May 25, 2011

Bookclub writes its own damn book


Authors and book club members, from left, Francesca Cook,  Chyla Evans, Donna Neale, Allita Irby and Yolanda Yates discuss their own book Fourth Sunday: The Journey of a Book Club.

The Washington Post brings us this report on a women’s book group that met every fourth Sunday to discuss books and to socialize. That is, until the fateful day when they decided, after reading many books together, that they could write a better book than the ones they had been reading.

The Post reports on that turning point:

The women, sitting around a living room table, had just finished discussing a book that left them unimpressed. “We thought, ‘We can do better than this,’ ” says Allita Irby, an artist and business consultant who lives in Mitchellville. “We thought, ‘What would happen if we wrote a book? Why don’t we tell our story? Why don’t we write a book about us, professional black women living in the Washington area?’ ”

After discussing the fact that they couldn’t find characters in the books they were reading that reflected their lives, the six professional women decided to take the plunge and write their own. And, according to the Post:

Fifteen years, many sleepless nights, many writes and rewrites later, the club’s book, Fourth Sunday: The Journey of a Book Club, was released last week by Simon & Schuster. The cover says the novel is written by B.W. Read, a collective name for the six women that means “Because We Read.” It is a story of seven women and how their friendship expands as they gather to discuss books every month, and wind up discussing their lives, too. They see each other through weddings, divorces, career changes, births and deaths.

The group devised a writing scheme whereby each woman would develop a character loosely based on her own life, write chapters about that character, and then they would interweave the chapters, the women, and their lives.

Irby told the Post, “Some folks might have been easily intimidated, but this group was not.” 

Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.