September 9, 2020


I am pleased to announce two books for the 2020 President’s Reading Circle. The first is a novel, currently on the New York Times’ Best Sellers list and a Good Morning America Book Club selection, Brit Bennett’s “The Vanishing Half.” The second, also a novel, is Bernardine Evaristo’s “Girl, Woman, Other,” the 2019 winner of the Booker Prize, the British equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. Evaristo is the first Black woman and first Black British person to win the prestigious award.

Students who are interested in joining the President’s Reading Circle should complete the online application no later than Tuesday, Sept. 15. The Office of the President will supply the books once the participants have been chosen.

This summer, I read a half dozen different Black women authors, a truly thrilling adventure. I chose both of these books first, because I couldn’t put either down and didn’t want either to end! But also, I marveled at how skillfully each author, in her own way, probes and disrupts assumptions about race, gender identity, class and privilege.   

We ask that if you are chosen to participate in the reading circle, you attend each session. Each reading circle session is from 6 to 7:15 p.m. (EST) on the following Thursdays: Oct. 8, Oct. 22, Nov. 5 and Nov. 12 (public session).

The last of the sessions will be open to the entire Spelman community. As many know, any Spelman student from any class or major can apply for the reading circle. We choose between 12 and 15 students to participate. Our virtual gatherings will follow the same format we used for the in-person gatherings and will begin with some social time together. We traditionally had dinner together at Reynolds Cottage. In place of dinner, my office will send a box of treats to every member of the reading circle in advance of the meeting. We’ll spend 15 minutes in social time. The next 45 minutes are spent discussing the book.

In the past, we have invited the authors to join us for one or another session, if they are available. Past guests have been Ron Chernow, Alice Walker, Bryan Stevenson and Tayari Jones. Let’s hope that we can convince Bennett and Evaristo to join us for the Nov. 12 gathering.

There is a new feature this year. I am inviting the entire Spelman community to join me in reading Isabel Wilkerson’s new book, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent” over the winter break. I plan to set a date in January just before the spring semester begins for public discussions of the topic.
Once again, I thank Dean Pedescleaux, the dean of undergraduate studies, for the assistance of her office in managing the application process and the presentation of each session. Thanks, as well, to my special assistant Jarvis Ridges who has been invaluable in assisting with the details of the event.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Until then, be well.

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.
President, Spelman College


Office of the President
Phone: 404-270-5001

Fax: 404-270-5010

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