Park City’s Social Equity Book Club aims to spark community conversation
On the first Monday of the past three months, Diego Zegarra, the social equity director of the Park City Community Foundation, has led the Social Equity Book Club.
The purpose of the club, which is organized through a partnership with the Park City Library, is to spark a community conversation about social equity. The club takes its cue from the Social Equity Initiative, a Community Foundation partnership with Park City Municipal that aims to form a coalition and identify existing social equity resources and gaps, prioritize the most significant social equity needs and develop a multi-year strategic plan to address them, according to Zegarra.
“The book club started because I heard from people in the community that they wanted to talk about social equity, and what it meant to them,” he said.
The catch was keeping track of the many themes that fall under the umbrella of social equity, Zegarra said. Some of the themes he listed were inclusion, children and seniors and Latinos.
“Because there were so many subjects, conversations could have the potential to wander a bit, so I thought books would provide good frameworks to have the discussions be more focused on specific issues,” Zegarra said. “The books we have read have given people a platform to hone in on.”
This month, the club is reading “American Like Me: Reflections On a Life Between Cultures” by America Ferrera. Past books have included “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World” by Anand Giridharadas, “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood” by Trevor Noah and “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Next month’s book will be “The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism” by Naoki Higashida, Zegarra said, adding that the club is considering a book later in the year that examines the housing crisis.
Since the book club is a partnership with the Park City Library, which procures copies of the books to lend out to club members, Zegarra consults with youth services librarian Katrina Kmak and his Park City Community Foundation colleagues, community impact director Ollie Wilder and special projects manager Sarah McCarthy.
“I think the main goal is to invite folks to see things through different lenses, perhaps to learn about something that is not in the mainstream,” he said.
The discussions also try to tie the issues to Park City, according to Zegarra.
“We usually talk about the general themes that arise from reading the book, rather than discuss what actually happens in the books,” he said. “It’s not your traditional book-club format, especially when you get 21 folks that come to the table. So we break up into smaller groups, and the conversations tend to be less formal.”
Zegarra is constantly looking for ways to diversify the club’s participants.
“I like that we’re exploring themes that aren’t top of mind,” he said. “We can talk about issues that are not part of the everyday lexicon, but are just as important.
Zegarra hopes those discussions will lead to more inclusion in Park City.
“From there, we can arrive to more equitable outcomes,” he said. “We are also starting to consider films — documentaries and features — TEDx talks and other multimedia starting points moving forward.”
To maintain civil conversations, the book club has establish some rules, Zegarra said.
“These agreements are summarized as ‘listening to understand different point of views,’” he said. “Being respective is a paramount rule of the group, because we have people who bring both left- and right-leaning views to the table. And so far the conversations have been very productive.”
The Social Equity Club, which is open to all community members, is only held in English for the time being, Zegarra said, though he’s hopeful that could change in the future.
“I am trying to find ways to open up the doors for community members who speak Spanish,” he said.
The Social Equity Book Club meets at 5:30 p.m. on the first Monday of the month. This month’s venue is Hearth and Hill, 1153 Center Drive. For information or to RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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