Perhaps you have heard that Grey Havens YA is much more than a book group. While that is true, we are also very much a book group. Thinking about and talking about books is at the heart of what we do. Here is a small insight into our first year of Saturday book discussion meetings.
We are all very happy to see each other when we arrive. The first people to arrive cheer as those who come later enter the room and this continues until everyone is ready to begin. We are not sure how this tradition got started but it is great to know that you are welcome.
After what we hope are a few announcements (but, sometimes, they can go on for a while), we dive into the meeting by joining together in our “slogo.” Sonic screwdrivers, wands, lightsabers, Vulcan salutes and, of course, books are raised to the sky as one of us leads the group in Wil Wheaton’s words: “Being a nerd is not about what you love; it’s about how you love it.” Very true! We think we live this truth every time we gather together.
After the slogo, the book discussion begins. In 2014, we read and discussed J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lois Lowry’s The Giver then made a healthy start on The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. In our early days, Robyn and I facilitated these discussions but we recently began the new tradition of asking at least one middle school and one high school student to volunteer each week to help guide the conversation. While we are reading about Sherlock Holmes, these volunteers are called our “lead detectives.” One of our members came up with the clever job title. We wonder what it will be for the next book we discuss.
Our lead detectives know that, while each discussion begins and ends with the book, we often find ourselves covering deep philosophical ground. We have discussed things like the nature of consciousness and reliability of perception, the nature of good and evil, whether or not the world is becoming a better place, what we mean by words like “love,” “truth” and “beauty,” what kind of people we want to be and the roles we want to play in society. Our members are as young as eleven years old but they are able to articulate arguments that would not be out of place in a college classroom. They draw on what they know of math, science and the arts and are inspired to learn more. Opinions always vary but that is part of the beauty of Grey Havens YA.
At Grey Havens YA, we value the imagination for, among other things, the way it helps us to flesh out abstract ideas. All kinds of works of the imagination are valid topics for discussion. If Sherlock Holmes reminds someone of Mr. Spock or Gandalf brings to mind one of the incarnations of the Doctor, we welcome these observations. The more imaginative pictures we have of the universe, the more we can begin to understand. We also value the empathy that we develop as we travel alongside our favorite characters. Empathy begins in the imagination. By imagining what it is like to be someone else, we develop compassion for others which leads to mutual respect and kindness.
We try to have paper, pens, colored pencils and markers available at every meeting. Some of our members bring their own sketchbooks and journals. From these materials, have come problems to solve together, illustrations to help explain theories or demonstrate facts and lots of inspired artwork. Some of this work has found its way to this blog but it would take a long time to scan and post all of it. That is why we love to show each other what we have created and why we find every excuse we can to display our art for the world to see.
For the last half hour of each two hour meeting, we indulge in another Grey Havens YA tradition by sharing our “fandom moments” from the week. Fandom moments are all of the ways that we see ourselves and our interests reflected back to us by our culture, all of the ways that we get the message that it is a wonderful thing to be ourselves. A fandom moment might be spotting a clever Harry Potter bumper sticker, meeting someone who cried at the same moment in the story that we did or building that first deck of Magic:The Gathering cards with the help of a teacher who organizes games after school.
It is appropriate that we close out fandom moments with one more recitation of our slogo because it turns out that being a nerd is about how you love it, and think about it, talk about it, draw it, share it with your friends. It is about how what we love makes us who we are and brings us all together on Saturday afternoons and beyond!
We hope that, one day, there will be many more chapters of Grey Havens YA. We know that we have lots more meetings ahead of us. We hope the nerdiness never ends. Allons-y! Live long and prosper.
Send Us an Owl: If you attend Grey Havens YA meetings, what is your favorite part? If you were not able to be a part of the Grey Havens YA pilot group, what would it mean to you to have a group like ours where you can share the love of books and the imagination?