The online book club all about real history and radical politics

#BecauseWeveRead is Iranian-American blogger Hoda Katebi’s latest virtual project

When Hoda Katebi was asked in an interview with WGN in February why she doesn’t “sound American”, the Muslim blogger responded with, “That’s because I read”. This response, after going viral, was turned into everything from a cross-stitch to various memes. As of April this year, it also sparked Katebi’s latest project: a radical, virtual book club, Because We’ve Read.

The internet-based book club aims to “complicate, challenge and redefine the way you think”. Because We’ve Read explores what it means to be marginalised, and the history lessons that our schools don’t teach us. Katebi created the club after an influx of people asked her the same question: “What do you read?” Its process is simple. On the first week of every month, Katebi and her team announce the book of the moment through their newsletter and social media. They also include resources that work with the book: articles, films, excerpts – anything to complement and add meaning to the book of the month. This entire process culminates in a discussion, through Instagram live, with a different guest every month. Even better, the book club holds discussion groups and events for readers in various cities.

Speaking to Dazed about her new project, Katebi said, “During my last years at the University of Chicago, I was over-saturated in dense, dry, and static texts written predominantly by dead white men to the point where my ability to read suffered. My entire university education was framed by orientalist, distant academics who hid their unassuming Islamophobic and racist understandings of the world”. This, in part, sparked her desire to shift attention to alternative texts.

So far, the club has read books centered around the roots of colonialism, identity, and marginalisation. For example, month two kicked off with Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, which deconstructs the effects of racism and colonisation on the human mind. Right now, the club is focusing on Edward Said’s Orientalism and Covering Islam, both of which consider the West’s prejudice towards the Middle East and Islam. Each book is radical in its own right, speaking of culture, politics, gender, religion and the discrimination that comes with each. “I pick texts mostly based on what I've read that has been personally meaningful,” said Katebi. “Those (books) that centre, uplift, and celebrate the struggle and resistance of people of colour internationally.”

The club’s Instagram page, where most members engage, is alive with quotes, pictures of highlighted and annotated books, and photographs of various members doing what they love: reading. Essentially, Katebi’s goal is to make the book club “as accessible as possible”. And this intention shines through. The club saves copies for those who need one out of financial need, as well as supplying them to community organisations. Almost every book the club selects has a full PDF version online. They also host giveaways for several copies of the book.

Katebi set out to feature voices that are “traditionally systemically silenced”. The power of the club lies here, in its mission to educate and empower, while revelling in stories.

“I hope to see this project grow into a beautiful movement,” says Kotebi, “to challenge our worldviews through reading, establish intentional international solidarity, and support literacy globally.”

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