Oakland Community College’s Womencenter Book Group is celebrating 30 years of laughter, friendship and reading the literary works of women authors.
Fifteen of the group’s 20 members celebrated the anniversary with a lunch on November 12 at the school’s student-run Ridgewood Café in Farmington Hills. The culinary students surprised the group with a special dessert to thank them for their patronage at the café, where they meet before launching into their book discussion.
“This is one of the longest running groups at OCC,” said Womencenter Director Arlene Frank. “I started at OCC in 1992. I was told part of my job was to lead this eclectic group,” she added, laughing.
Laughter is a common occurrence at the group meetings. Many of the women are retirees who joined the Womencenter Book Group to keep social and facilitate life-long learning. The group has met biweekly September through April. To date they have read 413 books by female authors.
The group has a few rules. Members are not allowed to discuss the books with other members prior to the meetings to keep interactions authentic. Also, Frank rings a bell to get the members back on task when they get too rowdy. To keep the group intimate, it has a limit of twenty members and new requests are added to wait list.
“The thing that has changed most over the years is diversity. We are reading about other cultures and countries all the time. The conversations have improved as we have added members from different faiths and backgrounds. We are all learning from each other,” stated Joanne Goldberg, a member of 12 years.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the friendships. Members all voiced admiration for one another and spoke of how they keep in touch and provide reading lists to former members. The group also has created a library with a dedication plaque for Ruth Kovan, a long-time member who passed away shortly before the 25th anniversary.
Keeping the focus on women, the group only reads work from female authors.
“The Poisonwood Bible was a majority favorite,” said Jeanette Isenhour, the member who keeps records on all the books read. “The most read author is Alice Hoffman. We have read seven of hers.”
To honor the group’s leader and commemorate the 30th anniversary, the members presented Frank with a homemade quilt they made outside of the meetings. The quilt featured names of members on one side and a collection of hand-quilted books on the other. The gift moved Frank to tears.
Also in attendance was Anna Clark, a local writer whose work has appeared in “The New Republic,” “American Prospect” and “Salon” and the editor of “A Detroit Anthology.” Clark explored topics with the women about reading as a communal activity and reading to help cultivate identity. Clark was also a guest at the Womencenter Book Group’s 25th anniversary.
“Whenever I am invited as a guest of the group, I take the day off of work,” said Clark. “It is ridiculously fun, welcoming and filled with intelligent conversations about literature.”
For more information on the Womencenter Book Group, contact Arlene Frank (248) 522-3642 or click here.
By Miranda Mayuiers