For Katiuscia Gray, it was a perfect evening: 21 women with mimosas in one hand and the book “My Sister, the Serial Killer” in the other.
This was the third meeting of a book group that Gray, 43, of Malverne, formed after posting the idea on the Black Long Island Facebook page — she says she was stunned when more than 200 women of color wanted to join, either commenting on her post or messaging her directly.
“It has really taken off like crazy. To the point where it gave me so much anxiety,” Gray jokes. “I was like, ‘What am I going to do with 200 women? That’s a wedding.’”
Gray closed the membership at about 50 to keep it manageable, and the group meets once a month at a restaurant or more informal potluck gathering at a public library. While the women aren’t required to be of any specific race or ethnicity to join, at this point all are women of color, Gray says, and the authors they’ve read have been as well.
Member Natasha Parker, 44, a nurse and mother of four from Baldwin, says that’s one of the great things about the club. “It makes you realize there are so many African American women writers,” Parker says. At the end of each meeting, the women toss out suggestions for the next book to read and then they vote for a winner. “Even if we don’t vote on that book, I’ll make a mental note, and if we don’t read it as a group, I’ll read it myself,” Parker says.
The group's inaugural meeting was centered on “The Wedding Date” by Jasmine Guillory, a lighter novel about an African American pediatric oncologist who asks a mayor’s chief of staff to accompany him to his ex-girlfriend’s wedding after bumping into her in an elevator. Then came the weightier “Kindred” by Octavia Butler, about a modern African American woman who time travels to the days of slavery in the antebellum South.
More recently, club members discussed Oyinkan Braithwaite's "My Sister, the Serial Killer” over dinner at Red Velvet in Baldwin and "I Almost Forgot About You” by Terry McMillan, on a recent Sunday at the Massapequa Public Library.
Gray started the club because she was facing a new chapter in her own life. A social worker in private practice and the mom of two teenagers, she was going through a divorce and feeling sad. She says her therapist suggested she make a list of what used to make her happy. On that list: Books.
Gray thought she would see if other women missed reading as well. The response answered more than just that question, she says. It showed her that women want to make connections with each other, which is what she yearned for as well. “It’s all about the sisterhood and women making friends as we get older. I want us to talk personally and intimately,” Gray says.
So far, that’s what’s happened. The women are starting to socialize outside of the book group; Gray and another woman she met through the group did a bubble run together; another few members attended a candle-making workshop.
Debra Lee, 43, a social worker from Massapequa, says she joined the club to embrace another hobby in addition to her favorite hobby of traveling. “This book club is a blessing, because at times it’s a struggle to find people who you can share your interests with,” Lee says. “We’re becoming an extended family. It’s like we’ve known each other for a long time.”