Q&A with Nanea Woods, Prose Before Bros book club founder

Nanea Woods was born and raised in Portland, and is the founder of Prose Before Bros, a book club for and by women of color.

Prose Before Bros started in 2018 with six people. “By the end of 2018, I had about 30 members; by the end of 2019, around 200. We are celebrating our five-year anniversary this year, and we have about 700 members in the book club. Michelle Obama is an honorary member. We’ve been to every corner of Portland and supported many wonderful and lovely businesses. I’m just so proud of the community that I built,” says Nanea.

After several years of having a successful book club, Nanea developed the Freadom Festival, the first Black and BIPOC book festival on the west coast. The Freadom Festival is on June 19 at Peninsula Park in Portland, Oregon. The event is free and open to the public. There will be a community book swap, author book talks, information booths and more.

Woman standing inside a library smiling at the camera

In this Q&A, Nanea discusses her connection with the library, some of her favorite books and the upcoming Freadom Festival.

Q: What is your connection to the library?

A: It is a place that I have been to a lot in my life. It was school, home, library; that was my routine for much of my life until I went off to college. So I lived in libraries. They were my daycare and after-school teachers. I wanted to be a librarian so badly! I used to even pretend to be a librarian and would re-shelve books.

Q: What is a memorable experience you had as a child at the library?

I used to eat up the Summer Reading program! I would look forward to that every year. I loved the stamp thing and getting a little prize. I would complete this so fast!

Q: What was the inspiration for developing the Freadom Festival?

A: I love that when I travel, I make sure to seek libraries or independently owned bookstores, and I noticed there are BIPOC or Black book festivals in every major city except Portland. And I thought that’s kind of weird because we are one of the most literate cities in the country. We have a city that supports readers and books. So why don’t we have a book festival celebrating Black and BIPOC books and authors?

Q: What do you hope people take away from the Freadom Festival?

A: It is a Juneteenth celebration. I want people to come away learning about the connection and history and how it ties to health literacy in general — specifically for Black people and the role reading and books played in our liberation.

Resources at the library

The library’s Black Cultural Library Advocates (BCLA) team will be at the Freadom Festival, readily available to help people sign up for library accounts and learn more about library resources. The BCLA team focuses on strengthening the connection between the library and the Black community. Join the BCLA team in celebrating events for Juneteenth!

If you are interested in joining a book club or gathering in community to discuss books, the library has several recommendations for local and online groups. Connect with the My Librarian team! They can provide customized lists based on your group’s tastes and help you place holds on multiple copies.