The Book in Common commences Chico’s year of women


Cortneanne Campbell

President Hutchinson and President Yaqub posing with event attendees.

Anna Porretta

A crowd gathered to hear community leaders speak, celebrating the Book in Common program, which promises to be a year devoted to the conversation around women’s rights outside of Chico City Hall on Sept. 29.

“The Book in Common is a shared read in which Chico State, Butte college, the City of Chico and Butte County try to get as many people as possible to read one book which discusses important themes relevant to that year,” Faculty liaison for the Book in Common program Dr. Sara Cooper said.

Dr. Sara Cooper introducing the Book in Common program to the audience. Photo credit: Cortneanne Campbell


The committee behind the program encourages as many venues for discussion on the issues raised by the book as possible.

“The committee reads anywhere from 50-100 books to choose one. This one was chosen probably because of the immediate relevancy,” said Cooper. “It just so happened that it coincided with Hilary Clinton’s campaign since this book was selected last year.”

Representatives from the community spoke about this year’s chosen book, Gloria Steinem’s “My life on the Road.” Speakers included Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson, Butte College President Samia Yaqub, City Council Member Ann Schwab and Butte County Supervisor Maureen Kirk. It is traditional to have a representative from the city, the county and both major institutions of higher education speak at this event. This is the first time the platform party of dignitaries speaking are all women.

“I think Gloria would approve, I think she would be very happy,” Kirk said.

County Supervisor, Maureen Kirk, closing out the event with a reading of the proclamation encouraging everyone to read the book. Photo credit: Cortneanne Campbell


The women took to the podium, getting the community excited to read “My Life on the Road” with each of them speaking on their experiences reading the memoir.

“I was in college in the late 60s. The Vietnam War was brewing and the civil rights movement was emerging,” Kirk said. “Gloria Steinem was very influential to me and to the women I went to school with.”

Kirk highlighted that Steinem’s grandmother was the Chairman of Education for the National Woman’s Suffrage Association and the first woman elected to the Toledo Board of Education. She said that Steinem must have found a mentor in her grandmother.

“Be a mentor or find a mentor one way or the other,” said Kirk. “You can gain so much from people who have experience.”

Hutchinson and Yaqub discussed how their mothers had influenced and mentored their own lives.

“(Steinem) spends time reflecting on time with her mother, which reminds me of the time I spent with my mother and what I learned about the dreams that she had and never got to realize,” she said. “Women were in the home and didn’t dream beyond family. (My mother said) ‘My goodness Gayle, if I had a choice I don’t know what I would do because all I know is family, but what I really wanted to do was see the world’.”

Chico State President, Gayle Hutchinson, sharing how her mother influenced her life. Photo credit: Cortneanne Campbell


She described how her 13-year-old self weighed the two options and thought she might go see the world herself. Yaqub had a different mother than Hutchinson’s.

“It was my mother who took our family on trips every time we had a break,” Yaqub said. “Instead of getting presents she would pack us up and take us traveling.”

Butte College President, Samia Yaqub, explaining how her feminist mother was her mentor. Photo credit: Cortneanne Campbell


“(She gave us) the gift of seeing the world through different eyes. And the gift she gave her daughters was to take risks and not be afraid to live to our true potentials. My mother was a true feminist,” she said.

The event closed with the reading of a proclamation from the county urging everyone to read “My Life on the Road” and discuss the issues Steinem raises in an effort to make a change in the greater Chico and Butte County community.

Anna Porretta can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_arts on Twitter.