Tonight is the last book discussion for Americanah. Each meeting has been unique and moving, as the conversation weaves from the narrative of the book, character development, to the realities of our world.
We wanted to bring a little of the book group experience virtually, so that readers would be able to explore some of the ideas, stories and articles brought up in the book groups.
Discoveries about the visual arts were mentioned. After the Good Hair screening, a viewer shared her discovery of the Little North Road, the “pedestrian bridge in the middle of Guangzhou. The bridge serves as a symbolic gateway into China from Africa.” This book is a selection of photographs made by two photographers in China, Wu Yong Fu and Zeng Xian Fang. They made portraits of Africans and other group who wanted a visual souvieou of themselves in China. “Daniel Traub’s photographs on the bridge and immediate vicinity explore the broader dynamics of the area and provide a context through which to see these portraits.”
In Americanah, Ifemelu sports both braided and natural hair. One of the participants mentioned a Basic Black on WGBH segment about beauty. Skin Deep: Women of Color and Beauty examined how women of color are redefining beauty outside of the so-called traditional ideals framed by race, class and history. Have you watched Beyonce’s Formation yet? In this video, she sports many hair styles, and inspired many blog posts about her hair. This one interviews the primary hairstylist who worked on Formation. Michelle Obama faced scrutiny about her hair, and some participants recalled articles and op-eds about her hair during the 2008 election cycle.
Speaking of election cycles, one of the discussions took place a few days after the Democratic Debate in Flint, MI where the candidates were asked about their own racial blind spots. (Scroll down about halfway or search for racial blind spot.)
The conversation circled back to media, about watching people unexpectedly discovering black or white ancestors on Finding Your Roots. Ta-Nehisi Coates came up a few times. He is the author of Between the World and Me, a mediation on the black body in the form of a letter to his young son. The television show Blackish recently explored the issue of talking about police brutality to young children, a topic Coates does not shy away.
And finally, diversity in the workforce. Recent studies have shown that diverse teams are good for business, outperforming industry peers. Companies are experimenting with name blind hiring, as a way to create more diverse teams and decrease the effects of any implicit bias. Harvard runs Project Implicit, and you can take a test online to discover your own biases on a variety of markers. Our friends at Vision 2020 Diversity Task Group are offering a workshop on Unconscious Bias on Thursday April 7 at 7:00 pm at Arlington Town Hall.
Thank you Diversity Task group for this great write up about the discussion groups.