Book Club Gets People Reading

“People get excited about books.”


Natalie Helberg

Yes, there’s Facebook. But real books still exist, too, says Teneile Warren. This month, the U of G student will co-host Humber College’s latest book “club” discussion group run at the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto.

The summer semester’s reading group is focusing on the novel Half-Blood Blues, which earned the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize for Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan.

The discussion will take place July 18, noon to 2 p.m., in the writing centre run by the college in the U of G-H building (GH 202).

“It’s getting people involved in the reading process,” says Warren. “Reading is a social activity, not just something you do in a room. You can talk with other people.”

She has organized the event along with Natalie Helberg. Both are enrolled in the master of fine arts (MFA) program in creative writing run by the University of Guelph at the Guelph-Humber campus.

The book club tackles a Canadian author’s work each semester. It attracts 10 to 30 members from Guelph-Humber and Humber College. Past titles chosen by MFA students have included The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy; Holding Still for as Long as Possible by Zoe Whittall; and Camilla Gibb’s Sweetness in the Belly.

Many discussion groups have drawn the authors to participate. As of late June, Warren hoped Edugyan might take part this summer, perhaps by email or Skype.

For this semester, Warren and Helberg chose Half-Blood Blues, about a mixed-race jazz musician in Europe during the Second World War. Warren had read a lot about the Holocaust, but “this was the first time I was hearing the story from a non-traditional perspective.

“We want the series to be educational and informative.” As well, they wished to underline the relevance of the printed word in the digital era. “We want to remind people that reading is just as important a social tool as Facebook.”

Warren studied media and communications in Jamaica, where she wrote and directed theatre. She came to Canada initially to study film at Ryerson University and then enrolled in Guelph’s MFA program.

This summer, she tutors students in the writing centre.

The book club has run since 2007, says Franc Jamieson, writing centre co-ordinator for Humber College. “It sends a message: people get excited about books.”