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WITS Study Hall is a collaborative learning space for adult learners to actively participate in anti-racist conversations and enjoy the works of writers of color. We focus on anti-racist discourse, and on celebrating the range of genres and stories by BIPOC authors.

WITS Study Hall explores one book every two months, and is open to all readers. You can sign up to join our virtual meetings, or use the provided framework to start your own book club. We’ll provide the book selection, discussion questions, and supplemental resources. No matter what your level of  engagement is, we hope you will join us in this important reading!

CURRENT BOOK

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In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

In the Dream House

On October 19th we will discuss In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. In the Dream House is engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad, and a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing relationship with a charismatic but volatile woman, Machado struggles to make sense of how what happened to her shaped the person she was becoming.

"The world needs this book. . . . We need this book precisely because it's so literary--enabling a view of domestic abuse, in the LGBT community and beyond, that only literature can manifest. . . . [Machado] uses formal experimentation to extend [empathy] into moral and political territory."-Psychology Today

Our next meeting


October 19th, 2022


5:30-6:30pm CST


Zoom Link will be emailed



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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS - In the Dream House


Keep in mind the following discussion questions to get you thinking as you read:

One

How does Machado's narrative differ from more traditional memoirs? Did you find her fragmented style effective in telling this story?

Two

A major theme of this book is the lack of media coverage of abuse in queer relationships. Did any of Machado's points on this topic stand out to you? 

Three

Did you find any individual chapters or sections especially impactful? Why?

Four

If you were to recommend this book, why would you say it is an important book to read?

SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCES - IN THE DREAM HOUSE

These additional resources will help integrate learning from our Study Hall books with additional interviews, articles, and podcasts. They may be referenced during WITS Study Hall meetings, so check them out.

WITS STUDY HALL BOOKS

August 2022 - June 2023

Check back for more information about these upcoming WITS Study Hall books.
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August 18th, 2022

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October 19th, 2022

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December 15th, 2022

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February 16th, 2023

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April 18th, 2023

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June 14th, 2023

PREVIOUS BOOKS

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Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning

On August 18th we will discuss Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong. Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection of stories is vulnerable, humorous, and provocative. Its relentless and riveting pursuit of vital questions around family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality will change the way you think about our world.

Hong begins her new book of essays with a bang. . . .The essays wander a variegated terrain of memoir, criticism and polemic, oscillating between smooth proclamations of certainty and twitches of self-doubt. . . . Minor Feelings is studded with moments [of] candor and dark humor shot through with glittering self-awareness.- The New York Times

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS - minor feelings 


Keep in mind the following discussion questions to get you thinking as you read:

One

What are you thoughts on the term  “minor feelings”?

Two

In what ways does the author find belonging and experience discrimination at both Oberlin and Iowa?

Three

How does the author interact with notions of racial visibility versus invisibility?

Four

How did this book help you to understand the 'Model Minority' stereotype?

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salt by nayyirah waheed

SALT

On June 13th we will discuss salt by nayyirah waheed. This self-published book of poetry is a journey through warmth and sharpness. salt explores the realities of multiple identities, language, diasporic life, the self, community, healing, celebration, and love.

A poetry book by a Black female author, both speaking to our current times and future solutions. I am deeply moved by it whenever I pick it up. —Cassandra Pintro, Vogue

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS - salt 


Keep in mind the following discussion questions to get you thinking as you read:

One

What was your favorite poem and why?

Two

The author keeps her life a secret. There are no images of her to be found. Why do you think that is?

Three

How do these poems reframe your ideas around immigrants?

Four

What do you think the author was saying about colonization and traveling?

SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCES - SALT

These additional resources will help integrate learning from our book of the month with current events, art, media, and politics. They may be referenced during WITS Study Hall meetings, so check them out.
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Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

On April 12th we will discuss Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. The New York Times named this book one of the best books of 2019, as did USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Esquire, Newsday, and Booklist.

