Bookish Things, Gym Life

Book Club Fun

The ladies at my gym, to whom we refer to as Valkyries, had been bugging me for weeks to start up a book club. I finally pulled my finger out and organised it. I chose three books for them to vote on, recorded myself talking about them (I’d only read one of the three so I used reviews to help inform me for the other two), posted a poll, we voted, we read the book, and met on the last Sunday of July. The book the ladies chose was The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin and we met at the beautiful Riverbend Books and Cafe in Bulimba. I had some notes to help prompt and direct conversation, which included things like themes, characterisation, and plot devices, but I rarely needed them. The conversation flowed beautifully and everyone become more and more confident to share their opinions as the hour flew by. At the end I had organised for Vicky, Event Manager at Riverbend, to do a book chat for us and we used that to vote on our next month’s book: Circe by Madeline Miller.

I don’t want to spend the rest of this blog post reflecting on what we talked about, but rather the impact the actual book club had on me, the Valkyries that attended, and those that were unable to make it..

For those that came:

It was interesting to see their confidence grow. Many had said before coming that they’d never been a part of a book club before and weren’t sure what was expected of them. Throughout the month they shared their reading progress and thoughts (without spoilers and wasn’t that a tough skill for them to learn!). When we caught up they made remarks such as:  “I actually finished the book, and I can’t remember the last time I actually finished a book!” During the meeting I could tell that they were taking it very seriously, but were also having fun. Opinions were respectfully shared and discussed, and I know that I learnt a lot about the women that came. It gave a real sense of community to women that tend to only hang out at the gym.

For those that couldn’t come:

There were a couple that didn’t come because they hadn’t read the book and possibly felt embarrassed. Upon learning this I made it very clear (to everyone) that not finishing the book because life gets busy is no reason to miss out if you’re able to come on the day. Book club can still be stimulating if you haven’t had the chance to read the book. Just hanging out with the women in your community is enough to spark new ideas. Others were unaware of book club and soon became interested in attending the next one! I think I’ll probably need a bigger table next time…

For myself:

It hit me, how lucky I am to be able to talk about books, read widely, and explore new ideas through fiction as part of my job. I’ve been a fully qualified Teacher Librarian for three years now and I have never really stopped to think how lucky I am as a human being. I often remark on how lucky I am to work with the beautiful students at Mount Alvernia College, and how I get to read for my job and discuss books with the students all the time. What I didn’t realise is that I was missing that element of adult connection beyond my work. Getting to share my passion for books outside of my TL job and in my gym owner role is really special. The women that participated said that they really valued being able to have intellectual conversations outside of their own workplaces, and that they loved being challenged to think deeply not only about the book itself, but why they reacted the way they did. I hadn’t realised that I had been missing this interaction and connection with adults too. I love my students, and I love their passion for books, but it’s so lovely to be able to discuss (and for me, actually read) Adult Fiction in depth and without fear of saying the wrong thing. The Valkyries do not shy away from discussing any topic, nothing is off limits, and its so freeing to be able to talk about everything with women that challenge me to be better.

So, I cannot wait for our next meeting. We’re going to try and get in at Avid Reader in West End. I’m looking forward to reading Circe and hearing what the Valkyries have to say!

krystalgagen:

I had so much fun at our @valhalla_strength_sth_bne #valkyriesbookclub at @riverbendbooks this morning! I often forget how privileged I am to be able to read widely and talk about books daily. So grateful to be able to share that experience with my beautiful Valkyries. We voted for Circe next month and I’m super excited.

I asked the Valkyries for some selfies with their books and here are my examples that I gave them for inspiration 😂 Grumpy face was a tester because I was struggling with the steadiness of my hand 😂

#gagensreads#adventuresoftheliftinglibrarian

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Bookish Things, Education, Thoughts

Role Models: Part One

Over the past two weeks I have spent some time at home recovering from an ankle reconstruction and I often found myself thinking about roles models. This came about because of the type of books I’ve been reading, the TV shows I’ve been watching, some of my interactions with our gym members, and what I wanted to say for International Women’s Day this year. In this blog post “Role Models: Part One” I want to talk about Fictional Role Models, and in “Role Models: Part Two” I’ll discuss Real-Life Role Models.

On International Women’s Day (IWD) this year I took my time thinking about the message that I wanted to share within my spheres of influence. I ended up sharing about the importance of role models for women. To that end, my Instagram post ended up being this:

krystalgagen: I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I wanted to post for International Women’s Day this year, and then it hit me: books by women, for women. I started going through my personal library for my favourite books and I realised just how many I had (this is not all of them…)

It’s so important to have great role models. Women NEED to see other women succeeding in a wide variety of positions so that they have the confidence to know they can do it too. Books are a great way to give girls confidence.

So, happy International Women’s Day. Celebrate the women in your life, recognise their achievements, and empower them to give anything they want a go.

Here’s to strong women.
May we know them. ❤️
May we raise them. ❤️
May we be them. ❤️

PS. Although Grant is not a female author, his characters were too good to leave out… Amazing role models regardless.

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As I pointed out, fictional role models can often take the place of real-life role models, and I think they are equally as important. Here’s why…

I never had a lot of female role models during my teens and early twenties. My mum was my main role model, and my grandmas, but other than that I was limited to teachers. Our family is close and I didn’t get to watch my parents interact with many adult women who weren’t related to me and I certainly never got the opportunity to find a female mentor during my years of development. My favourite teachers in high school were often males and although they were awesome (so knowledgeable and passionate about their subjects), they were still men. I’m in my late 20s now and I’d say that I still don’t have a definitive role model – some of my friends are fantastic influences on me, but I often find myself searching for guidance. When I was growing up, books taught me all I needed to become the person I am today, and I still find inspiration in characters for self growth. Without these books, I would not have had the opportunity to develop my sense of self, and discover who I am today.

There were two series in particular that I feel really shaped who I am today: Harry Potter by JK Rowling, and Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce. Both written by women with strong female characters. Here’s what I learned from these two series:

Hermione in Harry Potter
Hermione taught me that it was ok to be smart. I didn’t need to pretend I wasn’t just to have friends in my corner. Her brains and her kindness are just two of the things I love about Hermione. I know that I personally, as 7 year old girl that was told she was “bossy,” needed Hermione to show me that I wasn’t bossy, but rather I was smart, had great leadership skills, and could still have friends.

Alanna in Song of the Lioness
Alana taught me that girls didn’t have to do “girly” things. Alana wanted to be a knight and she worked hard to get there. She taught me that if I truly wanted something, I would need resilience, courage, and to know that even though some people might disagree with me, if I wanted something badly enough I could make it happen.

I don’t remember there being an abundance of novels available to me that had strong female characters as I grew up. These two series are the only two that really stand out in my mind. And so, this got me thinking about how amazing it is that these days there are a number of books with strong female characters, and what that means for the current generation and future generations.

The books pictured in my Instagram post for IWD 2018 have female characters that:

  • Specialise in technology and are often even better at it than the boys
  • Fight wars for their countries because they love their country
  • Make decisions about their futures based on what they want to do, not on what they are told to do – in fact, often these two things are opposites.
  • Show compassion and kindness, and have it seen as a strength, not a weakness

By reading books with strong female characters that exhibit these characteristics and more, girls, teens, young women, and women are exposed to a range of characters that show them what women are capable of. By having these fictional role models, we can see what women can do if given the chance.

I will continue to read books that have strong female characters, and I will continue to recommend these books to my students, both male and female! However, I will also continue to find and read books with strong male characters as well, because it’s a two way street. Overall, the power of fictional role models is something that I truly believe in. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!