Led by Spiderweb’s Reading Advocacy Host, Sarah Ruth Alexander, Follow the Reader is an ongoing online discussion group and once-a-month meetup every last Thursday of the month. Friends near and far are welcome to join the literary adventure. Each month we’ll have a book to read together, accompanied by a optional supplemental text for the most ambitious readers, and titles will be announced at least two months in advance. We look forward to some lively discussions and enlightening reads!
April 2019: Choose Your Own Adventure (Poetry Month!)
In honor of National Poetry month this year, Follow the Reader is embarking on a choose-your-own-adventure reading month! Pick up your favorite poetry books, select some new ones, and/or even consider supporting your local poets by purchasing their books and reading their poetry online (a complete list of Spiderweb-affiliated poetry materials and recommendations will be released early April!). We’ll share what we’re reading with one another in our Facebook Group throughout the month, and everyone will select their favorite poem(s) to bring to our monthly meetup, where we’ll read them out loud and discuss!
For the super-committed poets among us, we’ve selected an excellent supplemental read to go with all this poetry: Marty McConnell’s Gathering Voices: Creating a Community-Based Poetry Workshop.
“Would you like a blueprint for running successful workshops?
Are you looking for innovative and interactive writing prompts?
How about exercises specifically designed for poems by some of our most exciting contemporary voices?
Marty McConnell offers start-to-finish instructions along with a grounding in the Gathering Voices approach for both aspiring and seasoned facilitators who want to establish or invigorate a poetry learning community or for poets who want to deepen and expand their own poetic voice.”
May 2019: The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington
The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington
Published by Dorothy, A Publishing Project
Surrealist writer and painter Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) was a master of the macabre, of gorgeous tableaus, biting satire, roguish comedy, and brilliant, effortless flights of the imagination. Nowhere are these qualities more ingeniously brought together than in the works of short fiction she wrote throughout her life.
Published to coincide with the centennial of her birth, The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington collects for the first time all of her stories, including several never before seen in print. With a startling range of styles, subjects, and even languages (several of the stories are translated from French or Spanish), this book captures the genius and irrepressible spirit of an amazing artist’s life.
Farewell to the Muse: Love, War, and the Women of Surrealism by Whitney Chadwick
Published by Thames & Hudson Books
Farewell to the Muse documents what it meant to be young, ambitious, and female in the context of an avant-garde movement defined by celebrated men whose backgrounds were often quite different from those of their younger lovers and companions. Focusing on the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, Whitney Chadwick charts five female friendships among the Surrealists to show how Surrealism, female friendship, and the experiences of war, loss, and trauma shaped individual women’s transitions from someone else’s muse to mature artists in their own right. Her vivid account includes the fascinating story of Claude Cahun and Suzanne Malherbe in occupied Jersey, as well as the experiences of Lee Miller and Valentine Penrose at the front line.
PREVIOUS BOOK CLUB READS
March 2019: The Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse
The Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich
Published by Harper Collins Publishers
This is the story of Father Damien Modeste, priest to his beloved people, the Ojibwe. Modeste, nearing the end of his life, dreads the discovery of his physical identity -- for he is a woman who has lived as a man.
In a masterwork that both deepens and enlarges the world of her previous novels set on the same reservation, Louise Erdrich captures the essence of a time and the spirit of a woman who felt compelled by her beliefs to serve her people as a priest. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse is a work of an avid heart, a writer's writer, and a storytelling genius.
Women Who Run with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Published by Ballantine Books
Within every woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is the Wild Woman, who represents the instinctual nature of women. But she is an endangered species. For though the gifts of wildish nature belong to us at birth, society’s attempt to “civilize” us into rigid roles has muffled the deep, life-giving messages of our own souls.
In Women Who Run with the Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés unfolds rich intercultural myths, fairy tales, folk tales, and stories, many from her own traditions, in order to help women reconnect with the fierce, healthy, visionary attributes of this instinctual nature. Through the stories and commentaries in this remarkable book, we retrieve, examine, love, and understand the Wild Woman, and hold her against our deep psyches as one who is both magic and medicine.
Dr. Estés has created a new lexicon for describing the female psyche. Fertile and life-giving, it is a psychology of women in the truest sense, a knowing of the soul.
February 2019: Kindred
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Published by Beacon Press
The visionary author’s masterpiece pulls us—along with her Black female hero—through time to face the horrors of slavery and explore the impacts of racism, sexism, and white supremacy then and now.
”Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.”
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
Published by Penguin Random House
“Presenting the essential writings of black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider celebrates an influential voice in twentieth-century literature. In this collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope. This commemorative edition includes a new foreword by Lorde-scholar and poet Cheryl Clarke, who celebrates the ways in which Lorde's philosophies resonate more than twenty years after they were first published.”
January 2019: Sphinx
A landmark literary event: the first novel by a female member of Oulipo in English: a sexy, genderless love story.
“Anne F. Garréta is the first member of the Oulipo to be born after the founding of the Oulipo. A normalien (graduate of France’s prestigious École normale supérieure) and lecturer at the University of Rennes II since 1995, Anne F. Garréta was co-opted into the Oulipo in April 2000. She also teaches at Duke University as a Research Professor of Literature and Romance Studies. Her first novel, Sphinx (Grasset, 1986), hailed by critics, tells a love story between two people without giving any indication of grammatical gender for the narrator or the narrator’s love interest, A***.”
Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature by Daniel Levin Becker
Published by Harvard University Press
“Daniel Levin Becker's brilliant and entertaining book about the Oulipo combines meticulously researched history, a complete panoply of thumbnail portraits (he uses both thumbs), shrewd critical appraisal, and - bless him! - autobiography. If Oulipians are 'rats who build the labyrinth from which they plan to escape,' he has explored the subtle channels of the labyrinth and caught all the rats; and he movingly describes why he is happy to have become a rat himself.”