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Bringing People Together With Books, In Cleveland And Beyond

With Jane Clayson

A novel idea that started in Cleveland to bringing people together through book clubs. It’s gone global.



Christopher Johnston, Cleveland-based journalist and author. (@seechriswrite)

Mary Barrett, 18-year-old poet, dancer and student educator. Assistant to the executive artistic director for Twelve Literary Arts, and current artistic director of Six of Twelve, Twelve Literary Arts’ youth performance poetry ensemble.

Daniel Gray-Kontar, poet, teacher, youth mentor, rapper and executive artistic director for Twelve Literary Arts, a nonprofit organization that fosters poets, playwrights and rappers of color.

Ann Kowal Smith, executive director of Books @ Work, a nonprofit that holds reading clubs in workplaces run by literature professors.

From The Reading List

The Christian Science Monitor: “Cleveland uses literature to empower youth, overcome social divides” — “Many cities have nurtured book clubs and literacy initiatives to build and bind communities. Cleveland stands out for its ambition and scope in using literature to empower marginalized groups, foster economic dynamism, and bridge social divides. From veterans groups and workplace book discussions, to female-student literacy and an annual book prize, Cleveland is increasingly finding new ways to connect its diverse population over fiction and verse.”

St. Louis Public Radio: “Black bookstore working to build community, celebrates third anniversary” — “Eyeseeme African American Children’s Bookstore in University City became an internet sensation by association thanks to a visit to the store by Sidney Keys III and his mother, Winnie Caldwell. About a year and a half ago, she posted a video of him reading a book in the store that went viral. He was inspired by his visit to start Books N Bros book club, which caught the attention of CNN (which recognized him as a “Young Wonder” as part of the 11th annual CNN Heroes), Steve Harvey, Oprah Winfrey and many others.”

At one time, Cleveland was home to the literary greats Langston Hughes and Toni Morrison. But a new wave of artists in Cleveland is making sure a rich literary tradition continues. They’ve started book clubs in the workplace, poetry nights at breweries and organizations to help minority youth develop their creative voices. Those ideas are spreading around the world.

This hour, On Point: Novel literary ideas from Cleveland.

— Jane Clayson

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