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Kristin Murphy, KSL

Ekpe Udoh's book club is now known by Michelle Obama

By Ryan Miller, | Updated - Feb 11th, 2019 @ 7:33pm | Posted - Feb 11th, 2019 @ 5:36pm

SALT LAKE CITY — On Sunday afternoon, Utah Jazz center Ekpe Udoh was sitting at his desk watching “Vice Special Report: Fixing the System” — a documentary about former President Barack Obama’s visit to a federal prison in Oklahoma.

As he watched, Udoh got a Twitter notification on his phone — it just so happened to be from another Obama.

Michelle Obama, the former first lady, had quote tweeted a message from Udoh asking his followers what book should be read next for his ever-growing book club — one of the options was her book, “Becoming.”

“Do I get a vote?" Michelle Obama tweeted, adding the club's hashtag of #Ekpesbookclub.

When Udoh initially saw the notification, it didn’t quite hit him. Then, after taking a second glance, he realized what had just happened.

“I started sweating,” Udoh said. “It was a great feeling.”

And it shows just how far Udoh’s ambitious book club has come. After starting out as a small group when he was in Milwaukee, Udoh has slowly built it into a sizable online gathering that is attracting people from all walks of life. Udoh’s book club discusses the books via Twitter and then periodically hosts authors at the Utah Jazz practice facility for Author's Talks.

“Who would think that Michelle Obama would just tweet up out of the blue with no connection,” Udoh said. “It was special.”

Udoh called it a moment that was “five or six years” in the making.

“For her to come out and use the hashtag is huge for the book club and for everybody who participates in it,” Udoh said.

Udoh said he was surprised by how well the club has been embraced in Utah. The Twitter chats are usually full of different people, and the Author’s Talks have been well attended.

“It’s been received really well. I’ve been very surprised, especially with the types of books that we’ve read,” Udoh said.

Maybe it won’t be the last time Michelle Obama mentions the book club, either. Udoh said that the next book will be “The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley", but then the book club will turn to “Becoming.”

Udoh is hoping the former first lady will jump in on the online conversation about her book — and, who knows? Maybe even a live appearance will be in the cards.

“If she pops up, that would be amazing,” Udoh said. “See if we can get her involved in the discussion of a book in a few weeks.”

Udoh will host an Author’s Talk with Kiese Laymon, the author of the book “Heavy: An American Memoir”, on Feb. 26.

Ryan Miller

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