Librarians Begin Roukema Center Affiliated Book Club

Photo courtesy of David Clarke, Wikipedia

As Ramapo continues to celebrate its year of Sub-Saharan Africa, a newly founded book club has made several selections to give students the opportunity to learn about the area. Katie Cohen and Sam Wittenberg, both librarians in the Potter Library and members of the International Education Committee, started this book club to focus on the same region as the Roukema Center each year.

“Its support for the Roukema Center and the year that they’re running to maybe give people a little more context if they go to other events,” said Wittenberg, System and Web Development Librarian.

This semester, the book club read "Dreams in a Time of War: A Childhood Memoir" and "Weep Not, Child," a memoir and novel respectively, both written by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o and set in Kenya.

“I definitely feel like from this past session I’ve learned a lot about Kenya in particular and some of the history there,” said Wittenberg.

For the spring semester, they have selected "Nervous Conditions" by Tsitsi Dangarembga, a novel about a teenage girl and her British-educated cousin coming of age in colonial Rhodesia, or current day Zimbabwe, during the 1960s.

“It deals a lot with the topic of education and how certain people get an education in colonial Africa. So, I think it’ll be interesting to see if it’s equal with a woman and do they have as much opportunity compared to the men in the other books,” said Cohen, Interlibrary Loan, Reference and Instruction Librarian, who read the book herself when she was in college.

The book club will meet several times over the course of the Spring semester to discuss the book in sections. Students can stop by the Potter Library Atrium on Tuesday, Dec. 6 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and on Thursday, Dec. 8 from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. to sign up.

The club is offering 30 free copies of the book provided by the Roukema Center and the Center for Student Involvement on a first-come first-served basis. Several other library copies of the book are also available for students to use.

“I like students to learn about and respect different cultures. I think Africa is an area of the world that isn’t talked about a lot in history classes or any kind of classes,” said Cohen.

“I like them to get exposed to different cultures and areas of the world that they have never learned about or maybe they’ll never get to go to,” Cohen concluded, “or maybe they will want to go there one day after reading these books.”

Students who are interested in joining the book club can email Cohen at or stop by the Potter Library circulation desk at any time.