#OneBookWednesday: Book Discussion Tips

By Julie B. RSS Wed, January 10, 2018

We are just one week away from the Kickoff Event to the One Book, One Philadelphia 2018 season. On Wednesday night, January 17, at 7:30 p.m. you are invited to join us in Parkway Central Library for a free event featuring Another Brooklyn author Jacqueline Woodson, in conversation with WHYY’s Katie Colaneri. They will be discussing identity, shifting cultural landscapes, and other themes Woodson’s writing for all ages covers. The evening will also include a performance inspired by Another Brooklyn from 2016–2017 Philadelphia Poet Laureate Yolanda Wisher, with members of her band, The Afroeaters.

Get your calendar ready, because what follows the kickoff is an incredible eight weeks of programs. There are film screenings, writing workshops, musical performances, lectures from experts, and even cooking classes, all thematically tied by the One Book featured selection Another Brooklyn.

And because One Book, at its heart, is a citywide book club—sprinkled throughout the season are book chats, discussions, talks, and panels—dotting every neighborhood to help Philadelphians bond over a shared reading experience.

But what if you haven’t read the book? You still have time! Even if it just isn’t going to make it to the top of your to-read list, that definitely shouldn't be a reason not to join the conversation! All you really need to be armed with are thoughts about city living and the relationship changes that come with growing up.

Here are some talking points and guiding questions to help give you an edge:

  • Quick summary: Young August is full of promise and hope when her fragmented family moves from the American South to Brooklyn, New York—part of the Great Migration of black southerners to the urban North. She grows, changes, and grapples alongside three best friends, who support each other through first loves, lost parents, and future dreams … until the forces of growing up also force them apart. August’s coming-of-age is set against a 1970s Brooklyn landscape that itself was changing, spurred by forces beyond the control of August’s family and friends.
  • The story is not told in a linear fashion—it jumps around in time between August’s adulthood, as she copes with the death of her father; and her childhood leaving Tennessee and growing up in Brooklyn. As such, it often feels for readers like we get many small episodes, rather than one straight narrative. What is gained or lost in such storytelling? What other works of fiction use similar techniques, and to what effect?
  • The stories of August’s youth in Brooklyn come as memories, pieces of larger stories. The phrase "This is memory" is repeated throughout the book as a mantra after many of August’s recollections. What do you think this means? Does it matter if the way we remember a story is different from how it actually happened?
  • Author Jacqueline Woodson has said that as much as Another Brooklyn is the story of August, who we see progress from childhood to adulthood, it is the story of a place—Bushwick, New York, where Woodson herself grew up. Brooklyn comes of age as August does, and the forces of White Flight, drugs, and gentrification all change the urban landscape. Parts of Philadelphia have experienced much the same, and gentrification continues to redefine neighborhoods. Good? (for whom?) Bad? (in what ways?) Inevitable? Lots to discuss here.
  • The friendship between narrator August and Sylvia, Angela, and Gigi defines their girlhood—they became a second family to each other. But as they grow up, their group breaks apart; they stop showing up for each other. So much so that when, as an adult, August runs into Sylvia on the subway, they speak only briefly and August gets off the train early to avoid further conversation. Why is it that such powerful friendships sometimes then dissipate? (Are there friendships you’ve held on to past their ‘peak’? Are there others you’ve let go of because the memories associated with them somehow cause pain?)

With those book bits in your pocket, please join us from January 17 to March 14 for programs that unite Philly around one book, one topic, one citywide celebration of reading and discussion!

For a full list of events, view our online calendar. The eight weeks of our One Book season, which concludes on March 14, are also chock full of programs for children and families. (You can also check out the Events for Children, Teens, and Families in our printed guide.)

We hope to see you soon at a One Book event near you!

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