Assistant professor launches book club with focus on Black literature

By

Meghan Krein

Next month, Assistant Professor Mildred Boveda is launching the virtual learning community, “Starting from Complexity, Engaging Black Women’s Literature and Epistemologies,” funded through MLFTC’s Office of Scholarship and Innovation. The monthly book club will focus on reading and discussing literature by Black women — poetry, essays, novels and nonfiction — in an effort to understand how the work can inform education research, policy and practice. 

Here, Boveda shares her inspiration and hopes for the project. 

Who is the learning community for?

All MLFTC faculty, staff and graduate students are welcome to participate, as well as local educators and community activists. Because we will be holding these meetings virtually, we had the opportunity to open the group beyond MLFTC. Already, scholars and pedagogues from as far as Washington, New York and South Florida have registered. 

What was the inspiration? Why now?

I noticed an increase in the use of theoretical concepts developed through the tradition of Black feminism. For example, the term “intersectionality” is applied to address challenges with equity, diversity and inclusion from special education to STEM fields. As these powerful ideas are resonating with thinkers across all races and genders, I believe it’s critical to engage with the diverse writings of Black women to understand the embodied experiences that inform these useful concepts. 

My inspiration for the title of the learning community came from an article addressing how readers find Toni Morrison’s writings difficult. Morrison was unapologetic about her authorial voice and she didn’t feel compelled to make her characters palatable to the white male gaze. As a Black woman in America, it was appropriate that her novels centered the complexities many Black Americans contend with, like having to simultaneously confront racism, classism and sexism.

What should members think about while reading a book selection?  

Some of the critical questions that we will address in the group are:

  • How do the characters and ideas developed by Black women authors resonate with and diverge from your understanding of equity, intersectionality and inclusion?

  • How can we intentionally integrate these ideas, concepts and theories into our curriculum so that our students are leaders in thinking beyond dominant, master narratives about groups of people?

  • How is coalition-building with people who are not Black women framed in these books?

How is the literature chosen? 

Our first session in September will focus on Octavia Butler’s book, “Parable of the Sower.” In the future, I will send out a survey with a list of two dozen books, in which participants can select books based on their interests. 

Interested in joining the learning community? Email Mildred Boveda at mboveda@asu.edu.