In the end, Born a Crime is not just an unnerving account of growing up in South Africa under apartheid, but a love letter to the author’s remarkable mother, who grew up in a hut with 14 cousins, and determined that her son would not grow up paying what she called “the black tax” — black families having to “spend all of their time trying to fix the problems of the past,” using their skills and education to bring their relatives “back up to zero,” because “the generations who came before you have been pillaged.” - New York Times

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS - Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood


Keep in mind the following discussion questions to get you thinking as you read:

One

The title of his memoir is Born a Crime. What is the meaning of “born a crime”? How would it feel for your very existence to be considered a crime? How does this concept impact Trevor’s life?

Two

When Trevor finished high school, he ended up working “in the hood” for a few years, instead of pursuing his education. When he looks back on why he stayed, he says, “The hood was strangely comforting, but comfort can be dangerous. Comfort provides a floor but also a ceiling” (p. 212). What does he mean? How do people get stuck doing something comfortable? What do people need to be propelled forward?

Three

Trevor speaks multiple languages. He says he “learned that the quickest way to bridge the race gap was through language.” Trevor says he understood “that language, even more than color, defines who you are to people” (pp. 53–54). What does he mean, and how is this idea reflected in this encounter? Do you use language differently in different situations? At school? At home? With friends?

Four

Think about the meaning of the word oppression. Trevor says: “People love to say, ‘Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.’ What they don’t say is, ‘And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod’” (p. 182). Consider Trevor’s addition to the old adage. What is he trying to say about helping others?

SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCES - BORN A CRIME: STORIES FROM A SOUTH AFRICAN CHILDHOOD

These additional resources will help integrate learning from our book of the month with current events, art, media, and politics. They may be referenced during WITS Study Hall meetings, so check them out.
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Afterparties: Stories by Anthony Veasna So

Afterparties: stories

On February 17th we will discuss New York Times bestseller, Afterparties: Stories by Anthony Veasna So.

"Afterparties is a deeply personal, frankly funny, illuminating portrait of furtive, meddling aunties, sweaty, bored adolescents and the plaintive search for survival that connects them. Its nine stories sketch a world of hidden histories, of longings past and present, and of a culture carving its way out of historical trauma. It is a testament to the burgeoning talent of So, who died of a drug overdose in December, just 10 months after selling “Afterparties” and an unfinished novel. The collection lives on as an ode to the Stockton of So’s youth, to the greasy doughnut stores and boisterous auto shops where pointed questions about identity, tragedy and belonging come to life." - New York Times

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS - AFTERPARTIES: STORIES


Keep in mind the following discussion questions to get you thinking as you read:

One

Do these stories offer a different or new perspective on the immigrant experience? What stuck out to you?

Two

Do you think So’s use of dry-wit humor to tackle some really tough topics make these stories more accessible and therefore more impactful?

Three

What did you think about So’s take on the generational divide among the Cambodian-American community in central California?

Four

Anthony Veasna So died tragically nine months before his book hit bookshelves. Did this impact how you read and thought about his complex characters?

SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCES - AFTERPARTIES: STORIES

These additional resources will help integrate learning from our book of the month with current events, art, media, and politics. They may be referenced during WITS Study Hall meetings, so check them out!
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Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

MEXICAN GOTHIC

On December 13th we will discuss New York Times bestseller, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

"Something sinister is brewing beneath an isolated mansion in the Mexican countryside, and an ancient evil is about to be exposed. With callbacks to classics like RebeccaJane Eyre and The Haunting of Hill House, Moreno-Garcia proves that she is just as consumed by stories of haunted houses as we are in this new gothic horror with a twist." - Barnes and Noble

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS - MEXICAN GOTHIC


Keep in mind the following discussion questions to get you thinking as you read:

One

How would you describe Noemi Taboada, the heroine of Mexican Gothic? As the novel progresses, in what ways does Noemi defy expectations of her image as a privileged socialite with which the story opens?

Two

If you're a gothic fiction fan (think Daphne du Maurier, Emily Bronte, or Mary Shelley), pick out some of the gothic elements that author Moreno-Garcia incorporates into her story. At what point, however, does gothic evolve into horror?

Three

What is the source of the Doyle family's power? How does it intersect with colonialism and racism?

Four

Talk about the family's mysterious symbol: a circular snake swallowing its own tail, known as an ouroboros. Akin to a coat-of-arms, what does this signify for the family—along with the motto, "One is All." Also, what are the ways the ouroboros functions metaphorically within the framework of the novel itself?

SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCES - MEXICAN GOTHIC

These additional resources will help integrate learning from our book of the month with current events, art, media, and politics. They may be referenced during WITS Study Hall meetings, so check them out!
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The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

The Night Watchman

On October 13th we will discuss Pulitzer Prize Winner, The Night Watchman, written by Louise Erdrich.

"Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich’s grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C., this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman." - Harper Collins Publishing

Help us choose our next book

We would like your help in deciding what book we will read for our December meeting. You can choose more than one option.

Don't forget to sign up to attend the next meeting.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS - The Night Watchman


Keep in mind the following discussion questions to get you thinking as you read:

One

What does Thomas’ father, Biboon, know that most others do not? What might he mean when he says, "Survival is a changing game"?

Two

Patrice likens her meticulous work at the jewel plant to beading with her mother. In what ways is this similar or not? What’s the difference between work and a job?

Three

What is shame? Why is it likened to "a black sediment...carried around in [the] stomach"? What are the causes of shame for Thomas and others? What is the best way to combat it?

Four

Consider the many stereotyped images of “a lovely Indian maiden in flowing buckskin” and others in advertising. What is the power and effect of such images? What role do they play in culture?

SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCES - THE NIGHT WATCHMAN

These additional resources will help integrate learning from our book of the month with current events, art, media, and politics. They may be referenced during WITS Study Hall meetings, so check them out!

So You Want to Talk About Race

On June 24th we will discuss So You Want to Talk About Race a 2018 non-fiction book by Ijeoma Oluo.

"In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to "model minorities" in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life." -  ijeomaoluo.com/books

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS - So You Want to Talk About Race


Keep in mind the following discussion questions to get you thinking as you read:

The chapter about privilege is placed right before the chapter on intersectionality. The author has stated in interviews that she placed those chapters in that order because it is impossible to fully understand intersectionality without first comprehending privilege. How do the concepts discussed in the chapter "Why am I always being told to check my privilege?" help deepen your understanding of intersectionality and help implement intersectionality into your life?

Throughout the book, the author makes it clear that this book is written for both white people and people of color. But does the author expect white people and people of color to read and experience this book in the same way? What are some of the ways in which the author indicates how she expects white people and people of color to react to and interact with portions of the book? What are some of the ways
in which the author discusses the different roles that white people and people of color will play in fighting systemic racism in our society?

What we know as the police system today has a long history of racism within it. The system of police as we know it now derives from "slave patrols", which were groups of individuals tasked to bring back enslaved people when they had ran away. When reading the Chapter "Is Police Brutality Really about Race?", what were some thoughts that came to mind?

Knowing that race does play a factor in policing, what does that say about all the murders that happened in 2020?

The final chapter, "Talking is great, but what else can I do?," discusses some actions you can take to battle systemic racism using the knowledge you've gained from this book and from your conversations on race. What are some actions you can take in your community, your schools, your workplace, and your local government? What are some local antiracism efforts in your community that you can join or support?

SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCES - SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

These additional resources will help integrate learning from our book of the month with current events, art, media, and politics. They may be referenced during WITS Study Hall meetings, so check them out!
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Infinite Country by Patricia Engel


INFINITE COUNTRY

On April 15th we will read and discuss Infinite Country by award-winning, internationally acclaimed author, Patricia Engel.

"At the dawn of the new millennium, Colombia is a country devastated by half a century of violence. Only teenagers, Elena and Mauro fall in love against a backdrop of paramilitary and guerilla warfare. A few years later, brutalities continue to ravage their homeland, but the couple now has a young daughter to protect. Their economic prospects grim, they bargain on the American Dream and travel to Houston to send wages back to Elena’s mother, all the while weighing whether to risk overstaying their visas or to return to Bogotá. The decision to ignore their exit dates plunges the expanding family into the precariousness of undocumented status, the threat of discovery menacing a life already strained with struggle. When deportation forces Mauro back to Colombia, Elena sends infant Talia on a plane back to her daughter’s grandmother, splintering the family into two worlds with no certain hope of reunion. Encompassing continents and generations, Infinite Country knits together the accounts of five family members as they struggle to keep themselves whole in the face of the hostile landscapes and forces that threaten to drive them apart." - goodreads

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS - INFINITE COUNTRY


Keep in mind the following discussion questions to get you thinking as you read:

One

For Mauro and Elena’s family of five, the concept of “home” is a fluid one, distinct to each character and dependent on time and place. Choose a character and chart their relationship to Colombia and to the United States. Does it change, and if so, what affects this shift?

