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  WINDY CITY TIMES

BOOKS Some of Chicago's LGBTQ-friendly book clubs
by Kelsey Hoff
2018-11-07

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Reading is a solitary act, and sometimes a lonely one.

A number of individuals have gone the extra mile to start book groups for readers in the city. Meetings in bookstores, community centers and restaurants give book lovers a place to find each other, share their thoughts and talk about the stories and ideas they've spent hours perusing on their own.

The following are just a few of the most LGBTQ-friendly groups open to new members. Some stick to topics of gender and sexual orientation, and some are wide open to anything members are interested in. Most have fewer than 10 in attendance each week including regulars and newcomers, perfect for introverts looking to connect over great reads.

—Trans & Gay Authors Book Club at Volumes Bookcafe: This small group started this summer and meets the second Thursday of every month with a mix of regulars and newcomers. They focus on books authored by transgender people. Group leader Doe Parker says "We talk about likes/dislikes within the text and what the author wants us to be taking away as actions to do out in the world." The group's next meeting is Thursday, Nov. 8, 6:30-9 p.m., when attendees will discuss Amateur: A True Story about What Makes a Man by Thomas Page McBee. Volumes hosts three other monthly book clubs at their location, 1474 N Milwaukee Ave.: Book of the Month, Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Feminist. Details are posted on their website and Facebook.

—Gay Men's Book Group at Center on Halsted: This group welcomes male-identified individuals of all ages who are interested in reading and discussing gay-related literature. They meet every third Tuesday at Center on Halsted, 3656 N Halsted St., reading books that span fiction and nonfiction, new and old, classics and debuts and many prize winners with gay themes and potential for good discussion.

On the group's personality, leader Steve Wroten told Windy City Times, "We don't always agree, we're passionate about what we read, we are open to everyone's perspective and it's always enjoyable and engaging." The group has been meeting for over 10 years with anywhere from six to over a dozen attendees each month. Their next meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 20, 7- 9 p.m., when they will discuss The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp. Meetings are posted on the Gay Men's Book Group-Chicago Facebook page.

—Feminist Book Group at Women & Children First: This small group is open to feminists of all genders and focuses on various social issues through a feminist lens. Meetings take place the second Sunday of every month with a book selection meeting every six months in which members suggest books and vote on future reads.

Leader Kris Mayer said, "Members of the group are generally past feminism 101," regarding the discussion level. "The group is dedicated to intersectional feminism, and our membership matches that." The group will not meet in November; the next meeting is Sunday, Dec. 9, at 4 p.m., when attendees will discuss Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear... and Why, by Sady Doyle. Meetings are posted on WomenAndChildrenFirst.com .

—Social Justice Book Group at Women & Children First: The #BlackLivesMatter movement inspired Alex Wolfe to start this group in 2016, and Anne Bradley has recently taken over leadership. She said, "We strive to learn more about the world outside our own bubbles. We read both nonfiction and fiction on timely topics and in our discussions try to challenge our own assumptions without judging one another."

The group votes on member suggestions to select titles, tending towards nonfiction, and meets the third Sunday of each month. Six or eight members attend each month, sometimes more. The next meeting will be Sunday, Nov. 18, at 2:30 p.m., when they will read Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture—and What We Can Do about It, by Kate Harding. Meetings are posted on WomenAndChildrenFirst.com .

Selections for book groups at Women & Children First, 5233 N Clark St., are always available at the store at least a month in advance so that the next month's selection can always be purchased at the current meeting. Book group members get 10 percent off and members of the bookstore get 20 percent off. Other groups that meet at WCF include a Women's Book Group, Family of Women, Women's Classics, Women Aging with Wisdom & Grace and Teens First.

—BTQ ( Bi-Trans-Queer ) Book Discussion group at Gerber/Hart Library & Archives: This small group meets on the second Friday of the month and reads a balance of fiction and nonfiction books that "touch on topics of gender and sexuality that tend to fall outside of the standard gay or lesbian norm: books where bi, pan, queer, GNC, trans, ace, kinky and polyamorous folx can find representation," according to facilitator Stef Potter. Reading work by queer and non-queer writers sparks discussions about how accurately these identities and relationships are portrayed. Their next selection is Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh, to be discussed Friday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m. at the Gerber/Hart Library & Archives, 6500 N Clark St. Meetings are posted on the Gerber/Hart Facebook page.

—Queer Genre Fiction Discussion Group at Gerber/Hart Library & Archives: This group began as an outlet for members to read queer romance, sci fi, fantasy, horror, mystery and other genres. Facilitators Brigid Potter and Louise Tripp both love YA, as do many of their adult members who did not have access to queer lit growing up. They meet the third Friday of the month at the Gerber/Hart Library & Archives, 6500 N Clark St., with varying attendance up to seven or eight people. At their next meeting—Friday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m.—they will discuss Guapa by Saleem Haddad as part of an ongoing effort to read books by non-American and non-Western authors. Meetings are posted on the Gerber/Hart Facebook page.

—Chicago 20-30 Something GLBT Book Club Meetup on Meetup.com: "Whether you are an avid reader, or US Magazine is your literature of choice, this book club is for you," said founder Darren. "My intention is that this book club be a place to ignite friendship, thoughtful conversation and an opportunity to connect over some really good books." Members share thoughts on books they love, then vote and save nominations that did not make the cut for future reads. The group meets every other Wednesday at various locations on the north side and often splits books up to discuss a few chapters at a time. A "longread" of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami is under way, meeting Thursday, Nov. 8 in addition to the main group, which will discuss Devil in the White City by Eric Larson on Wed., Nov. 14. Details on upcoming titles and locations will be posted on the Meetup.com page.

—Diverse Books/Eclectic Readers- LGBTQ and Friends Book Club on Meetup.com: This group is all about variety: they read fiction and nonfiction, often choosing books that deal with issues of race and history. Their description states "Our book club is a place where we learn from each other and freely express our views. We select thought-provoking, challenging, but also fun books."

More than 10 members, new and regular, show up each month according to organizer Armando, with a significant range of ages, orientations and ethnicities. They discuss the book of the month for an hour and then go to a restaurant nearby to eat dinner and socialize. The group meets at Our Lady of Mt Carmel Church, 708 W. Belmont Ave.. At the next meeting—Monday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m.—members will discuss The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson. Meetings are posted on the Meetup.com page.


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