Go beyond Black History Month with the blaCk Readers Book Club

As February comes to a close, we’re looking forward to keeping the celebration of Black History Month at the Library going throughout the rest of the year. One way is through our new partnership with blaCk Coffee Lounge, opens a new window, a spot frequented daily by many Library staff members and customers that was created by Black Owned , opens a new windowfounders Means Cameron and Marcus Ervin. 

Located at the corner of Ninth and Elm downtown Cincinnati, blaCk Coffee is a place where community happens. A colorful mural lines the lounge's back wall, while portraits of influential Black musicians and leaders decorate the rest of the space that's filled with gleaming black café tables, plush couches, and cozy chairs. A small stage takes up the back right corner to facilitate a rotating lineup of speakers, performers, and open mic nights. You can always guarantee that a flawlessly curated playlist fills the place with everything from 90s R&B throwbacks, hip hop deep cuts, chart-toppers, indie favorites, and the occasional Whitney Huston power ballad. It takes effort not to bust out dancing. 

The best part? They make truly fantastic coffee ….and lattes, and chai, and vegan snacks, and to-go sandwiches...whatever you're in the mood for. Clearly, our love for blaCk Coffee Lounge runs deep. So it seemed like a natural fit to team up and start a book club. 

The blaCk Readers Book Club is the brainchild of Library staff members Leah Dudak and Arnisha Jones. When blaCk Coffee Lounge opened its doors this past summer, Dudak and Jones immediately saw the potential for partnership.

Each month, the group meets at blaCk coffee at 6 p.m. to talk about a selected reading. A series of engaging and thoughtful questions are provided to help the group open up and discuss the book. "The purpose of the questions is not just about the book, but opening up a real dialogue to discuss all areas of life," said Jones. 

The book club quietly kicked off on February 18 with a discussion of Adrienne Thompson’s Joy and Pain, opens a new window, volume three of the Latter Rain series centered around Hyacinth Manor matriarch, Rosa Stark. After working out a few bumps, the team is eager for the upcoming March discussion. 

"We're really hoping to bring a sense of community through literature and dialogue," said Jones. "[We want to] Open up the doors for new friendships through common interests and get people excited about the Library by creating partnerships that mean something to the communities we serve. We want this book club to be able to grow and expand to other branch locations and possibly other partnerships with local businesses." 

"I think [the book club is] a great thing that allows people to commit and come together to discuss different topics," said blaCk Coffe store manager Bla'szé. "Bringing more people of color together and doing something positive beyond just hanging out is great. And a book club is something that invites people to think."

A lot of thought and care went into choosing what books to read first. "A variety of authors were chosen based on the content of their books, social and personal struggles, and we welcome suggestions from the book club members or anyone wishing to simply make a suggestion," said Jones. "There is nothing off the table as long as it fosters a respectful environment." 

All are welcome to join the Library at blaCk Coffee each month for stimulating discussion, heartfelt camaraderie, some awesome giveaways, and of course, coffee. Here are the picks for the next several months: 

Meeting 3/17 at 6 p.m. 

The Body is Not an Apology , opens a new windowby Sonya Renee Taylor

Humans are a varied and divergent bunch with all manner of beliefs, morals, and bodies. Systems of oppression thrive off our inability to make peace with difference and injure the relationship we have with our own bodies. This book offers radical self-love as the balm to heal the wounds inflicted by these violent systems. World-renowned activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor invites us to reconnect with the radical origins of our minds and bodies and celebrate our collective, enduring strength.

Meeting 4/21 at 6 p.m.

Don’t Call Us Dead, opens a new window by Danez Smith 

Award-winning poet Danez Smith is a groundbreaking force celebrated for deft lyrics, urgent subjects, and performative power. Don’t Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality―the dangers experienced in skin and body and blood―and a diagnosis of HIV positive.

Meeting 5/19 at 6 p.m.

The Water Dancer, opens a new window by Ta-Nehisi Coats 

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her - but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he's ever known. So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia's proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North.