“I was on the Broomfield Library Board for a while. That is how much I love books.”
Anyone who was ever part of a book club knows that it is not only about the books. Of course, the books are important because this is the glue that brings the club together, but peel the symbolic cover back, and many stories unfold. This is because a book club is also about the people, their experiences and perspectives both inside and outside the group. Amy Petri Beard, an expert reader, knows this. And in this month’s Outside the Law column, she invites CWBA members into the discussions—and into the stories—of the club’s books.
Amy is someone who is constantly reading several books simultaneously. Interestingly, she was drawn to book clubs about 15-20 years ago. She and her neighbor started their own book club reading non-fiction books. The fun chats with someone else about the same book sparked Amy’s passion for creating a few other book clubs before she led the initiative for the CWBA Book Club.
After starting her neighborhood book club, Amy transitioned to creating one at her office where they began reading fiction books, but transitioned to personal development books. This book club eventually died because she moved to a satellite office.
When asked how the CWBA book club was created, Amy replied,
“Shortly after George Floyd was murdered, I remember seeing a Facebook post from a friend (another CWBA member) about a book she wanted to read (I think it was White Fragility by Robin Diangelo). I replied and said I would love to read it and chat about it as well. Veronique Van Gheem (one of the then Publications Committee Co-Chairs) commented on my comment saying I should do a CWBA book club for CWBA members. I must have said that sounded like a great idea because the next thing I know, we (Veronique, Carime, myself, and Kim, I believe) set up an informal meeting about what a CWBA book club would look like. They liked my pitch and that’s how we kicked it off.”
Since the beginning, the goal of the book club has been to meet the moment.
Pictured: Amy at a previous book club meeting where members discussed The New Jim Crowe. In honor of the discussion topics, Amy’s shirt displayed a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Amy collaborates with CWBA Executive Director Kim Sporrer and together they select books written by female authors that educate or inspire in order to further our understanding of history. According to Amy, her goal with the book club “is to select books that challenge our thinking and aid in our shared desire to grow as people and attorneys.” Because the book club is held every other month, Amy felt like the group was going to miss an opportunity for June’s pride month. So, the August selection is two-fold: a landmark civil rights case about gay marriage that also highlights the first female Colorado Supreme Court Justice. Other previous selections include several books based on “awareness month,” with one selection based on leadership.
The next book: Appealing for Justice: One Lawyer, Four Decades, and the Landmark Gay Rights Case: Romer v. Evans
By: Susan Berry Casey
What type of commitment does joining the book club involve?
APB: “I will never turn away someone who did not finish the book by our meeting date. This is because, for me, Book Club is about being mindful of other peoples’ time outside the office. For this reason, we select books that are reasonable as far as page numbers go to make sure participants are able to prepare for meetings.
Members who want to participate should know Book Club is a judgment-free zone. It is designed as a way to gather and share insights. My goal for participants is to help folks dig deep and be open to differing opinions. These insights may come from our various roles as a leader, mom, sister, or attorney.”
Choosing curiosity before judgment seems like what participating in the book club is all about.
What are your big picture plans for the book club?
APB: “We really want to make a book club that members find value in. Right now, I would love to drive up participation. Even if people are not reading the book, having members participate in the discussion (for example, as fly on the wall) can add a lot of value."
While the book club is considering holding meetings in person and virtually, Amy finds many benefits in having the book club held online.
APB: “I like virtual because it allows us to include members statewide. Female attorneys have full-time careers and run households, need to get to after school activities and other obligations. I want to be able to find a time and place that works with everyone’s schedules.”
What have been the two of the book club’s most impactful books for you?
APB: “Dare to Lead by Brené Brown because it contains so many golden nuggets involving leadership, and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. As a prosecutor, The New Jim Crow was very impactful on how I view my role in the justice system.
Several years ago, my colleague did a sentencing argument for a young Black male. This man had multiple convictions for resisting arrest and obstruction of justice. Afterwards, my colleague and I had a discussion about why his criminal history was the way it was. It's like this young man grew up learning to fear law enforcement. Perhaps a family member had a negative experience with police and the young man now associates all law enforcement with that lens. Instead of being subjected to physical or verbal assaults, people who fear law enforcement often run. The New Jim Crow provided important historical background about how our justice system was designed.”
And the added bonus is members can participate in their pajamas and with a glass of bubbly in their hands, which creates a space for comfort and convenience.
The book club has an open door policy with respect to book recommendations or other suggestions involving meetings, membership, or anything else. Drop her a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
To join the discussion—or quietly explore some fantastic non-fiction book selection—here is the link for The 1891 Book Club: https://www.the1891-cwba.org/book-club.
Amy Petri Beard is employed with the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office as a Senior Deputy District Attorney. She is currently assigned to the narcotics unit. She is a 2016 graduate of the Colorado Bar Association’s Leadership Training Program (COBALT), on the Colorado Bar Association’s High School Mock Trial Committee, is a member of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association, and is one of the Adams / Broomfield Bar Association’s representatives for the Colorado Bar Association Board of Governors. She is a graduate of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
Hanna Yearout currently works as a legal assistant for Ogborn Mihm, LLP and 2L University of Denver Sturm College of Law. She obtained her bachelors degree in Economics from the University of Colorado - Boulder. During her undergraduate studies she attended the School of International Training in Geneva, Switzerland where her thesis was "Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict: Consequences of a Pervasive Yet Invisible Reality." On her free time, Hanna also actively serve as a Wish Granter for Make-A-Wish Colorado, visiting with wish kids to help determine his or her one true wish and working with wish families throughout the wish process.