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Open Minds Book Club
The Open Minds Book Club invites thoughtful participation from GVSU students, faculty and staff, members of the Hauenstein Center, and residents of the greater Grand Rapids area. Launched in winter 2021, Jakob Bigard, program manager of the Common Ground Initiative at the Hauenstein Center, and Brian Bowdle, associate professor of psychology at Grand Valley, will host virtual discussions once a semester on a book that is relevant to understanding and serving the needs of our democratic society.
Goals of the Open Minds Book Club
What are we reading this semester?
Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race - Thomas Chatterton Williams
A reckoning with the way we choose to see and define ourselves, Self-Portrait in Black and White is the searching story of one American family’s multigenerational transformation from what is called black to what is assumed to be white. Thomas Chatterton Williams, the son of a “black” father from the segregated South and a “white” mother from the West, spent his whole life believing the dictum that a single drop of “black blood” makes a person black. This was so fundamental to his self-conception that he’d never rigorously reflected on its foundations―but the shock of his experience as the black father of two extremely white-looking children led him to question these long-held convictions.
It is not that he has come to believe that he is no longer black or that his kids are white, Williams notes. It is that these categories cannot adequately capture either of them―or anyone else, for that matter. Beautifully written and bound to upset received opinions on race, Self-Portrait in Black and White is an urgent work for our time.
Join us as we discuss the Open Minds Book Club’s summer book, Self Portrait in Black and White by Thomas Chatterton Williams. Facilitated by Brian Bowdle and Jakob Bigard, participants will engage one another in a large group discussion on the book’s core themes. The Open Minds Book Club’s second meeting, via Zoom, is on Thursday, June 24 at 2 PM.
“[Williams] is so honest and fresh in his observations, so skillful at blending his own story with larger principles, that it is hard not to admire him. At a time of increasing division, his philosophizing evinces an underlying generosity. He reaches both ways across the aisle of racism, arguing above all for reciprocity, and in doing so begins to theorize the temperate peace of which all humanity is sorely in need.”
—Andrew Solomon, New York Times Book Review