About The Book Club
“Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right....“-Joseph Brackett
“For it’s great to fight for freedom
With a Rebel Girl."- Joe Hilstrom
The book club began as an act of rebellion as most of the best things in life and the world do. Like The White Rose student paper, it was birthed to flout the convention and the imposed iron bars of that structure that keeps us contained in the current quotidian. Dictated to us all by the powers that be as they preside over what will and won’t be permitted. Unlike the White Rose, the book club’s goals were covert. There was no need to speak truth to power, truth had been spoken repeatedly throughout the last 200 years, and the age old response of yes but, had been fired back. Not once but again and again through out the long slow course of history. The only need now was to flout the vice grip of authority. Speaking truth is a thankless and fruitless pursuit in futility when society at large has no interest in hearing what is inconvenient.
The book club was old. Hundreds of years old. It was no longer what it was when it began. Like any living organism, the book club had evolved. In each new version it was different. In each new time period it had spoken truth to power. Until it had finally decided, providing it's members a moment of freedom, a breath of fresh air was the best it could hope to do. In each new age it hid in the shadows and was the refuge of women. Often women who stood in direct opposition to the current demands and commands of society. Women, who were quietly who and what they were. Not minding or caring what the conventions of the moment wished them to be. Square pegs refusing to fit adequately into the round holes into which they were being unceremoniously forced into. Often against their will and frequently against their innate human nature.
The women, who graced the book club were free thinkers. Rebels, contrarians, thwarters of society. They would smile to your face while they told you to go screw yourself as you issued them a command. They were feminists, the kind that dance around bonfires under the stars. Others, were witches, at least one was gay... One was a man who identified as a woman. In the book club, there was no way to be that was wrong. No skin color that was undesirable. No number of children that was correct or incorrect. No way to live that was right because they didn't create a right and wrong. Merely an attitude of different strokes for different folks prevailed. In the book club, there were independent women who could stand their ground against a society that had stuffed them first in corsets and now stuffed them in boned braziers and the noxious agony of stiletto heels.
The book club, had a number of branches. It had been created and branched off of in many areas over the last 200 some years. As the members left for one reason or another, they would frequently start a new branch in where ever it was they went. Every seven years all the branches would gather. It was not a large group as in each locality the number of members traditionally never exceeded nine. Except in Stockholm. They had decided collectively that they would rebel against the unwritten rule of only 9 members, by having ten members. The rest of the branches had smirked shrugged and offered a response which had amounted to the equivalent, of “Ok, whatever girl.” As the issue really wasn’t important to anyone. It was simply the way it always had been. So if someone wished to change it why not?
It wasn’t as if the group in Stockholm, was the only one to make alterations. In Milan, they ate only self made food which was only a rule in Milan, which struck the rest of the branches as fairly ludicrous since the book club was about not having rules. In New Haven, the host provided the food at each club meeting. In Texas, they all spoke with southern twang. In Taiwan, they read romance novels. No branch was an exact or perfect replication. All had some cultural aspects that were unique. The goal was not to stamp out individuality. It was about promoting it. Refusing to ban any books, refusing to bow to any convention. A place, and a secret society, where women could be innately who and what they were. Whatever that happened to be. In Boston, each meeting was potluck. The first time a new member would attend she would be informed by the invitation what she was to bring.
The invitations were all the same. An antique skeleton key on a silver chain wrapped round with a very old piece of paper upon which in beautiful caligraphy made by an old style quill pen, the invitation was issued.
You have been invited to join The Book Club, a secret women’s literary society with a history that spans centuries. We will meet at on the evening of the next full moon, the address. Which will then be followed by information about the title of the book to be discussed. Bring a specific food will be added in the form of an order. You will be informed then to memorize the address if you are inclined to attend and burn the invitation. It will be the only invite you ever get. And it doesn’t mean you are in. It means, you will attend one gathering and the members will vote you in or out depending on how you comport yourself. After all, the club is truly only there for the misfits and rule breakers. How you respond to this notice of invitation will tell the group more than you realize about yourself. This is how it had been done, not for 200 years but for more than the last 50. It was also only possible to get an invitation from a member leaving due to old age or moving away or some other reason of giving up her place in the group.
Usually, those leaving for whatever reason would pass their place on to someone else in their family. A younger sister, a daughter, a beloved niece.... Sometimes to a dear friend or the child of a dear friend was not unheard of. Someone they thought would be a good fit for the group and who they felt could benefit from the association of the group. It also had to be someone who did not bow to convention for convention’s sake. Someone, who could keep the secrets of the club members and of the club itself. The club had only survived all this time by flying under the radar... At times the association with a group like this one for women could be dangerous. History is full of examples of women who refuse to bend to the demands of society run by men. So imagine the fate of members of a group that gather specifically to support each other in that exact purpose...