Saturday, August 19, 2017

Introducing the Diverse Books Club & Our September Selections!

How This Came About

Hello readers, and happy weekend!

It's rare for me to post on a weekend, but this is something special, and I just couldn't wait to tell you all about it.

I don't usually get political on the blog, but I recently read that abstaining from politics is only a choice for those with privilege. After some reflection, I realized the truth of that statement. In my real life, I'm happy to discuss politics at any time and I'm not afraid to stand up for my values, but on here I've refrained. I did that because this is a space to talk about books, and books are often my escape.

But as it turns out, books are a great tool for change, too.

I am a person with privilege, but I will no longer refrain from using my platform to talk about the things that matter most.

So, readers, I apologize for taking so long. I will not be a bystander.

Here's why speaking up in the face of injustice is important:

Our children learn by example. There is no truth more hopeful than that.
Let us teach them to be empathetic humans, compassionate neighbors, and activists for positive change. And in the meanwhile, let us be worthy role models.

When I reached out on Instagram a few days ago to ask for my followers' best recommendations for diverse literature, I received a great response. From there, I asked if anyone would be interested in reading those books with me. So many of you reached out to say, "Count me in!" because you too are heartsick over the state of our world and feeling that something needs to be done.

I realized that what I was picturing -- a small group of readers discussing diverse literature together -- was too small scale for the response I received.

So I created a book club. I'd love to have you join us.

About the Diverse Books Club

More than ever, we need diverse literature. The members of the Diverse Books Club are dedicated to learning about the world and our fellow humans. We value diversity in all its forms. Our mission is to be those worthy role models that our children deserve.

We have one rule in our club: to bring empathy to every conversation and be respectful of others. Different perspectives are welcome, but unkind words are not. Our discussions are meant to be an opportunity for personal growth and community building. 

The Diverse Books Club has two spaces for discussion:

On Instagram @diversebooksclub
On Goodreads at Diverse Books Club

I am the lead moderator for the DBC, but I'll be asking a small team of readers to join me in moderating our Goodreads group. (More information about that below.)

You can help spread the word about the Diverse Books Club by tagging us on Instagram and using the hashtag #weneeddiversebooksclub.

Here's what the DBC will look like:

Each month, we'll announce the picks here on Top Shelf Text, on our Instagram page, and on our Goodreads group. (We'll try to do this with enough time to spare so that readers can secure copies through their favorite bookstores and/or the public library.)

Each book will have a separate discussion forum. Feel free to participate in the discussions as much (or as little) as you want. There are no requirements for being a member. We're glad you're here!

We'll also be providing parents and teachers with a few suggestions for picture books that align with our theme to share with the littles in your life. You'll have a separate discussion forum where you can talk about how to share diverse literature with your children.

We'll also have a forum where you can make recommendations for diverse literature. So many of you sent me great recommendations, and this way you'll be able to share those recommendations with all members of the group!

In addition to that, we'll have a space where you can share resources related to our monthly theme that encourage members to be activists for positive change.

Our September Picks

Readers, we're going to start in September with a curated collection of THREE books.
(Three is a lot. I know. But stay with me on this. If it works for you, we'll keep up with this format. If not, we'll make some changes.)

Given the recent events happening in Charlottesville, Virginia our theme for September will be books about race, the history of racial oppression in America, and current civil rights events.
Obviously, there are so many books that we could choose to read this month. And don't worry, this won't be the only month that we'll be reading books on this topic.

This month, I've selected one adult fiction book, one young adult fiction book, and a middle grade fiction book. You can choose to read any (or all) of the three books. Two of these books are quite popular, so you may have already read them. If that's the case, please join the discussion still! We'd love to hear your thoughts.

Book #1: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Y'all if Oprah deems this worthy of her book club, then we should read it too, right?

Here's the description from Goodreads:

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood - where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor - engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven - but the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

Readers, I've heard that this is an emotional read. If you're an HSP (which, thanks to Anne Bogel's new book, I've realized I fall into that category), this is going to be a tough one. But now is not the time to shy away from hard things. So, my plan is to read this and supplement my reading with some lighter reads that I know will provide an escape. I suggest that you also find a way to practice self-care in this month of reading.

Book #2: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This is one that many of you recommended to me when I first reached out to curate my list of diverse reads. I thought that I was the last person on earth to read this book, but it turns out many of you also have this one waiting on your shelves. So if you haven't read this one yet, now is the time!

Here's the description on Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Book #3: Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

This is a book that I'm currently listening to on audio. (The narration is great!) and it's on the master list for the 2017-2018 Massachusetts Children's Book Award (a list that I wholeheartedly trust when choosing middle grade books).

Here's the description from Goodreads:

When the Ku Klux Klan's unwelcome reappearance rattles Stella's segregated southern town, bravery battles prejudice in this Depression-era tour de force from Sharon Draper, the New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind.

Stella lives in the segregated South; in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can't. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn't bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they're never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella's community - her world - is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don't necessarily signify an end.

Picture Books to Read with Your Children (or Students) Coming Soon!

I know that many classrooms have prescribed curriculums that mandate which books that we read with our students, but occasionally there's time to choose our own picks for a read aloud. If you're a teacher, these are the books I'd recommend for reading in your classroom this month. (It's important that we don't just read literature about African Americans during Black History Month, but all year long.)

For the parents out there, these are the books you could use to introduce and discuss these periods in American history with your children. These books have been vetted by two teachers (myself, and my co-moderator, who I'll be introducing here tomorrow). My co-moderator will reveal this picks on her blog in the coming week.

If you're interested in joining our team...

We are looking for 4-5 people to join us in moderating the Diverse Books Club. There are a few requirements that absolutely need to be met for a member to join the team. If you're interested, you can see the details and fill out the form to apply HERE.

 If you're interested, applications are due by Sunday, August 20th at midnight EST.

We'll be reviewing these applications together and selecting our remaining team members by Wednesday, August 23rd.


Bookworms, thank you for joining me on this absolutely crazy but equally necessary adventure.


  1. YAY! Great picks and I've only read one! I cannot wait to dive in to the rest. And I've already submitted my moderator application! I can't wait to get started. Thank you so much for putting this together, Madeleine! (If you can't tell by my incredibly overzealous exclamation points... I'm stoked on this.)

  2. I am so excited for this. Just clicked 'submit' on my moderator application :)

  3. I also heard that quote about being able to ignore the issues is another sign of privilege and it it home for me too! Looking forward to this, thanks Madeleine and mystery comoderator!!:)

  4. I am so excited about this! I've read the first two, and I'm going to reserve the third at my library now!

  5. I just started Stella by Starlight yesterday! And have The Hate U Give checked out. I'll reserve the other one. So excited for this!

  6. I just submitted my application and I am so excited for septembers picks! Thank you for this opportunity!

  7. I can't commit to moderating right now, but I'm excited to participate.

  8. Just ordered the books online! Exciting times ahead! :)