CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It may be their 90th anniversary, but the Book Lovers Club of Charleston is giving the gift.
Founded in the fall of 1923, the group of no more than a dozen women is once again celebrating a significant milestone by bringing in a speaker for a free community lecture.
For its 60th in 1983, poet Maya Angelou was the guest speaker; for the 90th, Annie McDaniel Abrams will speak at 3 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Woman's Club of Charleston. The Arkansas historian is a retired educator who has been deeply involved in state politics and community issues for six decades.
"She's considered the Helen Thomas of Arkansas because of how she questions politicians," said Mildred Holt, retired from a long career with Kanawha County Schools.
Holt is the senior member in the Book Lovers Club. She vividly recalls the first book review she gave.
"I was terrified. My English teacher, Dr. Lorena Kemp, was there," she remembered. "At first, the women were mostly teachers and residents of West Virginia State College. They were very proper."
Sarah Meriweather Nutter, a Howard University graduate and the wife of a Charleston lawyer, invited 12 women to her house in 1923. She wanted a forum to talk about books and literary themes.
The group has operated more of less the same for 90 years, meeting once a month, September through May. At its May meeting, the group selects a theme for the following season and schedules who for each meeting will serve as hostess and who will be the reviewer. The reviewers must let the program leader know by midsummer what books they have picked so a booklet can be created for that year's programs.
Those booklets, from 1923 to present, are among the club's documents stored in the archives in the library at West Virginia State University.
Twana White was a reviewer for the 2011-12 theme of tolerance. "The first thing I did was look up the definition of tolerance in the dictionary. Then I typed in 'tolerance' on the Barnes & Noble website and read excerpts of books that came up."
She selected "Relating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire" by Wendy Brown to read and review for the club. Other members may read the book but aren't expected to.