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RealLiterature: Home

Home of the Real Lit[erature] Book Club - a collaboration between the UW Tacoma Library and UW Tacoma Center for Equity and Inclusion


UW Tacoma is situated on the land of the Puyallup people. The UW Tacoma Library recognizes the Puyallup Tribe and its elders past and present for their ongoing efforts to sustain tribal sovereignty, preserve their culture, and care for this place.


Books will be provided for students, on a first-come, first served basis. These are yours to keep and do not need to be returned at the end of the quarter. If there are books remaining, faculty and staff are welcome to them.

Other Book Clubs on Campus

Emerging Practices Reading Circle for UW Tacoma faculty. Collaboration with the Office of Research.

Staff Reads for UW Tacoma staff

Student Success Reading Group

If you are interested in learning about our work in creating this book club at UW Tacoma, please check out our Open Access book here.

About Real Lit[erature]

Inspired by the UW Tacoma Strategic Plan, the goals of the Real Lit[erature] are to create a greater awareness and discussion of the experiences that are being had by our students, staff, and community members. By interacting with narratives that reflect different experiences, it will provide opportunities to dialogue with peers about shared and disparate experiences. Additional benefits include creating community by reducing isolation, and enhancing campus education through peer-based discussion groups.

Note: Because of COVID-19, we have launched Real Lit Remote. For Spring 2020 and Summer 2020 quarters, all discussions will happen remotely, via Zoom.

AUT 2020

AUTHORS INCLUDE: Schuyler Bailar, Melissa de la Cruz, Sara Farizan, Sharon G. Flake, Eric Gansworth, Malindo Lo, Walter Dean Myers, Daniel José Older, Thien Pham, Jason Reynolds, Aminah Mae Safi, Gene Luen Yang, Nicola Yoon

Author information taken from author's website:

I was born in Chicago, Illinois to Japanese immigrants. We moved to the suburbs when I was three, and I grew up in an almost-all-white town and went to almost-all-white schools. It was actually a very nice life: there was a field with wild strawberries and a pony at the end of my street, and a pond across the street where we caught tadpoles in the summer and went ice skating in the winter. But as one of the only Asian kids in my school, I often felt like an outsider. Also, I was just a weird kid. I spent a lot of time with my head buried in a book, or just in my own imagination.

Speaking of books, I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember; some of my earliest memories are of poring over the pictures in my Mother Goose nursery rhyme books that my mother read to me so that I would hear English and be ready for nursery school. In first grade, my childhood across-the-street friend introduced me to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series (which I remember with great fondness, though we now understand them to espouse problematic attitudes about Native Americans), Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Fred Gwynne’s A Chocolate Moose for Dinner, and to a lovely (now out of print and probably also problematic) book of verse by William Cole, entitled Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls.

I loved writing, too. My first love was poetry because it was short and it demanded that I pay attention to word choice and rhythm, something I still love to work with when I write. I never wrote stories unless they were assigned, though I did start a chapter book with a friend in fourth or fifth grade; it was inspired by Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, and it was about a group of little dolls who come to life at night and have adventures. My alter ego was Emily, a smart, athletic, popular type with long blond braids and blue eyes, which should tell you quite a lot about who and what I longed to be.

There was a very long period (decades!) when I didn’t see myself as the creative writing type. That period began when I started focusing on taking the right classes to get into a good college and ended when I challenged myself to write a novel at age 46. You hear about writers and artists who say things like, “I write because I have to write. The story/poem demands to be written. The characters demand to be heard.” That has never been me. Ever. I have to choose to write, to force myself to think about who my characters are and what their story is.

Outside of writing, I’ve also always been a swimmer. I joined a swim team when I was eleven, and it took me all the way through college. After college, I went to Japan for three years to teach English at Kobe Jogakuin High School, and then returned to the U.S. to get a teaching certificate and a Masters degree in Education. I taught high school English for several years in Santa Clara, CA before I had kids, took a long hiatus, and decided to try writing a novel. Luckily for me, the author thing worked out, and here I am today, writing my very long bio!

Sessions happen via zoom Mondays and Thursdays.


