The Go On Girl! Book Club is the largest national reading organization in the U.S. for black women. Our national headquarters are in New York. In 1991, founders Monique Greenwood, Lynda Johnson and Tracy Mitchell-Brown decided to turn their office chat about the latest offerings from Black authors into formal book discussions with their immediate circle of girlfriends in New York City.
At the end of the club’s first year, Evalyn Rose Hamilton relocated from New York to her native Washington, D.C., and the second chapter of the Go On Girl! Book Club was born. Since 1992, more than 30 chapters have sprung up across the country in much the same way — started by former members relocating to new cities or by members’ relatives and friends living in other or the same cities. In 1995, the club became a legally incorporated non-profit organization, and it currently boasts more than 300 members in cities across the country. We currently have chapters in Alabama, California, DC, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Washington and Virginia.
The overall agenda, goals and duties of the organization are administered by an executive committee of 10 women: Lynda Johnson (Co-founder/Chair and Media/Author Relations Chair), Vivian Phillips-Husband and Shirley Coker (Co-Chairs); Valeria Porterfield (Recording Secretary); Evalyn Rose Hamilton (Historian); Tracy Grady (Treasurer); Willette Hill (Corresponding Secretary); Elaine Spears (Parliamentarian); Judy Ivory (Membership Chair) and Joyce Williams (Reading List Chair).
BPM: Do you host special events during the year?
YES! GOG hosts an annual Author Awards Weekend held in a different city every year and attended by all the chapters in the organization. Members vote for a winning author in two categories: New Author of the Year and Author of the Year. The winning authors are invited to attend our Author Awards Weekend. The chapter(s) in the designated city is our host chapter. At the author awards lunch (or dinner), the authors are given a handmade plaque especially designed for them.
Our Author Awards Weekend serves two purposes: it gives our members a chance to express our love and appreciation to the winning authors, and it provides all the chapters a chance to get together to meet/greet and express love for our literary sisterhood. Interviews of our winning authors are published in an annual GOG Magajournal and distributed to our members.
In between the author awards luncheon or dinner, GOGs enjoy the hospitality and activities that our host chapters plan for us. Our website, www.GoOnGirl.org has the details.
Many of our members socialize outside of our book club meetings. Chapter members also attend author readings and signings in their area to support our writers. For the past two years we have worked collectively with the NAACP by reading, reviewing, and voting for books being considered for their Literary Image Awards. Some of the authors on our reading list were discovered from participating in this project.
BPM: Which is the preferred way to find new books: a friend’s recommendation; on social media; or advertisement for the book, such as: online radio, newsletter eblast, contests or tagging on FB?
Members of the Reading List Committee use any and all resources available to find books for our reading list. We scour the internet, read book reviews in magazines (online and paper), listen to interviews and check literary websites, publisher websites, blogs, etc. Sometimes we get book recommendations from GOGs, friends; sometimes authors reach out to us. We’re forever searching for that next good book.
The Round Table Readers were founded by La Sheera Lee. The book club is located in Danville, VA. The group was founded on the principles of spreading literacy, fostering sisterhood, and assisting their local community. The group was founded in 2010. Currently, we have eight members. Their names are Tora Ballard, Latonya Terry, Hannah Lee, Kay Edmondson, Traci White- Williams, Twozynn McGhgee and Joyce Laverne Mayo.
The Round Table Readers has hosted five events to date. Each event presented their local communities with the opportunity to meet their favorite authors and to learn about the world of publishing. The literary events have also served their communities. One event featuring Zane, raised funds for a Breast Cancer Survivor. Attendees of other events, have donated can goods and school supplies for admission.
The Round Table Readers also likes to connect with other book clubs. The Sisters of the Red Tent, Sistahs of Urban Literature, and Victorious Ladies of Reading are all considered their sister book club. The Round Table Readers have enjoyed organizing book club events with these wonderful ladies!
BPM: Has social media changed how you feel about authors?
Social media has forever changed the literary landscape. Authors, book clubs, readers are able to engage and discuss books. Video sharing platforms have also made it easier for readers to virtually host authors for meetings etc.
However, I think that authors need to be mindful of comments or pics presented online. Everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinions. However, if you are a public figure, you must be mindful of the impact your actions might have own your readership.
