Politics and pandemic aside, Gardena Book Club is a page-turner

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Photo courtesy of Elaine Bersano — Gardena Book Club member Eleanor Bersano, seated, is seen here with children's librarian Ann Quach of the Gardena Mayme Dear Library. Bersano is also president of the Friends of the Mayme Dear Library.

By Gary Kohatsu 

With the presidential election looming around the corner, some Gardena and neighboring residents have chosen to delve into a bit of history surrounding the electoral process.

Members of the Gardena Book Club have chosen to read about women’s rights as voters in the book, “Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot” by Winifred Conkling. The hardcover book of 312 pages was published Feb.13, 2018 by Algonquin Young Readers.

 “We wanted a book with historical significance which would stimulate thought and discussion,” club member Eleanor Bersano said in an email interview. “We wanted to know why it took 100 years for women to get to vote. We knew it was the Centennial and the author had a good reputation… (and) the title peaked our interest.”

She added that the book came highly recommended by the Community Library Manager Wendy Lee of the Gardena Mayme Dear Library.

Timeliness of the book comes at a milestone in American history, Bersano noted. The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting American women the right to vote was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, after nearly a century of protest.

“(The book’s meaning) really came through loud and clear how important it is to treasure the right to vote and to be sure to vote; encourage others to vote, also,” sister and fellow club member, Elaine Bersano, said. “Voting should never be taken for granted. It is a privilege, a Constitutional right, and a democratic responsibility.”

This year, California Sen. Kamala Harris becomes the third female vice presidential nominee from a major party and the first woman of color in U.S. History.

She and other Democrat women are thought to be the future of the party, those in the know say.

“We have always hoped a woman could be president or vice like some other nations,” Eleanor Bersano said. “Ethnicity does not come into the picture. All young ladies in America should feel that they have an equal opportunity to rise to the highest office in the land.”

The Conkling book was a good read, with a strong introduction that “wetted our appetite,” according to the Bersano sisters.

Both women said that this slice of American history should appeal to all females, old and young.

“Conkling made you care about these real determined people and events,” Eleanor Bersano said. “When different leaders did not agree, we could understand why. These women were from all walks of life: housewives, lawyers, teachers, librarians, etc. It was amazing that without modern social media and technology, they could spread the word and group in the thousands.”

The Gardena Book Club was revived in 2016 by then Community Library Manager Elmita Brown. She appointed staff member Karen Turpin as the club’s moderator, Bersano said.

When Brown retired, new CLM Wendy Lee continued interest in the club.

“We are small but mighty (group),” Bersano said. “Membership varies yearly. (Two ladies,) Grace Barnett and Helen Timko have been long-term, loyal members with us from the beginning.”

Library manager Lee orders a set of books for the club, Bersano said. The books are mailed to the Mayme Dear Library from the other county libraries.

“When the Book Club resumes, we will discuss face-to-face ‘Votes for Women,’ Bersano said. “We will then read ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain (author Garth Stein)’ and later ‘Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (Sophia Loren).”

She said that among the favorite books the club has covered, are “Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History (Keith O’Brien),” “The Library Book (Susan Orleans),” “Her Royal Spyness Solves Her First Case (Rhys Bowen)” and “The Book of Joy (Dalia Lama and Bishop Tutu).”

“We have also read many books by the delightful Debbie Macomber and the popular Alexander McCall, just to name a few,” Bersano said.

“If books have become movies, we may view video clips.”

Because of the coronavirus lockdown, the Gardena Book Club is on hiatus. Pre-pandemic meetings took place on mornings once a month, either Wednesday or Thursday. Members would convene in the Mayme Dear Library meeting room, where the Friends of the Library meet (at different times), Bersano said. She added that the FOL funds the light refreshments for the book club meetings.

“We welcome everyone. Library flyers are available with all info-needed at the reference desk,” Bersano said.

She said that prospective members can phone the library at 310-323-6363.

“Feel free to join us, even if you cannot attend regularly,” Bersano said.

Library manager Lee orders a set of books for the club, Bersano said. The books are mailed to the Mayme Dear Library from the other county libraries.

“When the Book Club resumes, we will discuss face-to-face ‘Votes for Women,’ Bersano said. “We will then read ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain (author Garth Stein)’ and later ‘Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (Sophia Loren).”

She said that among the favorite books the club has covered, are “Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History (Keith O’Brien),” “The Library Book (Susan Orleans),” “Her Royal Spyness Solves Her First Case (Rhys Bowen)” and “The Book of Joy (Dalia Lama and Bishop Tutu).”

“We have also read many books by the delightful Debbie Macomber and the popular Alexander McCall, just to name a few,” Bersano said.

“If books have become movies, we may view video clips.”