Apr 6, 2020 02:00 PM

Apr 13, 2020 02:00 PM

Apr 20, 2020 02:00 PM

Apr 27, 2020 02:00 PM

May 4, 2020 02:00 PM

May 11, 2020 02:00 PM

May 18, 2020 02:00 PM

May 25, 2020 02:00 PM


Apr 9, 2020 10:00 AM       

Apr 16, 2020 10:00 AM

Apr 23, 2020 10:00 AM

Apr 30, 2020 10:00 AM

May 7, 2020 10:00 AM

May 14, 2020 10:00 AM

May 21, 2020 10:00 AM

May 28, 2020 10:00 AM

Elizabeth Acevedo is a New York Times bestselling author.  She holds a BA in Performing Arts from The George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. Acevedo has been a fellow of Cave Canem, Cantomundo, and a participant in the Callaloo Writer’s Workshops. She is a National Poetry Slam Champion, and resides in Washington, DC.

Real Lit[erature] Discussions

Winter Quarter 2020
UW Tacoma Library

All meetings take place in SNO 136 unless otherwise indicated.


Image shows a poster with a picture of Elizabeth Acevedo on the left, and the book cover of her book, The Poet X. Below, it lists times and date of the event. January 15, 12:30-1:00, KEY 102 auditorium.

When: January 15, 12:30-1:00

Where: UW Tacoma, Key 102



Thursday, January 9, 2020
12:30-1:20 p.m.
Meet one another, get your book, read the community agreements, ask your questions

Thursday, January 16, 2020
12:30-1:20 p.m.
Discussion through to page 92

Thursday, January 30th, 2020
12:30-1:20 p.m.
Discussion through to page 181

Thursday, February 13, 2020
12:30-1:20 p.m.
Discussion through to page 270

Thursday, February 27, 2020
12:30-1:20 p.m.
Discussion through the end of the book

Find The Poet X at your local public library

Available in English in audiobook CD, book, eAudiobook, eBook, and large print. Also available in Spanish.

King County Library System

Pierce County Public Library

Tacoma Public Library

Seattle Public Library

Hear from the author: Check out these videos!


Tommy Orange is a graduate of the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. An enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, he was born and raised in Oakland, California.

-Penguin Random House


Tacoma Reads: Discussion with Tommy Orange

Friday, September 20 at 6:30 p.m.
Rialto Theater
Free registration required

Real Lit[erature] Discussions TBA

Fall Quarter 2019
UW Tacoma Library

Tacoma Reads

This fall the UW Tacoma Library and Center for Equity & Inclusion's Real Lit[erature] diversity book club will participate in Tacoma Reads, a local community reading program that seeks to unite the community in dialogue around contemporary themes through reading a common text.

Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes

Author Tommy Orange is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, a united Nation of two tribes with distinct cultures, traditions, social dances, ceremonies, and languages.

Find There, There at your local public library

Available in English in audiobook CD, book, eAudiobook, eBook, and large print.

King County Library System

Pierce County Public Library

Tacoma Public Library

Adib Khorram is the author of Darius the Great is Not Okay. If he's not writing (or at his day job as a graphic designer), you can probably find him trying to get his 100-yard Freestyle under a minute, learning to do a Lutz Jump, or steeping a cup of oolong. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where people don't usually talk about themselves in the third person. You can find him on Twitter (@adibkhorram), Instagram (@adibkhorram), or on the web at

Awards for Darius the Great is Not Okay

Ad: Skype with Author Adib Khorram, May 23 2019, SNO 136

Thursday, April 4, 2019
12:30-1:20 p.m.
SNO 270 (Chihuly Room)
Meet one another, get your book, read the community agreements, ask your questions!

Thursday, April 11, 2019
12:30-1:20 p.m.
SNO 270 (Chihuly Room)
Discussion through to page 71

Thursday, April 25, 2019
12:30-1:20 p.m.
SNO 270 (Chihuly Room)
Discussion through to page 159

Thursday, May 9, 2019
12:30-1:20 p.m.
SNO 270 (Chihuly Room)
Discussion through to page 239

Thursday, May 16, 2019
12:30-1:20 p.m.
SNO 270 (Chihuly Room)
Discussion through to the end of the book

Thursday, May 23, 2019
12:30-1:20 p.m.
SNO 136 (Library 1st Floor)
Skype discussion with author Adib Khorram

