Lorrie McKinley & 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 Diversity Book Group meets monthly August through May plus an annual end-of-the-year pot luck celebration to select books for the coming year. The group is loosely organized to explore a variety of differences in a relaxed and safe environment. Participants volunteer to act as facilitators. 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.

2022-23 Selections

Sep: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Ellen Forney (Illustrator)

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

Oct: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Nov: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Lydia lives in Acapulco. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while cracks are beginning to show in Acapulco because of the cartels, Lydia’s life is, by and large, fairly comfortable. But after her husband’s tell-all profile of the newest drug lord is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and Luca find themselves joining the countless people trying to reach the United States. Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

Dec: In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaaatje (Author of The English Patient)

Bristling with intelligence and shimmering with romance, this exquisite and symphonic novel tests the boundary between history and myth. Upon emerging from his Canadian wilderness home, Patrick Lewis arrives in Toronto in the 1920s to earn his living searching for a vanished millionaire and tunneling beneath Lake Ontario. In the course of his adventures, Patrick’s dangerous and complex life intersects for the first time with such characters as Hana the orphan and Caravaggio the thief, all intimately and lovingly portrayed.  This is the sparkling predecessor that introduces the characters who reappear in Ondaatje’s Booker Prize-winning The English Patient. 256 pp.

Jan: My Broken Language by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes tells her lyrical story of coming of age against the backdrop of an ailing Philadelphia barrio, with her sprawling idiosyncratic, love-and-trouble-filled Puerto Rican family as a collective muse.  Weaving together Hudes’s love of books with the stories of her family, the lessons of North Philly with those of Yale, this is an inspired exploration of home, memory, and belonging–narrated by an obsessed girl who fought to become an artist so she could capture the world she loved in all its wild and delicate beauty. 336 pages.

Feb: The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

Winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, The Night Watchman is based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich’s grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C.  Erdrich weaves a story within stories.  Thomas, the night watchman, lives in an impoverished reservation community along Patrice, who is searching for her “relocated” sister. Other characters include young Chippewa boxer Wood Mountain and his mother Juggie Blue, her niece and Patrice’s best friend Valentine, and Stack Barnes, the white high school math teacher and boxing coach who is hopelessly in love with Patrice. 464 pages.

Mar: Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen

Debut novelist Eric Nguyen tells the story of a fractured family in the Vietnamese diaspora. Huong and her young sons Tuân and Bình flee Vietnam soon after its reunification, while her husband Cong unexpectedly stays behind. Things We Lost to the Water takes place mostly in New Orleans East projects from the family’s arrival in 1978 and ends at Hurricane Katrina in 2005, with brief side trips to Vietnam and to Paris. Nguyen succeeds in transporting the reader into the family’s lives as they struggle to assimilate, to keep emotional and cultural ties to their homeland, and to retain their memories of their absent husband and father.  304 pages.

Apr: How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith

Starting with his home in New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader through an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks-some honest about the past and some not-offering an intergenerational story of slavery’s influence in shaping our nation’s collective history and who we are.  A deeply researched and transporting study of slavery’s legacy and imprint on American history, How the Word Is Passed illustrates how some of our country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain view – in places we might drive by going to work, holidays like Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods—like downtown Manhattan—on which the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women and children has been deeply imprinted.  336 pages

May: Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (Goodreads Author)

Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher’s policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city’s notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings.

A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love, Shuggie Bain is an epic portrayal of a working-class family that is rarely seen in fiction. Recalling the work of Edouard Louis, Alan Hollinghurst, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, it is a blistering debut by a brilliant novelist who has a powerful and important story to tell. 430 pages

Click here for a list of past selections.