The non-fiction branch of the Inter.Reading Book Club was established as an off-shoot of the fiction discussion group. Readers wanted to have a space dedicated to critically engaging with other types and genres of text. For the past two semesters, we have chosen to examine contemporary theoretical, journalistic, and biographical literary works that correspond with the theme of the central book of the fiction book club. By allowing for a variety of genres, perspectives and epistemological foundations, readers in the non-fiction branch have the opportunity to create a multi-layered, complementary framework of reference.
Our first read was Caste (2020) by US American journalist Isabella Wilkerson, a book that analyzes the roots of social hierarchies, inclusion and exclusion, and purity in the US context and beyond it. Wilkerson’s work served to highlight aspects of social stratification in both Yaa Gyasi’s Home Going (2016) and There, There (2018) by Tommy Orange. The social history produced via a mixture of journalistic research, autobiographical writing, and narrative in Caste allowed for a new insight into the topics of identity and injustice in these works of fiction, but also as a basis for the kind critical approach to the non-fiction texts that our readers are interested in.
Secondly, we read On Freedom (2021) poet Meggie Nelson. In four dense, demanding essays, readers connected the with the authors views on freedom, and how this complex concept intersects with urgently important issues of our moment in history; art, sex, drugs and climate. In these Four Songs of Care and Constraint we think with Nelson as she negotiates our interrelation with others, and the wider world and environment. The book was chosen to provide a contextual frame for the 2022 Camps, (In)justice, and Solidarity in the Americas conference on Human Rights in Graz.
If there are any questions or simply would like to know more of this branch of the Inter.Reading Book Club, and/or would like to sign up, please send an email to dagmar.wallenstorfer(at)uni-graz.at