Counseling services

UW Tacoma offers free counseling to currently-enrolled UW Tacoma students and consultation to faculty and staff. Visit the Student Counseling Center website for more information:​

Discussion Questions & Prompts


Find Darius the Great is Not Okay at your local library:

Print, English: King County Library System | Pierce County Library System | Tacoma Public Library
CD audiobook, English: King County Library System
eBook, English: Pierce County Library System | King County Library System | Tacoma Public Library
eAudiobook, English: King County Library System

How to get a public library card: King County Library System |  Pierce County Library System | Tacoma Public Library

Dashka Slater has written many books, including Escargot which won the Wanda Gag Book Award, Baby Shoes, The Antlered Ship, which was a Junior Library Guild Selection and received four starred reviews, and Dangerously Ever After. Her non-fiction young adult novel The 57 Bus won the Stonewall Book Award and was a YALSA finalist. She lives in California. Find her at

-Macmillan Publishers


Thursday, January 17, 2019
12:30-1:20 p.m.
SNO 270 (Chihuly Room)
Part 1: Sasha
Discussion theme: Gender identity

Thursday, January 31, 2019
12:30-1:20 p.m.
SNO 270 (Chihuly Room)
Part 2: Richard
Discussion theme: Hate crimes and bias

Thursday, February 14, 2019
12:30-1:20 p.m.
SNO 270 (Chihuly Room)
Part 3: The Fire
Discussion theme: Restorative justice and criminal justice/prison-industrial complex

Thursday, February 28, 2019
12:30-1:20 p.m.
SNO 270 (Chihuly Room)
Part 4: Justice
Discussion theme: Support and allyship

Wednesday, March 13, 2019
12:30-1:20 p.m.
SNO 136

Pronouns: What are pronouns and why are they important?
UW Tacoma Center for Equity & Inclusion

Imagining Transgender 'Inclusion' in Libraries
by Sunny Kim, Micah Kehrein, Reed Garber-Pearson, and Bean Yogi
Presentation at 2017 WLA Conference, November 2017

UW Autism Center--Tacoma

Pro/Con: Can restorative justice help victims and rehabilitate criminals?
by Christina L. Lyons
"Restorative Justice" in CQ Researcher

Find The 57 Bus at your local library:
Print, English: King County Library System | Pierce County Library System | Tacoma Public Library
Print, English, large print: King County Library System
eBook, English: Pierce County Library System | King County Library System
Audiobook, English: King County Library System

How to get a public library card: King County Library System |  Pierce County Library System | Tacoma Public Library

Part 1: Sasha

  1. Was there anything that surprised you in the list on page 47? Any new terms or concepts?
  2. Thinking about your own issues of identity (culture, religion, gender, etc.) how does it feel to be identified correctly? Is it validating?
  3. Being misgendered is frequently felt as a microaggression. Have you experienced microaggressions?
    A microaggression is a term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group. (Wikipedia)
  4. The book shares two experiences had by Sasha’s parents surrounding sexuality and gender roles. What role do you think these experiences play in the narrative?
  5. Andrew and Sasha have different experiences with how their gender identity is perceived by their community, and how they choose to share their identity with others. Why do you think it was important to hear about Andrew’s experience? Did you like that “balance?”
  6. “Surely it is not too late to stop things from going wrong.  There must be some way to wake Sasha. Divert Richard. Get the driver to stop the bus. There must be something you can do.”
    Describe your reaction to this scene, which foreshadows events that we know are going to happen. What is the role of the bystander? What is Dashka Slater advocating for?
  7. What did you think of the card game created and played by Sasha and their friends? What do you think this game means? How does this game tie to concepts of identity and/or rigid structures? What card would you add to the game?

