The Book Club Meeting

The Book Club Meeting

I've been a part of various book clubs throughout my adult life. Some have been composed of close friends, some I've been the friend of the friend invite, and one, which I joined right out of undergrad, was a Meetup Book Club.

I was twenty-two or twenty-three, brand new in a town I moved to the day after I got my diploma. I was in a state that was one of the least populated in the country. I'd moved to a fairly big town for the area, but again, when you are talking about a state you can drive through for hours without finding radio reception, a fairly big town is relative.

The Meetup, if I recall correctly, was for women in their twenties. While the area I was in was not what you would think of as diverse, the book club actually had some pretty disparate members. I didn't realize this though until the most memorable book club meeting of all time.

I have no idea how we selected books, but the book of the month was Fledgling by Olivia Butler.

For those of you not familiar, Olivia Butler was an early Queen of Sci-Fi. She did all sorts of groundbreaking stuff, including writing the Kindred, which was a standout read for me when I read it. She died in 2006, and one of her last finished novels was Fledgling.

Fledgling follows young (fifty-three-year-old) female vampire. The rub is while the vampire is young by vampire standards, she presents to the world as a ten-year-old girl. As they say, fifty-three is the new ten.

So the story follows this adolescent vampire, in the body of a ten-year-old human, on a journey that includes having a romantic relationship with a twenty-something man human.

And you can imagine, if you read this literally, it's literally icky.

So anyway, back to this Meetup book club. We showed up to someone's living room, sat in circle, and the woman who organized it said, "What did you all think?"

And there was a long, very long, pause. Then finally, this woman who was sitting a little far back in the circle, started to visibly shake.

I had never spoken to her before and didn't know her name, but finally she managed to sputter, in a low whisper, "It's... blasphemy."

She embarked upon a monologue fueled with emotion, incomplete sentences, and ragged breathing. She told us she grew up in one of the nearby Mennonite communities, and for a reason she did not get into during her book review, moved to the 'big' city and part of her new life was doing things like joining a Meetup Book club.

When she finished, it became very clear, we were not all having the same emotional reaction to the book. In fact, this poor woman, who could not put together a full sentence, seemed to be reconsidering everything in her entire life that lead to her sitting in that room with all of us, and it was... Well, really heavy.

So finally, this other woman said, "You all want to hear something funny?"

Immediately grateful to be presented with an opportunity to siphon off some tension, we all heartily agreed to hear a funny story.

"So, my mom is a mail order bride from Korea. My dad's white, and she never met him before moving over here."

This was 2008.

"Anyway, my mom's English isn't great, but it's better than a lot of the mail order brides in town."

This woman was from the actual big city, two hours away. At the time it had just over 100,000 people.

"And my mom wanted to learn how to drive, so she worked up the skills to pass her driving test. But all her other Korean friends, and the other non-Korean Asians, their English wasn't good enough to pass, or they were just, like, really bad drivers."

And at this point, the room full of mostly white women, was as still as a crypt.

"So my mom starts taking the driving test for all her friends. And getting the Driver's License photo for all them. She knows that everyone in [insert state name here] thinks all Asian woman look alike, and guess what? THEY DO! Because every single Asian born woman living in [insert city name here] have the same Driver's Licenses photo. My mom's!"

The woman burst into a helpless round of giggles, and even the raised Mennonite woman had recovered enough to look at the laughing woman like she might explode.

For a moment, the room seemed to spin, then everyone started laughing. The tension was broken, and that was the last meeting of the Meetup Book Club.