Two

Although the settings of Infinite Country are primarily urban, Engel writes of lush Colombian landscapes brimming with beasts and allegories, stories in which Mauro finds a particular sense of pride. How do descriptions of North American cities compare, and what emotions can be gleaned from both kinds of imagery?

Three

At the end of chapter five, Elena watches airplanes crash into the World Trade Center on September 11 and wonders “if she was hallucinating” (page 37). In what ways might feelings of uncanniness and displacement be heightened for Elena, Mauro, and other members of diaspora?

Four

As she hitchhikes back to her father in Bogotá, Talia meets three men who agree to help her home. What insights do they share with her about her impending journey north? What does each encounter say about Talia’s character and the way she moves about the world?

SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCES - INFINITE COUNTRY

These additional resources will help integrate learning from our book of the month with current events, art, media, and politics. They may be referenced during WITS Study Hall meetings, so check them out!
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The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

THE BLACK FLAMINGO

On February 18th, for our second public meeting, we will read and discuss The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, a British poet of Greek Cypriot and Caribbean descent.

"A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen - then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers - to show ourselves to the world in bold colour." - goodreads

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS - THE BLACK FLAMINGO


Keep in mind the following discussion questions to get you thinking as you read:

One

Michael has different names at different points in his life—some he is given, some he chooses for himself.
How do the different names relate to Michael and his relationships?

Two

When Daisy asks Michael to protect her from the lesbians (pg. 176) at the club, Michael angrily calls out
her homophobia; yet he is far less decisive about calling out her racism. What do you make of this
difference in response?

Three

When Michael cuts his locks (pg. 268), he says “I’m shedding / something other / people use to define / me,
falling to my feet.” How do people in the book use Michael’s locks to define him?

Four

Performance is a major theme in Michael’s story. What different kinds of performance are happening and
how do they impact Michael’s life?

SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCES - THE BLACK FLAMINGO

These additional resources will help integrate learning from our book of the month with current events, art, media, and politics. They may be referenced during WITS Study Hall meetings, so check them out!
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HOMEGOING BY YAA GYASI

HOMEGOING

On December 17th 2020, for our first public meeting, we read and discussed Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, a Ghanaian-American novelist.

Homegoing traces the descendants of half- sisters, Effia and Esi, across continents and centuries. Its power lies in showing, on a very individual scale, the effects slavery had on millions of lives. As the New York Times said, “The book leaves the reader with a visceral understanding of both the savage realities of slavery and the emotional damage that is handed down over the centuries.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS - HOMEGOING


Keep in mind the following discussion questions to get you thinking as you read:

One

Evaluate the title of the book. Why do you think that the author chose the word Homegoing? What is a homegoing and where does it appear in the novel? In addition to the term’s literal meaning, discuss what symbolic meanings or associations the title might have in terms of a connection with our place of birth, our ancestors, our heritage, and our personal and cultural histories.

Two

Explore the theme of belief. What forms of belief are depicted in the book and what purpose do these beliefs seem to serve for the characters? Does the author reveal what has shaped the characters’ beliefs? Do these beliefs seem to have a mostly positive or negative impact on the believer and those around them?

Three

Evaluate the treatment and role of women in the novel. What role does marriage play within the cultures represented in the novel and how are the women treated as a result? Likewise, what significance does fertility and motherhood have for the women and how does it influence their treatment? How different would you say the treatment and role of women is today?

Four

Consider the book’s treatment of colonialism and imperialism. Have the issues surrounding colonialism, imperialism, freedom, and human rights featured in the book been resolved today or do they linger? If they remain, does the book ultimately offer any suggestions or advice as to how this might be remedied?

SUPPLEMENTAL RESOURCES - HOMEGOING

These additional resources will help integrate learning from our book of the month with current events, art, media, and politics. They may be referenced during WITS Study Hall meetings, so check them out!

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