Image

WITS Study Hall is a collaborative learning space for adult learners to actively participate in antiracist conversation and enjoy the works of writers of color. We will focus not just on antiracist discourse, but celebrate the range of genres and stories by BIPOC authors.

WITS Study Hall will explore one book every two months and is open to all readers. You can sign up to join our virtual meetings, or use this framework to start your own book club. We’ll provide the book selection, discussion questions, and supplemental resources. Whatever your engagement, we hope you join us in this important reading.

CURRENT BOOK

Image
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

Our next meeting


Dec. 13th, 2021


5:30-6:30pm CST


Zoom Link will be emailed



Sign up to attend

Please fill out this form to sign up for the next Study Hall meeting


  • We will use this number to text you reminders about meetings.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS - MEXICAN GOTHIC


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

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?

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?

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

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!

PREVIOUS BOOKS

Image
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:

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

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?

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?

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!
Image

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!
Image
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!
Image
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!

SOCIAL MEDIA

Tag @witschicago and use #WITStudyHall to let us know you’re reading along with us!

Image

ENJOYING THIS RESOURCE? CONSIDER MAKING A DONATION.

With your support, we provide quality literacy enrichment and teacher professional development programs at zero cost to our city’s divested neighborhoods.
MAKE A DONATION