A traditional book club, this isn’t. There are no flustered hosts at the Gracie Book Club: instead, it’s hosted by New York’s First Lady, Chirlane McCray, in the mayoral mansion. May 17 marked the first meeting of the Club, and the First Lady pulled up a chair with authors James Hannaham and Tanwi Nandini Islam to get into the weeds of Ms. Islam’s debut novel, Bright Lines.
The Gracie Book Club is devoted to literature straight from the streets of New York—stories that illustrate the diversity, multiculturalism, and vibrancy of the city millions call home. Set in Brooklyn and diving headfirst into themes of cultural identity, sexuality, and coming-of-age, Ms. Islam’s novel hit all the right notes to kick off the first gathering of the Club.
It wasn’t just the live event that had book lovers excited. As a book club of the 21st century, the discussion was broadcast to several public libraries, and the live stream was also available online, meaning anyone with an internet connection could take part. “It is my great pleasure to welcome everyone who is taking part in today’s conversation, whether you are here at Gracie Mansion or tuning in from your local library, your smartphone, or your home computer. If you can hear me talking, you are part of this book club,” said First Lady McCray.
Ms. Islam agreed, and thanked her fellow New Yorkers for attending. “As a New Yorker, it is absolutely surreal to think of people reading your work. I can’t believe it,” she said, before launching into an excerpt of her book.
While the fun may be over at Gracie Mansion for now, the spirit of the event lives on. Rebroadcasts will be happening at Broadway, Rochdale Village, and North Hills, and book discussions will be taking place at eight community libraries.