Membership is open to area teens
By Brittany Miller
Last February, Courtney Mauldin and Marcelle Haddix announced sign ups for the first cohort of Breedlove Reader, a book club meant to inspire Black girls. After its success, the pair now seek applicants for a second cohort.
Breedlove Readers is intended for girls ages 14 to 18 years old. The club’s organizers host two cohorts a year in which a new young adult novel is read every month by a group of eight to 10 girls. The club meets once a month to discuss each novel, do reflective writing exercises and create art projects.
The club tries to pick novels with themes that resonate with its young members such as harassment, body shaming, what love is and activism. This allows for deep discussions amongst the group paired with a writing exercise and the ability to respond to the text through creation of art, according to Mauldin.
In 2020, co-founders Mauldin and Haddix, both Syracuse University professors, were in a book club together. In speaking with Mauldin, Haddix wondered what young girls were doing to occupy their time during the beginning stages of COVID-19.
The two came across the PGR Foundation, which stands for Poised, Gifted and Ready. This nonprofit organization is a mentoring program for girls 6 to 18 focusing on community service and socializing through “Sister Bonding” events.
Mauldin and Haddix wanted to do something similar, so they combined their love of books with PGRs mentorship to create a book club targeted for young Black girls. Additionally, they wanted to explore current racial topics amidst the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.
When coming up with a name for the club, Mauldin recalled “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison. “We were thinking about the character Pecola Breedlove and how much she struggled to be in love with herself and be comfortable in her own skin,” she said. The idea was to reclaim the Breedlove name and also the Black name in general.
Once created, Mauldin and Haddix turned to social media to promote Breedlove Readers. “We tried to use Facebook to reach out to the parents of these girls and Instagram to reach the girls themselves,” Mauldin said. Their first cohort included seven girls and was done virtually, taking place from March to June 2021.
The group was pleased to call that cohort a success bringing in girls from as far as Ohio due to the virtual aspect of it. However, the upcoming cohort will focus on those within the Syracuse area. The goal is still to keep the numbers small, between eight to 10 girls, in order to provide all members the attention they need to participate in discussions.
In terms of their future, Mauldin and Haddix plan to start another Breedlove Readers group called Breedlove Littles, targeted towards Black girls in elementary school by the summer of 2022. “I used to teach elementary school, so this is something I’m really interested in,” Mauldin said. The pair is also thinking about holding meetings at a local library or Salt City Market, if the popularity warrants it.
The fall cohort is set to be held in person at the South Side Communication Center in Syracuse. The first meeting will take place Oct. 23 to discuss the novel “Dear Black Girl.” Author of the book Tamara Winfrey Harris will speak; this is the first time the club is welcoming an author.
For this cohort, Breedlove Readers is accepting applications through Oct. 15. To register, complete this google form. Youth may also follow the club on social media at the handle: “The Breedlove Readers.” Questions can be directed by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brittany Miller is a contributor to The Stand