Over the last few weeks, I have been considering how best to engage the world amidst the many things that are happening. I am happy to announce that I will be running three Reading Circles over the next few months.
A Reading Circle is a group of people who gather together to discuss a text in depth. It’s a little more intense than most reading groups, but not as nearly intense as a graduate seminar. The point of the Reading Circle is, yes, to read, but also to circle about in a conversation that makes us uncomfortable and engaged.
These Reading Circles will have three goals:
- To read a text. We live in a crazy busy world, one where most people don’t feel they have the time to read. As such, Reading Circles take a book and separate it out into a chapter a week, or discuss shorter works in conversation with each other.
- To discuss a topic by beginning, not ending, a conversation. Reading can be great; discussion and reading can be even better. The hope of these Reading Circles is to create an online space to talk about what was just read and how it specifically speaks to you and the community around you. Reading Circles are meant to begin conversation and discussion and to never be the end of it.
- To form community. I do not believe reading is just an individual activity. Even when you read a book, you are still interacting intimately with the thoughts of the person who wrote on the page. As such, these Reading Circles are a way to actively participate in reading by engaging with the text on your own and then bringing those engagements to a meeting that allows you to think critically, while having your own thinking critically questioned.
Reading Circles will occur online through video chat and be capped at fifteen participants.
The three Reading Circles I will be running are described as follows:
Gender, Sexuality, and Faith
In this Reading Circle, we will read Taylor Petrey’s Tabernacles of Clay: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Mormonism over the course of nine weeks, beginning July 19 and ending September 13. It will meet on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Mountain. It will be capped at fifteen participants.
Petrey’s Tabernacles of Clay has been groundbreaking in its assessment of how gender and sexuality has been viewed by the institutional leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Tracking the growth of the theology and teachings within the Church, Petrey charts the course of the understanding of homosexuality, gender variance, and queerness to show us that these identities and performances are more malleable in Mormon and Latter-day Saint theology than they may seem at first glance.
To join this Reading Circle, please sign up here.
Mormonism, White Supremacy, and Me
In this Reading Circle, we will read Joanna Brooks’s Mormonism and White Supremacy: American Religion and the Problem of Racial Innocence over the course of nine weeks, beginning July 22 and ending September 16. It will meet on Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mountain. It will be capped at fifteen participants.
Joanna Brooks’s Mormonism and White Supremacy: American Religion and the Problem of Racial Innocence came at a crucial time in America. As the United States grapples with the racist history of being built on the backs of enslaved people, how will we respond to our own personal history? This Reading Circle will discuss, over the course of nine weeks, each chapter in Brooks’s book, delving deep into what her historical efforts mean for us personally as we come to acknowledge the racist history of the Church and chart a path forward.
Omelas, Um-Helat, and the United States
In this Reading Circle, we will read two short stories and discuss them on July 25 at 11 a.m. Mountain. It will be capped at fifteen participants.
Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” is a haunting reminder that whatever we build as a society, we must build it on top of something. A short philosophical story, “Omelas” reminds us that community and utopian drive always come at a cost.
N. K. Jemisin’s “The Ones Who Stay and Fight” is a spiritual sequel to Le Guin’s meditation, considering a different option that Le Guin offered in response to discovering uncomfortable and disheartening foundational secrets of the world.
As we learn more about what surrounds us, we must come to large and consequential decisions that affect us, those around us, and those who will come after us. In our world today, as more conversations and discussions about our countries and communities occur, we will need to be able to face these issues head on. This Reading Circle will look at Omelas and Um-Helat in relation to the United States, specifically, and what is happening in this country in the current moment. As we learn more about the wrongs that occur every day, how will we respond? Join us as we discuss these topics through two excellent meditations on the subject.
Whereas the other two Reading Circles cover books, this Reading Circle will only occur once to discuss the two short stories. Sign up for this discussion here.
Reading Circles in the Future
There will be more Reading Circles in the future. Please sign up for email updates from my website (on bar to the left) to find out about more of them!