” among other anti’s?
 

Wilkerson often implies or states that we are all performers, playing our racial and/or caste roles that would not exist if we did not act them out. After reading this book and Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist, does anyone else feel like they are living in a fictional movie or novel where everyone is ignoring facts or truths in order to keep each other down and elevate themselves on both the local and global stage? I keep hearing the following quote from The Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten at their last performance, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” I do!

 

People experiencing homelessness are an untouchable as well. I have no problem believing that African-Americans in this situation have it even worse than whites, but as a whole, once people fall into a state of homelessness, they are often written off completely, and they are treated as a threat to the public good. If we are to move from a caste society to one that reflects our better natures, if we can come to celebrate cultures and races, I think we need to keep in mind that we cannot allow an underclass to remain in place.

Book Titles

November 11, 2021: The Overstory by Richard Powers

December 9, 2021: The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

January 13, 2021: Nobody’s Normal: How Culture Created the Stigma of Mental Illness by Roy Richard Grinker

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown

The First Oregonians by Laura Berg

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

From a Native Son: Selected Essays on Indigenism, 1985-1995 by Ward Churchill

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

The Healing of Natalie Curtis by Jane Kirkpatrick

Men we Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward

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

The Morning the Sun Went Down: A Memoir by Darryl Babe Wilson

Oregon Democracy: Asahel Bush, Slavery, and the Statehood Debate by Barbara Mahoney (academic article)

Peculiar Paradise: A History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788-1940 by Elizabeth McLagan

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

See No Stranger by Valarie Kaur

A Spectral Hue by Craig Laurance Gidney

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals by Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Adrienne Maree Brown

Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism by Roy Richard Grinker

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Velvet was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

What You Should Know about Politics…but Don’t: A Nonpartisan Guide to the Issues that Matter by Jessamyn Conrad

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

October 14, 2021: The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

September 9, 2021: Made in Japan, Settled in Oregon by Mitzi Asai Loftus

August 12, 2021: Apeirogon by Colum McCann

July 9, 2021: The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

June 10, 2021: Muslim Women Are Everything: Stereotype-Shattering Stories of Courage, Inspiration, and Adventure by Seema Yasmin and Fahmida Azim

May 13, 2021: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

April 8, 2021: Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

March 11, 2021: Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano

February 11, 2021: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. 

January 14, 2021: Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

December 10, 2020: Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson 

November 12, 2020: How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

October 8, 2020: When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele