CONCORD -- When Marcela De Lira arrived in the Bay Area from Mexico recently, she felt like she had to start all over again.
In Mexico where she worked as an equine veterinarian, De Lira loved reading
novels in Spanish in her spare time and enjoyed writing essays about the books she read in college.
So when she moved to the United States a few months ago, De Lira wished to make new friends and find new hobbies. When a friend who volunteers at the Monument Impact (formerly the Michael Chavez Center) office at the Keller House on Clayton Road in Concord told De Lira about Club de Lectura en Espanol, a Spanish book club, De Lira eagerly joined in.
At the Keller House on April 24, De Lira said she was excited about attending her first book club meeting and enthusiastically shared her comments on the latest book club pick, "Daughter of Fortune" by Isabel Allende.
"I liked the description of places and how life was in the 1800s," said De Lira, who now lives in Walnut Creek. "I like reading about history because I can learn about other places."
She said that when she read novels in English while in school, it was purely for
academic purposes. Now, De Lira said she enjoys the social aspect of discussing books in her native tongue with others.
Luisa Carnathan, a bilingual library assistant at the Concord Library, formed the book club in January with the support of the California Center for the Book's program for Spanish-speaking library patrons, "Mosaico de Literatura." Carnathan introduced the first selection "Caramba!" by Nina Marie Martinez.
Book titles have already been selected by the Los Angeles-based California Center for the Book, and libraries receive multiple copies of each book for book club members to borrow.
The book club "starter kit" also includes posters, fliers, bookmarks, and discussion questions -- all in Spanish, said Carnathan, who is Salvadorean-American and grew up speaking Spanish.
She said being in a Spanish book club gives her a chance to read novels in Spanish, something she hasn't done in a while.
"I want everybody to have fun, enjoy reading the book and get something out of the book," said Carnathan, a Pleasant Hill resident. "Every book has something to teach us. Every writer has their own style."
After reading "Caramba!," Carnathan found it took her a while to get used to the style of writing, and that there were words in Spanish she still had to up look in a dictionary. That caused her to take longer than she had expected to finish the book.
"I did enjoy the book, and by the end I was pretty used to the author's style," she said. "It has been nearly 16 or 17 years since I read a book in Spanish, but I found out it was like riding a bike. It is something that comes back as a big 'Eureka' moment."
She said people who didn't grow up speaking Spanish but are fluent in it and have an affinity for the language are also welcome to join the book club.
While Asia Davis didn't grow up in a Spanish-speaking family, she's fluent in the language, having learned how to speak it starting at age 3, when she heard Spanish spoken by the residents who lived in the senior community where she
spent a lot of time with a relative.
"I grew up hearing people talk in Spanish and learned how to read and write in
Spanish," said Davis, 25, a Pleasant Hill resident.
A student at Diablo Valley College who hopes to become a Spanish teacher, Davis said she heard about the Spanish Book Club through working as a receptionist at the Monument Impact office.
"I like the Spanish culture in general; reading in Spanish is harder than English," said Davis, who is happy Contra Costa County libraries have several books in Spanish available for patrons.
Claudia Velasco of Pittsburg said that "Caramba!" was her favorite book so far. "It's so funny and relates to life in the United States," Velasco said. "The writer has a sense of humor."
The members all agree that book club, which meets every other month, has been a great way to meet new friends.
"I can hear other people's experience and how they relate to the book," Velasco
said. "It's fun to see everybody react. This keeps me trying to read more books."
For information about the club, including meeting times and locations, Call or e-mail Luisa Carnathan at 925 646-5455 or email@example.com.