New Burnaby book club crosses cultures

Imagine a space where local residents from different cultures gather to discuss interesting novels with intercultural themes. They make connections, share their experiences, and find they have more in common despite their diverse backgrounds.

That’s the vision Asmita Lawrence and Fiona Stevenson have for Burnaby come fall. The two friends are starting Culture Chats, a new cross-cultural book club at the Tommy Douglas library branch.

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“Our goal is to read world authors, and hopefully we will have readers from diverse countries,” Lawrence told the NOW.

The group will read one book per month and meet on the fourth Thursday of every month, starting in September. The club is free to join and the library will loan out copies of the books.  

Lawrence and Stevenson are working in conjunction with the library to come up with a compelling reading list. Titles under consideration include The Elegance of the Hedgehog by French novelist Muriel Barbery, The Accidental by Scottish author Ali Smith and A Complicated Kindness by Canadian author Miriam Toews.

Lawrence and Stevenson secured one of the Vancouver Foundation’s small neighbourhood grants through the Burnaby Neighbourhood House. The foundation’s grant program is for projects that bring neighbours closer together, something Lawrence is hoping to do with the new book club.

“We felt that this would be a community project, to try to engage people in our respective neighbourhoods,” Lawrence said.

The Burnaby Intercultural Planning Table is also providing some in-kind help with promotions, and the library is providing staff and a venue to host the new club.

“Without their support it would be very difficult to launch this project,” Lawrence said. “I think it gives a lot more confidence to those that are looking to join the book club, that it will have interesting books and it will have the appropriate support to make it a well-run book club.”

While the club doesn’t start till September, Lawrence and Stevenson are starting to register participants. The group is limited to 15 people. To join, email

There will be a special event to launch Culture Chats on Thursday, Sept. 17, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Tommy Douglas library at 7311 Kingsway. The two have invited David Starr, author and principal of Byrne Creek Secondary, and poet Shauna Paull, to talk about the intercultural experience. The launch is open to the public, and there’s no need to pre-register.

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