By Julianna Joyce Perkins


In the midst of technology and on-line living, an age-old trend continues to flourish. This is a hands-on, mind-to-mind, heart-to-heart trend. A trend that reminds us that creativity, communication, and connectedness - the core of humanity - will not die. That trend is people gathering in reading groups.

Across the nation more and more women are finding that reading groups carry an experience that cannot be achieved in any other manner. These women congregate in bookstores, libraries, coffeehouses, and each other's homes. They find that much more than the discussion of books takes place. The stimulation of their probing, discerning and sharing has brought them into a union of shared intellect, heart, and spirit. They are growing as unique individuals within a community of others who celebrate their uniqueness.

Recently I had an opportunity to experience this first hand in a situation that brought me face to face with a full-circle experience of this trend.

Author Vicki León was on tour with her latest book, UPPITY WOMEN OF MEDIEVAL TIMES. I had the privilege of having her as my house guest for a few days; and I had the experience of accompanying her at her book signings.

One bookstore in particular is a shining example of the impact reading groups can have on the members. The Women¹s Room at the Frugal Frigate in Redlands, California had invited Vicki to speak to their group. This group started nine years ago. It has had so much impact on the community, that one woman, Joan Koerper, based her doctoral dissertation on the changes and growth that the women have achieved. The Heritage Room of the local library has even included it among its collection of the highlights of the city.

Katherine Thomerson, a schoolteacher, started the Frugal Frigate, a children¹s bookstore. She placed a small bookshelf by the front door to offer some adult books that she felt women might find interesting. The bookshelf grew and grew and the Frugal Frigate now has a large adjoining room that is filled with books by, about, and for women. Katherine¹s friend and book lover, Ann Smith, runs the warm and welcoming sanctuary.

Vicki stood before this diverse group of women and men with her book in her hand. The members sat before her, their copies with them. It is a powerful event when author meets reader. Vicki had poured years of research, energy and self into her book. The readers had opened their minds to Vicki and to each other. The result was a connection between them that reached back in time to the women of long ago highlighted by the book. As I sat listening to the sharing, the questions and answers, the commemoration of the lives of the medieval women, I was in awe at the atmosphere. There before me was living proof that we have the ability to care and change and make the world a nurturing place of harmony and growth. The power bounced from person to person. The catalyst was the book; the strength was in the people themselves.

After the presentation, as Vicki signed her books, the rest of us mingled, chatted, ate cookies and exchanged phone numbers. On the drive home, Vicki and I marveled at the wonderful experience we had shared. She was as affected and moved by the group as they were by her.

Just when it seemed that books would fall to the wayside as an archaic artifact - plunging beneath the popularity of the electronic age, books have proven their worth, and women have proven their staying power.

I would encourage you to experience this unique phenomenon. Call a local bookstore or maybe just a group of friends and enter the world of books.

As an afternote, Vicki contacted me recently. This last part of her trip put over 5,000 miles on her car, and introduced her to literally thousands of people. Many of the bookstores had more than just a book signing. They had Vicki speak to their groups. She told me the encounters could never be duplicated. I understand what she meant. My adventure with Vicki and the Women's Room is an experience I've not had elsewhere. And it's an event I hope I'll have the opportunity to participate in again, soon - with a good book, a cup of herbal tea, and people like you to share it with. Will you join me?

The Women's Room at the Frugal Frigate is located at 9 North 6th Street Redlands, CA 92373, or call (909) 793-0740.


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