The Token Jew of My Book Club

Last spring I described my inability to find a book club where my book-freak ways were welcomed with open arms.

To recap my saga, I’d always joined groups where everyone was similar to me (as in, Jewish and around the same age). As a newcomer to the Twin Cities, I thought the groups I started or joined would be an easy way to make friends. Good idea for some people, but it didn’t work in my case.

You see, just like any social woman, I love hearing about everyone’s lives, talking about the shows we’re watching, and catching up in general, but what I wanted in a book club was a shared love of reading. I like a book club where the members not only love to read, but also want to talk about the books. I mean really discuss them–like speaking over each other and having to eventually cut off the conversation when it gets too late kind of discussing. Yes, I’m all kinds of cool like that.

It won’t surprise you that my uber-passion for discussing novels made me unpopular in casual book clubs. Once I was even publicly chastised (via a group email) for ruining the ending of the book for those who hadn’t found time in the six-week hiatus since the previous meeting to finish. I quit that particular book club and have since felt skittish about joining any others.

But hold everything! I have great news. I recently found a book club that accepts me! Not only do they tolerate my “let’s remember to discuss the book” leanings, but I think they actually like my quirky ways. And–you won’t believe my dumb luck–they want me bring the conversation back on track when it veers. Truly, it’s a dream come true for any book club purist.

How did I pull off this unexpected plot twist? I found a book club where there’s only one other Jew. Yes, I’m crediting my book club’s success to the lack of Jews who belong to our literature-loving crew. Chuptzadik and unpolitically correct, I know. Doesn’t make it less true.

Turns out my chosen people for a book club are not, well, the chosen people

Now don’t get all defensive, you guys. Let’s be honest: put a group of Jewish women about the same age in a room and here’s what we might discuss instead of the book: ANYTHING ELSE. Even when we’re all different ages we start with the Jewish geography or the synagogue happenings, and it’s impossible to refocus.

In my new group, we have precisely one thing in common aside from the proximity of our houses: the book we all read for that particular meeting. Two months ago we discussed Jennifer Haigh’s Faith, a novel about a priest accused of molestation. With readers of different religious views, ages, and general backgrounds, the discussion was fascinating. In fact, all of our discussions have been fascinating.
I’m one of two token Jews in the group, and I couldn’t be happier. Despite our differences, I’ve finally found the one book club where I belong.
How about the rest of you: Does your book club work? Why or why not? Are you ever the “token” representative in a group? 
(Photo: Carlos Porto)