Fordham Book Club Hopes to Connect Students to The Bronx Community


The club aims to take an “asset-based approach” to discussions by using the past to inform how club members can think about the future of the Bronx and their positive involvement in it. (Courtesy of Unsplash)

The South Bronx Battles Book Club will be kicking off soon this semester with “South Bronx Battles” by Carolyn McLaughlin. The book aims to look into the history of the Bronx through the eyes of those that call it home. The club’s leaders aim to use reading as a way to connect students to the value of knowing their community and how to become an active member.

“An important part of a Fordham education is forming thoughtful and engaged citizens,” said Ben Reilly, FCRH ’23, one of the club’s leaders. “For the time that students are Bronx residents, that community which they are a part of is the Bronx.”

According to Reilly, the club aims to take an “asset-based approach” to discussions by using the past to inform how club members can think about the future of the Bronx and their positive involvement in it. While this goal may seem daunting to some who do not know where to start in tackling a complex topic and how it has developed through history, club leader Grace Powers, FCRH ’23, said she wants Fordham students to feel comfortable to start this journey at the book club this semester.

“I hope that this can be an informal environment with a group of students excited to learn and also willing to address the difficult topics McLaughlin talks about in her book,” said Powers. “This isn’t a class or any kind of requirement, so hopefully we can cultivate a space that feels educational and intentional but also open to vulnerability.”

When it comes to the choice of book this semester, Reilly agrees that “South Bronx Battles” will help the South Bronx Battles Book Club provide a good foundation for community engagement to follow. “History is a gateway, a first step, towards being a part of the Bronx community,” said Reilly.

Above all, Powers is optimistic that students will only be interested in exploring more about the Bronx after reading the book and attending meetings. “There’s a lot of rich culture Mclaughlin talks about in the book and the great community organizations in the area that I hope students are curious about,” said Powers.

According to Powers, there are also a lot of fun ways to connect with the Bronx that are not very often advertised. Fordham students can explore through bookstores, cafes, bakeries and art spaces throughout the borough. While the book club leaders assure that their meetings will provide a great first step to learning about the city that Fordham students call home, there are plenty of ways to turn one’s understanding of their home into action.

“The list is endless!” said Reilly. “In addition to student-run programming like Bronx Celebration Week and Bronx Celebration Day, I would recommend looking to the Centers and Institutes for deeper engagement. The Center for Community-Engaged Learning runs great programming and is well connected throughout NYC. Multiple staff members have a background in organizing and can connect students with local engagement opportunities.”

The ways to get involved and contact information for those with questions is available on CCEL’s website. While the first meeting of the South Bronx Battles Book Club is yet to be scheduled, club leaders said they cannot wait to get started.