The Hike – 69th Book Discussion

Our Hike conversation was lively, spirited and healthily divisive. I
particularly enjoy hearing the first impressions of love and hate we all start with hike(cue to Pavarotti & Celine I hate you then i love you song- min 2:25). A book discussion would not be the same if we don’t start with a generalized statement which then gets explored in some depth. And to the depths we went.

WHAT IS THE PATH!?” Jen asked- she was on the hate camp for this book.

Answering that lead us to all sorts of perceived understandings. Was this “dude author” capable of writing something evocative with simple language or was it just a simple Disney-ish like fiction book packed with a Sebastian (little mermaid) like sidekick. Sarah said the path reminded her of the vicious cycle of domestic abuse. Nicole thought the path was like a simple fun game where the protagonist has to make it to the next level. Rachel proposed the path could be a metaphor to midlife crisis, while Ursula said it could be a marriage metaphor.

If anything, I am happy to have escaped into a wacky world of a talking Crab. It was a nice break from the seriousness of our previous books.

Read at your own risk, but do finish it- its a quick read!

67th Book Review: Hologram for the King (by Roberta)

Thishfk month the Ladies decided to read a male-centric book to get into the head of an American businessman going through what seems like an endless period of bad luck. Though everyone appreciated this author’s peculiar writing style there was a general consensus that A Hologram for the King felt like story that was constantly going in no direction. Though there were stand out scenes that left readers pondering on the events that had transpired there was a lack of consistent character development. However, some of the ladies praised author Dave Eggers for deviating for the tried and predictable story arc that we are so accustomed to. By the end of the discussion we agreed that if A Hologram for the King is on your current list of books to read, then go ahead! If you rather watch the movie though, it makes the story much easier to follow and features everyone’s favorite Tom Hanks!


April 2016 meeting: Housekeys Not Handcuffs

The homelessness crisis is a hot ticket topic of discussion if you live in San Francisco and different viewpoints can often feel divisive. As it kept coming up in our bookclub discussions, we decided that we needed to do something about it. Read. Then discuss.


The book we chose Housekeys not Handcuffs: Homeless Organizing, Art, and Politics in San Francisco and Beyond by Paul Boden. Although I had not read it previously, I recommended it as I had heard some of the writers and artists speak at a community forum. I even knew some of the artists; much of the art in the book was created at the studio where I used to work, Hospitality House Community Arts Program.


Housekeys not Handcuffs is a series of essays by Paul Boden, who has been in the homeless organizing field here in SF since 1983 when he himself was homeless. There were also essays by Art Hazelwood, an artist and activist, Bob Prentice, who did a lot of early policy work surrounding homelessness, and many unnamed authors from decades of of Street Sheet, the newspaper that covers homeless issues and that people can sell to supplement their income instead of pan handling. In regards to the content of the book, more of us bookclub members were more engaged by the artwork than the text. Prints, murals, cartoons, photos, and mixed media gave a strong visual to the history of the homeless struggle. This piece by Christine Hanlon was a favorite.


"Vogue and Vagrant" by Christine Hanlon
“Vogue and Vagrant” by Christine Hanlon


What really made this Holistic Lady Bookclub a night for the records is that the author Paul Boden joined us in person, bravely crossing the threshold as a man entering into the sacred territory of an all female bookclub. He shared it was his first ever bookclub meeting as well and it was our first meeting with the author sitting in the room with us. We all were excited and a little nervous.


We started our meeting with sharing what felt like home–several women felt their parents’ house where they grew up was home, others said their husbands, kids, and pets felt like home, someone named their apartment in SOMA, someone described the moment in the drive over the Golden Gate Bridge when you can feel the fog, someone else said community and public libraries make a place feel like home. We all could easily identify that feeling of safety, of belonging, of knowing your place.


As Paul shared details of his experience, history of funding changes, inequalities that exist in our system, and advice on what a mother bear wanting to protect her den and cubs experiencing compassion fatigue should do, it became clear that every single one of us in the room was learning something new. Some shared the overwhelming need to examine previous beliefs and how they view people who are living on the street or even that this conversation might influence how they vote in the future.


Does life get much better than reading a book to learn more and having a beautiful discussion that really digs into history, life experience, and beliefs?


If you would like to purchase Housekeys not Handcuffs, Paul recommended you buy the book straight from their website  since they don’t get any cut of the Amazon sales. The Western Regional Advocacy Project website is also chocked full of resources, artwork, history, and actions about homelessness organizing.


Paul Boden with the Holistic Lady Bookclub on April 20, 2016
Paul Boden with the Holistic Lady Bookclub on April 20, 2016