Joining a Book Club

Joining a Book Club

Have you hit a reading slump? Do you need to shake things up a bit? Check out the benefits of joining a book club!

Joining a book club

Book Club. The excuse for women to get together, drink wine, and take a night off from life while discussing some great literature. I’ve participated in a number of book clubs over the years and they’ve forged some of my greatest connections and conversations. It’s amazing how fast you can forge a friendship over a shared love of reading! They’ve also been my way to break the ice and find my “peeps” in new chapters of my life- moving to a new place, starting my children at a new school etc. Joining a book club can have many benefits.

If anyone follows my blog or Goodreads profile you know I’m an avid reader. And I read a variety of genres and authors. But the thing I love about Book Club is it forces me out of my comfort zone.

One of my current book clubs has what we call the “magic bag”. On the first day we got together we all tossed suggestions into the bag. Each month we choose something from the bag and that’s the book we read. Since we all come from a variety of tastes and backgrounds, we’ve read quite the gamut of books. Things I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen myself and yet enjoyed immensely.

I think it’s important to spin the wheel sometimes in our reading choices. Whether it’s by joining a book club or entering a reading challenge that’s accompanied by new book/genre choices (like a reading bingo or master list of categories, I’ve added a few for inspiration below), it’s great to shake things up. How else can we avoid those-“nothing’s grabbing me” reading moments?

What are some of your favorite ways to shake things up when you fall into a reading slump? Leave a comment below to share!

Some great Reading Challenges to try- 

https://www.girlxoxo.com/the-2022-master-list-of-reading-challenges/

https://www.beyondthebookends.com/2022-adult-summer-reading-challenge-bingo-is-back/

Looking for some other inspiration? Check out Joyana’s Book List page here!

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Labor Unions

Labor Unions

The ILGWU- it was so much more than labor protections…

Labor Unions in US History

I’m up in New York this week visiting family for two weeks. Yesterday, I got to enjoy a fantastic day in the city with my sister. We visited the Tenement Museum to start research for my next book and got to mozey around the Lower East Side. I even got to visit the Brown Building (aka the site of the Triangle Fire.) It was bittersweet to see it again after spending so much time writing about it these past few years.

One thing that really struck me as I went on this past tour and learned about the next phase of history for immigrants on the Lower East Side, was the rising role the International Ladies’ Garment Worker’s Union played for workers and their families.

When we think of labor unions. we think of the role they play in protecting workers’ rights. Negotiating fair pay and hours, protections etc. However, the ILGWU did FAR more than that.

One thing to remember was the Lower East Side of Manhattan was the Garment District. So, a large majority of residents had someone in their family working in a garment factory and therefore an affiliation with the union.

In the aftermath of the Garment Worker’s Strike and the Triangle fire in 1911 the union strengthened substantially. For one, it grew in its reach across other urban areas across the country. And as its reach and membership numbers grew, the union was able to focus on improving other quality of life issues for members and their families.

In 1913 they opened the first Union Health Center in NYC. They soon opened additional centers in other cities across the county and eventually offered mobile health centers to workers in smaller towns and rural areas. At the centers they offered dental care, check ups, and prescriptions to workers and their families.

By 1915 the union began to offer educational opportunities to its members. They offered coursework ranging from English classes to labor history classes. They partnered with high schools and colleges to offer incentives for members to earn credits and diplomas and eventually even offered scholarships for college education.

By 1919, there were even vacation getaways available in the Poconos and Catskills for families to escape busy city life.

These safety net offerings were integral to survival for many of these families. This was especially evident during the Depression era where many men were unable to find jobs and women stepped up to provide the bread-winning role and support for the family. 

It’s always interesting to me to look back in history and see how a story changed. Seeing what labor unions offered and how accepting people were of these offerings, it is difficult to imagine how far in opinion and reputation the pendulum could swing in its depiction of labor unions. How and when did that occur? And why? Fear? Slander?

It makes you wonder how fifty years from now our current times will be depicted. ..

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U.S. Immigration History

U.S. Immigration History

U.S. Immigration History

Are You Aware of our TRUE U.S. Immigration History?

If you’ve gotten a copy of The Girl From Saint Petersburg, you’ve seen I included Emma Lazarus’s famous poem, The New Colossus, in the beginning. I’ve always been intrigued by the poem. It’s welcoming, yet imposing nature. Just like the Statue itself. It’s also struck me how early the country’s split personality nature began when it comes to our acceptance of immigrants on our shores.

As a nation- most of us think of the poem’s famous lines when we think of U.S. immigration history. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We’re the Melting Pot nation, right? We had open shores and accepted everyone. Not exactly.

Our nation’s complicated welcoming/exclusionary stances go far further back than many of us realize. Immigration exclusionary proclamations began as far back as 1790. That is when Congress passed the first law dictating that only free white people of “good character” living in the U.S. for two years or longer could apply for citizenship.

The years following kept immigration in the forefront as Europeans continued to arrive. By 1849, America’s first anti-immigrant political party was formed. They drummed up support for the states to pass their own anti-immigration laws. But the Supreme Court overturned them in 1875, declaring that only the federal government could make and enforce immigration laws.

In 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed. This was the first in U.S. immigration history to place broad restrictions on a certain group. It was far from the last. By 1891, it was expanded to exclude polygamists, people convicted of certain crimes, and the sick and diseased. This was also when the Federal Office of Immigration was created along with a corps of immigration inspectors stationed at all ports of entry.

Xenophobia reached new heights at the start of the World Wars. The Immigration Act of 1917 established a literacy requirement for all immigrants and halted almost all immigration from Asian countries completely.

By May of 1924, the U.S. established a new nationality quota system. The law heavily favored Northern and Western European countries with immigrants from Great Britain, Ireland and Germany accounting for 70% of the issued visas. This was also when U.S. Border Patrol was established to crack down on illegal immigrants crossing the borders from Mexico and Canada.

The quota system remained in place until 1965 when Lyndon Johnson overturned it with a new seven-category preference system. He called the old quota system “unAmerican,” and said the new bill would correct a “cruel and enduring wrong in the conduct of the American nation.”

My last installment of Ruth’s story will take place during the time of this quota system. As I’ve begun research for it, my stomach has turned at the horrors we allowed in refusing refugees from Holocaust concentration camps etc.

I’m appreciative of Johnson’s apology, but I find myself still wondering at the complexities of our system. Are we embracing the Statue’s message? Will we ever have an immigration system that is truly equitable and fair? And most importantly, will we ever have an agreed upon definition of what it means to be an American?

Interested in more of Joyana’s articles on history? Click here to read more!