Diversity Book Group
Contact: Lorrie McKinley and Debby Kern Email: diversity-book-group
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 office. They have at times changed location and time when films or other activities are scheduled. 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 plan the coming year’s selections. 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. 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 2016-17 (Click to expand description.)
From the author of the critically beloved Pym comes a ruthlessly comic and moving tale of a man discovering a lost daughter, confronting an elusive ghost, and stumbling onto the possibility of utopia. Warren Duffy has returned to America for all the worst reasons: his marriage to a beautiful Welsh woman has come apart; his comics shop in Cardiff has failed; and his Irish American father has died, bequeathing to Warren his last possession, a roofless, half-renovated mansion in the heart of black Philadelphia. On his first night in his new home, Warren spies two figures outside in the grass. When he screws up the nerve to confront them, they disappear. The next day he encounters ghosts of a different kind. In the face of a teenage girl he meets at a comics convention he sees the mingled features of his white father and his black mother, both now dead. The girl, Tal, is his daughter, and she’s been raised to think she’s white.
Spinning from these revelations, Warren sets off to remake his life with a reluctant daughter he’s never known, in a haunted house with a history he knows too well. In their search for a new life, he and Tal struggle with ghosts, fall in with a utopian mixed-race cult, and ignite a riot on Loving Day, the unsung holiday for interracial lovers.
A frequently hilarious, surprisingly moving story about Blacks and Whites, fathers and daughters, the living and the dead, Loving Day celebrates the wonders of opposites bound in love. Leader: Debby Kern
Forty years in, the War on Drugs has done almost nothing to prevent drugs from being sold or used, but it has nonetheless created a little-known surveillance state in America’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Arrest quotas and high-tech surveillance techniques criminalize entire blocks, and transform the very associations that should stabilize young lives—family, relationships, jobs—into liabilities, as the police use such relationships to track down suspects, demand information, and threaten consequences. Leader: Sandy Schaal
Alice Goffman spent six years living in one such neighborhood in Philadelphia, and her close observations and often harrowing stories reveal the pernicious effects of this pervasive policing. Goffman introduces us to an unforgettable cast of young African American men who are caught up in this web of warrants and surveillance—some of them small-time drug dealers, others just ordinary guys dealing with limited choices. All find the web of presumed criminality, built as it is on the very associations and friendships that make up a life, nearly impossible to escape. We watch as the pleasures of summer-evening stoop-sitting are shattered by the arrival of a carful of cops looking to serve a warrant. We watch – and can’t help but be shocked – as teenagers teach their younger siblings and cousins how to run from the police (and, crucially, to keep away from friends and family so they can stay hidden) and we see, over and over, the relentless toll that the presumption of criminality takes on families and futures.
While not denying the problems of the drug trade, and the violence that often accompanies it, through her gripping accounts of daily life in the forgotten neighborhoods of America’s cities, Goffman makes it impossible for us to ignore the very real human costs of our failed response – the blighting of entire neighborhoods, and the needless sacrifice of whole generations.
The book begins with a focus on the relationship between two close friends, John Singer and Spiros Antonapoulous. The two are described as deaf-mutes who have lived together for several years. Antonapoulous becomes mentally ill, misbehaves, and despite attempts at intervention from Singer, is eventually put into an insane asylum away from town. Now alone, Singer moves into a new room. The remainder of the narrative centers on the struggles of four of John Singer’s acquaintances: Mick Kelly, a tomboyish girl who loves music and dreams of buying a piano; Jake Blount, an alcoholic labor agitator; Biff Brannon, the observant owner of a diner; and Dr. Benedict Mady Copeland, an idealistic black physician. Leader: Heidi Frayer