Culture in Mystery

May 21 • BooksNo Comments

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Readers can delve in diversity with latest Latino Book Club read by Lucha Corpi

Latino Book Club
Sat., May 26th
3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Pomegranate Books
4418 Park Avenue
www.pombooks.net

Like many book clubs already in effect in Wilmington—literally we have tons, from environmental ones to parenting ones—Pomegranate Books hosts one with cultural appeal: the Wilmington Latino Book Club. The club meets on the final Saturday of each month to discuss Latino literature (in English).

Founded in 2007 as a result of Dr. Amrita Das’ desire to introduce the Wilmington community to Latino literature, Das actually grew up in India and received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Delhi. Now an assistant professor of Spanish at UNCW, Das is very active in the community, not only organizing the Latino Book Club but founding Puro Teatro, a Spanish-speaking student theater group on campus. According to her biography on the college’s website (www.uncw.edu), “Amrita Das specializes in U.S. Latino literature and culture and the construction of collective identities through literature…and tries to bring her unique perspective to studying different cultures.”

Das first got connected with Pomegranate Books when they were organizing an event with a Latino author. Jewell was looking for someone to introduce the author, so she called UNCW and asked Das to help them out. “Kathleen [Jewell, Pomegranate’s owner] is very nice and easy to work with,” Das says. The professor decided to found the Latino Book Club because she felt such literature was something with which most people in the local community were not familiar. “People still think we read books about Latin America,” Das explains. “It also keeps me up on my reading.”

She discussed her idea with Jewell and some of her colleagues at UNCW, and the response was positive. Jewell agreed to order the books that would be discussed by the group and sell them to the members. In December 2007, 16 people signed up to join. At first, they met in a coffee shop but eventually moved their meetings to the bookstore. “Pomegranate Books has been a big help,” Das shares.

Das chooses the books that will be discussed and sends out an e-mail at the beginning of each month to the entire mailing list. There are many UNCW students, faculty and staff on the list but also many others from the Wilmington community. They have about 40 people reading now, but usually only six or seven people attend the monthly meetings.

“We definitely have a core group of about four or five people,” Das explains. She doesn’t mind that the majority of readers are on the mailing list. “At least they are getting the information,” Das says.
The group alternates between book discussions and readings at each of their monthly meetings. One month, they will discuss the appointed book. The next month, members who volunteer actually have a chance to select their own book, give some background on it and read from it to the group.

Das also has used the Latino Book Club as an opportunity to engage in outreach to the entire Wilmington community. The club has been involved in such events since 2009. That year, the club had its first project: Book Drive 2009. The members rounded up over 700 books and donated them to elementary, middle and high schools in the area.

Two years later, in the summer of 2011, the club organized another event called Bookmarks for Literacy, which they plan to continue this year. The members took used greeting cards and made them into bookmarks, which they sold for $1. All of the proceeds from the sales went to the Bilingual Reading Program, another outreach effort in which the club is involved. The money raised is used to purchase bilingual books for the children who participate in their program.

The project was put together by the efforts of UNCW’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, the Watson School of Education, and the Centro Hispano. UNCW students, who are usually in Das’ class, spend time out in the local community encouraging bilingual reading among Latino children. “Reading is a very good habit,” Das says, “but we also want them to maintain their native language.”

The Latino Book Club helps out with another monthly event that is hosted at Pomegranate: Bilingual Story Time. Taking place on the third Saturday of each month, members of the club volunteer to read stories to children in both English and Spanish.

The club plans to enter the summer with a discussion of an exciting mystery/thriller, “Death at Solstice,” written by Lucha Corpi. Corpi is a poet, novelist and children’s book author, who has written three additional mystery novels that feature a character named Gloria Damasco—the heroine and clairvoyant sleuth in this month’s book. The plot follows the threat of strange and unexpected accidents, wherein intimidating notes arise among the mysterious disappearance of a saint and features a haunting ghost horse. All of these occurrences are the responsibility of Gloria to solve. Within the story, Corpi paints images of California’s Gold Country, which closely resembles Spanish countryside.

The Latino Book Club will gather Saturday, May 26th from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m at Pomegranate Books, located at 4418 Park Avenue. Meetings will continue every last Saturday of each month. Pomegranate primarily stocks tons of literature, including but not limited to local and regional authors, children’s books, women’s studies, narrative non-fiction, biographies and more. Folks can get the new read from the Latino Books Club simply by asking for Jewell’s assistance, which always comes with a friendly wag from her steady four-pawed helper, Nell.

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