“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”

The Namesake book cover.Each March, the Brown Baggers join in the Big Read by reading the year’s selected title. Perhaps because it is part of a month-long event, the mood always feels very festive. For this year’s discussion of The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, the Brown Baggers were treated to some delicious Indian food and welcomed a few new faces.

Befitting the book’s title, names were an important keystone of our conversation. Group members discussed the impact a name can have on your life, whether an immigrant or not. Nicknames, the meaning of names, how they are chosen, changing trends — these all can influence how others perceive you or how you may view your place in the world. Continue reading

“If you must err, do so on the side of audacity.”

The Invention of WingsAlthough many Brown Baggers were not familiar with historical figures Sarah and Angelina Grimke, we had the opportunity to learn more about their lives through Sue Monk Kidd’s novel The Invention of Wings. A fictionalized account, Kidd added the character of Hetty, or “Handful,” the slave presented to Sarah as a birthday present. Through the novel, Kidd weaves alternating narratives of these two women seeking to transcend their circumstances.

Even though it was a fictionalized account, this was an eye-opening introduction to this period of history. A few group members were surprised that the abolition and women’s rights work was taking place so early, as this book is set almost 60 years before the Civil War. Some details were brutal, but necessary to show certain truths. Everyone was appalled at the treatment of the slaves as depicted by the author, specifically Handful’s mother’s punishment on the treadmill. The group discussed the use of the quilt in the story as well. It served as a uniquely non-literate way to pass down a familial and cultural history while also educating the reader. We also discussed their use on the Underground Railroad. Continue reading

“Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only—if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it?”

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Boasting impressive biceps, the Brown Baggers met in late January to discuss Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Why the newfound upper arm strength? Clocking in at some 700 pages, it took some skill to keep this novel propped up.

 While the Brown Baggers aren’t strangers to lengthy tomes (full list of Brown Baggers titles found here), many group members felt this book would have greatly benefited from a stricter editor. The swiftly moving events of the book’s beginning grabbed most members and kept them reading eagerly. By the time Theo arrives in Las Vegas, though, the book began to drag. Most group members felt that this part in particular could have been drastically cut down. Continue reading