Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe’s first book club meeting discussed racism toward black Americans.
Poe, who was elected to the position in March, announced the book club in July. The first meeting Monday at the Alachua County Headquarters Library was attended by maybe 80 people and centered around its first book, “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
The book, which won the Pulitzer Prize, tells of challenges black Americans face.
Poe said he chose to kickoff his book club with such a heavy topic because he felt it was relevant to Gainesville, just as much as anywhere else.
“You don’t solve problems by ignoring them,” he said. “You solve them by acknowledging they exist.”
Attendee and Gainesville resident Yvette Carter said she wanted to come to the meeting to represent her demographic of black American women. She called Coates’ book “a hard read.”
“It had me think back to my childhood a lot,” Carter said. “It had me think about my three boys a lot, and my two daughters.”
Attendee Chuck Pickeral, director of operations for the School of Music at the University of Florida, said he found the book difficult to relate to.
“It’s a little hard for me to critique the book in a sense because [Coates’] experience is obviously different than mine,” Pickeral said.
To help start a discussion, Poe had a panel of three people — Lance Gravlee, James Lawrence and Hazel Levy — answer questions and give their take on the book. At the end, people were encouraged to ask any questions.
Poe said he hasn’t decided yet what the next book will be for the club but hopes to eventually pick one that younger people can relate to.
“They’re not all going to be things as heavy and important as racism,” he said. “We’re going to talk about how do we make great cities, how do we live in our communities in a really positive and enriching way.”