By Steph Ormond
In light of its successful debut at this year’s Freshers’ Fair, Interview discussed the inspiration behind DU Book Club and the overall love for literature with its two presidents: Seye Alaran, an Environmental Geoscience student from Josephine Butler and Kimberly Chitifa, a Law student from Trevelyan. Both of whom are in their second year.
Q. When did starting DU Book Club first come to mind and, why did you decide to start it?
A. Seye: We planned an event when we were partnered up for one of Durham University’s summer school outreach programmes. Due to the pandemic, it was online and that was how we first talked to each other. The idea was that we would hold different sessions where the students would meet each other personally and mingle. After all, being online is a bit harder if you do not have structured socialising hangouts. Since we were assigned to work together over the summer and got on really well, we thought that maybe we should make this a thing. At one point, other students did ask if there was a book club. So, when we realised that there was no central book club already, we decided to meet in person to set one up. So, it just really grew from there.
Q. Since Durham is known to have many humanities students, was it surprising to you that it has taken so long for a centralised book club to exist?
A. Kimberly: That was a repeated point made to us at the Freshers’ Fair. For example: “I didn’t know this existed…”, and “there wasn’t one before…”, were things we frequently heard. Essentially, we are also offering other students the chance to join a uni-wide book club so people from different colleges can gather together.
Q. What are you planning for this term regarding activities and socials?
A. Seye: We have had to change rooms since the room we were using initially is now grossly undersized for our membership. Also, our proposed reading lists are broad, enabling us to cater to different interests. Many people don’t strictly have specific genres they read. Instead, they are open to reading different types of books. A fun part of being in a book club is that you can read books that you might not have ordinarily read and still enjoy anyway. One of our proposed social event plans would be books and brunch. Food and drink with books go very well together. We are just playing with that socialising around books idea since we are in the early stages.
Q. What are your favourite books?
A. Kimberly: One that I read recently in my reading life was a thriller called Here and Gone by Haylen Beck (aka. Stuart Neville). This book is one of my favourites since it is certainly different to what I usually read. I like thriller movies but I was worried that the books would be slow. However, there was outstanding writing and a breath-taking storyline. In terms of the grand scheme of things, I prefer dystopian novels such as The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood, 1984 by George Orwell – the lot of them.
A. Seye: I like non-fiction and re-readable books. One of my favourites is by Maya Angelou, a well-known writer, and it is Letter to My Daughter. Still, I would not say that it is my favourite book since I cannot quite pick a book that I like the most, but it is up there. The premise of the book is about letters to women who Angelou considers her daughters. It is packed full of advice and written from the perspectives of numerous life experiences that she had. So, you are learning even more about her since many of her books are autobiographical. Likewise, you are taught all sorts of life lessons. That’s one I do like to re-read now and again.
Q. If you could have lunch with either a character or an author from a fiction book, who would that be?
A. Kimberly: Christopher from the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. He is a misunderstood character. He has Autism, is highly intelligent, good at maths and science, and uniquely sees the world. His character showcases a different perspective which is something that you might not have been exposed to before. We are also trying to expose people to different perspectives in DU Book Club. Such as those from someone within the LGBTQ+ community or people with disabilities.
A. Seye: I would have to say, James Baldwin. I love his beautiful and poetic writing style. Many of his books focus on African American characters – I’m not American but, the African bit I can get with. Therefore, it’s good to see writers or characters who are similar to you, along with storylines that you can identify with. I would love to hear the way he thinks – if he was still alive.
Illustration: Anna Kuptsova