Becoming Informed: Starting A DEI Book Club At Work

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By Krista Berg

Finding ways to provide space and time to discuss topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at work can be difficult. One trend that has been surfacing more and more is the creation of DEI book clubs. This can be a great way for coworkers to share resources and ideas, and help provide a space to start and enhance their DEI journey. Book clubs should not be the only DEI work done at an organization, but they are a great supplement to trainings and workshops.

I reached out to several colleagues who have facilitated DEI book clubs at their organizations and asked for their tips on starting and continuing a DEI book club. At the end of this list, I’ve also included recommendations for some great starter books.

Tips for Creating a DEI Book Club

  • Be flexible! As your book club starts to coalesce you may need to make changes to the format of the meetings, dates and times, the way you choose books and even how you meet (virtually, in person, at work, at a coffee shop). Being flexible will help you create a successful book club that works for everyone interested in participating.
  • Create some community agreements or guidelines for participants.
    • Examples: Maintain confidentiality; listen to understand; suspend judgment and turn on wonder; move up/move back.
    • Focus on shared values like caring, commitment, family, responsibility, hard work and community when talking about DEI. Show respect for each other’s opinions, questions and feedback.
  • Collaborate! Get the whole team involved. Use voting surveys, anonymous feedback and spur-of-the-moment discussions to create an ongoing book club that works for everyone.
  • Make clear the intended purpose of your book club.
  • Don’t worry about only selecting books that have pre-made discussion questions. People will bring their own questions and insights they learned from the sections. This will expand your book options.
  • When selecting a book, take into consideration availability — books should be easily accessible at your library.
  • Make sure the book chosen has an audiobook version. Don’t get stuck in a non-fiction rut — consider YA (young adult), poetry, short stories, novellas, etc.
  • Use guiding questions or prompts, and provide these to the group beforehand. Keep some of these questions consistent for each meeting.
  • Try to bring the topic back to the purpose of the group or organization if you can. How is this related to the organization? Why is this topic important to your roles? What stood out to you from the sections you read? (This question will especially help encourage everyone to participate and give you an idea of what topics the group wants to dive into more.)
  • Be okay with silence. Allow for a pause so people can digest statements or questions.
  • Make space for different voices to be heard.

Consider Starting With These Books

“So You Want To Talk About Race?” by Ijeoma Oluo 

“Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance,” by Edgar Villanueva

“Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World and Become a Good Ancestor,” by Layla Saad

“Disability Visibility,” edited by Alice Wong

“The Refugees,” by Viet Thanh Nguyen

“Don’t Call Us Dead,” by Danez Smith

“The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas

Thank you to all of the contributors: Becky Garling, Seattle University; Christina Nichols, University of Washington; and Blake Bowers, Friends of Waterfront Seattle.
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