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Life and Religion

Book club puts reading into casual conversation, open dialogue
YouTuber Jouelzy forms #SmartBrownGirl
 
Published Wednesday, December 30, 2020 8:11 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

PHOTO | OTHELLO BINACI
Jouelzy launched #SmartBrownGirl Book Club to make reading accessible.

Jouelzy launched #SmartBrownGirl Book Club to foster a community and make reading accessible.


The Charlotte based YouTuber explores history and pop culture in her videos. Viewers often asked about the books she read or how she reached her conclusion on a given subject. Jouelzy found the books she read were best digested through dialogue with people reading the same work.


“The books have always been there to read,” Jouelzy said. “There is a reason why people have not been reading them.”


Amid the Black Lives Matter movement, people have been seeking anti-racist books.


“A lot of them are written in academic language and syntax,” Jouelzy said. “Both the language and the sentence structure are not accessible to a general audience and they are meant to be read as a collective, where you have this dialogue in order to really comprehend the book.”


While Jouelzy founded the club in December 2019, the significance of its mission has been heightened in 2020.


“The focus of SBG is to make reading accessible and to also counter the disinformation and misinformation that has been targeted at the Black community online,” she said.


SBG has an international audience, but with much of the team based in Charlotte, they’re looking to expand its local footprint. They secured a $4,800 Arts & Science Council grant to create a digital teen reading series for high school students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. The series provides syllabi of foundational Black literature to CMS teachers for December through February for one book each month, as well as the option of a fourth book.

Syllabi were constructed by SBG’s syllabi cohort, which consists of over 20 Black women with postgraduate degrees. “Parable of the Sower” by Octavia Butler was selected for December. “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi is set for January, followed by Toni Morrison’s “Sula” in February. Gloria Naylor’s “The Women of Brewster Place” is also on the reading list. Books are provided in a PDF format.


“We create syllabi for all the books we read,” Jouelzy said. “I know when people typically think of syllabus, they think of the packet of paper they get at each semester that just lists everything you are going to read. Our syllabi [are] actually a reading guide. It has a historiographical component to it. We include the author history, the book history, motifs, themes, word definitions, and then we have questions to really help the reader with what they are reading. Then we do live discussions.


“We do about three-four live discussions for each book so you can, again, really engage with the audience and help them.”

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