Forget any notions that may exist about Mount Airy’s Plaid Cloth Literary Society being stodgy, bland conversation in some Victorian drawing room. Think of it more in the terms of a scene where a good book was discussed on “Designing Women.”
According to society spokesperson Emma Jean Tucker, more than two years ago a couple of members hit upon the idea of starting a book club and began meeting at Pages Book Store in Mount Airy. Club Member Cheryl Yellow Fan Scott suggested the cloth metaphor, perhaps a red cloth society.
“Plaid seemed the right choice because the group is woven of many different types of threads, just like us,” said member Candace Sammons.
Society member Bettye Barrett explained the idea for the society really seemed to gel when the group hosted the national African American Read-In, which was sponsored by the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. She said the society highly values the diversity represented in its membership, which also includes men.
The informal meetings from the beginning have sought to allow discussion and appreciation of varied genres of books as it has the many different personalities of the society. Barrett explained from the first meetings the society wanted to do something for the community through book giveaways to children and collecting books for the city library.
These commitments continue to this day with the society. The group donated books to Jones School last year to 118 children.
“Each one of books had their (the children’s ) name in it and they were able to choose their book,” said Sammons.
According to society member Pat Gwyn the informal group meets every second Wednesday at the museum. She said attendance ranges from 10 to 12 persons.
“We would certainly welcome more,” said Gwyn. “The club has taken on its own personality.” She said each society member gets to choose a book and lead the weekly discussions. For instance, the current book discussed by the society is “An Invisible Thread” by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski.
Other books the group has discussed include “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett, “The Warmth of Other Suns,” works by Sharyn McCrumb and the “Snow Flower and Secret Fan” by Lisa See.
Think about it like any discussion heard regularly about a news story or a movie where those involved get to be a group which supports everyone getting to share what they liked or didn’t like about a book. The members agreed conversations naturally become relaxed discussions, not scholarly criticism.
“We love books but we realize and appreciate that not everyone talking about one will agree with each other,” said Tucker.
Everyone interviewed said the core of what makes the discussion exciting and engaging is persons sharing a love of reading. They said not everyone gets the same thing out of a group.
Member Doris Surratt said the club has proved invaluable for her work at the library. She said when asked to recommend a book by a library patron, she now draws on a lot of the conversations she’s had at society meetings and asks them what they’ve liked in the past.
“My daughters got mad at me once because we went to an appointment to a physician who is a reader,” said Sammons. “He shared reading lists with me but they got prescriptions.”
There is no charge to participate in the group but donations are accepted and go towards supplying books to local children in the Head Start Program. Tucker said the society supplies the books to children in different schools at the beginning of the year. Meetings often include lunch and generally run an hour but members can leave earlier if they wish.
Already, the group is planning to again host the African American Read-In day in February at the museum. The group meets in the second floor conference room of the museum. The read-in is a national event held as part of Black History Month. Information provided by members indicates more than a million readers since 1990 have gathered nationally and internationally to participate in the event.
The goal of the event is to make the celebration of African American literacy a traditional part of the history month activities. Typically works celebrated at the read-in are from African American authors.
Persons wanting more information may contact the Mount Airy Regional Museum of History at 786-4478.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or at 719-1952.