Book Club

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

Initiating the kinds of conversations necessary for fostering an informed citizenry and wise leadership
Initiating the kinds of conversations necessary for fostering an informed citizenry and wise leadership
Bridging cultural, ideological, and generational divides through civil discourse
Bridging cultural, ideological, and generational divides through civil discourse
Growing a shared sense of belonging in our West Michigan community
Growing a shared sense of belonging in our West Michigan community

What are we reading this semester?

Summer 2021

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.

Open Minds Book Club

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.

The registration for Open Minds Book Club is closed. If you are still interested in participating please email Jakob Bigard here to request more information 

“A brave and powerful book that I could not put down. At a time when white supremacy is resurgent in many countries, should we fight it by insisting on the equality of the races or the elimination of race as a social and biological category? It is a question that needs to be asked and a debate that needs to be had.”

Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO, New America