Everytown for Gun Safety, through its Moms Demand Action grassroots arm, has launched the Moms Demand Action Book Club, a discussion group open to the organization’s six million supporters who advocate against gun violence via their state chapters.
“This is a new opportunity for volunteers to engage with one another on issues that intersect with gun violence,” noted Shannon Watts, who founded Moms Demand Action on Facebook in 2012. “People are looking for ways to connect with each other right now. We’re a family: we can use tools like Zoom not just to be activists but also to connect with one another and to have fun. The book club is an important way to do that.”
“Storytelling around gun violence has had a huge impact upon the issue,” added Noelle Howey, Everytown’s senior director of cultural engagement, noting that not all of the book club selections will address gun violence. “We can learn so much from other movements and the selections will be books that inform us about them,” she pointed out, “Books connect with the moment, culturally, that we are in and can inform the work of activists on the ground in a direct way. That is the goal.”
Each quarter, Moms Demand Action chapter members can read any or all of 10 books with a common theme listed on Everytown’s website. The books will include both frontlist and backlist nonfiction recommended by Everytown’s Authors Council, its grassroots community, as well as publishing professionals, authors, and literary agents known to the organization’s cultural engagement team.
The Moms Demand Action Book Club will host a virtual discussion about that quarter’s common theme, led by the author of one of the recommended books. This quarter’s theme kicking off the book club is “celebrating Black women changemakers,” with 10 works by notable Black women, ranging from Shirley Chisholm’s 1970 memoir, Unbought and Unbossed to Audre Lord’s 1984 collection, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches to Kamala Harris’ 2019 memoir, The Truths We Hold: An American Journey.
"We don't expect supporters to read every book," Howey said, "Chapters will take the lists and adjust them to their communities."
The book club will host its first virtual discussion on Feb. 28, which will be led by Rev. Sharon Risher, whose mother and two cousins were killed in a 2015 mass shooting at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C. Rev. Risher is the author, with Sherri Wood Emmons, of For Such a Time as This: Hope and Forgiveness After the Charleston Massacre.
In the second quarter, the club will focus on LGBTQ history and in the third quarter on self-care for activists. While the selections are nonfiction at this time, the book club may move into fiction at some point.
A junior division of the book club will be launched for children aged 6-17 in April. Book recommendations – chapter books, middle grade reads, and YA nonfiction and fiction – will touch upon themes parallel to the adult book club themes, where appropriate, or else the books will address intersectionality and antiracism. Similar to the adult book club, there will be a virtual conversation each quarter with one of the authors of the recommended reads.
"Their activism isn't separate from their families," Watts said of Everytown/Moms Demand Action supporters. "Our families bring their children into the work they're doing against gun violence and this book club will enable this too. It is another way to bring our community together. I hope this [book club] creates another generation of activists."