Santa Barbara Public Library is partnering with local organizations and leaders as part of the library’s Book to Action programming, designed to inspire the community to read and discuss a book around important themes, then take action to address community issues. This year’s featured title is The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom, and the book discussion and related events will explore family history, environmental impacts on place and people, racial justice, housing insecurity, community investment/divestment, and what all of these mean for Black and marginalized communities, and specifically, Black women.
Winner of the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction, The Yellow House invites readers into a social history of a place and a family. Both a memoir and a family history, the book reminds us, as Lauren Le Blanc states in The Atlantic, that “while memoir is often pigeonholed as subjective and emotional, the genre is a genuine entry point for history: Collective historical narratives are drawn from individual experiences.” Broom brings forward the individual experiences of herself, her family, and her neighbors to provide a beautiful and poignant narrative of the Black experience in America. Intertwined with these personal histories exists the Yellow House itself, which, as it deteriorates and then disappears, provides an allegory to the various ways in which America has failed its Black communities.
This year’s Book to Action Keynote will be on Tuesday, April 6 at 5:30 pm and features a conversation with Drs. Stephanie Batiste and Felice Blake from the UCSB English Department. This event will explore the myriad themes of The Yellow House from both literary and social justice perspectives by looking at what it means for the Black subject to speak the self and share that experience and the idea of representing an embodied experience through text. As Broom asks in the book, “Who has the rights to the story of a place?” Free community copies of The Yellow House will be available on a first come, first served basis for those who register for this event.
In addition to the Book to Action Keynote talk, the community is invited to a number of events to further engage and take action around the themes of The Yellow House. These events range from a memoir as poetry workshop with previous Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Sojourner Kincaid to creating a community asset map with partner CAUSE to a genealogy-themed panel with local Black families and the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society. All events are free and open to the public, registration required to receive the link to join. Registration and details are available for the following events, and more will be finalized in the coming weeks:
Tuesday, March 30, 5:30 - 6:30 PM
Memoir to Poem: The Poetry of a Place, Workshop, led by Poet Laureate Sojourner Kincaid
Saturday, April 3, 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
TED & Joe in the Morning: What does home mean?, led by SBPL Librarian Jen Lemberger
Friday, April 9, 9:30 - 10:30 AM
Research Justice and Documenting Our Stories, led by researcher, librarian, and zinester Des Alaniz
Saturday, April 17, 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Social Justice Book Club, The Yellow House discussion, co-moderated by Librarian Jen Lemberger and Associate Professors of English Dr. Felice Blake and Dr. Stephanie Batiste
Thursday, April 22, 5:45 - 6:45 PM
Memoir to Poem: The Poetry of a Place, Public Reading of workshop participants
Saturday, April 24, 10:00 - 11:15 AM
Local African American Life, Culture, and Contributions, 1890-1990, panel discussion with the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society
Friday, April 30, 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
Community Investment and Housing, panel discussion with CAUSE
Early May, TBA
Finding John Lee: A Black Family Story, led by Genealogist Nicka Sewell-Smith
Monday, May 10, 5:30 - 6:30 PM
Santa Barbara Public Library is thankful to community partners who helped contribute to the formation of the Book to Action programming, whether through their input and/or partnered implementation: Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), Des Alaniz, City of Santa Barbara Former Poet Laureate Sojourner Kincaid-Rolle, Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society, Santa Barbara Rental Housing Roundtable, UCSB Associate Professor of English Dr. Felice Blake, and UCSB Associate Professor of English Dr. Stephanie Batiste.
About Book to Action
Book to Action is a program framework that takes the basic book club concept and expands it to create a dynamic series of events for adults and multigenerational groups. Librarians work closely with community partners in engaging community members to read and discuss a book on a current topic, attend author or speaker events, and put their new-found knowledge into action by participating in a community service project or civic engagement activity related to the book.
In 2021, 35 library jurisdictions were selected by California Center for the Book to create a Book to Action series. California Center for the Book is a program of the California Library Association, supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.