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Readers & writers, ink: contributors to an anthology create an alliance.

In 1993, the African-American Heritage Society of Pensacola, Florida, published the first volume of When Black Folks Was Colored, a collection of memoirs, poems and essays by area women writers. Contributors to the anthology were inundated with requests for public speaking engagements and made numerous appearances at local church, school and civic organizations reading their personal histories flom the collection. Encouraged by this success, the Society published the second volume in 1994, and the group of writers formed Readers Ink., soon renamed Readers & Writers, Ink.

The writers began meeting for personal "chat-and-chew" sessions and to celebrate their birthdays, forming a literary kinship as well as sisterly friendships. During this time, Ora Wills, an editor of the anthology and a member of the Society, fondly recalls one member stating, "Since we call ourselves Readers & Writers, Ink, we need to do more than read our own writings. We need to read."

Writers Form Reading Club

In 1996, the group became also became a book club. The women share readings of their own poetry and prose each December and read the literary works of Edwidge Danticat, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison and Dorothy West, as well as other notable authors the rest of the year. "Through continued reading, we've affirmed ourselves and each other," says Mamie Hixon, assistant professor of English at the University of West Florida and associate editor of their collections. Volumes III and IV of When Black Folks Was Colored were published in 1995 and 1998.

Now Readers & Writers Ink members make local radio and television appearances, sharing their book of the month with a listening and viewing audience. They keep abreast of events at the Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals and discuss a film each year. They have analyzed such screen works as The Old Settler, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, Bamboozled, Good Fences and Monster's Ball. University professors frequent the group and have generated lively debates on the Dominican experience depicted in Junot Diaz's Drown and the colonization in India covered in Arundhati Roy's book The God of Small Things. During an examination of Memoir of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, the group dined at a Japanese restaurant where the owner provided insights into Nipponese customs. The group paired with an all-white book group to discuss a collection of essays about race.

Impacting the Community

Through collaborations with Pensacola Junior College and the University of West Florida, Readers & Writers, Ink has had considerable impact on the Pensacola Bay area's artistic and literary life. They produce and participate in a local African American poetry reading program, Our Voices Are Many. People of all races and ages have attended. The group has produced four such events and received funding from the Florida Humanities Council to implement another program that will celebrate W.E.B. Du Bois's Souls of Black Folks.

Brought together by a common interest in writing, the book club helps each writer follow her own passions. "Today's book clubs function as vehicles for discussion, enlightenment and recreation," says Wills. "As the discussions of books about women and women's roles in society trigger personal revelations from members, we gain insight and strength from our reading."

GROUP PROFILE

The Club: Readers & Writers, Ink

Location: Pensacola, FL

Book Preferences: Books that provide cerebral stimulation and a source for not only philosophical discussion but also healthy debate; books with new voices and new dimensions and perspectives

Number of Members: 12 women

How Often They Meet: The last Saturday of each month

Last Book Read: Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany by Hans Massaquoi. Perennial, January 2001 $14.95. ISBN 0-060-95961-4

Group's Reaction: Club members were fascinated and intrigued

Next Book: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, Little Brown & Company, June 2002. $21.95 ISBN 0-316-66634-3

How They Choose Books: Member recommendation, best-seller list, new books, C-SPAN and Oprah Book Club picks

For more information about ordering When Black Folks Was Colored (Volume One, ISBN 0-964-35922-7; Vol. 2, ISBN 0-964-35920-0; Vol.3, 0-964-35921 9; Vol. 5, 0-964-35923-5), contact the African-American Heritage Society at 850-469-1299, or e-mail them at AAHS90@Bellsouth.net.

Pat Houser is a contributing editor at BIBR. To have your club mentioned, e-mail her at pathouser@aol.com.
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Title Annotation:books & clubs
Author:Houser, Pat
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:706
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