The first meeting of Fresno State’s yearlong Maya Angelou Book Club, which aims to give members of the campus community a deeper look at the late author’s works, was on Monday, April 20.
While eating a pasta dinner and drinking some white wine, club members and their hosts, Mary Castro and Dr. Francine Oputa, discussed Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
Oputa, director of the Center for Women and Culture, said that this book club was created to encourage people to read, and to connect with others, and is a way to honor Angelou, who passed away last May.
“I was fortunate to have met Maya Angelou,” Oputa said. “I had breakfast with her.”
Club members talked about the book’s themes which include issues such as race, body image, sibling rivalry, the role of women in society and love.
Castro, Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro’s wife and founder of the club, said that the idea for the club came to be while having lunch with Oputa.
Castro said that this club was created so that people can learn about Angelou’s work, especially for the members who have never read her books before.
“I wanted an opportunity for women to get together in a nonintimidating environment,” Castro said, “to get to know each other better and share something valuable.”
Some of the people who joined wanted an opportunity to read more — something that most club members agreed is hard to do these days.
Sue Castro, a book club participant, said that this was a great opportunity for her to get back into reading.
“I thought that I needed to take the opportunity to slow down and actually read something new and expand my horizons,” Castro said.
During last Monday’s meeting, Castro sat quietly while listening attentively to other members discuss the book. This, she said, was a way for her to take in what all of the members had to share.
“Everybody had a story to tell, and I was amazed how open everybody was in sharing their life experiences and how they related to [the book],” Castro said.
Mary Ann Hendrickson agreed with how people are so busy that they sometimes do not have time to pick up a book. Hendrickson joined the club to get back into the habit of reading.
“I wanted that back in my life, and this is an opportunity [for that],” Hendrickson said. “I want to keep that knowledge going—that’s important.”
The club gathers every third Monday of each month at 5:15 p.m. at the Table Mountain Rancheria Reading Room on the third floor of the Henry Madden Library.
Other books on the monthly reading list include “Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting’ Merry Like Christmas,” “The Heart of a Woman,” “All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes” and “A Song Flung Up to Heaven.”