BPM: Do you have any words of wisdom for other readers starting a book club?
It is essential for all members to respect the time and opinions of all members. It is also important to make sure you have members who personalities click.
In October 2008, the Literary Ladies Book Club was established in Rahway, New Jersey by sisters, Sandi and Maria. As busy career women with little free time to enjoy friends, fellowship, adult conversation and a good “Girl’s Night Out”; the sisters decided to start a book club driven by their love of African American Literature and their shared desire to engage in honest, enthusiastic, enlightening discussions with other individuals that truly enjoy reading. In order to rise to their fullest and purest potential not only as readers but also as women, they encouraged members to empower one another by sharing ideas and materials throughout the month that promote personal growth and enhance awareness within literary, social, spiritual and economic areas.
In a nutshell, the original eight members gathered with the purpose of creating unity, friendship, and sisterhood amongst positive women of color. Presently, we have 11 active members. In addition, our members are busy scheduling authors to participate in future monthly discussions. Currently, approximately 80% percent of our monthly discussions entail author participation either in person or via video or phone conference.
BPM: What is the purpose for your organization? Do you host events during the year or provide services for the community?
The purpose of our group is to gather literary women who enjoy reading. We come together to fellowship and discuss our book of the month along with what is going on in the literary world. We explore many different genres and writing styles. Literary Ladies looks forward to growing the club, possessing a stronger presence in the literary world and to whatever the universe has in store. We host an annual bowling party every August and we host the “Lunch with the Literary Ladies Book Club & Friends” every Fall.
BPM: As a loyal reader, what are some of the things you want to see more of or less of in books?
The African American community includes people from all socio-economic levels; so we’d like to see a broader representation of us as a people overall in African American Literature. We would also like to see more books for teenagers. As loyal readers, our biggest pet peeve is poor editing. Often, there are so many typographical and grammatical errors that it becomes necessary to go back and reread a sentence, paragraph or worse yet an entire page in order to understand and follow the storyline. It is very frustrating to say the least.
DRMRAB members have earned the nickname, “The Paperback Gang,” due to their high level of participation at the many book festivals held throughout the year, and their voracious appetite for purchasing paperback books. Members are proud of their expansive bookshelves, many of which hold books with personal, handwritten notes and signatures from their favorite authors. Their motto is: “We are not just a book club, we are a movement.”
Don’t Read Me, Read A Book is based out of Columbus, Ohio, with chapters located throughout the United States and on Facebook. DRMRAB started online as a Facebook group in January 2015. I started the book club because I wanted my own group, instead of administering someone else’s. Fast forward to April of the same year, when I became acquainted with a couple of local readers and decided to start an in-person club that would meet once a month here in Columbus. A very good friend of mine, author Fabiola Joseph, suggested that I start offering readers in other cities a chance to organize under the DRMRAB umbrella. So, in February 2016, the first chapters began. Our Facebook membership has grown to over 2,000 members and our chapter members now total over 200 and growing!
DRMRAB promotes literacy in the African-American community, while supporting authors in a positive, judgement-free environment. We stand out from other groups for a few reasons. First, our members support the authors we read by purchasing thousands of paperback books. With the popularity of eBooks, common thought was that paperbacks were dead until we came along and showed everyone how false that assumption was. Second, we host and participate in face-to-face discussions with authors, and you really don’t see that anymore. The name of our organization has a very special meaning to me. My favorite cousin (who passed away last year) helped me come up with the concept during a battle for my attention, while I was trying to read. That memory is so dear to my heart, that I give out a yearly award in his honor.
BPM: Do you host special events during the year or do you work for any charities?
Every year, we gather at the Sistahs on Lit Book Festival. Papaya Wagstaff, who happens to be our DMV chapters chairman is the owner of this great event. S.O.L is amazing because it gives book clubs a chance to mingle with fellow readers as well as different authors. Yes, we also participate in several charities. When we first heard of the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, we teamed up with Hood Books to send over 8,500 bottles of water to Flint’s residents. In 2015, we adopted a family for Christmas, and in 2016 we adopted two families. We’ve also donated countless books to children. This year, we will also assist families with back-to-school and Christmas needs, among other initiatives. As far as hosting event every chapter host several authors throughout the year.