Start a Book and/or Film Discussion Group
I’m happy to have helped organize two dozen LGBTQ+ Literature and Film discussion groups, during the early years of this site, in Canada and the US, Latin America, the UK, Europe, and Australia. Hope this resource will be useful for your group!
- HAVE FUN! Keep your group simply organized, friendly, and preferably free. There’s nothing like the lively sharing of opinions and information, and making new friends!
- ORGANIZING: First, decide whether you want to discuss books, films, or both. (Of course, your group can focus on any topic.) Around a dozen participants is manageable if you’re meeting for an hour or an hour and a half, but your group can be any size that works for you. The person/people who begin the group should establish ground rules. An organizer/facilitator can help everyone feel welcome, valued, and heard. Diverse opinions, from all perspectives, are the heart of your group. If any conflicts ever arise (they may not), the priority should be what’s best for the group as a whole. Prima donnas are for opera stages [smile].
- PUBLICIZING: Inform friends and members of your other organizations, about the new group. Also spread the word using social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc. Name your group, perhaps including the phrase LGBTQ+ Book [or Film] Club.
- SCHEDULING: Decide among interested people what schedule works best. Keep the same day and time each month, while accounting for holidays.
- MEETING, AND WELCOMING DIVERSE VIEWPOINTS: Will you meet online, in-person, or an alternation of both? The Covid pandemic has forced many groups to meet online, but that’s also provided an opportunity to increase diversity. With, for example, Zoom meetings, you can welcome members from anywhere, across the street or across the globe. NOTE that with Zoom’s free version, if your allotted time (currently 40 minutes) runs out, simply re-start the discussion by having everyone sign back in – just takes a few seconds. Also, maybe two-thirds through your discussion, consider pausing, and inviting anyone who hasn’t spoken yet (some people are shy) to share their opinions.
- SELECTING: Encourage people to nominate a favorite book or film, for the next discussion or two. Diversity is important, and that’s a hallmark of the millennia-spanning LGBTQ+ tradition, that includes all types of fiction (classic and contemporary, general, science fiction, suspense, adventure, romance, humor, more), non-fiction (history, memoir, biography, current events, the sciences), drama, and poetry. Consider connecting your selection to a Heritage Month (Library of Congress list): February commemorates Black History, March for Women’s History, May for both Jewish-Americans and for Asian-Pacific Heritage, June is LGBTQ+ Pride, September is Latinx/Hispanic Heritage, November for Native Americans, and more (not every month has a Heritage theme). For manageability, consider limiting nominations to one book (or film) per member per month. If a recommendation isn’t selected, they can continue nominating it. That will give people time to explore recommended books (for example, using Amazon’s “Look inside” feature, found in the upper left corner for every title in print). Also, each member can post their own complete list of recommended titles, perhaps through a group newsletter. Or they can share the link to a personal website (free web pages are available – I’m not endorsing any platform – but be sure it’s not just a limited-time free trial.)
- CRITERIA: Consider a mix of classic and contemporary works. LGBTQ+ literature spans 5,000 years, and its themes –including self-identity, empowerment, resistance, and love – are timeless. For example, Walt Whitman feels more urgent than ever, with the exuberant inclusiveness of his epic autobiographical poetry, Leaves of Grass [free online].
- GETTING BOOKS OR FILMS: Have the group vote for the book and/or movie to discuss. You can check out books, and films, from your local library, download free public domain works via links throughout this site or use the Online Books Page (over three million titles), or buy them from a local bookseller or retailer. Using my Amazon Associate link – at the bottom left of every page of this site – for any purchase, helps support this site at no additional cost to you: Thanks! Sources for free movies online include Tubi, IMDbTV, Crackle, YouTube Movies Free With Ads, Vudu Movies Free With Ads, Plex, Pluto, silent era classics via this site, or do a search.
- FICTION & FILM: You can have amazing ‘cross-fertilizing’ discussions with a Fiction & Film Group. At the LGBTQ+ group that used to meet in NYC, we’d all read a book in advance, then together watch the film version, and have a discussion of both, along with a friendly potluck dinner (less expensive, and more personal, than ordering out). Check the legality for your country, but typically watching a movie with family or friends, in a private home, does not constitute a “public performance” for which you would have to pay the right’s holder.
- FREE: Ideally, participants would not have to pay any fee. Times are tough all over. As a cost-saving measure, and if it follows pandemic guidelines, meet at a member’s home (so no facility rental). Share a pot luck meal. People can bring their favorite dish (that fits their personal budget), and that can also be a good conversation starter. Maybe have a group discussion and meal during a Zoom meeting; you can always share recipes [smile]!
- FILM PARTIES: If you meet online, some streaming services (including Netflix Party and Amazon Prime Video Watch Party) let you view — and share comments during — a movie simultaneously with a group, so long as everyone subscribes. Instead of using text-based chat, some people enjoy a simultaneous phone conversation (so long as the group’s viewing remains in synch: coordinate when you all pause).
- GROUP RESOURCES: Whether meeting in-person or online, consider a shared resource for members, such as a Facebook Group or a Google Group. Then people can continue the discussion by posting their latest thoughts, sharing resources (such as personal favorites lists), and announcing upcoming discussions. All the best to you & your group! HAVE FUN!!
Website begun 1997 / Updated February 17, 2021