Falling Into Rhythm

Mosiac art in front of Upton Sinclair High School
Mosiac art in front of Upton Sinclair High School

by haydée souffrant

“You know…I thought book group was gonna be boring, but it’s pretty dope. We talk about real stuff, and that’s cool.” –
 Darlene O., Book Group Participant, Upton Sinclair High School 

Can you believe it’s already November?

Six weeks into many of our book groups, it’s hard to think that it was only this summer that I was interviewing for a new Book Group Leader position with Literature for All of Us. 

Having graduated from my MFA Creative Writing program in May, I was at a loss to find work that spoke to my creative practice, and the need to give back to the communities that supported me in my six years here in Chicago. And once I began working at LFAOU, I found that the intersections of my professional, civic and creative practice finally found a home. 

From September until now, I’ve already come to work with a wide variety of participants—from sites like Simpson Academy for Young Women, where we read portions of the amazing short story collection Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in Americaedited by Ibi Zoboi; to Upton Sinclair High School, where students took to the powerful memoir A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown.

These are just a few just of the sites I’ve worked with that have taught me that there’s a necessity for a space to just exist and speak your truth, or just discover something new about yourself. 

For example, over the last few weeks, a student from my group at Upton Sinclair gradually became more open to sharing her experiences as a young mom, and talked about how reading A Piece of Cake has gotten her to think about motherhood and what she can offer to her daughter. 

It's moments like that makes me understand how the rhythm of book group — ritual, discussion, and reflection— allows participants to grow more comfortable with the community they’re building with one another.