WNBA Centennial: Looking Back, Forward, and Out

First; books of 1917; historical fictionAs cake was cut, awards were presented, and champagne bottles were popped, a sense of community and a shared love of reading pervaded the WNBA Centennial Celebration on Saturday, October 29th, as did the sense that looking back at 100 years is only the beginning.

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Emma Straub, Margo Jefferson, and Jane Kinney-Denning
Photo Credit Celine Keating

For all our shared history, National President Jane Kinney-Denning proclaimed, “We still have an important and powerful role to play in creating a just society” and reminded us that, before women had the right to vote, “We championed democracy, meritocracy, and we welcomed immigrants.”

She expounded on the ways in which the power of books can be realized, a resounding theme in the evening’s speeches. That power, indisputable among those gathered at Pen + Brush, is only one of the fundamental concepts behind the WNBA. Valerie Tomaselli, the Centennial Chair, reminded us of “the simple idea of the Women’s National Book Association: the power to change” society as a collective group.

The Little Free Library Team
Photo Credit Liberty Schauf

As Susan Larson presented the Second Century Award to Little Free Library, she also proclaimed that “We know what the power of shared reading can be.” And shared reading is what chapters are doing. During one of the chances to mingle throughout the evening, Tabitha Wissemore, President of the DC chapter, enthused about the monthly reading groups her chapter holds with women authors.

Next up for the WNBA to read together is Women in the Literary Landscape: A Centennial Publication of the Women’s National Book Association. At its official launch, co-editor Rosalind Reisner held the book up to cheers and applause with the announcement, “Here it is!,” before she looked at the women who founded the WNBA, “champions of the power of books to change the world.”

Rosalind Reisner Presents Women in the Literary Landscape
Photo Credit Liberty Schauf

The book explores the evolution of women’s involvement in and influence on the literary world. Tomaselli said, following the talks, that “Hearing Roz read…on the current literary state was really interesting, a crowning experience of the Centennial.” The book holds significant inspiration from the women involved in the WNBA to the programs the group has developed.

Sherring Dartiguenave, Treasurer of the NYC Chapter, shared that WNBA programs inspire and motivate her: “…because I participated in open mic, I started writing my first book.” But inspiration isn’t the only benefit of the WNBA that the Centennial underlined.

PACE University student Shimma Almabruk found opportunities to learn through the event. She thought the talks were “refreshing. I learned so much here.” The evening’s aptly-titled panel, “Transformative Role of Literature in Our Society” gave more opportunities for attendees to learn, laugh, and bond.

Panelists’ books
Photo Credit Liberty Schauf

In honor of the power of community and shared reading, consider looking at one of the book recommendations from the panelists. Margo Jefferson recommended Dear Friend I Write to Your from My Life to Your Life, by Yiyun Li, Dierdre Bair cited Margo’s memoir Negroland, Roxana Robinson suggested readers pick up After the Eclipse: A Mother’s Murder, A Daughter’s Search, by Sarah Perry, and Emma Straub raved about Meg Wolitzer’s upcoming The Female Persuasion.


By Katherine Akey and Sheila Lewis

Katherine Akey is the Blog Manager for the WNBA-NYC chapter, a copywriter, and an all-around bookworm who enjoys reading classics, literary fiction, and just about anything that crosses her desk.

Sheila Lewis is a writer, editor, and recent co-author of My Calm Place: Yoga, Mindfulness & Meditation Strategies for Children (pesipublishing.com), with 50 exercises that match her passion for meditation with effective learning techniques. She teaches classes and workshops at the JCC and citywide. She has been a WNBA member since 2008. Contact her at sheilaklewis@gmail.com.

About Blog Editor

The Women’s National Book Association was founded in 1917 by female booksellers who weren’t allowed in the men’s organizations. Nearly 100 years later, the WNBA is still supporting women in the book industry through literary events, networking, literacy projects, workshops, open mic nights, book clubs, and many other entertaining programs throughout the season!

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