Reflections on the Spartacus Book Club

How It Began

For a little over 2.5 years I’ve volunteered at Spartacus Books, a volunteer-run anti-capitalist bookstore in Vancouver, BC on unceded xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw, and Tsleil-Waututh territory. Volunteering at Spartacus is about much more than selling books – we strive to be a space for community events, organizing, socializing, and resource sharing.

In September 2015, fellow collective member, Ivanhoe, and I restarted the Spartacus Book Club, which had existed in years past. We put forth the basic premise that “we will read any book that one could find at Spartacus.” And for two years, that’s exactly what we did.

In our first two years, we read a wide range of books, alternating between fiction and non-fiction titles and spanning genres such as science fiction, non-profit funding models, Indigenous feminisms, and much more. I’ve included a fairly complete list at the bottom of this post.

Attendance fluctuated, from 2 people at some of our smallest conversations, to around 20 at our largest gatherings. Many people would come in and out of book club depending on what we were reading and their interest in a particular topic, and we had lots of attendees show up for only one book club.

While we had many great conversations, I was hoping that we could gather a more regular group of folks to have some ongoing conversations building on our readings from month to month, and also wanted to ensure our readings felt relevant to participants’ lives and organizing work.

Reading Indigenous Authors

This fall, we decided to try something new, to focus our book club on a more specific theme. Since September we have been reading books by Indigenous authors on themes of colonialism, decolonization, and Indigenization. In part, this was guided by Ivanhoe and my interests, and it was also inspired by my participation in the Pathways to Reconciliation: 4Rs Youth Gathering held in August this year.

This fall, we’ve also had fluctuating attendance, from about two dozen attendees at our discussion of Unsettling Canada by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson, to a 3 people-gathering to discuss Kynship this December (always a tricky month for book club!) We have had quite a few returning attendees, however, and definitely I have noticed that in each book club gathering people are referencing the past books we’ve read together this fall.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Our January event has also taken off on Facebook, with over 1,200 people expressing interest in joining us to discuss Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and over 100 confirmed attendees! As Spartacus only holds about 50 people, we’ve added a second event for this book discussion, and I am really looking forward to see what that conversation is like.

Additionally, with so much conversation about reconciliation, Indigenous peoples, and decolonization in the news and within organizing communities right now, people regularly relate what we’re discussing to their own experiences. To me, this really exemplifies what a space like Spartacus can be.

At our best, we are not only a book store, but a place for organizers and community members to share information and experiences, deepen relationships, and strengthen our collective work for social change.

In recent months, our book club has really flourished.

The Year Ahead

We already have books chosen for the first four months of 2018, and if you’re in Vancouver you are welcome to join us for these discussions. People are also welcome to join our Facebook group and discuss the books online from near or far.

I am really excited about the books to come, the increasing interest in our book club, and what the rest of the year will hold in store for us!

Spartacus Book Club Picks, Sept 2015 to April 2018

If you’re looking for a great read to start 2018, this list is full of possibilities.

  • September 2015: Introductory planning meeting
  • October 2015: I Am Woman: A Native Perspective on Sociology and Feminism by Lee Maracle
  • December 2015: From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the
    Remaking of Asia by Pankaj Mishra
  • January 2016: So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan
  • February 2016: Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici
  • March 2016: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  • April 2016: The Revolution will Not Be Funded by Incite! Women of Colour Against Violence
  • May 2016: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
  • June 2016: Women, Race, & Class by Angela Davis
  • July 2016: The Inhabited Woman by Gioconda Belli
  • October 2016: Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back by Leanne Simpson
  • November 2016: The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
  • January 2017: The Edge Becomes the Centre by DW Gibson
  • March 2017: Black Skin, White Masks by Franz Fanon
  • April 2017: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
  • September 2017: Unsettling Canada by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson
  • October 2017: Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King
  • November 2017: Red Skin, White Masks by Glen Coulthard
  • December 2017: Kynship by Daniel Heath Justice
  • January 2018: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • February 2018: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
  • March 2018: The Reconciliation Manifesto by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson
  • April 2018: The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book by Gord Hill

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