Contact: Lorrie McKinley and Debby Kern
Email: diversity-book-group@ucwc.org

Mission: To explore a variety of “differences” through both literature and film, so that we may better understand ourselves and others thereby promoting social justice on a personal level.


The book group usually meets the second Sunday, August through May from 7:00-8:30 p.m., in the Congregation coffee room. They have at times changed location and time when films or other activities are scheduled; these changes are publicized in the newsletter, order of service, in Connections, and by email. In addition, an annual end-of-the-year pot luck celebration, is held in June at a member’s house, to talk about the past year and to select books (and sometimes films) for the coming year. The group makes every effort to select books/films that are available in audio/descriptive formats in order to be inclusive and welcoming to all.

The group is loosely organized with no set rules except to freely explore a variety of differences in a relaxed and safe environment. Members are from the community as well as from the Congregation. There is a core group that is the backbone as well as many occasional attendees with a mailing list of several dozen members.

Book group participants alternate facilitating the monthly discussions. Members sometimes voluntarily donate copies of the selections to the UCWC Library at the end of each year.

SELECTIONS FOR 2018-19 (Click to expand description.)
Aug 19: Movie at Pat Shorten’s

Check weekly Connections for details as we firm up our selection.

Sep 9: A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

From the author of Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World. To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century. Leader: Debby Kern

Oct 14: The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell, Tales of a 6’4” Tales Of A 6' 4, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black And Proud Blerd, Mama's Boy, Dad, And Stand-Up Comedian by W. Kamau Bell

“Bell… tackles everything from racism to his life growing up as a Blerd (Black nerd) to his struggles to find his comedic voice in this illuminating memoir.” —Entertainment Weekly

“At times funny, at times somber, this debut will be enjoyed by fans of United Shades … and anyone who enjoys comedy with a personal touch.”—Library Journal

Leader: Linda Sander

Nov 11: Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining The Relationship of African Americans to The Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney
Environmental science professor examines the interactions African Americans have with the “great outdoors” in terms of access and engagement. Uses the fields of cultural studies, critical race studies, geography, and environmental history to discuss the confluence of race and the environment and highlight advances for the future. Leader: Fred Frayer
Dec 9: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

A memoir of growing up as a mixed-race child in apartheid South Africa where the author’s very existence was evidence of a serious crime that could have led to horrific consequences for his parents. Mostly through the eyes of a child, this book takes a thoughtful and honest look at the absurdity and brutality of a social and legal system based specifically on racial bias. It is also a warm, funny, and loving account of the author’s strong, devoted, and loving mother and the author’s own strength and ability to make the most of every situation.  Leader: Lorrie McKinley

Jan 13: Two Old Women: An Alaskan Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival by Velma Wallis, Illustrated by James Grant by Kao Kalia Yang

Based on an Athabascan Indian legend passed along for many generations from mothers to daughters of the upper Yukon River Valley in Alaska, this is the suspenseful, shocking, ultimately inspirational tale of two old women abandoned by their tribe during a brutal winter famine. In simple but vivid detail, Velma Wallis depicts a landscape and way of life that are at once merciless and starkly beautiful. In her old women, she has created two heroines of steely determination whose story of betrayal, friendship, community and forgiveness “speaks straight to the heart with clarity, sweetness and wisdom”. Leader: Debby Kern

Feb 10: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Chava, a golem created in Poland, arrives in late nineteenth-century New York City and meets Ahmad, a jinni recently released from his prison in a flask in New York’s Little Syria. This beautifully-crafted historical fantasy title explores how these two non-human beings experience and view humanity, and Wecker navigates themes of immigration and assimilation—as well as loneliness—with empathy and care. Leader: Roger Bove

Mar 10: Half Has Never Been Told by Edward E. Baptist
Baptist as historian places emphasis on the role of extreme violence in the workings of the slave system. He explains through economic analysis how slavery was essential to the development of the nation and ultimately to the violent construction of the capitalist world in which we live. Leader: John Weygandt
Apr 14: Moloki'a by Alan Brennert

This is the story of a seven-year-old Hawaiian girl that is diagnosed with leprosy and sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’.  It is a wonderful historical fiction that spans her entire life in a heart-warming and life affirming story.  Both educational and interesting. Leader: Pat Shorten

May 19: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

A powerful meditation on what immigrants sacrifice to achieve a home in the world.  In the early 20th century, a Korean fisherman’s daughter has a wealthy stranger’s child, marries a pastor and moves to Japan.  A four generation saga of a Korean family. Leader: Pat Bove

Click here for a list of past selections.