Part 2: Richard

  1. Bias is a big topic that comes into play in both Sasha and Richard’s narratives. What struck you about the bias that each face, now that we have both of their backstories? What is common, what is different? How does bias affect them, how does it shape their experiences and narratives? How does bias act differently when it is racial versus gender, or does it?
  2. At the very start of the book, you got a glimpse of the incident that is going to be discussed in the next section, the fire. You already know that it is going to be labeled as a hate crime. What do you know about hate crimes? What is your understanding of how hate crimes are handled differently than other types of violent crime?
  3. What are different models of hate crime legislation that you are aware of? -- I agree, it is a vital question, and interesting in light of some international students who are present. What are methods of asking without setting up the possibility of feeling attacked?
  4. Circling back to the discussion from Part 1 about the passage about there being something you can do, how do you interpret that now that we have Richard’s backstory. Has your interpretation or ideas about this passage changed? What would you do?
  5. The role of mentors/allies/advocates in one’s life is a theme that emerges from Richard’s narratives. What sort of mentorship have you experienced, and how did it impact your life? What are the ramifications of Richard experiencing advocacy as a teenager?
  6. How should we think about these acts of violence when the perpetrators are teenagers? Based on Richard’s narrative and what we’ve seen about him so far, do you think he was acting out of hate? What role does intent have versus identity?

Part 3: The Fire

  1. What struck you about the fire? 
  2. We see strong parallels in the way that people in both Richard’s and Sasha’s lives find out about the fire--absentia from school, a network of phone calls. Did anything surprise you about the responses people had to the fire? 
  3. “Studies show that more than 90 percent of juveniles who are interrogated by the police don’t wait to talk to an attorney and don’t understand the rights police have read them.”
    What are your thoughts on the interrogation that Richard faced? 
  4. The book spends a lot of time on binaries: the way the world is structurally divided into female/male, and how these structures do not make sense, especially for someone like Sasha. But there are also glaring binaries in our criminal justice system—things are either legal or illegal, you’re either a victim or an offender. What do you think about this way of thinking about people who have committed a crime?
  5. What did you think of Richard’s letters? Restorative justice processes ask perpetrators to speak with their victims in order to cultivate empathy and understanding about their actions. Richard wrote these letters on his own, without the request of a judge or court. How does that make you think about restorative justice and criminal justice?
  6. The chapter presents a tension between standing up against bullying and hatred, and showing compassion and empathy for Richard. Do you think that this dichotomy is accurate? Is it fair? Can you be both against hatred and bullying, but also be compassionate and try to understand the other side?

Part 4: Justice

  1. How do you define allyship? What does it mean to you? How did you see allyship reflected in this story?
  2. Debbie reacts to the hugs from Richard’s family: “It was good. I’m really glad. It was worth coming here today just for that” (“Always Okay,” p. 240). This is a departure from “Not Ready” when “it was just too soon. [Debbie] needed more time [before she could meet with Jasmine]” (p. 237).
    Jasmine broke through a boundary that began some emotional healing. Reflect on the expected power dynamics of creating positive change: could we have anticipated that the “criminal’s” family could get the ball rolling?
  3. Richard’s lawyer held onto the letters he wrote to Sasha until after the sentencing. Sasha and their family read them, they felt differently about the sentencing and came to Richard’s resentencing to advocate for leniency. What are your thoughts on this? How might the outcome have changed had those letters made it to Sasha earlier? 
  4. Do you think there is a tension between being an ally to Sasha or being an ally to Richard? Is it possible to be both? Is there a false dichotomy? Think about Richard’s friends’ experience at Oakland High, and about Sasha’s family’s experience after receiving Richard’s letters. Is allyship singular, multifaceted, intersectional, etc? How do you approach allyship in your life? 
  5. What do you wish allyship in this story had looked like? What did you want to change? What did you want done differently?
  6. What did you think of the ending of the book? Dashka Slater ended this narrative with a list of milestones for gender identities and a list of statistics about incarcerated youth of color. What was your reaction to these lists?

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still lives in Jackson, Mississippi. A former teen rapper, she holds a BFA in creative writing from Belhaven University. Her award-winning, acclaimed debut novel, The Hate U Give, is a #1 New York Times bestseller and major motion picture from Fox 2000, starring Amandla Stenberg and directed by George Tillman, Jr. Her second novel, On the Come Up, is on sale now.

Subject Librarian

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Alaina C. Bull

Values: Black Lives Matter

We at the UW Tacoma Library stand in solidarity with our Black community and other communities of color. We condemn police brutality. We are committed to doing the anti-racist work that needs to be done — including dismantling the ways libraries, universities, and our own institution have been complicit in anti-blackness and institutionalized racism.

To read more, please see our blog.